On October 10, 2021, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church honored Reverend Ashley Peckham on his 50 years of service as an Episcopal Priest. Priest-in-Charge Reverend Marilyn Mason and Reverend Canon Elizabeth Habecker lead the service with Reverend Peckham officiating at the Eucharist and Reverend Gordon Stenning giving the sermon. Father Stenning, the former rector at St. Mary’s Portsmouth (1955-1988), was Reverend Peckham’s mentor and presenter at his ordination. His sermon was on the life and activities of a parish priest in the many aspects of the lives of his parishioners from birth to death as well as routine services to provide support, guidance, and comfort in the full range of circumstances of life as an engaged active parish priest. This sermon, which was both appropriate and pertinent, was well received by the congregation and was applauded at its conclusion.
Although his ordination was at the larger Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Newport, St. Paul’s has been Reverend Peckham’s home church throughout his life. His family on both sides has a long history in Portsmouth going back to colonial days and he has lived in the long-held family house for most of his life. The family’s association with St. Paul’s goes back to its founding. His religious education started with Sunday school and other activities. He served as an acolyte and in other positions of increasing knowledge, gaining experience. His interest was noted by the clergy and lay leaders and he was encouraged to apply for higher positions in the church, including the priesthood. He was a Sunday school teacher as a young man and with his wife and served as advisors to the Young People’s Fellowship. He was educated in Portsmouth public schools and graduated from Rogers High School, then serving as the regional high school. He then attended Barrington College. During that time, he met and married Gudrun Elinor Christensen. He also worked for Pearson Boat Building in their Portsmouth facility. The culmination of these accomplishments and encouragement was his selection to attend George Mercer School of Theology in Garden City, Long Island. This seminary was oriented to students with families and associated obligations. Pearson Boat had been acquired by Grumman Industries, which had a manufacturing facility near the school so Ashley was able to transfer and work throughout his seminary education.
He completed his education and was ordained as a deacon in June 1970. He then served as assistant to the Rector at Emmanuel Church. He was ordained on October 10, 1971 by Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island Bishop Frederick R. Belden. After ordination Reverend Peckham served at various positions in the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. He served as rector at St. Albans in North Providence, St. Barnabas in Warwick, Holy Cross in Middletown and St. Mary’s in East Providence. In his retirement as a parish rector, he has continued to serve as a priest. He currently serves as New England Seafarers Mission Port Chaplain for the port of Providence, Narragansett Bay, and the surrounding area. This involves meeting with the Master and crew of merchant ships visiting the area and providing assistance with their welfare, material, and spiritual needs during their visits to our local ports. He assists at other parishes when they don’t have a priest. He has an active ministry to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and shut-ins as well as visiting the sick. Under St. Paul’s auspices, he does services such as funerals, weddings, baptisms, and others, mostly for family, friends, and those he has come to know through his ministry.
Ashley and his wife, Elinor had two sons, John and Michael. Elinor died in 2007 and is greatly missed by Ashley and his family. The family now includes Michael’s wife, a grandson, and a granddaughter. Michael has followed in his father’s path. He is involved in the production of videos to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ both in the U.S. and internationally.
The Reverend Ashley Peckham’s feelings for this support and recognition are as follows: “Ashley is happy for the Lord and the people who loved and supported him.”