St. Peter's Lutheran Church
About our church
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church was established in 1910 with 66 members. The first building was erected on Lyon Street and dedicated on Easter Sunday in 1914. Early members were predominantly residents of Ottawa, recent immigrants, or arrivals from neighbouring towns and rural communities. After many years of financial hardship and difficulties, the congregation gradually increased and outgrew its church building.
The present building was dedicated in 1954. It is situated on Ottawa’s ceremonial route and overlooks the Garden of the Provinces, the Ottawa River and the Gatineau Hills. St. Peter’s is an Ottawa landmark, designed in traditional English Gothic style. The stained glass is rich in symbolic motifs, including an image of the church built on a rock (Matthew 16:18).
At present, St. Peter’s has about 400 baptized members, who represent many different ethnic groups from diverse religious backgrounds.
In 2010, St. Peter’s celebrated its 100th Anniversary.
Architecture & Art
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Ottawa, is an architectural landmark located in the heart of Canada’s national capital. Dedicated in 1954, the building was designed in English Gothic style by the prominent architect Cecil Burgess (1888-1956). Born and educated in England, Burgess practiced in Ottawa for nearly fifty years. His longstanding interest in the architectural principles of the Gothic Revival, which culminated in St. Peter’s, is already evident in 1920s, in designs such as St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Perth, Ontario), and St. Matthew’s Anglican Church (Ottawa). St. Peter’s is a project of his mature years, designed with graceful proportions, built with fine materials and finished with a craftsman’s attention to detail. The exterior is faced with sandstone similar to the stone used for buildings in the Parliamentary precinct. The interior displays fine examples of wood carving on the altar, reredos, pulpit, lectern and font. At the time of building, the height of St. Peter’s tower was reduced from the original plans due to lack of funds. The tower was extended in 1968 under the direction of architect Oskars Krause.
October 31, 1517 – the date Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany – is now widely held to be the beginning of the Reformation. As a living memorial to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has created a Luther Garden in Wittenberg. The LWF objective for the Luther Garden is to underscore the ecumenical significance of the Reformation anniversary and its importance for ecumenical relationships. Five hundred trees will be sponsored by churches of all denominations around the world, and sponsoring churches will plant a twin tree in the area of their home parish.
On November 16, 2014, St. Peter’s Reformation tree was planted in the Wittenberg Luther Garden, along with trees sponsored by churches in Denmark, Gambia, Myanmar and South Africa. On behalf of the Congregation and Pastor Beglo, St. Peter’s tree was planted by the Rev. Hans W Kasch (LWF Center Wittenberg) and the Rev. Neil Christian Thomson (Canadian Forces Reserve Chaplain), assisted by a child from the Protestant Primary School in Wittenberg.
St. Peter’s Reformation tree was commissioned with a reading of the powerful message to the world, recorded at the beginning of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word …” (John 1:1-5). One of the endearing Luther legends is his assertion that if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he would plant a tree. In keeping with the Gospel of John and the spirit of Luther, St. Peter’s Reformation Tree is a sign of hope. The marker is inscribed: 500 years Reformation – 500 trees in Wittenberg / A sign of a growing ecumenical community / 187 Mirabelle plum tree / St. Peter’s Lutheran Congregation in Ottawa, Canada / Rev. Dr. Barton Beglo, Pastor
In 2015, St. Peter’s twin tree was planted at Canada’s Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The Farm was established by the federal government in 1886 and the city grew up around it. Today the Farm has a dual role as a National Historic Site and working research centre. St. Peter’s Ottawa tree is located in an area under development as a shelter belt on the western boundary of the Farm. A plaque on the donor wall at the site is inscribed: For/Pour / The Reformation, 500 Years, 1517-2017 / Donated by/Offert par / St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Ottawa.
In keeping with St. Peter’s ministry of music, the congregation has commissioned original sacred music from Canadian composers and produced a music CD.
“St. Peter’s Sonata”-A work for organ and choir, commissioned in 1996 from the composer John Burge. The premier performance, on April 28, 1996, was recorded by CBC for national broadcast.
“May None of God’s Wonderful Works Keep Silence”-A work for organ and choir, commissioned in 1997 from the composer Denis Bédard.
“Jesus Your Boundless Love”-A work for organ and choir, commissioned in 2006 from the composer Mark Sirett.
“Lo God is Here”-A work for organ and choir, commissioned in 2010 from the composer Eleanor Daley.
“St. Peter’s Sings”-A CD produced to commemorate the Millennium, celebrate 2000 years of Christianity, and highlight the importance of church music, not only at St. Peter’s but also in Lutheran tradition. “St. Peter’s Sings” features the Senior and Junior Choirs, Sunday Church School, organ, liturgy and congregational singing. It was recorded in two parts, on May 15, 1999, and during the worship service on May 16, 1999.
