Charred bricks

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

Slaw­son, 61, a soft-spo­ken Ten­nessee na­tive with a rep­u­ta­tion for bring­ing peo­ple to­gether, was serv­ing in the Dio­cese of Mis­sis­sippi five years ago when the Mary­land Dio­cese con­tacted him about St. Peter’s.

He ac­cepted the vicar’s job two months af­ter the shoot­ings. He brought with him an un­der­stated re­solve, and a mantra that be­came the church’s ral­ly­ing cry.

He greets a guest in the si­lence of the St. Peter’s chapel, an in­ti­mate, wood-pan­eled wor­ship space a few feet from the scene of the killings in 2012. “We’re a res­ur­rec­tion peo­ple,” he says. In some ways, the church has al­ways bat­tled to stay alive.

It was founded on April 15, 1842 — 175 years ago this week­end — when a priest named Al­fred Holmead came to what was then El­li­cott Mills to be­come chap­lain at the nearby Pat­ap­sco Fe­male In­sti­tute, a fin­ish­ing school.

Holmead saw the move as a chance to start an Epis­co­pal par­ish for the mill work­ers in the vil­lage, ac­cord­ing to a his­tory of the church by for­mer mem­ber Dick Mitchell.

Sit­u­ated in what is now his­toric down­town El­li­cott City, the par­ish was so hum­ble it couldn’t af­ford a full-time rec­tor for half a cen­tury, and didn’t hit the 100-mem­ber mark un­til the 1890s.

Kather­ine Sch­nor­ren­berg, a mem­ber since 2002, has stud­ied that his­tory ex­ten­sively. She says the church has al­ways rep­re­sented a blend of cheer­ful ec­cen­tric­ity and mone­tary un­cer­tainty.

“St. Peter’s has teetered on the edge of fi­nan­cial in­sta­bil­ity since its found­ing,” she says. “Its his­tory has al­ways been kind of a hoot.”

That was cer­tainly the case be­tween the 1920s and the 1940s, when the dio­cese fired and re­hired its iras­ci­ble rec­tor, the Rev. Julius Ve­lasco, sev­eral times.

The build­ing burned down in 1939, and Ve­lasco used part of a mea­ger in­sur­ance pay­out to have many of the charred bricks carted up­hill to a par­ish prop­erty on Rogers Av­enue, where they be­came part of the foundation of the new church. The burned bricks are still vis­i­ble there. “When you think about it, it’s quite

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