History of St. Luke's

A New History 1872 - 2010

St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Detroit Lakes, MN

The history of St. Luke's you are about to read was graciously written for us by Richard D. Hecock. Thank you!

Born in 1822, Whipple grew up in New York as a Presbyterian in a merchant family; his college career at Oberlin College was cut short by health problems. He returned to New York to recuperate, and worked in his father's business (he also was active in politics and joined the militia). In 1842 he married Cornelia Wright, who persuaded him to become an Episcopalian; he soon became enamored of the Book of Common Prayer. After some encounters with slavery and mistreatment of Indians, he decided in 1848 to enter the Episcopal Priesthood. Unable to afford seminary, he studied privately with a priest. He began his ministry as a lay-reader then deacon in 1849, and was ordained as priest in 1850. He had a gift for fund­ raising that enabled him to build a new church in Rome, New York. After another successful pastorate in Chicago, in 1859 Whipple was named Bishop of Minnesota. His 42-year Episcopate was marked by extraordinary growth in churches and members. He was internationally celebrated for his work with, and for, Native Americans. Over the period from 1872 to 1896 that the Detroit church was part of the Minnesota Diocese, he preached and celebrated at St. Luke's no less than 15 times. He died in 1901.

© 2010 by Richard D. Hecock

Photo source: Diocese of Minnesota Files


St. Luke's Church is much loved, as indicated by the numerous affectionate histories. An unnamed source, probably Rev. Anton Gesner, chronicled the first years (1872-1894) in the church's register, apparently in 1894. Agnes West incorporated those notes together with excerpts of Bishops Committees' reports in an update around 1940. John Tollefson relied heavily on those sources and added more material for his high school thesis "The History of St. Luke's in Detroit Lakes" in 1962. Life-long member, Nancy Rutledge, based to a considerable degree on her own records and memories, contributed several reminiscences in the 1970's, around the time of the church's centennial celebration. In 1991, Donald White returned to the church records and interviews with old­ timers, to produce the most comprehensive history, "St. Luke's Parish, The First 119 Years".

Since that time, there is an almost complete set of minutes, annual reports, parochial reports and other data with which to rely on for recent developments of the church. Much of the credit for assembly of these documents is owed to Betty Greenough, who operated as the church's secretary/archivist during much of that time.

I am humbled by the work of these predecessors, but note that almost 20 years has passed since White's fine effort. During that interval, a single priest served for 11 years, a longer tenure than any previous St. Luke's clergy­ person. On the other hand, it was during this period the church was without a priest for the longest period in its history. Late in the period St. Luke's became a Total Ministry church, and it currently counts two ordained priests and a deacon among its congregation.

My connection with St. Luke's is not as extensive as many other members, past or present. Nevertheless, I am one of the living few that did attend a service at the Lake Street church in the 1950's, and Georgia and I were married in 1967 at the "new" church soon after its consecration. Finally, since 1993, Georgia and I have made Detroit Lakes our home, so we have witnessed most of the events since White did his work.

I'm not a historian, but am interested in history, particularly the contexts that have produced current institutions. have tried to generalize and draw attention to the broad trends of St. Luke's history, and have tried to relate these trends to other events and conditions. For those who want more detail, and less generalization about the early history of St. Luke's, see White's or West's works.

I hope that this effort serves as a contribution not only towards understanding St. Luke's past, present and future, but its role in the history of Detroit (Lakes).

* In addition to those references in the bibliography, special thanks goes to the Becker County Historical Society, and to Arthur Finnel, historiographer of the Diocese of Minnesota who provided several ideas, pictures, and other resources. As always, Georgia Hecock provided invaluable service with both ideas and editing. Carol and Jim Granger, and John Emery, also helped me avoid some errors. Those remaining, any omissions, and other defects, are mine alone.

Detroit in 1872. This is a view looking north across the railroad tracks.

Detroit in late 1870's. This looks south along Washington Avenue from near the site of Washington School. The Baptist church is on the left. The Congregational Church would have been behind and to the left. The 1880 bird's eye view below looks at Detroit from northeast to southwest. St Luke's was built two years later near Washington School (bottom right of picture), directly across from the Congregational Church.

Photos courtesy of Becker County Historical Society.

St. Luke's "Creation Story"

Though Minnesota became a State and Becker a County in 1858, there was relatively little permanent settlement in the area prior to 1868 (and Becker County really was not fully organized to govern until 1871). According to Historian Wilcox, even the Native Americans were reluctant to establish villages here on account of continuing conflict among neighboring tribes. Some fur-traders had established a pathway through the area, probably in the late 1820's, and in 1854 Donald McDonald, built a log cabin on northeast shore of Detroit Lake, close to the Pelican River. In 1868 farming was established near White Earth, about the same time it began near Oak Lake (a little west of Floyd Lake). In 1870 there were four families in Detroit Township.

Grading for the Northern Pacific Railway Company's track-bed began in 1870, was finished in 1871, and by late that year regular service was established (though the track was later blocked for several months by snow). As the arrival of the railroad service neared, settlement picked up. By 1871 many more settlers arrived, and in 1872 several stores had opened, as had the Tyler Hotel.

The Rev. John Johnson (Enmegahbowh) had been holding services at St. Columba's in White Earth since 1868, and Bishop Whipple was to consecrate the church there in 1872. Baptists had already built a church in the village of Detroit, and it was there, on his way to consecrate the White Earth church, that Bishop Whipple held the first Episcopal service in the area. Two weeks later The Rev. J. A. Gilfillan, in charge of all railroad Missions in Northern Minnesota, held another service in the Peake Hotel, thereby laying the groundwork for a church in Detroit.

Detroit was especially important to Whipple, because it was the closest railroad access to the Ojibway Indian Mission that had been opened at White Earth when the tribe was moved from the Gull Lake area in 1868. Prior to the railroad, travel for the missionary clergy and Whipple involved several days to reach Gull Lake, several days more from Gull Lake to White Earth, and required segments by horseback as well as canoe. The arrival of the railroad at Detroit shortened the trip considerably.

Still, from today's perspective, it is hard to imagine how primitive Detroit was in 1872 . There were few buildings scattered about - the railway station, a couple of stores, and the Tyler Hotel, the latter actually built a half-mile eastward from where the Detroit townsite was established (near the location of the present-day Lakeshirts plant). There were no paved streets. For a couple of years there were only trails outside of the immediate area of the townsite. The first road to Richwood, and eventually to White Earth, was built by the County (much of it was "corduroy" whereby logs were laid perpendicular to the direction of travel, then covered with sand).

Copy of the 1872 Land Survey of the Detroit area. The railroad is included. Detroit is designated as "Town Site" to the north of the track (see arrow). A trail, labeled Otter Tail Road, roughly follows today's Richwood Road towards White Earth.

