History of Saint Luke's Episcopal Church
Ewing Township, NJ
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was founded by potters from Stoke-on-Trent, England, who emigrated to the Trenton area in February of 1904. They worked at Trenton’s Mercer Pottery and lived just north of the city limits in Prospect Heights, part of Ewing Township. Wishing to start a Sunday School and needing a neighborhood place of worship, they began holding services at the Alfred Reed School on Trinity Sunday, June 2, 1912. St. Luke’s was formally recognized as an organized congregation by the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey at its convention in 1913.
For five years, the congregation met at the Alfred Reed School on Buttonwood Ave. The cornerstone of St. Luke’s was laid on June 30, 1917. Architect and founding member Albert E. Micklewright designed the building, which together with the land on which it was erected cost $3,500.
St. Luke's sanctuary was built from cast-off bricks in the local potteries. They weren’t wanted because they were slightly misshapen or didn’t match the desired color. The founders of St. Luke's collected those bricks and used them to build the new church. They saw in the bricks the story of their own lives – each person is unique and slightly misshapen, yet God gathers us together to be a faithful community of believers.
In 1917 Samuel Kirkham and a committee from the congregation succeeded in purchasing an 1865 William Davis tracker organ for $400 from Trinity Church in Woodbridge. It is the oldest of its kind in New Jersey still in use, and is registered with the Organ Historical Society. Our first organist at St. Luke’s was Mr. Micklewright’s wife Helen Crisp Micklewright.
St. Luke’s was assisted by part time clergy and the occasional vicar from 1912 until 1952. One vicar, the Rev. Gordon Kidd (1924-1927) went on to become rector of St. James Church, Hyde Park, NY, which was the church of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Another assisting priest was the Rev. Charles N. Miller, vicar of St. Monica’s Episcopal Church. During World War II, when clergy were hard to find, Father Miller led communion services at St. Luke’s, becoming on of the first black priests to serve a white congregation.
However, lay leadership has always central to the vibrancy of St. Luke’s. In addition to the initiatives of our founders, St. Luke’s was led by a layreader-in-charge, Mr. Donald Phillips, from 1936 – 1953. Mister Phillips was responsible for the daily administration of the congregation, leading Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer on Sundays when a priest wasn’t available, and securing supply clergy for the sacraments.
In 1952, The Rev. Ware King became St. Luke’s first full-time vicar as the congregation grew. The mortgage on the church itself was paid off in 1950, so the congregation was able to build a parish hall in 1951. In 1955, The Rev. Elmer “Pat” Sullivan became St. Luke’s last Vicar and first Rector as he guided the congregation from mission to parish status. In 1959, the congregation built the Rectory to Father Sullivan’s specifications, and it was known as the first modern house in Prospect Heights, with a write-up in the Trenton paper.
All are welcome here!
Diocesan Convention changed St. Luke’s status from Mission to Parish in 1962 when we had become fully financially independent. At this point, Father Sullivan became the first rector until he resigned in 1967 to take a church in Hamilton. The Rev. Paul McGlathery succeeded Father Sullivan and served until 1970 when the parish called the Rev. Samuel L. Koons as its Third Rector until 1974 when Father Sullivan returned as now the Fourth Rector!
Rev. C. W. Nelson, STD
Vicar, St. Monica's, Trenton, and St. Luke's
From its beginnings, St. Luke’s was the center of a diverse religious community, but stabilized as an Episcopal congregation in the sixties and seventies when other denominations in Ewing built their own churches. St. Luke’s was in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement in breaking down racial barriers. When St. Monica’s Episcopal Church in Trenton (one the diocese's historic black congregations) closed, forty per cent of its African American congregation was welcomed into St. Luke’s parish. Today the congregation is over fifty per cent black, including people from Haiti, Panama, Jamaica, New Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria.
St. Luke’s history also reflects the struggles of the feminist movement positively. In 1982 it called the Rev. Dr. Virginia M. Sheay as its Fifth Rector, a first in the Diocese of New Jersey. At the January 1991 Annual Parish Meeting, the congregation elected its first African American woman warden. St. Luke’s also helped to fight the war on poverty, lobbying for local government to initiate a Head Start program in 1965 against official statements that nothing was needed.
When Dr. Sheay retired as Rector in 2001, St. Luke’s once again sought a new Rector. On December 1, 2002, the Rev. Dirk C. Reinken began as Sixth Rector and continued to guide St. Luke’s in its identity as an inclusive congregation. Today, the Rev. Megan E. Thomas leads St. Luke's as Priest-in-Charge.
Aside from the Tracker organ, St. Luke’s has other treasures. In witness to our outreach, we have a signed letter from the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta thanking us for the baby hats we knit and sent to her orphanage. As Mother Teresa is now a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, her signed letter is a second-class relic!
Other treasures include the works of our own parishioners. Most of the vestments were made by parishioners. The Altar itself contains a stone from Stoke-on-Trent in England, from which our founders emigrated in the first years of the 20th Century. The stained glass window above the altar was designed and donated by a parishioner.
With the grace of God, and in the joyful spirit of our patron, St. Luke, we strive to honor the promises of our Baptism: to continue in the fellowship of the Apostles, in breaking bread and in prayer; to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God's love; to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people; and to respect the dignity of every human being.