for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lordí.
Colombo, being a commercial hub, is a hive
of activity. The usual working day downtown is characterized by
endless streams of noisy traffic, the calls of street vendors
and crowds of people rushing to and from their work. Amid the
hustle and bustle of the busy city streets, it is a trying task
to find a quiet niche, to collect oneís thoughts and bearings.
Despite this difficulty, there is such a place in Colombo, that
requires only a short detour. Making your way passed the Grand
Oriental Hotel along the port, you will come upon the Church of
St. Peterís, Fort. Entering through the columned porch and
through the main doorway, the visitor is immediately enveloped
in the silent, cool environs of this sanctuary. Whether it be
for prayer and meditation or for a short respite from work or
shopping, St. Peterís stands as a haven of peace and
The origins of the Church of St. Peterís Fort,
dates back to the Dutch period, when the premises served as the
governorís residence, and was the venue for all Council
meetings. It was not retained as the governorís seat during the
British period, but provided a suitable place wherein social
gatherings could be held. It was not until 1804 that the
premises were used as a place of prayer and worship, when it was
converted to a garrison church. In April 1821, a visitation and
confirmation was held by Bishop Middleton of Calcutta, and on
May 22nd of that same year, the Church was consecrated for
The historical value of the Church can be seen
today in the tablets that line its walls, commemorating the
lives of distinguished people of the colonial period in Ceylon.
Among them are Sir John DíOyly, member of the Ceylon Civil
Service; William Tolfrey, who undertook the first Sinhala
translation of the Bible; Sir William Coke, Puisne Justice; and
Reginald Heber D.D. Lord Bishop of Calcutta. These and many
others have added to the architectural quality of the building,
and more importantly serve as a testament to countless men and
women, who were recognized for their faith and service to God.
The chapter of our islandís colonial past has long been closed
and the present significance of the Church does not bear any
label of the past ó it is today, a church of the people.
As a church, St. Peterís combines the attributes
befitting a sanctuary, that is dedicated to the service of God.
While the large columns, carved altar and the spacious interior
adds an element of grandeur, it also serves to create an air of
austerity and reverence, that is conducive to the quiet
meditation and reflection of all those who enter its halls. The
altar area is of wood, intricately carved, and holds the symbol
of the cross. The main wing houses the pulpit, pews and the
marble, baptismal fountain, that faces the altar from the rear
of the church. A secondary wing is found to the right of the
main wing, and serves as a chapel for smaller services. This
area also houses a small section for Sunday School classes, that
is no longer in use.
Physical attributes aside, the character or St.
Peterís is defined by the people, ó members, travelers,
visitors, and city workers who have, at some point in time,
found respite from their daily travails, within the quiet walls
of the Church. The sound of hymns sung and prayers recited of a
Sunday morning, could be heard from St. Peterís bringing
together family, friends, relatives and strangers, under one
roof, bound by a common faith and desire for fellowship. It is,
therefore, fitting to acknowledge the service rendered by the
vicar-in-charge, wardens and congregation of St. Peterís who
have ministered faithfully over the years, through their life
Constant, sure and dedicated to the service of
God, the Church of St. Peterís, Fort has weathered many storms
and braved many events over its long history, and continues its
ministry through the unflinching zeal of those who have
dedicated their time and talents for their faith. Echoing the
words of Christ, St. Peterís welcomes all to experience the
peace and hope it offers, united as one family, all equal, all
friends, all free.