Here on Cape Cod we live in the ever-present influence of the sea. The Cape Cod Canal has had its influence on the Buzzards Bay area also. In fact, when the name for the church was chosen, it was only natural that the name of the “Big Fisherman” be modified with the addition of the words, “On-the-Canal.” The entire theme of the church has always been one connected with the sea. It was brought to its present site across the waters of Cape Cod Bay and the Canal. It is fitting that this theme be carried even further in the Altar.
The altar is a plain liturgical altar with a beautifully decorated front panel. The center panel depicts, in hand carved wood, St. Peter drawing his nets from a small boat. The side panels, also hand carved wood, show two fish breaking water. Since the early days of the Christian church, the fish has been a symbol for Jesus Christ and Christianity. The Greek word for fish made a sort of anagram that read “Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
Above the altar is a canopy of wood. On the face of the canopy are five hand carved and painted shells that are native to this area. The center shell is that of the bay scallop, for many years the Christian symbol for baptism.
Beneath this canopy hangs the dossal, the curtain that hangs behind the altar. The dossal is red denoting that St. Peter was a Christian martyr who shed his blood for the church. In the center of the dossal hangs a “Christus Rex.” This is Latin for “Christ the King.” The Christus Rex shows a triumphant, risen Christ, the “King of Heaven.”
Centered on the altar is the tabernacle. Within this receptacle is kept the reserved sacrament, holiest of the Christian church’s possessions. This is the sacrament set apart and used in the visitation of the sick. The door to the tabernacle is of hammered bronze and is emblazoned with a compass rose, significant of the fact that man is guided to his heavenly home through the unfailing direction of the church. It is for this reason that a chalice and host are superimposed upon the compass rose. Because the sacrament is kept upon the altar, many Episcopalians will genuflect before the altar to acknowledge the presence of God within the Sacrament.
From a cross beam above the altar hangs the sanctuary lamp. It is kept burning at all times when the sacrament is upon the altar to remind people of Christ’s presence there. The lamp at St. Peter’s is a ship’s wheel and symbolizes that the church is a ship which carries us upon the Sea of Life to our ultimate destination, the Kingdom of Heaven.
The carvings of the altar and canopy were made by the Lippich Brothers of Bowansville, New York. Miss Joan Welt of Buffalo did the polychrome. The altar and pews were made by Tradition House in DePew, New York. Alternating upon the end posts of each pew are a ship and anchor. The ship is an old symbol for the church and the anchor symbolizes hope.