History of St. Luke's
The Church now known as St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was erected by six Englishmen who came to Milwaukee from Stratford, England, about 1870. These men, having been hired along with others to work in the steel mills located on Lake Michigan, decided to build a church in what would become the Bay View area of Milwaukee. The Episcopal Diocese helped this group to purchase land and build a small wooden church on the corner of Russell and Clement Avenue. The Church opened as a “mission church” at that site in 1873.
St Luke’s first rectors were the Reverends D. Keene and H.B. Burgess, who served until 1872. The Reverend G. W. Harrod then served from 1873–1877. A series of 11 rectors served St Luke’s until 1928, when the Reverend G. White brought the mission church to parish status, making St. Luke’s an independent venture. At that point, the church was already well-known in the Bay View community. Local groups were using it as their meeting places on a regular basis. Outreach programs, church bazaars, and a vibrant Sunday School program made St. Luke’s a popular institution in the neighborhood.
Between 1951–1955, the current church building was constructed at the corner of Herman St. and Euclid Ave., not far from the original site. In 1963, the youth building was added to the church to fill the block between Euclid Ave. and Clement Ave..
The Reverend Russell “Pop” Harding served as rector from 1929 until his retirement in 1968. During his tenure, the Sunday School swelled to over 125 children attending, and Christmas and Easter services had attendance at times reaching 300, requiring extra chairs to be placed in the aisles and narthex. The church leaders had concerns about safety warnings from the fire department for being “over capacity.” During this time, St Luke’s would host weekly luncheons from the local Rotary Club and Kiwanis, as well as monthly dinners for other community groups. Russel Harding achieved Rector Emeritus status in 1969.
St Luke’s also benefited from having Deacon John Goeb serve for 48 years, from 1960 until 2008. Deacon Goeb achieved Canon status on September 10, 2000.
Beginning in the 1970s, this thriving parish experienced a gradual and then more noticeable decline. Church membership and accordingly church finances rapidly decreased. However, St. Luke’s still enjoyed some stability in terms of clergy: Rev. J.W. Breisch, 1968–1972; Rev. Charles B. Doan, 1972–1987; Rev. Robert Fessler, 1987–1989; Rev. Robert C. Schwarz, 1989–1996; Rev. Dr. Michael Gray-Fow (interim clergy), 1996–1997; Rev. Alice Morse, 1997–1998. The Reverend Gray-Fow returned to serve from 1998–2010 before retiring.
In 1980, St. Luke’s received and used a small amount of seed money to begin a children’s clothing bank called “Kids Kloset.” Beginning in a single room, this much needed and frequently utilized program functioned as a funnel point for local clothing donations and grew into a few well-supplied rooms. Kids Kloset also provided newborn layettes to families in need throughout the metropolitan Milwaukee area. But as other clothing resources developed in the community, the work of Kids Kloset slowed and St. Luke’s decided to end the program in early 2016. Responding to the current needs of the community, St. Luke’s has devoted it attention to addressing hunger.
Following the retirement of The Reverend Gray-Fow, the Reverend Bob Lambert served as Interim Minister for about 18 months. The Reverend John Hickey served St. Luke’s as Priest in Charge for a short time in 2012 through part of 2013, and then the Reverend David Miracle served briefly as Priest in Charge through August of 2013. For the next three years, St. Luke’s was ably served and blessed by a regular and wonderful rotation of diocesan supply clergy. In November 2016, Fr. Jason Lavann became the Priest in Charge of St. Luke’s.
All told in its 145 years, St Luke’s has benefitted from 28 official clergy, not counting supply priests.