St. Luke’s Church began its work in 1846 in a small building located at the corner of Hollins and Oregon (now Arlington) streets. On St. Luke’s Day, October 18, 1847, a congregational meeting was held. The Reverend Rubin Riley was named as rector and a vestry elected. One of the vestrymen elected was General George H. Steuart, a prominent Baltimorean whose wealth included several thousand acres of land and 125 enslaved people of African descent.
In 1851, the vestry appealed to the Churchmen of Baltimore for financial support for construction of a new church building. A plot of land, located on the eastern side of the 200 block of North Carey Street, was given to the church by Judge John Glenn and his wife. Judge Glenn owned a slave farm near Catonsville, where he entertained Gen. Robert E. Lee. In November of 1851, Bishop William Rollinston Whittingham laid the cornerstone.
At that time, St. Luke’s counted 18 communicants, including persons of African descent. By 1859, the numbers had increased to 316 communicants, with 500 pupils and 53 teachers in the church school. Enslaved persons of African descent were listed among the communicants. Under the guidance of the Rev. Charles Woodruff Rankin, who became rector in 1853, a class for “servants,” as enslaved persons were usually referred to, was established. By 1860, when the Civil War began, St. Luke’s had over 120 names on the roll of the “colored Sunday school.”
During the Civil War, St. Luke’s experienced a decline in attendance by its communicants and school children of African descent, even while white membership continued to grow. Nonetheless, parish records show that at the war’s end, there were still 25 “colored” communicants. By 1871 a small chapel, established for the exclusive use of the African-American congregation, was filled every Sunday afternoon and night by those who came for instruction and worship.
In 1905, St. Luke’s completed Clergy House which served as the rectory for many years.
St. Luke’s was very active during both World Wars . Many of it’s young men who had been Altar servers enlisted in the armed forces. Many of the women of the Church worked with The Red Cross, USO, and other organizations.
After World War I. the parish commissioned a painting in which the crucified and risen Christ holds the body of a soldier killed in that war. The painting still hangs on the north wall of the nave of the church.
Between the wars, St. Luke’s continued to serve the Episcopal Church with helping establish other churches. For example, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Woodlawn was “planted” by the parishioners of St. Luke’s.
After WWII all the way through the 1970s, the Franklin Square neighborhood was devastated by the “block busting” and “white flight” that occured in many cities and was especially severe in Baltimore. During that era, the church membership declined precipitously. However a few of the faithful followers continue to have church on Sunday mornings. While the numbers were not enough to fill the pews, those few communicants did manage to keep the church open.
Today St. Luke’s is again growing and reaffirming itself as a beacon of God’s eternal love, with a growing commitment to it’s community. Our mission is to provide a safe, nurturing, supportive community that will encourage and empower young people in our inner city neighborhood to grow spiritually, prosper academically, and live more healthy, responsible, and productive lives.