When the Rev. Peter Fritsch interviewed with the folks at St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Port Orford, he asked if they were serious about growing as a church. “I told the vestry that I wasn’t interested in being a chaplain and maintaining a status quo of five on a Sunday; that didn’t interest me at all,” said the Rev. Fritsch. “However, if they were serious about growing spiritually and numerically and willing to market themselves, I was interested.”
The church agreed. And so, in 2022, with the financial support of a three-year Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation (EBOF) grant, the Rev. Fritsch and his wife, Monika Farkas, moved to the small southern coastal town to begin a journey of rejuvenation as their one-third-time priest.
The town of Port Orford is situated on a peninsula between the cities of Bandon and Gold Beach on the southern coast of Oregon. With around 1,250 residents, this beachside village is filled with “former loggers, fishermen, and retired hippies,” said the Rev. Fritsch. Port Orford has eight churches within the town limits, the largest being an evangelical church with a fundamentalist approach and an average Sunday attendance of around 150. “We are an alternative [to that church],” the Rev. Fritsch said.
However, most of the “retired hippies” in the community are dealing with religious trauma and do not have the desire to enter a church building, let alone engage in explicit Christian-focused conversation. “We have to extend beyond our building [and traditional worship],” the Rev. Fritsch said.
And that is exactly what they have done.