Skip to content

A Good and Faithful Servant


Saturday morning was cool and crisp and green, a lovely end to April in Canaan. It also brought the last chapter for friendships that spanned decades and was the closing act of a life spent in service.

The North Canaan Congregational Church, the site of marriages, baptisms and funerals for nearly two centuries, was sending the soul of one of its own back to the God he had worshipped all his life. It was the last—and a most fitting—tribute to the Reverend Peter Dakers who occupied the church’s pulpit for two decades. For more than two hours, friends and colleagues shared stories, laughter and tears as they remembered the feats and foibles of this complex man.

Peter was an incongruous minister. A miniscule man, he probably stood five feet, five or six inches tall, was slight of build, and wore his hair cut in unfashionable bangs across his forehead. When he arrived in Canaan in the 1970s, my mother caught her first glimpse of him as she emerged from Collins Diner and saw a quick little figure dressed in soccer shorts and socks trotting up Granite Avenue, eating an ice cream cone.

“Who’s that?” she asked the couple with her. “Oh, that’s the new minister,” her friend replied.

She soon learned that the little Scots man was delightfully informal most of the time but when he stepped into the pulpit, he was positively majestic. “In the pulpit, he was 10 feet tall,” she was fond of saying.

Peter came to this country with his family when he was 11 years old from his native Glasgow. Ever proud of his Scots heritage, he nevertheless felt it important to become a US citizen, a process he completed in 1975.

A precocious youth, he finished high school at age 16 and immediately wanted to enter a seminary. His mother, however, imposed a one-year moratorium asking him to wait so he could be certain of his calling. But his faith was constant and in 1960 he entered the Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine.

By the time he came to Canaan, he was a seasoned pastor having served in churches in Maine, Montana and Connecticut. He skillfully guided his Canaan congregation through the merger of its two Congregational parishes while ministering tirelessly to his parishioners. But his community commitment did not stop at the church doors.

An avid sportsman, he was a fixture at youth sports games throughout his life coaching softball and girls’ and boys’ basketball, earning the affectionate moniker “Little Rev” from his athletes. To the end of his days, he was an avid fan of all Boston sports teams—his parents settled there when they arrived in America—UConn basketball, fly-fishing, golf, hockey and softball.

The name “Little Rev” spread past his sports realm and into his community life where he served on the board of education, recreation commission and as a driver for the volunteer ambulance corps. He led countless youth groups, baptized, married, buried and became a trusted advisor to many, including me.

Convivial by nature, he engaged in banter with whomever be met from the moment he went for breakfast and black coffee at Collins Diner, through clergy lunches with colleagues, to evening cigarettes and drinks with friends at the local bistro. But his greatest skill, as attested to eloquently by his friend and colleague, Erick Olsen, of the Church of Christ in Norfolk, was his profound ability tolisten. And to understand.

I wish I could say that Peter’s life was a happy one. He rejoiced in his family and adored his grandchildren but the burden of carrying other people’s grief began to tell. He told me late in his career that he no longer wanted to conduct funerals for friends, that it was becoming too hard. He struggled with depression and later with failing health.

But he never failed to respond. When my own mother died I knew she would want no other pastor to conduct the service and, selfishly, I called him. By then he was failing but was still ministering to the congregation in Falls Village. When he arrived I could see how unwell he was but his very presence was succor to my family.

Peter died in the dark days of December, his memorial service delayed by Covid until a bright spring day in the church he served so long. This little man with his great soul touched the lives of so many in Western Connecticut. I can only hope that the God he served so long has embraced him, welcoming him with the words of Matthew 25:23: “Well done, good and faithful servant … Enter into the joy of your lord.”