On Easter morning 1949, 126 charter members held their first community service in an old farmhouse in the Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook. Within 10 years, Saint Luke’s became the largest congregation in our diocese. In that interim, though acquiring what is referred to as “The Little Red Church” and using community buildings, Saint Luke’s was bursting at the seams.
The congregation continued to grow and thrive until, in 1957, a cornerstone was laid for the new parish house and Sunday school building at our present location. In 1961, a contract was signed to build the church proper. This was a time of great celebration and growth for our parish, yet in the South it was a time of divisiveness as years of segregation were drawing to a close. According to Stephen Coleman, author of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church: A History of the First Fifty Years 1949-1999, “At that point in its history, Saint Luke’s discovered that it could suffer the pains of controversy and yet still stand. At the time, no one fully realized it, but looking back, it is seen clearly that the Holy Spirit was present.”
During the 1960s and 1970s, change was a major theme both within the church (e.g. revised Prayer Book, ordination of women to the priesthood) and our community as Birmingham moved from a steel-based city to a service-oriented metropolis. Saint Luke’s recognized the need for increased outreach to our community and for increased involvement from women within our church. Saint Luke’s sponsored the first of several women to attend seminary and women began to serve on the Vestry, in administrative roles, and in the administration of the Holy Eucharist. Indeed, as the Holy Spirit continues to carry us forward, the roles of all lay people in the life of Saint Luke’s has continued to increase.
Major renovations, including enlargement of the parish house and parking lot, were planned and implemented to meet the growing size of the congregation in the late 1980s. In 1994 these improvements were completed. Saint Luke’s remains committed to seeing that its outstanding facilities are available to its communicants as well as to the community.
Throughout its nearly 60 year history, Saint Luke’s has seen both prosperous and challenging periods. Historically, when we have addressed challenges, they have been followed by a time of growth. As we approach the end of this first decade of the 21st century, we are blessed to be facing an exciting future full of vitality and grace. May we always remember that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”