In August of 1956, the first Episcopal chapel was founded in Padanaram Village in Dartmouth. The Episcopal congregation moved into the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Elm Street. Previously, the building was a chapel of the Congregational Church and was purchased by St. Mary’s in 1923 and became the first Catholic Church in Dartmouth. This original building still stands today at 338 Elm Street and became the first worship site for Episcopalians in Dartmouth when St. Mary’s built their current church on Dartmouth Street under the leadership of the Rev. Arthur G. Considine. The spiritual leader of the new Episcopal congregation was the Venerable Herbert L. Johnson, Episcopal archdeacon of New Bedford.
St. Peter’s grew quickly in the early years and soon plans were being realized to build a new church building across the street. A new parish house, the former home of Attorney Frank Vera, was purchased in 1958 and was used for Sunday school classes. This building currently is home to our church offices, meeting space and Christian formation classrooms. In September 1959, the Rev. John N. McLaughlin became the Priest-in-charge and was called as Rector in 1963.
On June 31, 1963, ground was broken for the new St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. It was originally built as a temporary church but still remains our worship site. This building was first used for services on the first Sunday of April in 1964. The church was dedicated on June 7, 1964. St. Peter’s and the Congregational Church worked together to establish a shared youth program and Sunday school. Rev. McLaughlin left St. Peter’s in 1968 and became rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
In almost 60 years of parish life, the story of St. Peter’s has been one of perseverance and growth. At the center of our story has been the desire to live the gospel and to be a beacon of hope in our community. St. Peter’s parishioners come from all walks of life. Today, we are witnessing growth once again after some years of struggle. We are not a “Padanaram” church but we are a church for all people in Dartmouth, Westport, New Bedford and beyond. Let us embrace the next 60 years as people of hope responding to God’s urgent call.