This is E.S. Peake's 1882 sketch of proposed location of St. Luke's Church at Detroit. The sketch places the four lots purchased by the church on the NW corner of the intersection of Washington Avenue and Union Street. The Congregational Church was directly across the street to the east, and a half-block north of the Baptist church. The Methodist Church was located on the south side of the tracks .

Source: Peake's diaries, found in the Minnesota Historical Center

St. Luke's Church in 1884 on the site depicted above, looking north. The first Washington School is to the left; Washington Avenue is to the right of the church. The church door faced Union Street. A new Washington School was built later on this St. Luke's Church site.

Whipple's "Railroad Strategy"

The earliest Episcopal churches in Minnesota were at St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Stillwater. The next "wave" brought churches to Winona, Red Wing, and later to St. Cloud, along the Mississippi, and not too long afterwards to Shakopee, St. Peter and Mankato along the Minnesota River. Development pushed inland into southeast Minnesota, roads were built, and the next phase included churches in Northfield, Cannon Falls and Faribault. It is understandable that the next step of Minnesota church-building in the 1870's was associated with the construction of railroads, especially the Northern Pacific and Great Northern.

In 1872, The Rev. Joseph A. Gilfillan was assigned as "Missionary on the Northern Pacific Railroad" and established his headquarters in Brainerd. By all accounts Brainerd was a "Godless" place, with a population largely comprised of single men, or those who had been separated from their families. Drunkenness, whoring, and fighting were commonplace.

Gilfallan waded into the degradation and soon reported that the Sabbath was being observed, along with an "improvement in the morals" of the town. "Excellent families" were also coming to town.

Gilfillan's charge included all of the new towns from Aitken to the Red River, as well as some older ones along the river to Little Falls. That Whipple was interested in this venture is supported by his repeated visits to the railroad towns and camps starting in 1872, as the railroad was built westward to Moorhead and beyond.

After Whipple preached (and confirmed one) in Detroit on August 12, 1872, he also went to Oak Lake, a railroad construction camp (near the present site of Forest Hills golf course). Historian Tanner provides Whipple's description of the Oak Lake camp: ''This is a city of tents, nearly every place a whisky shop, dance houses, saloons, gambling halls - an abode of wickedness. I visited from tent to tent and gathered a good congregation; they listened with apparent interest".

The Rev. Hamilton Dudley and The Rev. Gurley, joined Gilfilllan the next year and over the next few years they held "regular services " at Moorhead, Glyndon, Hawley, Hobart (near Frazee), Lake Park, Detroit, Frazee, Staples, Perham, Wadena, Verndale, and Motley. Some of these efforts resulted in permanent churches; most did not for many different reasons. For example, Tanner describes the situation in Glyndon where Father Gurley and The Rev. Dudley both held services for a group of English immigrants.

"For a time, Mrs. Banks and Mrs. Lewis kept up a Sunday School and a sewing society. But there were few Church people at Glyndon, and the few that were there, having no church, had become so accustomed to attending the Union Service in the chapel that they seemed weaned from their own, and the effort to sustain a regular service was at last given up."

Whipple Gothic

The Diocese of Minnesota's first Bishop stimulated the organization of many dozens of local churches during his forty­ one year ministry. Many of the church buildings were based upon plans developed by Richard Upjohn, an English architect whose work was widespread in New York during Whipple's formative years in the 1850's. Indeed, Whipple oversaw the construction of an Upjohn Church in Rome, New York, his first parish. Twenty-two chapels and 73 churches, mostly wood structures had been built in his Minnesota Diocese by 1880. Many more were added later in the decade, mostly in the northwest. Many of these were evolved from Upjohn's earlier more elaborate "pointed" Gothic church plans, such as Christ Church built in 1860 in St. Paul. The derivations of Upjohn designs called for plain long, narrow structures, featuring vertical lines, often exaggerated by board-and-batten exteriors, scissor support beams, pointed arches for windows and doors, a three-staged steeple, and a chancel separated from the nave. Whipple Gothic was well suited to the resource limitations and rudimentary carpentry skills found in rural and small towns across Minnesota

The Whipple Gothic concept was well known to clerics associated with the Detroit congregation in the late 1870's and early 80's. Their simultaneous service to Perham, Richwood, and other Episcopalian communities in the area, facilitated the construction of numerous nearby churches using the modified Upjohn plans.

Source: Joan R. Gunderson, Episcopal Churches on the Minnesota Frontier, Minnesota History, fall, 1987, p. 258-268.

St. Luke's was built in 1882-1883 apparently in accordance with the Upjohn plans that had been adapted to accommodate rural financial resources and carpentry skills. While there exists no specific reference to the source of the plans for the Detroit church, the narrow, long nave and separated chancel, board and batten siding, pointed arch windows and doors, and vertical lines in the plain three-stage steeple, all these were elements consistent with Upjohn's ideas. Similar designs were used to build the Richwood and White Earth churches.

Whipple Gothic elements are also seen in the interior features of St. Luke's Church in Detroit -arched windows and doors, arched chancel separate from the nave, and an arched window behind the altar. As was common in Whipple churches, the scissor support beams (crossed) which appear at the top of the chancel depart from the Upjohn plan which called for curved beams, more expensive and more difficult to construct.

The Early Years 1872-1883

Primitive as it was, the situation changed rapidly after the arrival of the railroad. In 1870 there was only a handful of people (perhaps 40), living in all of Detroit township (an area extending from Lake Detroit to just north of Floyd Lake, and from a little east of the Pelican River westward to about Long Lake.) But by 1880 there were 500 inhabitants of Detroit and its environs. A community was being carved from a wilderness.

Moreover, as a result of the promotional and recruitment strategies of the NP Railway Company, and the arrangements made with the "New England Colony"*, the population moving to Detroit was comprised predominantly of New Englanders. The Baptists and Congregationalists each had railroad town evangelism programs of their own. Both were active in the Detroit area before the Episcopalians, and the Methodists arrived within months afterward. All of these sects would have been familiar to the new immigrants from New England.

In 1873, Whipple assigned The Rev. Hamilton Dudley responsibility for non-Indian missions west of Brainerd; though Dudley resided in Detroit services were not held every week, and in all likelihood were held at different times on different occasions. It is known that services for the first ten years were held in many different venues - Peakes Hall, Tyler Hotel, Baptist Church, Washington School, and the Congregational Church among them.

Unfortunately, Dudley's efforts were cut short in 1875 when he died unexpectedly. Afterwards the ministry at Detroit was continued by a long list of non-resident clerics-Dickey, Tenbroak, Riley, Booth, Swan, Gurley, Wainright, Gilfillan and Peake. There was a modest number of baptisms and some confirmations during the period (many more at Wadena, Perham and Moorhead), Nevertheless, church records show that Bishop Whipple made frequent visits to Detroit, often on his way to White Earth.

