The year 1900 was a threshold year – the end of one century and the beginning of the next. It was the year the first electric bus began operating in New York City, the first subway line began running in Paris, and the first zeppelin flight took off in Germany. It was a year filled with war around the globe: the Second Boer War in South Africa, the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Ashanti Uprising in West Africa, and the Philippine-American War. It was the year Stephen Crane and Oscar Wilde died, and the year Margaret Mitchell and Aaron Copeland were born.
It was also the year St. Luke’s was born in Logan Square. Our congregation was established by a Sunday School class that had been meeting in a storefront along Diversey Ave. where the Kennedy now runs. The congregation’s growth was explosive, and within a year or so they had built the three story church that still stands above the kitchen in Haberland Hall and behind the current Parish House. In 1914 a group from St. Luke’s established a new parish further to the northwest, what is now St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Park Ridge. By the 1920s the church began construction of the sanctuary in which we now worship – a sign of continuing rapid and constant growth. When the new sanctuary was finished in 1927, St. Luke’s merged with St. James Lutheran Church (formerly at Wrightwood and Drake) and began the next phase of their life together.
That was a little more than eighty years ago. None of us who worship at St. Luke’s today was around to experience the leaps of faith that led to the birth of our community, or the monumental decisions to seed a new parish, to build a new sanctuary or to merge with another church. Still, those events are a part of our story. We are a community with a legacy of risky faith – a legacy we can call on today, in this year, 2010.
This is a threshold year for St. Luke’s. The redevelopment we began a little more than three years ago has yielded some wonderful results. Predictions that we would be out of money and closing our doors by the end of 2009 have been proven false. Our attendance in worship continues to rise, and our ministries and outreach to the neighborhood continue to grow. The leadership of this congregation has presented a bold plan for investing a portion of our reserves in a new annual summer music festival that would elevate our profile in the neighborhood and generate significant income over time for addressing long-deferred property concerns.
Doubtless, the work we take on together this year will create anxieties and raise doubts. It is never easy setting out on unfamiliar paths. However, we can draw encouragement and hope though from those who have gone before us in this community, from whom we have inherited a great trust that began as a simple Sunday morning bible study.
Have faith in one another, and in the power of the Word to draw great things from us as well. The best is yet to come!
For more on St. Luke’s history, see the ELCA Archives page for our congregation.