From St Andrews Cathedral to Hamilton
By Kevin Hammons
Dr. Peter Edwards obtained his first degree from the University of Memphis in Music Performance. Later he returned to school and became a psychiatrist, yet he never abandoned his playing. His love of music ended up taking him on a ministry journey that has lead him right here to a small church in Montana.
Peter was led to Christ in his 20s by a Charismatic Catholic and he subsequently joined the Catholic Church. Following his musical passion and gifts, Peter ended up as an organist and the Choir Master for the St. Andrews Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Diocese for the whole state. While serving there, he spearheaded the restoration of the Cathedral’s $400,000 organ in the 1990’s.
During this time, Dr. Edward’s psychiatric career took him to the Department of Corrections in Arkansas. Although he was occasionally able to witness, working for the state severely limited these opportunities and his work consisted mostly of telling prisoners that, no, they couldn’t claim mental illness. Suffering from severe burnout, Peter Edward retired from working in the prisons and came out here to Montana about six years ago.
The biggest shock of the move, Dr. Edwards confided, was a lack of a church culture in Montana. In Littlerock, 60-70% of the population was in church on any given Sunday, yet here in Missoula, that number is a measly 10%. Despite this, Edwards and his wife found a place at the First Methodist Church of Missoula, in part because God had used deeper study of His word to draw Dr. Edwards out of the Catholic church some years earlier.
Yet all was not well at the First Methodist. Last year, the first openly gay Methodist bishop, Karen Oliveto, was consecrated; and according to Dr. Edwards, the pastor of First Methodist was very much in support of this. “At some point in time, it’s just too much,” Dr. Edwards explained. It was time to leave the church. “It really broke my heart,” he said.
This began another long search for a new church home. At one point, Peter attended a practice for the worship band of Florence Carlton Community Church. While things went well, he was told that they would be happy to have him practice with them, yet he wouldn’t be able to play with them during the Sunday service. This strange rejection stung, yet God had a plan.
Peter loitered after the practice to talk to the pastor of the Florence Carlton Community Church. “Can you do it all?” the pastor asked Peter. “Can you play, sing and lead worship?” The pastors of Florence Carlton and United Methodist-American Baptist Church of Hamilton had been praying for some time that God would help the small Hamilton church find someone to lead worship, and God provided richly.
Peter Edward’s current worship projects include a public performance to mark the first day of Advent on December 3 at 4:00pm at United Methodist-American Baptist Church (211 N 6th Street, Hamilton), Sunday services there, and a new monthly “hymn singing” on the first Tuesday of every month at 7:00 at Lolo Community Church (11897 Lewis & Clark Drive, Lolo).