Aside from Whipple, Ebenezer Steele Peake is surely the most important figure for Detroit's Episcopalians during the early period. Though his tenure was only 18 months (1880-82), and he was serving Moorhead too, Peake was responsible for six of the eight baptisms and confirmations that were recorded for Detroit during the whole first decade. Nevertheless it was in 1882 that Peake's successor, The Rev. Reginald M. Johnson, together with Revs. Gilfillan, Swan and Dickey, who convinced Bishop Whipple to build a church. Sufficient money soon was raised, a lot purchased, and construction of Detroit's Episcopal Church was started (in accordance with Whipple's "Gothic" design). The following spring (1883), a bell was hung in the tower and the first service was led by The Rev. Johnson.

*The New England Colony was to be a colony of civil war veterans recruited from New England by railroad and other interests. About 300 came originally - they were given property in the Detroit townsite and/or nearby agricultural lands. Other settlers also came from New England, and later another colony was organized to bring settlers from New York or Canada. Among the 1000 or so colonists, many left for "greener pastures," some died. The Colonies ceased to have much relevance within a few years.

Unfortunately, the building was constructed without a furnace, so when fall arrived in 1883, The Rev. Johnson balked, made a public announcement, then removed himself from Detroit to Wadena; no services were held until the following spring.

Ebenezer Steele Peake

Ebenezer Steele Peake was a key figure during one of St. Luke's growth periods. He had worked previously in founding churches along the Minnesota River, and then at St. Columba during its Crow Wing period. A very close associate of Bishop Whipple, Peake (together with Breck, Wilcoxson and Gilfallen) was important in the early years of the Diocese. He had left Minnesota for a time, to work in California and later as Chaplain in the Union Army. During a post-war visit to Wadena (where his brother lived), he encountered Whipple, who prevailed upon him to take charge of the Railroad churches in the Red River Valley (sic). He was assigned to Moorhead in 1878, and provided services to Wadena and Verndale. He gradually expanded his work to include Crookston, Detroit, Perham, Staples, New York Mills, Red Lake, Ada, Glyndon, Breckenridge and other places.

He was in charge at Detroit from 1880 to 1882, whereupon he was sent to Valley City (Dakota) for two years. He left that work in 1884, at which time he returned to his previous churches along the railroad, this time taking up residence in Detroit.

During his five years in Detroit, Peake operated at a hectic pace. While he annually provided as many as 120 services in Detroit, he was only in town on alternate weekends, performing regular Sunday and weekday services in Perham, Wadena, and Lake Park. Apparently he was in some demand as a preacher for he frequently visited Fargo's Gethsemane, his old church in Valley City, and the one at Mayville (Dakota). All of these activities, and much more, are meticulously recorded in a set of diaries held by the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.

He lost a 20-year old son, George Parker Peake, in 1888. The boy died in Johnstown, New York of pneumonia; the Eagle lectern in St. Luke's sanctuary indicates that it was given as a memorial to the Peakes' son.

The Rev. Joseph A. Gilfillan

The Reverend Joseph A. Gilfillan was born in England, but came to America as a young boy. Little is known of his early history. He was rector of a church in Duluth before being called to Indian service at Crow Wing by Bishop Whipple. In the early 1870's he was put in charge of the Railroad Missions, then in 1873 went to White Earth to help Enmegahbowh. By all accounts he was extremely popular among the Indians with whom he worked. An Ojibway speaker, he achieved almost heroic status among "his people."

He was in charge of the Detroit Church on several occasions, and made frequent visits there at other times. He gave money for construction of the original church.

Gilfillan was independently wealthy owing to an inheritance from English relatives; his income of about $12,000 per year, was used in support of his church work and his Indians. It is said that he also helped finance the Richwood Church, and paid for a stained glass window in Lund Lutheran Church.

Decades of Growth, 1880's & 1890's

Detroit was growing rapidly in 1880's, and its good fortune continued into the 1890's and beyond. Forestry industries still prospered, while the agricultural sector began to emerge as a bigger factor. During these years, Detroit was firmly established as a tourist destination. The Pelican River Steamship Company was formed and by 1888 was carrying passengers from Detroit to Pelican Lake. By 1890 three trains in each direction stopped in Detroit, and by 1892 there were three daily steamship trips from Detroit to Shoreham where there were nearly 200 summer cottages. Not only did the residents grow, but local population swelled during the summertime. Many new firms were established. Detroit was thriving.

The Rev. Peake returned to Detroit in 1884, and with the help of the women of the church, the heating problem was soon solved. On September 16, 1885, Bishop Whipple consecrated St. Luke's Episcopal Church of Detroit Lakes. By then there was an active women's group, and an energetic Sunday school program.

Armed with a new church, Peake devoted energy to building his flock. In the next few years he baptized 33, confirmed 32 and buried and married many others. At the same time he also was serving Episcopalians in Perham and other nearby towns.

White indicates that there were 19 clergy assigned to St. Luke's during its first thirty-five years. However, it was Peake and only four others who were responsible for about 60 percent of the elapsed time, and almost 93 percent of the activity of the church (see table below) Even allowing for some errors in the records, this is an enormous concentration of effort and success in a relatively small part of the period during the service of a relatively few ministers.

It was a period of rapid expansion and growth for the Diocese of Minnesota too. Priests were in short supply, and many who served Detroit, including Gesner, Moultrie and Munson, came first as deacons and later were ordained as priests. These often left soon after ordination to the priesthood to seek more prestigious posts. Others found the weather or working conditions discomforting.

Early Lay Leaders of St. Luke's

John K. West was one of the early settlers of Detroit Lakes who came from "out east." He was born in Massachusetts, and attended school there, including Williams College. Arriving in Detroit, he soon became the inspiration and founder of the Pelican River Navigation Company which was the key to the early resort development area. The development of the steamship route involved building a system of locks and dams, thereby raising the water level in Detroit Lake and the Pelican River by several feet. By 1890 his steamships were carrying tourists and goods from Detroit to Shoreham where there were approximately 100 summer cottages. He also invested in real estate and other local businesses. He was a Congregationalist by birth and tradition, but he attracted the attention of Bishop Whipple who prevailed upon West to become Treasurer of his Detroit Church. (It is said that Whipple often reached out to non-Episcopalian community leaders to fill specific jobs in his churches.)

West served the Bishop and St. Luke's for many years, not only as Treasurer, but as Senior Warden, and eventually as Lay Reader. He was also a host for church outings which often involved a trip on a steamboat. His first wife, Mary, died in the early 1900s. Soon afterwards he married Agnes Brownjohn, who was a long-serving Superintendent of St. Luke's Sunday School. Agnes Brownjohn West was also an important chronicler of St. Luke's, writing the valuable history of the church from its inception through 1939.

