Welcome Rev. Peter H. Rood, our New Rector!


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.


A Farewell Letter from Rev. Rilla



To the children of St. Stephens (You may share this with your parents or other adults if you want),

Many of you have asked me about why I’m leaving and where I’ll go and when you will see me. Good questions, all of them. I’m leaving so Rev. Peter can come. He is a wonderful priest and pastor, and I know you will agree with me when you get to know him. I will be at home, where I have always gone after church, and I plan to work in the garden, to sew, to spend some time with my husband and my grandchildren, and to walk some every day. Daisy, our dog, plans to sit on my lap as long as she can every day. I also will be involved in church in some way. Right now, I’m not sure where, but church is important to me, and so I will find a way to worship and serve God in as many ways as I can. 

Saying farewell is hard. I bet you have had to say good-bye to someone before – a good friend who moved away to a new town, or a coach who is coaching in a different place, or a favorite teacher who you had to say goodbye to at the end of the school year. Maybe you were the one who moved and had to say goodbye to a bunch of friends. In any event, it was hard to let go of those friends, and I understand what you went through. I am feeling the same way, as I have enjoyed being your priest and watching you grow into young men and women of faith. I can only imagine all the wonderful things in your future.

I hope you will be at St. Stephen’s on March 17 so we can say farewell to each other. Farewell is a fancy way of saying goodbye. It is a combination of fare and well. Fare comes from the old English word, faran, which means “to journey.” And so, on March 17 (wear green, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and you don’t want to get pinched…) we will wish each other “journey well!” That is, we will send each other off with warm wishes for a good life, just as Jesus taught us. I will look forward to our happy celebration on the 17th!

I also hope you will be at St. Stephen’s on April 7 (among other Sundays to follow.) That will be the day that you meet Rev. Peter and tell him, “Welcome!” You, as the children and tweens of St. Stephen’s, are so blessed by your wonderful Sunday School teachers, and you will want to tell Rev. Peter all about what you are doing so he can get to know you, and you can show him all around St. Stephen’s. I believe you will have fun together and learn from him. I have appreciated all the kind things you and your adults have said to me, the hugs, the artwork, and the questions. You and your parents, in fact the whole St. Stephen’s congregation, will be in my prayers and in my heart always.

Your friend,

Rev. Rilla

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