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Records of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, East Greenwich, R.I. (Mss. Gr. 100)

University of Rhode Island Library, Special Collections and Archives Unit

15 Lippitt Road
Kingston, RI 02881-2011
E-mail: archives@etal.uri.edu
Website: http://www.uri.edu/library/special_collections/

Biographical or Historical Information

St. Luke's Church in East Greenwich was founded in 1833 when a small group of Episcopalians led by Dr. Charles Eldredge gathered together to form a congregation under the leadership of the Rev. Sylvester Nash their first rector. On January 21, 1834 St. Luke's Church in East Greenwich was incorporated by the Rhode Island General Assembly. The first service was held at the Kent County Courthouse on Main Street in East Greenwich, RI and for several months services were held at the East Greenwich Academy. The church was built and consecrated on April 17, 1834, on property bought from the Catholic Congregational Church.

By 1836, there were 42 communicants who continued under the leadership of Rev. Nash until he resigned in 1840. The Rev. William Henry Moore, who succeeded him, remained until 1841. In that same year Dr. Silas Crane became rector and remained until his death in 1872. He led the congregation to financial independence from the diocese, moving the congregation from mission to parish status. During his rectorship, an organ and the present baptismal font were given to the church by Colonel William Goddard.

In 1874 a rectory was built on the corner of Rector and Church Streets. This was home to the rectors and their families until 1984 when it was sold and the proceeds invested to provide a housing allowance for the clergy.

As the parish grew, the need for more space required they build a new church building. The original St. Luke's Church building was sold to Elisha Potter for $500 and moved to Warwick, R.I. to be used as a grist mill. The interior furnishings were kept and used in the new building. The cornerstone of the old building was laid in the northeast buttress of the now granite church built in English Parish Gothic style, designed by renowned architect Alexander Rice Esty (1826-1881). The first service was held on Christmas Day, 1876.

Under the leadership of Rev. Daniel Goodwin, St. Luke's fifth rector (1879-1893) the St. Luke's Guild was formed to provide a structure for organized activity such as decorating the church for holidays, fund raising, or other activities as assigned by the rector. This form of organization endured and was adopted by future rectors of the church. Another important group was the Parish Aid Society formed in 1896 to perform work in three areas: fundraising, charity work, and mission work. When Rev. Goodwin resigned he remained in the area and often preached at the church. He was replaced by Rev. Paradise who remained only a year.

Rev. Francis Whitcome came to St. Luke's in 1894 and continued the work of Rev. Goodwin. The Altar Guild and Girls Friendly Society were both established during his rectorship. To meet the needs of a now very active church, a parish house was constructed diagonally across from Church and Peirce Streets in 1896 for $10,000 . The parish house served until it was outgrown and a new one was built in 1962 on land once belonging to the East Greenwich Academy. The old parish house was leased to the Farm Bureau and then sold in 1963 to house the Southern R. I. Cooperative Extension of the University of Rhode Island.

Rev. William Worthington received the call in 1899 after Rev. Whitcome left to become rector of a parish in New York. Under Rev. Worthington, the choir began singing at Christmas and Easter in 1899, and first parish newsletter, The St. Luke's Record was published between 1903 and 1911. This along with the Yearbook was Rev. Worthington's labor of love. The publication contain many articles on the history of St. Luke's researched and written by Rev. Worthington. The Yearbook a compilation of the activities and statistics of St. St. Luke's was produced through funds received from advertisements, when the contributions became insufficient production stopped.

In 1906, Swedish Lutherans split with their church and came to St. Luke's to hold services. In 1907, they asked to be called the St. Luke's Swedish Mission in an effort to be gradually assimilated into St. Luke's congregation. This never came to be and a short time later the group was reunited with its church on Division St.

The men, although active in social and fund raising activities, were not as quick to form groups within the church as the ladies were. It was not until 1904 that The Brotherhood of St. Andrew was formed with six members. The charge of this group was to promote church attendance but it proved futile and the effort was abandoned by 1916.

