ST. PETER’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
239 Second Avenue,
Peter’s Church was formed June 12, 1904 with a small
group of people meeting at the residence of Dr. Daniel H.
Sleem. The celebrant was Reverand F.C. Taylor of Valdez where
he was the priest-in-charge of the Church of the Epiphany.
During next few years services alternated between Moore’s
Hall, the Alaska Northern Railroad depot and a tent the members
During the winter of 1905, plans for construction were made
for the Second Avenue Building. A late January 1906 arrival
of building materials allowed the construction to begin, and
by mid-March the majority of the exterior work was completed.
The pioneer Alaskan prelate Bishop P.T. Rowe dedicated the
church. Since his first visit on April 1, 1906, Rowe would
occasionally visit the congregation, performing baptisms and
confirmations. St. Peter’s Church was the first Protestant
church established on the Kenai Peninsula.
St. Peter’s embraced the spirit of ecumenism. and its
membership joined with the Catholics for special occasions.
They worked together with all the other church congregations
to meet the important needs of the community. The Woman’s
Auxiliary raised funds, aided the church and helped with many
social projects. A Sunday School was also organized shortly
after the completion of the building.
Although it was established early in Seward’s history,
the Church suffered for extended periods of time without a
resident priest. Initially it was visited periodically by
clerics headquartered at Valdez and the Episcopalian Bishop
of Alaska, P.T. Rowe.
In 1915, the Reverend Edward H. Mohony, who was the missionary
in charge of the Prince William Sound area, came to Seward
to organize a permanent post.
From the membership a finance committee was appointed, establishing
Harry L. Balderston as chairperson, Erich Lucas as treasurer,
Andrew G. de Sherbinin and Charles H. Clark. St. Peter’s
Guild organized church officers: Mrs. Sam M. Graff, president;
Mrs. W.E. Root, vice president; Mrs. Erich Lucas, secretary;
and Mrs. A.G. de Sherbinin, treasurer.
Mohony had originally planned to return to Anchorage on the
Farragut with his family, but the port was ice bound and inaccessible.
The ship returned to Seward, where the
community persuaded the Reverand to stay until spring.
The Reverend Mohony, his wife, and daughters Shelia and Molly
stayed at the Thoday residence as the Episcopalians had no
rectory. Mohony had originally volunteered to come to Alaska
to stay with Bishop Rowe for one year, but remained for three.
He was stationed at Valdez, organized the church in Anchorage,
and visited Kodiak.
Entirely at his own expense, Mohony traveled more than 5,000
miles on Alaska waters. He traveled 2,300 miles on dog sled
through Interior Alaskan trails. Mohony organized a mission
at Shungnat on the Kobuk River. He was the first missionary
to visit the Nabesna and Tetlin Indians. The Reverend Mohony
and his family left Alaska for California on May 5, 1916,
On November 20, 1916, Reverand George John Zinn arrived to
hold services and meet with parishioners to discuss building
a rectory so a permanent clergyman could remain in Seward.
Zinn purchased the lot adjacent to the church from the Ballaines
for $250, and made plans to buy the adjoining lot in the future.
Zinn noted that the church building was complete, but had
no interior furnishings. There was no altar, pews, chairs
or other necessities to conduct services. It needed a new
chimney and a heating plant. Services were being held in the
basement, using a storage box as an altar.
The Reverend Zinn was alternating services between Valdez
and Seward – but it is recorded that in February 1917,
he was also curate of St. John’s Episcopal Church in
New York…which may have assisted in his fundraising
Zinn sketched plans and specifications for a rectory and
mailed them to an architect. He obtained funds to complete
the interior of the church as well as and build and furnish
the rectory. The construction of the Episcopal rectory was
authorized in August 1917, and by November the outside work
In February 1917, a small circulating library was established
when Miss E.K. Chamberlain, a member of the St. James Episcopal
Church of Monclair, New Jersey donated more than 100 books
of recent fiction, scientific, and theological books to the
church. Mrs. A.H. McNeer was the first librarian, opening
Thursdays at her home.
In 1921, the Reverend E.W. Hughes of Anchorage led services
at Seward on every third Sunday. The Woman’s Guild was
organized in 1922. In 1923, Anchorage Reverend Burdette Lansdowne
served the Seward Episcopalians.
St. Peter’s was blessed in 1924, when Dutch artist,
Jan Van Emple came to Seward for a two year visit. It has
been reported that Van Emple ran away from home and came to
the New World as a cabin boy. From September to November of
1925, he worked on his first sacred picture, “The Resurrection,”
for the rear of the church’s altar. This reredos is
a unique work as it depicts the Ascension and well as the
Resurrection of Christ.
of apostles, the painting includes people of Alaska. Eskimos,
a trapper, a fisherman and a pioneer woman make up the foreground.
The little Indian mother is unable to lift her head to up
to heaven with the rest because her baby weighs so heavily
upon her back.
The prospector, a self-portrait of Van Emple, stands in his
rough shirt and suspenders, rugged, true to life, his shallow
round pan dropped from his hand and rolled against the open
seplchre. The angels on either side of Christ are portraits
of Van Emple’s two sisters. The empty tomb is shown
against the mountains and waters of Resurrection Bay.
The whole conception forms a work of great piety and unusual
beauty. $650 was raised by subscription for this painting
which reflects the Church’s teaching to “preach
peace to them that are far off and to them that are nigh.”
Van Emple was featured in the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Studio Club when it opened in New York in 1918, and took part
in a number of East Coast exhibits. His work is held in the
collections of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and
is currently featured in nine published works. Van Emple is
mostly known for his coastal landscapes of Alaska.
In 1927, Anchorage Reverend William A. Thomas and Cordova
Reverend L.F. Kent conducted services at St. Peters. July
1928, W.R. MacPherson became a pastor at St. Peters. In June
1929 MacPherson met with Fairbanks Bishop Rowe to receive
his ordination into the deaconate of the church. MacPherson
transferred to Anchorage in February 1930.
On September 25, 1938 the Guild of St. Peters Episcopal Church
was organized. Officers were Mrs. Edith Thoday, president;
Mrs. Katherine Rager, vice president; and Mrs. Beryl Wagner,
Father Warren R. Fenn, pastor of Anchorage’s All Saints
Episcopal Church, conducted services occasionally from the
late 1930s to the 1940s. In 1968, Father Randall Mendelsohn
was replaced by Father Everett Wenrick. In 1978, Reverend
Charles Lechner conducted services.
Commissioned Lay Minister Mary Elizabeth Lee was the minister
during the late 1970s and 1980s. Mrs. Myrle Diener was ordained
into the Episcopal priesthood at Seward on June 11, 1988 and
was subsequently installed as vicar. Diener served the congregation
through April 1993, with Vicar Ron N. Heister arriving in
In 2004, the Reverand Robert Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
serves as vicar and Br. Emmanuel Williamson email@example.com
serves as BSG.