Another native New Englander, Homer Earle Sargent, was born in 1822 in Leicester, Massachusetts. Sargent was a railroad man, having served in an executive capacity with the Boston and Albany, the Michigan Central, and eventually the Northern Pacific. Later he was President of the Fargo and Southern Railway. He resided in Chicago where he was very active in the Episcopal Church. After the Northern Pacific came to Detroit, he built a summer home on Lake Street about a half-block from the site which St. Luke's occupied after 1892.

General Sargent, as he was often called, was enormously influential in St. Luke's affairs, not only as a benefactor, but as an advisor too. Throughout the remainder of his life he stepped forward frequently and generously, to solve one or another church financial problem-purchasing prayer books, hymnals, holding the mortgage on the first vicarage, paying much of the cost of moving the church to Lake Street, and so on. Using the Sargent's home, five generations of Sargent family have summered in the lakes area; each has attended St. Luke's, and each has continued the Sargent tradition of contribution to the church's well­ being.

Photo source: geni.com

Emma K. Ogden, M.D. arrived in Detroit in 1897. It is said that she is the first woman physician to be graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She rendered almost twenty years of medical service to the community, and had an equally long time as a devoted servant of St. Luke's - as a Sunday School teacher, a Woman's Guild member, and a patron. She lived next door to the Lake Street Church (and after she died in 1916, the church purchased her home as a vicarage.)

There were many other lay persons important to the life of St. Luke's in its early days.

During the 1890's Detroit's population doubled again. In 1894 church rolls recorded almost 50 families, and nearly 200 family members. The Sunday School was well established. There was a choir, an organist and an active woman's group.

However, by 1891 it had become clear that the future of Detroit lay south of the NP tracks. New business development was there, as were the homes of the business and professional "elite"; and Lake Detroit became a significant part of both the social and economic life of the community. The "north side" of the tracks was no longer associated with the growth and vitality of the community.

So it is not surprising that Detroit's churches moved south too. Indeed, the Methodists already were on Frazee Street, and the Baptists had moved to Lake Street. In 1891, St Luke's raised $700 to pay for moving their structure from Washington Avenue to Lake Street, near the intersection with Frazee Street, and directly across from the site of the Becker County Jail. The Congregationalists built soon afterwards, also choosing Lake Street, at the opposite end of the block from the Episcopalians.

It is worth keeping in mind that, even at the close of the period in 1910, while there were about 3000 persons in and around Detroit (more in the summer), automobiles had only made cameo appearances; the town would not see paved streets for at least another decade. Travel was mostly on foot around town, which extended only a few blocks in any direction from the Washington and Lake Street business center. Elsewhere, travel was by train, bicycle, carriage and horseback.

Churches were focal points in the social life of the community. Not only did they provide spiritual outlets, they also served as important social centers. St. Luke's women offered dinners, bazaars, and other diversions, many of which were fund-raisers for a variety of church needs.

Ups & Downs: 1907 - 1946

Detroit and environs continued to grow rapidly into the mid-1920's, to a considerable degree on the strength of its tourist industry, and farm immigrants into the nearby townships. However, the period of rapid St. Luke's growth appears to have been over by the early years of the new century. The next decades were marked by fluctuations in church members, activities and fortunes.

While St. Luke's was well established as a community institution in the early years of the 20th Century, it encountered some rough times. In addition to the depression years, it endured two world wars and the influenza epidemic of 1918 (the church was closed for several weeks). In 1926 the church not only lost $300 in a bank closing, but it defaulted on a mortgage, losing its rectory. On several occasions, in all totaling four years, the church had no regular clergyman. Three clergy stayed for less than one year.

Mrs. West refers to the difficult years in 1907 and again in the early 1920's; White called 1941 "a tough operation year". At one point, in 1928, responding to a Bishop's Committee threat to close the church, the Bishop agreed to pay the full amount of St. Luke's portion of the priest's salary.

Yet, St. Luke's congregation included some of Detroit leaders-J.K. West, local developer and entrepreneur; G.C. Bush, Barber, Village President, and County Sheriff; Emma Ogden, Physician, and George Hamilton, Newspaper Publisher, as well as several other well-known citizens (Rossman, Phinny, Teague). During most of this period there were active women's groups (St. Luke's branch of the Woman's Auxiliary, 1916-1920, St. Luke's Guild, 1922-1928, the Episcopal Guild 1930-39), with membership as high as 30. An Altar Guild was organized in 1925 and functioned thereafter. According to detailed accounts by West, during most of the time there was a dynamic and healthy Sunday School, with enrollments in the range of 27-40 students, 6-8 teachers, and an average weekly attendance of 20-25 (including teachers).

There were more than twice as many baptisms as burials and an average of about 6 confirmations per year. There were many faithful members, but the critical mass was insufficient to support a full-time priest. St. Luke's remained a Mission Church.

During these years ten different priests took charge of the church; in each case the priest's assignment included at least one other church, and in some cases several others. Several deacons were ordained to the priesthood while at St. Luke's. Three clergy served less than one year. One priest, The Rev. Spencer Murphey of Wadena, was placed in charge on three different occasions. During six intervals, no specific priest was in charge-lay persons and supply priests served the needs of the congregation at these times.

In the early part of this period, St. Luke's shared clergy with Lake Park, but that church was closed before 1920. During Murphey's involvement the connection was with Wadena, Perham, and Staples (Perham was closed by 1920 too). Gallagher was in charge at Richwood, in addition to Detroit. However, in the latter years of the period, starting in 1937, St. Luke's (as well as the churches in Richwood and Mahnomen) was shifted to the Fergus Falls "field". For many years afterwards Detroit was "yoked" with Fergus Falls.

Detroit became Detroit Lakes in 1926.

The multi-church assignments not only were hard on Priests, but they caused significant problems for their congregations too. While Sunday services were usually held each week, the service times were irregular. As examples, a common schedule had services at 7:30 p.m. except for the first Sunday of each month when the Communion was offered at 8 a.m. In the winter, services frequently were held at 4 p.m. with monthly communion services at 8 a.m., but sometimes there were 11 a.m. services, especially in the summer, and 4 a.m. services in the winter. Exceptions to regular patterns were commonplace.

During these four decades, five of St. Luke's ten priests, Oehler, Gallagher, Tragett, Long and Hallett carried most of the load. Their collective tenure at St. Luke's accounted for just about two-thirds of the months in this period, but they were responsible for over 80 percent of the confirmations. Their achievements were all the more remarkable because in each case the priest was responsible for more than one church. Both Long and Hallett lived in Fergus Falls, and held services in several other communities.

St. Luke's survived these circumstances but did not grow.

What Happened?

