Germantown’s St. Luke’s Episcopal celebrates 200 years

The 200th Anniversary Gala Committee gathers for a photo. — SHIRA YUDKOFF/TRIBUNE PHOTOGRAPHER

Philadelphia is a city steeped in rich history and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is very much a part of that history. I delighted to join jubilant clergy, members and friends for “The St. Luke’s 200th Anniversary Gala” at the Germantown Cricket Club on Sunday.

The Rev. Canon H. Gregory Smith, who has been the rector at St. Luke’s for nearly 15 years, said “Today, we are celebrating two centuries of Christian witness by the first and oldest Episcopalian congregation in the Germantown community. Over the past 200 hundred years, St. Luke’s has witnessed the birth of a nation and the resulting growing pains of what has become the greatest power on earth. The inspiration, the courage, the fortitude that inspired many of the founders of our nation was nurtured here and has continued to this day to provide hope and light to God’s people in this community and around the world. As we look back with thanksgiving, we also look forward with faith that the same God who has brought us thus far will continue to strengthen and guide us as we serve and build up God’s kingdom here on earth.”

St. Luke’s has grown and flourished since its beginning in 1811 when Thomas Armat gathered 11 families at his home in Germantown to found an Episcopal congregation. St. Luke’s is distinguished as the first Episcopal church in that neighborhood. In 1904, St. Luke’s Church began to serve the African-American population in Germantown. In May 1930, St. Barnabas Mission became St. Barnabas Church. Father Thomas was rector. In the spring of 1968 St. Luke’s merged with its sister parish, St. Barnabas Church, and has continued as St. Luke’s Episcopal Church of Germantown.

The well supported gala was co-chaired by Marie Golson and Cynthia Turner and the overall 200th Anniversary was co-chaired by Meridel Peterson and Naomi Booker. Peterson warmly welcomed guests to the festivities, complete with a celebratory cake and everyone looking wonderful in their “Sunday best.” The Rev. Fr. Smith, affectionately known as Father Greg, was honored for his service. Booker recognized various church guilds for their hard work and current president of The Episcopal Church Women, Evelyn Robinson, presented a $5,000 check to the church on the group’s behalf.

The program included numerous presentations from local and national government. A very special highlight of the afternoon was a beautiful archival display for all to see.

Everyone followed Meridel Peterson’s advice to “eat, drink and be merry.” They enjoyed a delicious buffet and the afternoon was topped off with a lively salsa dancing demonstration and fantastic live music by Joe Walton’s Band. Members of all ages were inspired to move to the dance floor. It was a wonderful collage of celebration and an inspiring sight!

As St. Luke’s celebrates its Bicentennial, the church has transitioned accordingly to meet the needs of the community today. There is now a “Choral Scholars” program, which provides accommodations for vocalists in exchange for their singing in the parish’s choir. The former home of St. Barnabas School has become the Urban Center at St. Luke’s. It is the home of the parish’s twice-weekly food pantry program; health awareness classes, senior luncheon program and countless parish activities and guilds that use the building for fellowship and outreach.  

Congratulations to all of the members of the 200th St. Luke’s Anniversary Committee: Co-chairs, Meridel Peterson and Naomi Booker and committee members Skip Clayton, Betty Berry Holmes, Audrey Thornton Johnson, Evelyn Robinson, Marie Simpkins, Carlotta Fariera, Shirley Gregory, Cynthia Turner, Marie Golson, Eleanor Macchia, Christopher Golson, Nancy Jackson, Charles “Skip” Trulear, Cailin Manson, Patricia Cousins Smith, Donna Drake, Ralph Knotts and Christine Broome. I extend special thanks to Joy Kelly for her public relations assistance.

It was a beautiful day and a wonderful milestone in the history of St. Luke’s Church!

The Festival Eucharist Service to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Germantown will take place Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. at the church at 5421 Germantown Avenue (Coulter & Germantown avenues). The Celebrant for the service is The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, XXVI. The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, XI Bishop of North Carolina will be presiding over the service. All are welcomed to join the celebration of this beautiful and richly historic church.

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