Founding of Grace Church
In 1860 Fr. Fayette Durlin was sent to Ripon by Bishop Jackson Kemper of the Diocese of Wisconsin to establish an Episcopal church. A group of Episcopalians met briefly in a store until the church could be built. The cornerstone for Grace Church was laid on June 8, 1860.
The Parish School was built adjacent in 1864 and operated for approximately 15
years with an enrollment of about 40 students. A matching rectory was erected
on the property in 1866. In 1865 the name was changed to St. Peter to
correspond to St. Wilfred’s dedication of St. Peter Cathedral in Ripon, Yorkshire,
England. Fr. Durlin was the first rector serving in 1865. He left for a few years
and returned in 1873 to serve until 1883. He was part of the formation of the
Diocese of Fond du Lac in 1875. His final wish was granted in September 1901,
when he was buried on the grounds between the church and the school.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s seven sanctuary lamps and 14 Stations of the Cross were added. The rood screen was removed about 1932 and the statues were made a part of the reredos and the hanging rood cross added. St. Peter hosted an extremely active VBS through the 1950’s. A renovation in 1952 added a rector’s office, sacristy and new entrance to the parish hall; with a kitchen and lounge downstairs. Between 1964 and 1978 the stained-glass window project depicting the life of St. Peter was undertaken. Each window was given as a memorial.
The Women of St. Peter began a project in 1974 to provide needlepoint kneelers and cushions. Participation in a trip to Ripon, England in 1972 in celebration of the 130th anniversary of St. Peter and St. Wilfred Cathedral was a high point. The rector, several parishioners and townspeople participated. In 1974 St. Peter was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1988 another major project converted a crawl space under the church into an undercroft, recently renamed Brown Hall in memory of the Rev. Canon Robert J.C. Brown, rector from 1965 to 1997. In the 1980’s a Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s group was formed and was active for a number of years. They hosted the Shrove Tuesday dinner. For many years, beginning in the 1960’s, the Women of St. Peter organized a rummage sale which was affectionately known as “Le Boutique de St. Pere.” Several ladies also assisted in constructing and sewing veils for covering the statuary during Lent as well as making alter linens.
The 21st Century
In the early 21st century a number of parishioners participated in Ripon’s Dicken’s of a Christmas celebration by hosting the Night of the Nativities, displaying over 200 crèches. St. Peter has also held Taize services under the direction of two separate rectors with community involvement.
Buildings & Grounds
St. Peter is located on Ripon’s Gothic Mill Pond. One of the finest pieces of property in Ripon, it was designated to be the site of St. Peter by Michigan Territorial Governor and Wisconsin Secretary, John Scott Horner. He was an early Anglican settler and instrumental in the founding of the city of Ripon. He named Ripon for his ancestral home in Ripon, Yorkshire, England. He additionally assisted in the establishment of Ripon College.
The Nave seats 200 people with a choir area in the sanctuary. The Nave is enhanced by several life-sized German hand carved wooden statues. Our organ is a Marshall-Lancaster pipe organ built in England and received in 1864. The organ has been extensively rebuilt twice and has been filling the church with glorious sounds since it’s installation.
The main office and rector’s offices have been extensively remodeled this past year. We have two large meeting areas: the Parish Hall (formerly the parish school) which is located on the main level, and Brown Hall (the remodeled undercroft) which is located on the lower level. Adjacent to Brown Hall is the certified commercial grade kitchen and lounge area. A portion of Brown Hall is our ancillary chapel.
To the north of the parish hall is a two-story limestone rectory built in 1901. The first floor has a spacious foyer, two formal living rooms, formal dining room, modern kitchen and a half bath. The second floor of this lovely home contains four large bedrooms, 3/4 bath, full bath, laundry facility and attic access. The large back porch affords a scenic view of the Gothic Mill Pond with the comforting sounds of the water falling over the dam. On the street side of the rectory is a lovely stone carving of Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Around the entire church property are memorial gardens, including a rose bush that was transported westward in a Conestoga wagon. We are in the process of planning placement of a columbarium on the church property.
St. Mary Chapel in Wautoma is located 38 miles northwest of Ripon on the shoreline of scenic Bugh’s Lake. It was extensively renovated in 2006-07 making it more suitable for year-round use. It is a setting which makes the congregation feel connected to their fellow worshipers and the beauty of nature.