Since the Detroit area continued to grow, and if it is true that St. Luke's growth more or less stopped by the turn of the Century (and records are admittedly sketchy on this point), the question is why? One speculation is that early immigrants were drawn from New England and Canada where the Episcopal Church was well established. Closely related to this is that the early immigrants and members of St. Luke's tended to be merchants, investors and professionals, classes that were comfortable in the established Episcopal Church "Out East" (which sometimes is accused of elitist tendencies). These same groups also tend to have relatively small families, and offer fewer opportunities for local family members. Episcopalians tend to export their young.

Moreover, the later immigration streams to Minnesota, and to the Detroit area, were comprised more heavily of German and Scandinavian farmers, groups that had neither social or religious affinities to the Episcopal Church (and Episcopalians are not known for evangelism success anyhow, according to Chilton)

Post War Years & St. Luke's Resurgence

Not long after World War II, St. Luke's entered a period of almost uninterrupted growth in the 1950's and 1960's. This resurgence of church interest was shared by many denominations in Detroit Lakes. Nationwide, the Episcopal Church doubled its membership.

Lay Reader Reno Kuehnel began his ministry at St. Luke's in 1945. Ordained first a Deacon, and then a Priest, he served Detroit almost eight years. Though he resided in Fergus Falls, and served that church and a small church in Battle Lake, St. Luke's prospered during his years of service.

His tenure marked a significant shift in the clergy situation at St. Luke's. With Kuehnel and his successors, the average length of clergy service was about 55 months, about four and one-half years, and there were only a couple of short periods during which the church was without a clergy member.

After Kuehnel and the relatively short service of Davis, the priests resided in Detroit Lakes. They still were shared with other churches, but the residence situation seems to have mattered.

Though the records are incomplete, most evidence points to a period of substantial growth. Attendance tripled, there were many more services, and very strong summer attendance often accounted for Sunday attendance from 50 to 100 percent higher than winter attendance. There was an active youth group.

On the other hand, compared to previous decades Baptisms and confirmations were not especially high.

The congregation became somewhat more diverse as indicated by the surnames of families added to the church roles in the 1960's.

There were many important events in the life of the church-upgrades and remodeling of the church, a new organ purchased by the Woman's Guild in 1951, a new vicarage in 1961-but none were as dramatic as the new church.

Corbett Road

The Lake Street church building was inadequate for the growing St. Luke's membership and programs. White reports that there had "been talk" of a new church to replace the 75-year old structure for some time. In 1959 a committee was appointed to investigate the possibility, and their report was the subject of discussions for several years. Serious discussion began in 1964 when another committee was formed.

With the blessing of Bishop Kellogg, the process moved quickly. The Lake Street church property was sold to the neighboring First Lutheran Church, and the new church built on Corbett at its intersection with Granger Road in 1965 and 1966. The building project was accompanied by some controversy, over the width of the center aisle, for example, and whether old furniture and furnishings were appropriate for the new modern church.

In the end, much that was part of the much-beloved old church was carried forward into the new structure - stained glass windows, pews, lecterns, bishop's chairs, and so on. In the case of the pews, the decision was partly budgetary - the old ones were refinished and used until 1981 when new ones were purchased.

On the other hand, in spite of the extra cost of renovating and moving them to the new church, the old stained glass windows were prominently displayed in the new structure.

The stained windows along the sides of the sanctuary portion of the building were added as a celebration of the nation's Bicentennial in 1976, at a cost of approximately $3,000.

The Church Bell, 1883

A Bell was hung in St. Luke's Church on Washington Avenue in 1883 - it's origin is unknown. The bell moved with the Church structure to its Lake Avenue home in 1891.

St. Luke's moved to its current Corbett Road location in 1966. Its previous Lake Avenue property had been purchased by First Lutheran, but the church building was sold separately to a local businessman for salvage. The deal allowed St. Luke's congregation to remove church furnishings, including stained-glass windows, pews and other furniture.

For some reason the ownership of the bell from the old church's steeple became controversial. The salvager extricated the bell and took it to his home on Big Detroit's Nason Bay and, when questioned, claimed that it had not been part of the "deal." Apparently that was a erroneous conclusion, because good Episcopalians Margaret Burritt and George Lambert, enlisted the help of the sheriff and set out to retrieve the bell. In the ensuing confrontation, the salvager's wife became so angry that she threw the bell's clapper into the lake.

The old bell, with a substitute clapper, was re-installed in the new Corbett Road steeple shortly afterwards.

For almost 130 years St. Luke's bell has signaled the start of St. Luke's worship to the neighborhood. It is one of only three church bells still ringing in Detroit Lakes.

(The foregoing story of St. Luke's bell was told by Catherine Granger in 2007. Other versions differ in the details, but the overall theme is the same.)

The period after the construction of the church could be called St. Luke's "golden years". Between 1967 and 1976 membership grew by almost 40% with a strong youth component; and attendance at worship stayed above 5000 in most years. There were several energetic priests in residence. One unusual arrangement involved the appointment by Bishop Anderson of an Assistant Bishop to reside in Detroit Lakes, serve as St. Luke's vicar, and attend to Diocesan duties as needed. Even though he provided services at St. Luke's only on alternate Sundays, the church reached a peak of activity during Bishop Varley's three years of service, 1981-1984.

In addition to a new church and a new Book of Common Prayer, St. Luke's experienced other changes in the 1960's and 70' s.

White writes...

"It has been said by many that one of the finest things that ever happened at St. Luke's was the placing of the padding on the kneeling benches. This happened at the old church in 1962. Margaret Ingalls (a member of the Bishop 's Committee and the President of the ECW) proposed at a Committee meeting in early January that year that the benches be repaired and padding added.

She advised that the ECW would pay for all the materials involved. Volunteers were asked for, and Bob and Catherine Granger responded, with others agreeing to help. The job was completed at years end. Previous to that time not only St. Luke's but all other Episcopal churches, no doubt, had no padded kneelers. The reason for this long-standing custom as given to your authority by a Priest years ago was that when one knelt on a bare bench to pray one should feel some penance."


"Another custom of long-standing was the wearing of head covering by the women members when attending Services or working in the Church. The Principal apparel worn was their normal hat, but special apparel was noted sometimes such as a scarf or a mantilla. Then along in the early 1970's some lack of the observance of this custom was noted.

Considerable criticism of this came from many of the ones still wearing a covering but as the years went by more and more non-wearers could be noted. Then by the early 1980's it seemed that the changed had been generally accepted so that presently a covered head is very much the exception at the Services or at other times in the Church. This was followed by the acceptance by most members that slacks worn by women members was acceptable apparel at Services as well."

Then there is the matter of the "hippies and flower children" who made an appearance at St. Luke's around 1970, according to a recollection by The Rev. John Wilhms.


A Long Decline

The last half of the 1980's and the 1990's were not kind to St. Luke's. In most of the 100 years before 1985, St. Luke's numbers of both baptisms and confirmations exceeded burials. In 1985-90, burials exceeded confirmations, and after 1990, burials exceeded both baptisms and confirmations. Similarly, numbers of baptized members and communicants fell, and annual total service attendance dropped from an average of 3600 to 2400.