For many years, acquisition of a new organ was only a dream of both congregation and council. The dream became a reality on January 30, 1977, with the dedication of the new instrument.The new organ was specially designed and manufactured by Casavant Frères Limitée of St. Hyacinthe, Québec, whose founder, Joseph Casavant, built the first organ for Bytown’s Cathedral over 150 years ago.Freestanding at the rear of the church in its elegant case of matching Adirondack oak, the organ speaks along the central axis of the building thus providing strong support for congregational singing. Rising to the height of 22 and a half feet, the profile of the case follows the contour of the arch in which it stands. The base of the organ has been kept as narrow as possible to avoid obstructing sight lines from the parish hall to the front of the church.The facade pipes, principal and mixture pipes and reed resonators are of polished tin, the keyboards are hand-crafted of ebony, ivory and rosewood, and the stop knobs are turned walnut. There are nineteen ranks and nine hundred and thirty two individual pipes distributed over one pedal and two manual divisions. The pipes of the Hauptwerk and Pedal are located in the large upper portion of the organ case. The pipes of the Brustwerk are in the middle section of the case, just above the organist’s head, and their volume can be controlled by horizontal louvers operated by a foot pedal.
In November, 2016, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church took delivery of Steinway #601804, a new seven foot Steinway Model B ebony finish grand piano. The piano was manufactured in New York in 2015/16, and was delivered directly from the factory to the Steinway Piano Gallery in Ottawa. Prior to being acquired by the Church, it was featured at several concerts at the 2016 Ottawa Jazz Festival and 2016 Chamber Music Festival. The piano was acquired as a result of a generous donation, a gift from a long-time friend of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Following an extensive selection process, the Steinway Model B was chosen for St. Peter’s because of its size, remarkable tone, playability, and the uncompromised quality of its workmanship. Steinway pianos are handcrafted instruments, taking over a year to produce, and periodically a real gem stands out. Steinway #601804 is one of those gems. We are extremely grateful to the donor for this exceptional gift. It enhances the range of music that is performed by St. Peter’s Choirs during Worship Service and the prelude and postlude.
Our long awaited, and much anticipated, new bells and carillon arrived Friday, December 15 2017 – adding an appropriate celebratory note to the end of the Reformation 500 year! And are they beautiful! A much-appreciated and generous gift from an anonymous donor, planning and preparations for the bells began more than a year prior to their arrival. St Peter’s congregation is extremely thankful for this generous donation.
The three bells were blessed and named by Pastor Stan Johnstone on December 17, 2017 and were installed into the bell tower on December 19. Each bell was anointed with oil, and granted names chosen to memorialize prominent people of faith in the Church’s history, and who influence us today:
Saint Peter, in memory of the blessed Disciple declared as an example of the rock upon which the Church stands;
Luther, in memory of Dr. Martin Luther, Reformer;
Bach, in memory of Johan Sebastian Bach, famed Lutheran composer of sacred music.
The Saint Peter bell is inscribed with the church’s name, the city and the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria” which means “Glory to God alone”. The bronze bells were made in the Paccard Foundry in Sévrier, France, which has been casting bells since 1796. For seven generations the Paccard foundry has been casting bells by hand, using a version of the lost-wax process. For more information on this process see The Bells of Annecy. The Bach and Luther bells, show in the pictures below, were cast on June 15, 2017 and the St. Peter bell was cast on June 22. After the bells were cleaned and polished, they were shipped to Chime Masters in Lancaster Ohio for finishing, where the supports for swinging the bells were attached. Months prior to the installation of the bells, substantial work was done in the bell tower to support the bells and to build a stairs in the tower, making it easier for the workers. A special thank you to those church members who did this preparation. The two smaller bells each weigh more than 500 kilograms and the largest bell alone is more than 544 kilograms (over 1/2 a ton). A large crane was needed to lift each bell over top of the bell tower and to delicately lower them through a small trap door in the roof. The Bach and Luther bells were successfully lowered into the tower first since they would be mounted on either side of the St. Peter bell. However with the swinging mechanism, the St. Peter bell would not fit through the trap door. So the big bell was lowered back to the ground and its swinging support was removed. Fortunately the second attempt to install the bell was successful. The electronic system installed to ring the bells can be programmed to ring any combination of the three bells at scheduled times. It would be nice for people to actually see the bells ringing but in addition to the tower climb, these bells are extremely loud. So a camera was set up in the tower and various combinations of the bells were rung.
1910: July 10 The first service is held at King’s Daughters Hall, 214 Laurier Avenue. 46 persons attend the morning service; 40 attend in the evening.
October 9 A permanent organization is established with 66 charter members.