The Rev. Worthington was viewed by some as too progressive. Conservative members of the vestry were disgruntled by his use of a vested choir in the chancel, accepting a Processional Cross, and forming an Acolytes Guild that proved less than satisfactory to the parishioners. This lead to considerable friction and eventually Rev. Worthington left St. Luke's in 1915. Rev. James Conover replaced him. Rev. Conover remained only for a short time; in 1918 he volunteered to serve the Red Cross as chaplain overseas. Even though the vestry voted to extend him a leave of absence with pay, he chose to submit his resignation and it was accepted. Rev. John Merritt Hunter was called to be rector in 1918 and remained until 1925.

During Rev. Hunter's rectorship, the rectory received a new roof and a coat of paint in 1920. In 1922 a movie projector fire caused smoke and water damage to the parish house. In 1923, a spire was added to the church with a set of chimes given by the widow of former Rector Daniel Goodwin . A condition of the gift was that the chimes be played each Sunday. That same year an Austin organ was given to the church by Daniel Peirce. At this time East Greenwich had no public kindergarten. St. Luke's agreed to let the town use the parish house. An agreement was reached concerning costs for coal and janitorial services and mutual use of the equipment. This arrangement lasted for several years. Rev. Hunter's rectorship was plagued by financial hardship. In 1924, the parish voted to cut back on coal and close the church during the coldest months. Financial cuts were made to many of the mission works performed by the parish. In October of 1925 the discouraged rector resigned as pastor. The Rev. Charles A. Meader then was asked to be rector.

Rev. Meader was very popular and remained until 1942. Rev. Meader was aggressive in tackling the parish's financial situation, sending out a treasurer's appeal and pledge cards. The possibility of selling the rectory and replacing it by a housing allowance rather than another building was discussed. The appointment of a new treasurer in 1930 also lead to different ways of accounting that were more in tune with "modern business practices." As a result, the parish now underwent a yearly audit.

In 1937 the choir director retired and the organist resigned. Facing the dissolving of its music program and the financial inability to hire two people as replacements, the parish hired Miss Louise Winsor in 1938 to serve both as organist and choir director. She eventually became the Sunday chime ringer as well. During this time, there had been trouble with unruly boys from East Greenwich Academy but for the most part a good relationship with the school existed. Boys wishing to take organ lessons were allowed to do so for the sum of 25 cents an hour.

During Rev. Meader's rectorship St. Luke's men established the St. Luke's Equestrian Society. It hosted an annual horse show from 1936 to 1939. It is unclear why the group ended activity that final year. Rev. Meader retired in 1942 and was voted Rector Emeritus for life by an appreciative vestry. That same year the East Greenwich Academy closed with the property retained by the town. Eventually the parish would purchase that property for its new parish house.

John Lovell Pickells became rector in 1943 and remained until 1963. During his time at St. Luke's, Rev. Pickells reinstituted a newsletter to parishioners, established an office in the parish house and hired a full time secretary. Another accomplishment for the parish under Rev. Pickells was the creation of a chapel dedicated in 1946 as a memorial to the three St. Luke's men who were killed in World War II. Located beneath the chancel and seating about 35 people, it provided an alternative for small weekday special services. Since the inspiration for a memorial chapel had originally come from Rev. Meader, two stained glass windows in the chapel were dedicated in his memory.

Rev. Pickells saw his congregation grow steadily during the 1950s and it soon became evident that a new parish house was necessary to accommodate activities such as confirmation classes and girls and boys church school classes. In 1962 a new parish house was built on the East Greenwich Academy land purchased from the town. The old parish house was leased in 1960 and eventually sold in 1962 to the Farm Bureau now known as the Southern Rhode Island Cooperative Extension Service.

During this time there had been talk of hiring a curate and a committee was formed. This committee was disbanded and a new one formed as a Rector Search Committee when Rev. Pickells tendered his resignation on March 21, 1963. He then became chaplain at the South Kent School in Connecticut. After much deliberation, Alfred Burns was asked to become Rector in January, 1964. After the selection of a new rector was completed attention turned to searching for a curate. Rev. Clifford Carr was chosen in the spring of 1964.