As in the case of the pre-WWII era, part of the problem was associated with demographics. The St. Luke's congregation was aging, as indicated by the relative numbers of baptisms and burials. Between 1985 and 2001 the number of those less than 18 years on church rolls dropped by more than half. Unfortunately as a general matter (and in Detroit Lakes too?), Episcopalians have relatively small families, are well-educated, and their offspring tend to move away from home (Chilton).

Another factor was the onset of a decline in the popularity of mainstream protestant churches. Some put this down to a growing antipathy towards ritual. Others felt that preferences for the "salvation message", inerrancy of the Bible, personal conversion, fundamentalist social values and an emphasis on evangelism all worked to favor the new, non-mainstream churches (Chilton). While these forces did not seem to impact the national Episcopal Church as much as other protestant groups (Hadaway), both the Diocese of Minnesota and St. Luke's faced losses.

It is unlikely that growth in several large evangelical and "new-age" churches in Detroit Lakes was coincidental.

In any case this period of decline for St. Luke's began without a priest; for almost two years St. Luke's services were supplied by visiting clergy. Then The Rev. Patsy Bingham served St. Luke's from 1986-1989, and after another year-long interlude, she was followed by The Rev. John Husband, longest serving St. Luke's vicar, from August 1990 through December, 2001.

Husband's tenure was marked by considerable innovation. He was instrumental in rearranging the church sanctuary, bringing the choir out of the balcony to the front of the church. Pews were set at angles to provide more room in front of the altar. The Gospel and sermons were henceforth presented on "ground level" in the midst of the congregation, rather than from the elevated chancel area.

The Rev. Husband was a devotee of early Christian Celtic traditions, and brought that influence to art and celebrations of the church. For several years, a St. Andrew's Day celebration was observed and honor of the 900th anniversary of the publication of the "Book of Keis" he led the congregation in an effort to construct a Celtic cross which remains a prominent symbol of the church's presence on Corbett Road (See cover).

During 1980's and 90's there was a strong church music program, including a bell-choir, and a new organ. There was a good deal of innovation in music and liturgy, thanks in part to a new Book of Common Prayer. Many of the young people became active in the Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) program, and St. Luke's hosted several region­-wide meetings.

The church school thrived, and a men's study group was initiated; later a Bible-study group in association with the Methodists was developed. The Church obtained funding to employ computers in Christian Education efforts.

The church entered into a hosting arrangement providing food storage and distribution space for the MACS and NAPS programs. With the assistance of a grant from the Bremer Foundation, a handicapped bathroom was installed to help service this program which continues to serve more than 250 families each month.

ECW was active, raising money through the knitting and sale of Christmas stockings, selling pecans, and baked goods. A huge activity and money-maker was the Episcomix project in which members, and others, produced ready-to-cook mixes of scones, drinks, and other popular food products. ECW also developed and supervised the church's recycling program. Their efforts provided funds for scholarships, church equipment, and outreach to many community organizations.

Together with Trinity Church in Park Rapids, which shared The Rev. Husband's priestly duties, St. Luke's reached out to other Region One churches, including Native-American congregations. The two churches also supported a sabbatical leave for their priest and struggled to find a way to adapt to their shared ministry, sometimes referred to as "One Church Two Roofs".

However, the drop in membership and church activity, and the concomitant financial problems, led to the loss of congregational support. The Rev. Husband left his St. Luke's ministry in the fall of 2001.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, St. Luke's failed in at least two attempts to gain parish status, presumably because of the church's inability to support a full-time priest. There is some irony in this circumstance, since during this time St. Luke's Mission was yoked with Trinity of Park Rapids, a Parish church, while St. Luke's paid the majority of the costs of the priest.

The Women of St. Luke's

Women were critical to the founding and persistence of Minnesota churches. Under Whipple's leadership, women were expected to play an important role in his churches. In letters soliciting funds for his new churches, he refers to the "loving daughters" who stepped forward to assist in founding and financing churches.

The dominance of women in the life of St. Luke's is inarguable. First there are the numbers - of the 34 "Communicants" registered in 1894, 26 were women. That sort of apparent dominance in the spiritual life of the church continued for many years, though narrowing a bit in the 1930's when over one-third (27) of the 72 newly registered communicants were male. In general the female dominance in numbers continues in the 1980's and early 1990's when there were 18 male and 26 female communicants added to the church register. The current ratio is about four females to three males.

Various church women's groups (Women's Meetings, the Aid, and the Episcopal Society) met regularly after 1884 (West). The Ladies' Guild was organized in 1890. With the exception of a two year hiatus, 1928-1930, the women continued the Guild until the 1970's. The Episcopal Church Women (ECW), successor to the Guild, continued to meet regularly until 2005. ECW's impact lives on in the form of a special fund established by the women in 2010 from funds remaining in the ECW treasury.

The highly organized St. Luke's women were able to make very important contributions to the financial well-being of the church. Various fundraisers, especially bazaars, allowed the women to have a major role in decorating, remodeling, and paying for needed equipment.

Also St. Luke's was honored by fact that women from St. Luke's were also critical players in the woman's organization of the Moorhead Deanery (Woman's Auxiliary); later Margaret Peterson was President of the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) of the Diocese of Minnesota.

On the other hand, for all their spiritual and financial influence, their participation in church affairs was limited. For many decades it was understood that the Vestry was comprised of Vestrymen.

By 1949 women were no longer excluded from the Bishop's Committee, but in a letter to the Senior Warden, Bishop Keeler somewhat patronizingly reminds the Senior Warden," women can serve on BC, but a majority should be men". In fact many Bishop's Committees had women members in the 1960's and 1970's, but it was not until Robin Granger Friendshuh in 1988 that a woman became Senior Warden.

Women could be present at Diocesan convention after 1970. Marian Seelye was the first St. Luke's woman to become a Lay Reader in the 1960's. Women could be ordained as Priests in 1976 and The Rev. Sandi Holmberg was the first woman celebrant at St. Luke's in 1983. The Rev. Patsy Bingham served as St. Luke's priest from 1986-1989. There currently are two ordained women clergy and one Priest Emeritus among the St. Luke's congregation.

The St. Luke's Music Tradition

"Remaining at Detroit over Sunday I attended Episcopal services conducted by Rev. E.S. Peake, one of the pioneers of that faith in this region; the musical part being conducted by Mr. Charles L. Davis, formerly of Chester, Vermont. Miss Caroline Dix presided at the organ and Miss Addie Dix in the evening." -Letter appearing in the Becker County Record on August 13, 1880. (Quoted in West) At the Christmas Festival in 1878, there was a tree with gifts, and the festivities ended with a dance; Judge Rossman volunteered his services on the violin (Quoted in West).

