St. Luke’s will host a special service on Saturday afternoon to commemorate its founding in 1861.
An Episcopal church in Bustleton celebrates a key anniversary, thanks to generations of devoted congregants.
The people at St. Luke’s Memorial Church believe they have plenty to celebrate as the church marks 150 years of existence.
Bishop Charles Bennison, of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, will be the celebrant at the anniversary service, scheduled for Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at St. Luke’s, 1946 Welsh Road in Bustleton.
A dinner will follow in the parish hall. The service is tied to St. Luke’s feast day, which is Oct. 18.
“For it to survive so many years is a real testament to the people who have been here,” said the Rev. Timothy L. Griffin, rector at the church, who will assist Bennison during the service.
The Memorial Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician, as it is formally known, opened in 1861.
Two years earlier, a wealthy woman named Pauline E. Vanderkemp Henry was honeymooning in England when her husband,
Dr. Bernard Henry, a U.S. Navy surgeon, was lost at sea. In his memory, she built an Episcopal church on what then was country farmland with a growing population.
Today, the silverware that is used every Sunday for Communion was donated by Mrs. Henry as a memorial to her mother. The altar cross was given in memory of her father. Pauline and Bernard Henry are memorialized with large marble medallions on the back wall of the church.
The property includes a burial ground. Among those buried there are former state Sen. Louis Farrell, who died in 1953, fallen Civil War soldiers and Elias Toy, a crew member of the funeral train that carried Abraham Lincoln’s body home to Illinois.
Griffin, the church’s 18th rector, arrived at St. Luke’s in 2004 after a six-month stint as an assistant at All Saints Episcopal Church in Crescentville. That church has since closed.
In addition to his duties at St. Luke’s, he is the part-time priest in charge at St. Andrew’s-in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Somerton.
Griffin lives on the grounds at St. Luke’s with his wife, the Rev. Harriet Kollin, the associate rector at St. Martin-in-the-Field in Chestnut Hill. They are joined by a cat and a dog, who is named, appropriately, Luke.
St. Luke’s has a little more than 100 members. Services are held on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.
“It’s a very family kind of environment,” said Griffin, who wrote a religion column for the Northeast Times from 2005–08. “It’s a close-knit group, and I’m hoping we continue to grow.”
Besides conducting weekly services, Griffin’s duties include visiting ailing church members and offering spiritual direction.
The rector feels blessed to head a congregation whose parishioners take pride in the appearance of the campus. He tries to provide an uplifting liturgy that encourages members to make their Christianity a way of life.
Church members are community-oriented, led by the Women’s Outreach Wing and Girls’ Friendly Society.
“We have a very active group of women in the congregation,” Griffin said.
St. Luke’s is a particularly generous donor to the Somerton Food Bank. The charitable efforts of the congregation have also included donating blankets to cancer patients, school supplies to disadvantaged kids, Christmas toys to kids in homeless shelters, Thanksgiving dinners to the needy, gift cards to women’s shelters and personal-care items to a shelter for runaway youths.
Also, members have delivered homemade cards to shut-ins.
“We’re very fortunate that we have a group of dedicated people,” Griffin said. “We have a lot of good stuff going on. I think we do well for a little place.”
Among the active congregants is Stacey Carmody, who joined St. Luke’s in 2006, in part because she liked Griffin’s message in his newspaper column.
Carmody thinks the camaraderie and commitment of the flock have St. Luke’s positioned well as it passes the 150-year mark.
“I love the people here. They’re very welcoming,” she said. ••
St. Luke’s Memorial Church, at 1946 Welsh Road, will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a service on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
The church holds a weekly Sunday service at 10:30 a.m., followed by a coffee hour in the parish hall. New members are welcome. For more information, call 215–969–3645 or visit www.stlukesbustleton.webs.com
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org