Since 1894, the Cathedral Church of St Peter has been at the corner of Fourth Street and Second Avenue N.
During that time, our buildings have expanded and changed, but our mission has remained the same: to bring the love of Christ to St. Petersburg and to be a place where people are drawn together by faith in God’s love.
The mission church that became St. Peter’s was established in 1889 a few blocks west of here. In 1894, the small wooden chapel that housed the mission as moved to this site, at Fourth Street and Second Avenue N. In 1889, a new sanctuary was completed and consecrated on this site. It was quite a bit smaller than what you see today. In 1926, the church was expanded to its present size, and the space that later became St. Mary’s Chapel was added on the south side of the sanctuary.
The end of World War I in 1918 heralded the start of the "boom years" in St. Petersburg as a war-weary nation headed South for warm weather and recreation and the legendary wild property speculation that characterized the Roaring '20s.
By 1922, so many people were attending the Easter service at St. Peter's that the regular members couldn't get seats. But by 1931 the full effects of the Great Depression were taking hold: The church had to borrow money to meet expenses and the rector took a salary cut. In the city, bank deposits plummeted (four banks closed), building permits dried up and population growth dwindled.
Happier days returned by 1936. Vestry minutes record a discussion of the need for more ushers to alleviate the "immense crowds" at Communion, and 100 new Prayer Books were ordered. By the end of the decade a new Parish House had been completed (it was demolished in 2007), St. Peter's was out of debt, and the city had regained its reputation as a popular tourist destination.
That would change abruptly after Pearl Harbor, when the grand hotels in Pinellas County were turned into barracks to house troops being trained here. St. Peter's welcomed the troops to worship services, contributed to war relief, opened its doors to the Red Cross and created a "Writing and Recreation" room where as many as 500 letters were written each week by members of the military.
When the war ended, St. Petersburg experienced a third boom era. Tourists returned, and soldiers and sailors who had trained here returned to settle down, get jobs, and start families. By 1947 the Sunday school superintendent was complaining about the lack of space to accommodate children. The first conversations began about starting a church-sponsored primary school, which eventually became the Canterbury School. From the 1960s through the '80s, St. Peter's saw a period of great growth with full pews and a packed Sunday school, magnificent adult and children's choirs, a busy youth program and active social clubs.
By 1969, population growth had made the huge Episcopal Diocese of South Florida -- effectively everything from I-4 south to the Keys -- too large for one bishop. It was divided into three dioceses -- Southeast Florida, Central Florida and Southwest Florida. St. Peter's became the Cathedral -- the bishop's seat -- for the Diocese of Southwest Florida, which stretches from Marco Island north to Spring Hill and from the Gulf of Mexico east to Plant City.
In recent years St. Peter's has established itself as a resource for the diocese, hosting the annual Acolyte Festival and diocesan ordinations. We have been recognized as a Jubilee Center for the ministries we have incubated here, including Resurrection House, a faith-based program that provides housing and life skills for single mothers with children. When the Episcopal Church approved same-sex blessings in 2012, the Cathedral conducted a series of conversations that offered a model to the rest of the diocese for how to engage a sensitive subject with respect and love.
We continue our tradition of excellence in liturgy, arts and music, attracting worshipers and concertgoers from all across Tampa Bay. The Cathedral currently has about 800 active, baptized members, and our average attendance at our three weekend services is around 350. Our major outreach efforts include Project 33701, in which we strive to connect with, welcome and serve our neighbors. From time to time we engage the wider community in conversations on compelling topics: racism, respect, the role of Christianity in the public square. And once again we are seeing a period of growth: young families with children, millennials, older singles and couples, all seeking to connect with Jesus in a place where they know they belong.
The Cathedral Church of St. Peter is an Episcopal church and
the Cathedral for the Diocese of Southwest Florida.
The Episcopal Church strives to live into the loving, liberating and life-giving message of Christ that welcomes and loves each individual as they are. The Episcopal Church prides itself in walking the “via media” or the middle way between Catholicism and Protestantism: we are both sacramental and rooted in the word of God to guide our actions in the world. You’ll find the Episcopal Church attracts people from a variety of backgrounds. Because we believe that prayer shapes our belief and belief shapes our prayer, there is room for great diversity of thought.
We have a legacy of inclusion, aspiring to tell and exemplify God’s love for every human being; women and men serve as bishops, priests, and deacons in our church. Laypeople and clergy cooperate as leaders at all levels of our church. Leadership is a gift from God, and can be expressed by all people in our church, regardless of sexual identity or orientation. For more information about the Episcopal Church, please see the Episcopal Church website to read more about the ministries and life and work of the church.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church became The Cathedral Church of St. Peter in 1969. The Episcopal Church in the United States is divided into geographic areas known as dioceses and each dioceses has a Cathedral church. We are in the Diocese of Southwest Florida, which extends from Brooksville (Hernando County) to Marco Island (Lee County), and from the Gulf of Mexico to Plant City (Hillsborough County). There are about 36,000 Episcopalians in 78 congregations in this dioceses. Each diocese is presided over by a Bishop; ours is the Right Rev. Dabney T. Smith, and the Cathedral is the bishop’s official church residence. St. Peter’s takes seriously its role as the Cathedral. We host ordinations; the annual Acolyte Festival, the largest youth event in the diocese; and the diocesan celebration of Blessed Absalom Jones in February. We gladly share our resources, space and knowledge with other congregations in the wider community.