So, even before there was St. Luke's, the congregation had integrated music into their worship and their play. At the new church on Washington Avenue the Women of the church purchased the first organ, a Mason and Hamlin pump organ in 1884. The first evidence of a paid musician was in 1891, when Mrs. E. E. Hoit was hired to direct the choir and play the organ (for which she was paid $50 per year). In 1893, H. E. Sargent donated hymnals for the church in memory of his late wife. Mrs. C. K. Day became choir director in 1894.

In 1902, Bishop Morrison gave a special commendation in honor of the St. Luke's choir. In 1908, the choir sailed on the steamship Mayflower to Shoreham to lead an interfaith service. Indeed, in those days the St. Luke's choir often performed away from home-at Richwood, Wahpeton, and White Earth at special services.

Over the years, there have been many different music leaders. Nancy Rutledge played the organ and directed the choir for several decades. She was succeeded in 1968 by Catherine ('Taffy') Peters who served as the church's music director for 34 years. With an even longer tenure as a St. Luke's choir member, Marion Seelye also directed the bell choir and served as musical director during the summer months. Eilert Helm became musical director in 2002.

Purchased in 1894, St. Luke's first organ (reed, foot-pumped), served the congregation until 1951 when it was replaced by an electronic one. Handbells were purchased in the mid-1980's and have been well-used since that time, especially in the summer under the direction of Marion Seelye. In 1996, a new organ, this one commemorating Nancy Rutledge's many years of service was placed in service by her family and friends. A grand piano was donated to the church in 1997, and an electronic one in 2004.

The choir has been a key part of St. Luke's life. Open to anyone in the congregation regardless of age or skill-level, it leads the congregation in hymn-singing and in service music, provides anthems appropriate to the nature and liturgical contents of the service, and often represents St. Luke's in inter-faith performances .

The choir is partially sustained by funds endowed in honor of Josephine T. Dawkins, and held in the Diocese's Heritage Fund.


For many reasons, not least its size and diversity, and the location of its "seat" near its southern edge, the Diocese of Minnesota was hard to manage. Divided into three "convocations " in 1866, Detroit's church came into being as a part of the Northern Convocation, extending North and West of St. Paul. By the time St. Luke's was up and running, other divisions had been suggested, including a split of the Diocese. Whipple did not favor that, and instead a debate continued for some years and in 1880, Gilbert was appointed Assistant Bishop. While that move was a step towards moving the Diocese to the Cities (Gilbert wanted to live in St. Paul), it did little to solve the underlying problems of controlling the far-flung northern churches. Finally, Whipple suggested dividing the Diocese and by 1896 a "Missionary District" came under the leadership of Missionary Bishop James Morrison. Having become financially sound (thanks in part to a grant from John D. Rockefeller), the Diocese of Duluth was created in 1907. But the Diocese of Duluth was hard hit by the depression, and its last Bishop, Benjamin Kemerer, proposed reuniting its churches and other facilities with the Minnesota Diocese. Amid bitter controversy, the two Dioceses were again joined in 1944.

St. Luke's was established as a "Mission" of the Diocese of Minnesota in 1873; it has remained a mission since. The church has been shepherded by 20 Bishop's (Including Suffragen and Coadjutors), fifteen in the Minnesota Diocese, and five more in Duluth.

Because of its location and rail accessibility rather than status, St. Luke's was frequently chosen as a meeting point of the Northern Convocation (of the Minnesota Diocese), and then later as a part of the Duluth Diocese's "Moorhead Deanery," a geographic assemblage of 10 churches including those of Detroit Lakes, Richwood, Fergus Falls, Park Rapids, Staples, Moorhead, Wadena, Eagle Bend, and Brown's Valley. The Deanery arrangement continued for a while after the reunification of the Dioceses (it also served as an organizing structure for woman's auxiliary). In the 1970's, the Deanery organization was replaced by Regions. St. Luke's is located within Region 1, which includes many of the remaining Moorhead Deanery churches, plus Ponsford, White Earth, Naytahwaush , Onigum, Park Rapids Bemidji, Brainerd, Cass Lake, Red Lake, Hallock, and Warroad.

Bishop's Committee

Canonically (Diocese of Minnesota), a Mission Church such as St. Luke's, is supervised in all aspects directly by a Bishop. A Bishop's committee, the members of which serve at the pleasure of the Bishop, is given considerable authority to deal with the affairs of the Mission, always with the proviso that the Bishop must approve. In some cases the Canon requires the Bishop's approval in writing, as in the instance of budget or budget amendments.

In recent St. Luke's experience, the Bishop's Committee has been given wide latitude to make decisions without oversight. The independent operation of the Bishop's Committee is greater in the absence of an on-site Vicar or Priest in Charge.

Whatever the canonical distinctions between Parish and Mission, the behaviors do not seem to be much different. At many times in the past, the Bishop's Committee at St. Luke's was called the Vestry, even in some cases by the

Bishop. Similarly, while the Bishop is technically the Rector of a Mission, and a priest in service of a Mission is a Vicar, many St. Luke's Vicars were commonly referred to as "rector" (and their housing, the rectory).

This indifference to the Canons was not always treated so lightly. In the early days of St. Luke's, the appointment of Bishop's Committee members was made directly by the Bishop, and in at least one case, a non-Episcopalian was appointed treasurer of the church (J. K. West, in 1894). Potential members were sometimes proposed to the Bishop (by the Bishop's Committee) but the process took some time.

Though contemporary members of the Bishop's Committee are term-limited to four consecutive years by the Canons,

J. K. West served the Bishop's Committee in various capacities (most often Senior Warden) from 1894 through 1927, 33 years. Contemporaries T. Alvin Nottage and G. C. Bush served 27 and 26 years, respectively. Church records indicate only 16 different members of the Bishop Committee in the 42 years from 1886 to1928--apparently the Bishop stuck with those he knew. In contrast, at least 30 have served on the St. Luke's Bishop's Committee between 2000 and 2010.

Mission or Parish?

Throughout its history, St. Luke's has sought to elevate its mission status to that of a Parish. The wish has often been presented to the Bishop, but there is no evidence that its application has been acted upon. It has often been assumed that as long as the church was unable to afford a full-time priest, or its Diocesan assessment, it would not be possible to achieve Parish status. However, even during the times when both criteria were met, as in the 1960's and 1970's, the church failed in its attempts. It has been 40 years since St. Luke's has received any funds or clergy supplements from the Diocese; moreover, members are proud of the church's record of prompt and full payments of Diocese support, a record hardly equaled by any other Minnesota Diocese church, parish or mission.

Into the 21st Century

After the departure of The Rev. Husband in 2001, The Rev. Sandi Holmberg was named priest in charge. Revs. Cherry, Schaitberger, Pickeral, Holmberg, Schulenberg, and others supplied services on a regular basis. In addition, The Rev. Don Homme, a retired Lutheran Pastor, was licensed by Bishop Jelinek to serve in the Diocese, and became a member of the St. Luke's congregation.