During Rev. Alfred Burns rectorship the parish dealt with many property issues. Some dealing with vandalism, theft (one incident involved the theft of copper downspouts in place in the church since the 1920s) and with costly repairs involving leaks, animal infestations, and damage from a 1979 hail storm. Also of great concern was the church cemetery whose plots had long been filled but which was in need of upkeep. Most families whose relatives had been interred had either moved away or died out. It took six years to completely identify plot owners and transfer the responsibility for maintaining the trust established for upkeep of the cemetery from the long defunct St. Luke's Cemetery, Inc. to the church. (Later, in 1992 a committee was created to establish a memorial garden and Columbarium to satisfy those who sought interment in the church cemetery. This was completed in 1994.)

In 1966, St. Luke's purchased Camp Saugatucket, a 59 acre tract of land in South Kingstown, to provide a place for retreats and various outreach programs (The property was sold in 1986. The proceeds formed the Mission and Building Repairs Fund in 1988.) Also in 1966, Rev. Carr left St. Luke's for another parish. Those who succeeded Rev. Carr were then known as assistant or associate rectors rather than curates: Rev. Larimore Patten (1966- 1967), Rev. James Knudson (1967- 1973), Rev. Melvin Harper (1973-1978), Rev. David Helms (1979-1980), Rev. Donald Parker (1981- 1985), Eletha Buote Greig (1985-1991), Rev. Hedwig Neal (Deacon, 1992- present)

Rev. Burns oversaw the establishment of committees formed to deal with long range planning, youth activities and financial endeavors. To keep track of all these committees and in many cases subcommittees, a committee structure that had been instituted by Rev. Meader was reintroduced. One committee of note was the Education Committee which was formed in 1968 to address adult education in the parish. This committee functioned under the direction of the assistant rector. The assistant rector then became the director of religious education, which encompassed confirmation instruction, Sunday School, and all youth work of the parish.

St. Luke's participated in two rector exchange programs with parishes in England. The first in 1973, was for three months from St. Martin's Stanford. The second, in 1975, was from St. Peter's, Meavy and lasted for four months. Another enriching experience was with the Diocese of Barbados. Several trips occurred between 1978 and 1980 as part of its missionary outreach. This eventually lead to the sponsorship of a student from St. Vincent Island to the University of Rhode Island in 1981. She graduated in 1985.

When the Rev. Burns retired in 1986 after 22 years at St. Luke's, he could list among his greatest accomplishments the spiritual renewal of the church in the 1970s, the mission to Barbados in 1980 and the installation of the Transfiguration windows which were installed in 1985 by Rowan LeCompte. Many stained glass windows given as memorials over the years grace the church providing one of the finest stained glass window collections in the area. Rev. Burns described the windows as the "most extraordinary collection of parish glass in America." The varied styles of such artisans as Tiffany, Pinart, Goodhue in addition to LeCompte are evident. A chart to the windows is in History of St. Luke's Church East Greenwich, Rhode Island by Elisabeth S. Burns, Mary-Elizabeth Barton, Clinton R. Norman.

Rev. David Gillespie became the rector in 1986 and remained until 1989. His leadership was more "team" style. An organ committee was formed to select a new organ. A Karl Wilhelm tracker organ was installed and dedicated on St. Luke's Day, October 22,1989, by Bishop Hunt. In 1990, the parish was charged to enlarge the congregation. The national church called the 1990's as "the Decade of Evangelism". Rev. Gillespie left St. Luke's and was replaced by Dr. R. Craig Burlington on February 2, 1992. In 1994 St. Luke's helped celebrate his 23rd anniversary of ordination into the priesthood. Rev Burlington is the current rector of St. Luke's church.

History of St. Luke's Church East Greenwich, Rhode Island by Elisabeth S. Burns, Mary-Elizabeth Barton, Clinton R. Norman, East Greenwich, R.I. : Weaver Publishing Co., 1983., and the Annual Meetings were used to write this note.