Our parish became St. David’s Episcopal Church in 1954, having begun as a mission three years earlier. The Seattle-Tacoma ECW saw fit to provide a boat (christened “The Royal Cross”) for Father Glion Benson and his piano-playing wife as they were posted here. On Sundays, the hardworking couple celebrated mass in a Friday Harbor storefront converted to a stuffy chapel. They slept on cots there so they could be available on Mondays for pastoral care. Mr. & Mrs. D. W. Fletcher were moved to help improve circumstances for the Bensons and St. David’s; they donated a large corner lot in town for the construction of a church.
By Spring of 1958, our first worship hall was built on the new church grounds. Services were held in this building, which later became the vicarage, while local architect, mariner and colorful island character John Dickinson designed a sanctuary with a nautical nod to the Ark—a suitable motif for a place that continues to be a spiritual refuge. The new church was consecrated in 1963.
In 1967, Father Edward Leche III and his family of four children made their home in the vicarage and became active in our community. Fr. Leche and his wife tended the main islands and several outer ones for 21 years, through the tumultuous late 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s when the county’s population was growing rapidly. On St. David’s Day, March 1, 1982, a joyous celebration was held to commemorate the burning of the mortgage. Fr. Leche retired in 1988.
Our next minister of long tenure was Rev. West Davis, who served from 1993 to 2001. He was known around town as an unconventional, approachable minister to spiritual seekers, sporting a dog collar astride his motorcycle. With a provocative interlocutory manner, he challenged and enlivened the minds of an expanding congregation. St. David’s became an official parish during Rev. Davis’s tenure.
Then came Rev. Nancy Tiederman, our first female priest, in her first parish position. She launched a major renovation, as the facilities were in dire need of repair.
Fr. Doug Simonsen was appointed to St. David’s in 2008 as Priest in Charge and served here for 12 years, commuting from his home in Anacortes. He worked with the Diocese to design a capital campaign to retire the new mortgage debt. A new Vision Action Support Team developed many worthy programs to serve local needs; the Food Bank, Care Team, and Activities Committee all sprang from this chapter in our history. Fr. Simonsen retired after Christmas 2020.
We are grateful to our vestry for steady hands on the tiller and for the talents of our lay community as we have navigated these unusual times, and we look forward to kindling new connections and finding fresh opportunities for fulfilling outreach as we welcome a new priest in 2022.