Call to Common Mission

An important development in the most recent decade in the life of St. Luke's was an agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELGA) and the Episcopal Church of the United States to recognize a common liturgy and sacramental heritage. This arrangement led to Pastor Homme's licensure in the Diocese of Minnesota and full participation in the life of St. Luke's, in the pulpit, and especially as Mentor to the Total Ministry team.

In the meantime Total Ministry came to St. Luke's in 2003 with the decision of the Bishop's Committee, and later the whole congregation, to adopt the approach. Working with Canon Missioners Schaitberger and Holmberg, approximately 40 of St. Luke's parishioners were identified as potential members of the Team, and through a process of mutual discernment, eight persons were called to the Total Ministry Team in December 2003. The team soon selected Pastor Don Homme, as "Mentor Priest," and the "Litchfield Curriculum" to guide their studies. After several years of discernment, study, preparation and tests by the Diocese and the Bishop, Georgia Hecock and Walter Tollefson, having been ordained as Deacons in 2007, were ordained as local priests at St. Luke's in 2008. At the same time Loxley Koshnick was ordained as Deacon, and the whole seven-member Total Ministry team was commissioned by Bishop Jelinek.

In 2009 a further discernment took place, and eight more joined the Total Ministry Team. In 2010 they began training with Pastor Homme and the original team.

The adoption of the Total Ministry model required some re-working of the traditional roles within the St. Luke's mission. Previously the Bishop's Committee (Vestry), together with the Vicar (when one was present), made nearly all key decisions for the congregation. However, with Total Ministry, the laity assumes many well-defined spiritual and ministerial responsibilities that previously were assumed by the Bishop's Committee or a vicar . Now the St. Luke's Bishop's Committee focuses on managerial and fiscal control, while Total Ministry team concept presumes the elevation of all baptized members to the ministry, and has charge of worship, music, the liturgical calendar, and other pastoral matters. In 2010, it remains to be seen what the precise configuration and allocation of responsibilities will eventually emerge.

Total Ministry

Total Ministry is a ministry of all baptized people. Total Ministry provides a mechanism for the education of the laity for the mu/ti-faceted ministries of the modem church, and for some members of the Total Ministry team to participate as clergy in their ministry within their church and in the affairs of the Diocese. In the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota, a team of leaders is called within a congregation to work together.

Since 1979 Episcopal Church Canons have provided for ordaining Total Ministry Priests and Deacons, and licensing Preachers, Eucharistic Ministers, Eucharistic Visitors, Worship Leaders (formerly called Lay Readers), and Catechists. Other equally important ministries that do not require licensing as such (but for which training and commissioning are offered) may include an Evangelist, a Team Coordinator, an Administrator, a Christian Education Coordinator, a Youth Leader/Advisor, Pastoral Care Ministers, an Intercessor, a Liturgist, a Stewardship Coordinator, and Musicians. Other ministries are recognized, but need not be commissioned members of the team, such as Acolytes, Lectors, Altar Guild, and Outreach Coordinators.

Upgrades to the Church

Faced with an aging facility, a number of major capital improvement were undertaken in this period. In 2002, the church received a $26,000 UTO grant to rehabilitate the furnace and the downstairs kitchen and lighting. Soon afterwards, and following some timely bequests, a productive pledge drive resulted in sufficient funds for a $270,000 addition to the church. This effort yielded a more user-friendly, one-floor facility for both worship and socializing. The new addition also provided badly needed handicapped-accessible bathrooms, kitchen, storage, office, and meeting space. The final major capital improvements of the decade included replacement of large windows and installation of air-conditioning of the sanctuary.

Indeed, it is interesting that financial support for St. Luke's programs never wavered in the 2000's. The Heritage Fund, created in 1976, has grown to provide significant investment income to the church. There are about the same number of pledging units in 2010 as there were in 2000, and pledge income has increased by about 20%. Average annual revenues also have grown about 10% since the late 1990's.

The congregation has grown a bit during the decade, from 116 to 129. And since 2002, both baptisms (14) and confirmations (12) have exceeded funeral/burials (9). During the period, total worship attendance has fluctuated (ranging from 1950 to 3050 per year) with current levels about what they were in 2001-2002.

At St. Luke's Christian Formation (Christian Education) always has received a high priority, and there continues to be a viable Sunday School program for as many as ten children.

On the other hand, 29 percent of the congregation is over 65 years of age, and more than half is over 50. This continues a trend that has persisted since the mid-1980's.

While St. Luke's has had a significant outreach mission for much of its history, especially as a result of the dedication of various Women's groups, timely bequests, strong financial circumstances, and careful fiscal management have provided opportunities for the current church to make significant monetary gifts to a wide-range of worthwhile causes in the community and beyond. Among current beneficiaries are the Becker County Food Pantry, the TeacHaiti Project (a Lutheran initiative), the Lakes Area Crisis Center, The Episcopal Church Relief Fund, United Thank Offering, the Detroit Lakes Ministerial Association, and the Salvation Army.


From its inception, St. Luke's has enjoyed close relations among several other Detroit Lakes churches. Mention already has been made of the Anglo and New England roots of the Congregational and Methodist groups, and their generosity, along with that of the Baptists, in offering their facilities for Worship before St. Luke's had its own church. Even later, after the Episcopalians had their own building, the Methodist church, because of its larger capacity, was sometimes used for special occasions, as when Bishop Whipple came to town.

"Union" Services, joint worship among Detroit's Congregationalists, Methodists, and Episcopalians (and occasionally Baptists) were occurring in the 1890's, and have continued intermittently since. Bishop Whipple delivered a memorial sermon at the Methodist Church on the occasion of President Garfield's assassination in 1881. Thanksgiving and Good Friday joint services are fairly common, and continue as a regular part of the contemporary worship calendar for those three churches. Together with these three churches, in recent years, St. Luke's has hosted a popular, community-wide "Blessing of the Animals".

During the period that St. Luke's was building its church on Corbett Road in 1965, St. Luke's held services at the Methodist Church on Frazee Street. Later, during the construction of the new Methodist Church, St. Luke's reciprocated by providing worship space.

These three churches also joined together in the 1960's to host a joint youth group. For several years these same churches have sponsored a week-long Vacation Bible School for youth. A Methodist and Episcopal Bible-study group has met regularly since the 1990's, and several members of St. Luke's currently serve as Stephen's Ministers, a pastoral care program sponsored by the Methodist Church.

The Call to Common Mission, is a merging of certain aspects of the lives of the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Richard Hecock finished his historical writing for St. Luke's in 2010. We are working hard to finish the history from 2010-2022. Stayed tuned for more information.

Thank you Dick for all of the hard work you put into the history written here.