Church History


A Brief History of St. Peter's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church


Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…

Matthew 16, 18


st. peters 9-21-08 031St. Peter was a humble fisherman called by Christ to a life of tremendous spiritual growth and leadership. He is the patron of our seaside parish which began as a humble chapel and now is a powerful beacon of faith, welcoming all to praise God and serve our neighbors.

The history of St. Peter's in Bay Shore is an inspiring testament to the profound faith, hope and charity of those who have built and sustained our parish.

The first service of what was to become St. Peter's was conducted by Reverend Reubin Riley, Rector of St. Mark's, Islip, in late 1876, in the Bay Shore home of Mrs. J. Marigault Taylor for a small group of friends.

The congregation grew and on April 30, 1882, an opening service was held in a chapel erected and furnished by the Rev. Riley and known as St. Mark's Chapel.

In the spring of 1883, Mrs. Lucy A. Carroll donated $500, which she had raised by organizing a fair, as the beginning of a fund to purchase property and to build a church. Bishop Littlejohn appointed the Reverend W. H. Cooke of Trinity Church in New York City as the spiritual leader and trustee of the mission. Eventually property at Fifth Avenue and Main Street was purchased and the Rev. Riley donated the chapel with its furnishings, prayer books and hymnals. The chapel was moved to the new property in 1885. A year-round schedule of services was adopted in 1887.

When St. Peter's became a Parish in 1888, the Reverend Charles H. Schultz was called to be rector. A new church was soon built and opened for services on July 23, 1889. Some of the furnishings, donated by parishioners, are still in St. Edmund's Chapel in the present structure. When the Rev. Schultz left in 1893, he was followed by four clergy who ministered for short periods of time.

The Rev. Dr. William Watson was called as Rector in 1916 and served until his tragic death in a car accident in 1946. Dr. Watson saw the parish community through two World Wars, the depression and continued to inspire the parish with his care and preaching.

In 1946 St. Peter's called as their new rector the Rev. Canon Sydney R Peters. During his tenure the parish, as did most of the country, grew to an amazing size. In 1957 a building campaign was organized to provide funds for renovation and furnishing of the buildings and property donated by the Landon K. Thorne family. On Palm Sunday, April 10, 1960, the last services were held at the old church at 7:00 and 8:00 AM. Then in procession from the old church, the congregation walked with Bishop deWolfe and dedicated the present church at the 10:00 AM service.

After the death of Canon Peters in 1971, the Reverend Donald S. McPhail, associate priest of St. Peter's, became the rector. Under Father McPhail, the parish grew and expanded in many directions. The addition of a Day School to take care of the Nursery, Pre-K and Kindergarten needs of the local community took place under Fr. McPhail. There was building expansion and the Day School was extended to Grade Four. The strong music program begun by Canon Peters was nurtured and extended to include several choirs. In 1981, Fr. McPhail was elected Dean of St. John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado.


In 1982, the Reverend Robert J. McCloskey, Jr. became the ninth Rector of St. Peter's. Fr. McCloskey left St. Peter's in June of 1989 for a parish in Coconut Grove, Florida.

In August 1991, The Reverend Rodney R. Michel became the tenth Rector of St. Peter's. Father Michel came from being the Canon Pastor at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, NY. The Day School expanded with the addition of grades five and six. Fr. Michel's tenure as rector took another road when he was elected Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Long Island in November 1996.

In October 1998 the Rev. Denis C. Brunelle, was called as our eleventh Rector. During his tenure much needed repairs took place to the now extensive physical plant of the church and day school. In 2006 he was appointed the Dean of the Mercer School of Theology in Garden City.

In February 2007, Reverend David F. Sellery was called to be Priest-in-Charge of St. Peter’s. In addition to his priestly parish experience, Father Sellery held executive leadership positions in major financial firms and charitable institutions. Father Sellery left St. Peter's in February 2013, and presently serves a parish in Connecticut.

The Right Reverend Johncy Itty, retired Bishop of Oregon, has served as our Bishop-in-Residence since July of 2013.

God has graciously brought St. Peter’s so far – raising up champions in the clergy and the laity. In his name and service, we confidently look forward to even greater days ahead.

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