of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Oak Harbor
The Rev. Peter H. Rood, an Episcopal priest and spiritual teacher known for his creativity and organizing skills, has been called by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Oak Harbor to be its new rector and pastor. His first Sunday leading the parish will be April 7. He and his wife Christen Herman are in the process of relocating from Southern California to Whidbey Island, where they have already purchased a home.
His appointment comes during the celebration of St. Stephen’s 65th anniversary as the Episcopal church serving North Whidbey Island. For its entire history, the church has always been located at 555 Southeast Regatta Drive in Oak Harbor, on land shaded by several giant Garry Oak trees.
“We are delighted to welcome Peter and Christen to our renewed and growing St. Stephen’s family, and we are eager to have him as our pastor and teacher,” said Harry Anderson, the church’s senior warden. “Peter’s more than two decades as a beloved priest as well as his far-reaching personal interests from gardening and yoga to bread-baking and jazz should make him an ideal and wonderful addition to our parish.”
Rev. Rood will succeed The Rev. Rilla Barrett, who is retiring on March 17. She has served as priest-in-charge since September 2013, and her loving and nurturing leadership has been instrumental in helping St. Stephen’s heal, renew and grow after a split beginning in 2004 that saw some parishioners leave to form a breakway church.
“I was drawn to St. Stephen’s because of its desire to be known as a radically welcoming, inclusive and accepting church on Whidbey Island,” said Rev. Rood. “I am inspired by its persistence and faithfulness during a period of division and struggle that has brought it to a new and promising time.”
For the past 17 years, Rev. Rood, a native of Southern California, has served as rector of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in the diverse Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles. Under his leadership, Holy Nativity has transformed itself from a struggling congregation into a vibrant parish and neighborhood gathering place with a flourishing community garden.
He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1995 after graduating from the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Before joining Holy Nativity, he served for a year as chaplain to Fred Borsch, then the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles. He worked in the financial management field before his ordination. He and his wife have five grown children and three grandchildren.
St. Stephen’s was accepted as a newly formed mission church in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in January 1954. It was originally organized after World War II by a group of Navy spouses and others who wanted to have regularly scheduled Episcopal worship services on the northern half of Whidbey Island. In the intervening 65 years, St. Stephen’s has served the community with love, generosity, faithfulness and a heartfelt commitment that all are welcome in its parish family.