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Feb 18, 2014

Black History Spotlight: St. Luke the Evangelist, Houston's first Black Episcopal Church


St. Luke's, 1947

St. Luke the Evangelist Episcopal Church began as a mission under the name, St. Clements Episcopal Church in 1923. But the first service held in the organizational stages of the church was on the second Sunday in May 1920, in the basement of the Carnegie Library at Robin and Frederick Streets. The Rev. George Walker, Rector of St. Augustine’s, Galveston, Texas, preached the first sermon. Dr. R. O. Roett is credited with organizational efforts to make this venture possible.


From the basement of the Carnegie Library, the church moved to a building at 2409 Hadley Street. On December 2, 1922, the first service was held in the new Chapel with an attendance of seven. The first kindergarten was opened September 17, 1923, with 16 children and the Vicar, The Rev. W. Payne Stanley, as teacher.


The organization of this mission represented the third church for African-Americans in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and the first among African-Americans in Houston.  St. Augustine’s Church, Galveston, was begun in 1884 and St. John’s church, Tyler, was begun in 1892. Although St. Luke’s is listed as being admitted to mission status in 1923, it was not until early 1927 that the re-charted church began to grow. This was due, in large part, to the arrival of the Carter Wesley, John D. Eppes, Dr. G.P.A. Ford, Donald McClean and Mitchell families.


With a grant from Bishop Clinton S. Quinn and with the members of the church raising $1,500, the first permanent building was built in 1931 at the corner of Simmons and Burkett Streets. This facility served the congregation for 30 years. Businessman Lamar Fleming donated two and a quarter acres of land to the church in 1960 and the current structure was erected. A brief interim, St. Luke’s Church met at the YMCA across the street from the present location, while the new church was under construction. The present building was occupied on November 3, 1963, and the mortgage was burned on St. Luke’s Day 1979. This facility will seat approximately 300 people and has a marble altar standing parallel to a wall of Colorado river-washed stones. The windows are of irregular designed stained glass that allows the sanctuary to be doused with poetic light. Hanging in front of the wall of stone is a gigantic Red wood cross. 


Today, St. Luke's is a vibrant and active congregation led by the Rev. Francene Young. Learn more about St. Luke's here.