October 19 The Church Council meets for the first time and selects the name “St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ottawa”.
1912: April Property at Lyon and Nepean Streets is purchased. It consists of three small houses with sufficient land behind them to erect a small church.
1913: September 24 Plans for the church are approved and building begins immediately.
1914: April 12 The church is dedicated.
1915-1917: St. Peter’s is without a pastor.
1918: Foreclosure is threatened on the debt. The congregation has only 40 members.
1919: Pastor Luther McCreery accepts a call to St. Peter’s. He canvasses other Lutheran churches for donations in order to keep St. Peter’s open.
1920-1930: Under Pastor McCreery, debt is reduced, membership rises to 100, and he sets aside funds as a nucleus of a proposed building fund.
1937: Fall A two-manual Franklin-Legge organ is purchased. It was rebuilt and moved to the new church in 1954. The interior of the church is remodeled and redecorated and a new altar cross, candlesticks and vases are purchased.
1944: The row of houses on Lyon Street is sold. Indebtedness is discharged. The congregation is growing and the church building is too small.
1948: November A site at Sparks and Bay Street is purchased. Three years later, the buildings on the site are demolished to make room for the new church.
1952: July 6 Ground is broken for the new church, designed by architect Cecil Burgess. October 26 The cornerstone is laid.
1954: February The altar cross is a gift from Sweden, created by Swedish artist Sven Arne Gillgren (1913-1992). March 28 The new church and parish hall are dedicated. Governor General Vincent Massey reads the lesson. September 26 The first Ottawa church service to be televised over the CBC network originates from St. Peter’s. It is also the first Lutheran service to be telecast in the Dominion of Canada.
1955: June 26 The choir pews are dedicated in commemoration of the birth of Lutheranism in Canada and are donated by the Hon. Senator John J. McKinley.
1958: The buildings at the front of the church are demolished to make room for the Garden of the Provinces. The Garden is officially opened in September, 1962.
1963: A fire at the church property, 403 Queen Street, causes extensive damage. The decision is made to tear down the building and use the land for parking.
1967: As a Centennial Project, a bell carillon is installed by the congregation in memory of members whose faithfulness and sacrifice made the present church possible.
1968: February Six stonemasons and labourers from the congregation extend the tower by 11 feet. The architect is Oskars Krauze. October 27 Governor General Roland Michener attends the Reformation Service that is televised on CBC.
1972: November 12 Final mortgages on the church, the parsonage and the Queen Street property are burned.
1974: May 1 The church purchases the property at 136 Bay Street. In 1979 it is designated as a Heritage Property. Costs to restore the building make restoration prohibitive.
1977: January 30 The new Casavant organ is dedicated.
1982: November 23 After numerous court cases and appeals, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that the City of Ottawa must repeal the by-law designating 136 Bay Street as heritage and pay court costs. In January 1983, the property is demolished.
1985: May 12 The stained-glass window in the chancel is dedicated. It was designed by Russell Goodman, and is the first of a series of windows that are installed between 1985 and 1993.
1991: St. Peter’s Organist and Choir Director, Danielle Dubé, organizes first Ottawa Lutheran Music and Choir Festival. Congregation initiates annual “Mitten Tree”, an Advent outreach project to provide warm clothing for children and adults in the Ottawa community.
1992: Congregation initiates “Tree of Life” and “Share Thanksgiving” food drives to assist local food banks. St. Peter’s introduces a weekly prayer calendar that remembers others during Worship service.
1993: December The Nativity Wall Hanging is installed in the chancel. On June 3, 1997, the Resurrection Wall Hanging is dedicated, and in June 2000, the third hanging, “Community in Christ” is installed on the pulpit side of the chancel. All were created by Gary and Francine Slippert. New front walk is installed to provide barrier-free access to the church. St. Peter’s establishes the Ruth Fund to designate resources for congregational outreach.
1994: Summer music meditations to enrich summer Worship are initiated by Mai-yu Chan, St. Peter’s Associate Organist. A processional cross is added to the liturgical furnishings.
1995: June By Faith: Lutherans in Ottawa and the Valleys, a book of twelve essays, is published by St. Peter’s Press to mark the 10th anniversary of the ELCIC.
1996: April 28 The premier performance of “St. Peter’s Sonata”, commissioned by the congregation from composer John Burge, is recorded by the CBC for national broadcast. St. Peter’s website is launched on the internet.
1997: October 26 “May None of God’s Wonderful Works Keep Silence”, a work for organ and choir which was commissioned from composer Denis Bédard, is performed for the first time by the Senior Choir.
1998: April 26 Quebec artist Jacques Bradet refurbishes the baptismal font. Weekly prayer lists are expanded and book for individual prayer requests is introduced. St. Peter’s youth volunteer at St. Vincent’s Hospital by helping patients attend Sunday Worship.
