Parish History

In 1761 the area now comprising the City of Chesapeake and parts of the Cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk was a political subdivision of the Colony of Virginia. A petition was brought to the House of Burgesses requesting the division of the area into three parishes. St. Bride’s Parish resulted from this division. The church was located in what is now the southern part of the City of Chesapeake, near the North Carolina State line. Tradition holds that the members of Clan Duncan, living in the area, chose the name St. Bride’s in honor of Saint Brigid of Kildare, their patron saint.

During the American Revolution, and during disestablishment, the parish fell on hard times and became non-existent. No Episcopal services were held in the parish until following the American Civil War. In 1865 the Reverend Robert Gatewood, Assistant Priest at St. Paul’s Church in Norfolk, held services at the old Courthouse in Berkley, located at the northern edge of St. Bride’s Parish. In 1870 land was given for a church to be built in Berkley. The church, St. Paul’s Chapel, later St. Paul’s Church, Berkley, was completed in 1872.

In 1887 a second Episcopal church, St. Thomas Church, was started in the same area. For the next thirty years, these two churches served Berkley. In 1923 St. Paul’s and St. Thomas joined and relocated to a new site in the same area. As the location of the co-joined church was in the colonial St. Bride’s Parish, the new church was given the name St. Bride’s.

The first Rector of the new church was The Rev. William Byrd Lee who served from 1923-1926. He was followed by The Rev. Morris Eagle (1927-1934) and The Rev. David C. George, who served from 1934-1954. In 1954 the fourth Rector, The Rev. William C. Hoffman was called. Under his leadership the parish became Eucharistically centered in worship and High Church in orientation. In 1956, with the leadership and vision of Fr. Hoffman, the parish established a Parochial Mission in the Great Bridge section of what is now the City of Chesapeake. Named St. Thomas, it became a Diocesan Mission and later a thriving parish.

In 1960, St. Bride’s purchased land in Norfolk County, (now the City of Chesapeake). The parish relocated to this spot in 1961. A modern church was built and enough land was acquired to ensure the ability to grow. A separate parcel of land was purchased approximately three-quarters of a mile away, and, in 1964 a rectory was constructed on it. In October 1975, the parish, in grateful recognition of many years of faithful service, made a gift of the Rectory to the Hoffman family. Father Hoffman retired from St. Bride’s in 1988 after thirty-four years of faithful ministry to the parish.

In 1988 The Rev. J.D. Clark became Interim Rector. He served for three years. This long interim was on the recommendation of the Diocese, as the parish was in the search process for the first time in thirty-four years.

In 1991 The Rev. Michael J. Godderz was called to St. Bride’s. During his Rectorate the parish maintained its commitment to Anglo-Catholic worship and remained an active voice in the Diocese. In 1998 Father Godderz received a call to All Saint’s Parish (Ashmont), Boston, Massachusetts.

The Rev. Robert Page Taylor, a retired priest from the Diocese of Chicago, became Interim Rector of St. Bride’s in November 1998. Father Taylor became ill and died in 1999.

The Rev. Bob Gilman, USAF, was interim priest through February 27, 2000. He was followed by The Reverend Stephen Powers, SSC, a military chaplain, who led the parish until the arrival of The Reverend Harry H. Hill, III in September 2000. Fr. Hill served at St. Bride’s through November 2003.

In September 2004 The Rev. Stephen Powers, SSC (US Navy retired) returned to St. Bride’s as 7th Rector. He served until October 1, 2015 when he retired on medical disability. During his rectorate the parish maintained ties with the broader Anglican Communion, and continued to serve the larger church as well as the local area.

Following Fr. Stephen’s retirement from St. Bride’s, the parish continued to represent a place in the Diocese of Southern Virginia where worship was traditional and Anglo-Catholic liturgy was important. The parish was without permanent clergy for 5 years. During this time, many priest/friends of the parish made sure that Masses were held weekly. On Sundays where no clergy was available, well trained Lay people led Morning Prayer.

Saint Bride’s called The Reverend Jesse Ray Lassiter as part-time Priest-In-Charge in January 2021. Fr. Jesse was graduated from Nashotah House. His experiences there have completely prepared him to serve a parish like St. Bride’s.

Fr. Jesse is young and energetic. He and his wife, Sophia, a professional violinist are enjoying learning about the Hampton Roads area.