1777 map, published in France, shows St. Peter's at Pine and Third Streets.

Origins: The First Service

On Friday, Sept. 4, 1761, officiating clergy, except for the Rev. Robert Jenney, the rector, who was "indisposed," churchwardens and vestry, the clerk and sexton met at Christ Church and processed to Gov. John Penn's house, and were joined by the governor and members of the council, and went to St. Peter's, where "a polite and crowded audience," among them Benjamin Franklin, awaited them.

The Rev. Jacob Duche, a young assistant minister and later rector, read all the service, except the absolution, performed by the first assistant minister, William Sturgeon, and the Gospel for St. Peter's Day was read at the altar by the eldest ranking clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Niell.

The sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr. William Smith, provost of the College of Pennsylvania and the highest ranking Anglican clergyman in the colony, using as his text 1 Kings VIII 13, 27, 57, 50:

"I have surely built thee a house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever; But will God indeed dwell on Earth? Behold the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our father: Let him not leave us, nor forsake us. That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else."

In the course of his sermon, Dr. Smith said, "we, too, my bretheren have been building a house to the Lord, not a superb and magnificent one, fitted to the ostentatious worship of the Lord, but a house decently and elegantly plain, fitted to the simplicity of that Gospel-worship, which must be performed in Spirit and in Truth.."

After the sermon, the words of the text, which had been composed into an anthem, was sung by a choir of men and women.

The service was conducted as follows:

Opening sentences: Thus saith the Lord: the Heaven is my Throne, and the Earth is my footstool. Where is the House that ye build unto me? And where is the Place of my Rest. Isaiah.

From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my Name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered in my Name, and a pure offering; for my Name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts. Malachi

The Wilderness and the Solitary Place shall be glad, and the Desert shall rejoice and blossom as the Rose. Isaiah

Where two or three are gathered in my Name, I will be in the midst of them. Matthew.

There were prayers from the reading desk, Morning Prayer, readings of Psalms 84, 122 and 132, the lessons read were I Kings Chapter 8, and Matthew, Chapter 21 to verse 14. There was a baptism at the font by Dr. Smith, the collect for St. Peter’s Day and one for Good Friday, and Communion, with the Gospel for St. Peter’s Day and the Epistle from Haggai, Chapter 2 to verse 10.

A Walk through History

1771 Dr. Peters announces debt for building of St. Peter’s is paid (from his own pocket).

1772 Christ Church Hospital is founded as an almshouse for poor and distressed women; William White and Thomas Coombs hired as assistant ministers’ Dr. Duche is senior assistant.

1774 The Rev. Jacob Duché, assistant rector, named chaplain of the Continental Congress; reappointed in 1775 and 1776.

1775 Revolutionary War begins at Lexington and Concord in April. September 1775 Dr. Peters resigns; dies July 1776.

September 1777 Dr. Jacob Duché becomes third rector of St. Peter’s. July 1776 Dr. Duché strikes prayers for the royal family from liturgy.

September 1777 to June 1778 British occupy Philadelphia; Dr. Duche restores prayers for the King, but is arrested for his alleged patriot sympathies; upon his release, he writes to Gen. Washington at Valley Forge, urging him to surrender. Bells from the wooden cupola are removed by fleeing citizens to Allentown for safe keeping.

December 1777 Wooden fence surrounding St. Peter’s burned by British for firewood.

June 1778 British evacuate; Dr. Duché flees to England for 12-year exile.

April 1778 Dr. Thomas Coombe placed temporarily in charge of parishes; he, too, chooses exile in England.

April 15, 1779 Dr. William White becomes fourth rector, serves 57 years until his death in 1836.

1781 Revolutionary War ends; Anglican Church in America sees thousands of Loyalist members flee and is looked upon with suspicion by many patriots; however, most of leaders of new nation and city are Anglicans, and situation improves quickly.

1782 A choir of 12 men and women begins singing at services.

1784 The present brick wall surrounding St. Peter’s is constructed, with stone balls on gate brought from England.

1784 Samuel Seabury of Connecticut is consecrated first American Episcopal bishop in Scotland.

1785 The first General Convention of the church in Philadelphia, boycotted by Bishop Seabury and New Englanders over the question of apostolic succession. Protestant Episcopal Church as a name is chosen.

Forward Back