1999: St. Peter’s and Christ Church Anglican Cathedral co-host the first Lutheran-Anglican study day for clergy, chaired by Pastor Beglo and Bishop Peter Coffin.
2000: May 16 St. Peter’s releases “St. Peter’s Sings” CD to commemorate the year 2000. It features liturgy chanted by the pastor, senior and junior choirs, Sunday Church School, organ music and congregational singing. Young musicians from St. Peter’s present first annual spring Music Fête, following the Worship service.
2001: St. Peter’s supports Waterloo Lutheran Seminary with a multi-year contribution to the Seminary’s endowment appeal. St. Peter’s initiates Ottawa seminars led by faculty from Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.
2002: Lutherans and Anglicans celebrate full communion with a service at Christ Church Anglican Cathedral. Lutheran Bishop Michael Pryse is the presiding minister. Anglican Bishop Peter Coffin is the preacher.
2003: A crêche is commission from Quebec artist André Pelletier. Additional pieces are added in subsequent years. St. Peter’s begins participating in Doors Open Ottawa.
2005: St. Peter’s introduces Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) support projects with assembly of the first baby bundles for distribution abroad.
2006: October “Jesus Your Boundless Love”, a musical composition for organ and choir by Mark Sirett, is dedicated. St. Peter’s begins assembling survival kits in support of Ottawa Inner-city Ministries. Sunday Church School presents first annual art show of Christian arts and crafts by St. Peter’s SCS students.
2007: February St. Peter’s quilters begin monthly work days. May5 First display and blessing of quilts for distribution by Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR).
2009: St. Peter’s begins Anniversary Blessings Project, which supports ministries of the wider church and gives gifts to others in thanksgiving for 100 years of blessings at St. Peter’s. St. Peter’s joins Citizens for Public Justice through the work of Waterloo Lutheran Seminary intern Adam Snook.
2010: Eleanor Daley, a Quebec composer, is commissioned to write “Lo God is Here!” for choir and organ. October 3 St. Peter’s Press launches St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Ottawa, Ontario Celebrating 100 Years 1910-2010. The book is a pictorial history and chronology of the church. October 10 Festival Worship concludes a year of special events to mark our 100th anniversary. National ELCIC Bishop Susan Johnson delivers the sermon.
2011: St. Peter’s hosts Santa Lucia pageant, sponsored by the Canadian Nordic Society.
2012: Quilters celebrate fifth anniversary with display and blessing of quilts for distribution by Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR).
St. Peter’s youth and Service Committee participate in community outreach by preparing and serving lunch at Centre 507 adult drop-in centre.
2013: St. Peter’s hosts Heinrich Mühlenberg exhibition during national Joint Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Anglican Church of Canada. Congregation donates 460 sweaters to CLWR Emergency Appeal to assist Syrian refugees in Jordan. St. Peter’s participates in ELCIC national Bishop Susan Johnson’s call to spiritual renewal.
2014: St. Peter’s hosts Citizens for Public Justice workshop, “Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis”. “Compassionate Cooking Challenge” follows Worship service, in solidarity with Centre 507 and Centretown Emergency Food Centre. St. Peter’s hosts annual Ecumenical Service for Social Justice, sponsored by Centretown Churches Social Action Committee. St. Peter’s choir participates in Ottawa Lutherfest, a celebration of Lutheran musical heritage with eight Ottawa congregations. Lutherfest is directed by St. Peter’s Organist/Choir Director and accompanied by St. Peter’s Associate Organist. November 16 St. Peter’s Reformation Tree is planted in the Lutheran World Federation Luther Garden in Wittneberg, Germany. St. Peter’s hosts #LightForLima, a multi-faith prayer vigil in partnership with Citizens for Public Justice, to support global climate Justice.
2015: The 500th quilt is blessed, assembled by St. Peter’s CLWR Quilters for Canadian Lutheran World Relief. St. Peter’s hosts a “Time for Reconciliation” session in conjunction with the closing events for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A twin tree for St. Peter’s Reformation Tree in the Luther Garden, Wittenberg, Germany, is planted at Canada’s Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa. St. Peter’s is accredited as a Greening Congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, in recognition of leadership in environmental stewardship.
2016: In partnership with the Ottawa Lutheran Refugee Sponsorship Committee, St. Peter’s sponsors refugees from Syria and Eritrea. St. Peter’s hosts Kairos Blanket Exercise, an interactive learning experience developed to explore relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. In anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, St. Peter’s hosts a multi-parish Reformation service for Ottawa Lutheran Ministry Area. St. Peter’s receives a Steinway grand piano as a gift from an anonymous donor.