History of Sts Peter & Paul
The parish of Sts Peter and Paul, El Centro, has a colourful history. It is now 100 years old, and looking forward to an exciting future.
Around 1900, engineers first brought water to the Imperial Valley through a series of regulated canals, quickly turning barren desert into rich farmland and triggering a surge in population growth. By 1908, the towns of El Centro, Brawley, Holtville, and Calexico, among others, were established as centers of agriculture and development.
The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, of which the Valley was then a part, was quick to dispatch missionaries to the area and found churches. Sts Peter and Paul Church– originally called Saint Paul’s – was established in El Centro by 1910, and the church today stands essentially at the same location as that early settlement.
The parish was blessed with the charismatic leadership of the Rev. Canon Bartolome Crespi Alorda, in the post-World War II years, and he remained with the parish until retirement in 1976. This was a period of much energy, involvement, and growth, and many parishioners look back to this time as a kind of “golden age” in the life of the parish community. It was during his time that the older wooden church was replaced by the present beautiful church --- and consecrated by the Bishop in 1974.
The parish stabilized in the 1980s and 1990s, and average Sunday attendance remained in the 50s and 60s with only very gradual decline. In more recent years, however the parish has been unable to secure the services of a long-term priest, and participation in the life of the community has diminished over time. As a result parishioners themselves have become more self-reliant and resourceful.
The Episcopal Church has not thrived over the decades in Imperial County. The churches in Holtville and Calexico, for instance, closed many years ago, and All Saints Church in Brawley is considerably smaller than our parish in El Centro. Some might suggest that the dispersion of population in the Valley has worked against growth. The relative distance from diocesan centers may also have played a part. Perhaps parishioners and clergy leaders themselves over the decades have not been sufficiently dynamic in conveying to others the worth of our particular Episcopal gifts and ethos. On the bright side, the Diocese of San Diego has recently established a Hispanic mission (Santa Rosa) in Desert Shores along the Salton Sea, and it appears to be thriving.
The current leadership of Sts. Peter and Paul is convinced that the parish has something good to offer the people of the Imperial Valley in this new century. With appropriate clergy leadership and the continued support of the Bishop and Diocese of San Diego, we believe it is possible to grow our community and sustain the Anglican and Episcopal presence in our wonderful Imperial Valley.