St. Luke’s parish has been an active part of the Smithville and surrounding area for over 125 years. It has a long and rich history of commitment to God and community involvement. St. Luke’s has always relied on the commitment of its members to thrive and carry on. In 1922, the then current minister Rev. C.M. Dumas stated, and it still holds true today, that “We are not a large congregation. We can accomplish much by zeal and Christian Faithfullness.”
Over the years St. Luke’s has been twinned with other small churches in the area in order to share ministry expenses. From 1887 until 1920, St. Luke’s was twinned with St. Alban’s Beamsville. In 1920, St. Luke’s had its own resident minister for a while who also took services in Fonthill and other church in the diocese. From 1951 until 1963, Rev. Canon Richard Haines served as resident minister following 40 year in Algoma Diocese. The membership rose to 90 families during this period. Rev. Haines served until 1963 and died in 1977 and is buried in St. Luke’s cemetery. From 1963 until 1976, St. Luke’s was once again twinned with St. Alban’s.
In 1976, St. Luke’s began a mutually-beneficial twinning with St. Philip’s in Grimsby. This long and successful association lasted until 2008. Jim Powell was the first minister before he left to join the Armed Forces as a Military Chaplain. Derek Pringle served until 1979. Roger Forrester, who was quite proficient on the guitar, served until 1989. David Thomas served until 1993. Trevor Jones served from 1993 to 2007 and this period was a rich and rewarding one as he steered both parishes through changing times. From May 2007 until September 2008, while the parishes searched for a new minister, interim ministers Susan Wells and later Jim Powell, returning after a long leave, served.
In 2008, confident in its future and after much contemplation, St. Luke’s requested Bishop Michael Bird to approve a move to operate on its own without sharing a minister with another church. Bishop Michael fully supported this request and complimented St. Luke’s on its vision and resolve for the future. Rev. Eleanor Clitheroe-Bell commenced as minister on September 1st 2008, and was later formally installed in March 2009.
COMMITMENT TO THE FUTURE
Like all parishes of traditional churches, in large cities and small towns in recent years, there has been a trend to declining membership for various reasons. St. Luke’s perseveres because there is a commitment of a core number of members to keep the church strong and vibrant. St. Luke’s continues to hold its own, attracting new families from the growing Smithville and West Lincoln area. Where St. Luke’s comes alive are the many regular events the parish leads and the community comes out in full force to support such as the Pancake Supper in February, the Hamburg Roast in June, and the Turkey Supper in November and spring and fall bake sales to name a few.
Always looking for additional ways to support the church, the parish began peeling peaches, in 2003, for the Winona Peach Festival. This is a two-day event that brings church members together along with their friends, and youth picking up community hours to peel and have some fun and fellowship.
The Ladies Guild (originally called the Women’s Auxiliary) has always been very active in the life of the church. Over the years, the many activities it introduced and maintained have been key to the financial support of the church. These activities have been varied and have included garden parties, box socials, sleigh-ride parties and picnics (held at the homes of church families). The Turkey Supper, Pancake Supper and bake sales are examples of ongoing successful events that contribute to raising funds for the church and are looked forward to by many members of the church and of the community. The latest initiative is making meat pies and selling them at the spring and fall bake sales. In addition, an annual meat pie luncheon is held to encourage community engagement.
The Church School has thrived over the years. Currently there is a group of younger children and a senior group studying the bible under the guidance of a Youth Group member.
The Men’s Club continues to run the Hamburg Roast during the Niagara Poultryfest in late June. Throughout the year it has held card parties where church and community members gather twice a month for fun and fellowship.
A REMARKABLE EXAMPLE OF DEDICATION
The current organist, Ken Durham became the organist in 1957. Although there were a few years where Ken moved to England to get his education, he has contributed his musical talents continuously. Over the many years, when Ken took his holidays, Helen Tylee contributed her organ-playing skills. Ken was honoured at the 125th Anniversary celebration on October 17, 2010 with presentation of a plaque by Bishop Michael honouring him for his long and dedicated service to St. Luke’s.
In late 2007 St. Luke’s received generous donations in the memory of Eva Durham and from the Estate of Myrtle Culp. In June and July 2008, the parish commenced much-needed renovations of the church and hall, both inside and out. An important contribution to the renovations was from Grace Church in Hamilton that was closing. They gave us their oak pews and other furniture to replace aging pews. The photos above show the before- and after-look of the church interior. As Rev. Ellie said on her first day of her new ministry, “Members of St. Luke’s are truly blessed to have such a wonderful place to worship.”
125TH ANNIVERSARY IN 2010
In 2010, St. Luke’s celebrated its 125th Anniversary. There were a series of events culminating on October 17, 2010 with a special service and reception attended by the Bishop and members and friends of St. Luke’s. Click here for more details of our eventful year.
IMPORTANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF ST. LUKE'S:
- The Diocese of Niagara, of which St. Luke’s is part of, was formed in 1875 with the Cathedral established in Hamilton.
- The parish of St. Luke’s was established in 1883 as part of the Lincoln and Welland Travelling Mission. Services were held at the Smithville Agricultural Hall or Adkins Hotel and baptisms were performed in private homes.
- The current building was erected, mostly by church members, in 1885 on land donated by William Nelson and Margaret Wilson and consecrated on St. Luke’s Day, October 18, 1885. The cornerstone is still visible and is dated June 23, 1885.
- Rev. Frederick C. Piper was the first minister and served until 1902. He continued to visit over the subsequent years, when requested by the bishop to give communion. He died in 1937 and is buried in Fonthill.
- In 1887, a plot of land behind the church was purchased for the cemetery. In 1940 an additional plot was purchased to add to the cemetery.
- Rev. Piper donated the altar and reredos, which are still in use, in memory of his wife Charlotte Elizabeth and him. The original altar that had been installed when the church was first built was donated to a church in Bracebridge.
- The bell was donated by Muir Pettit in memory of his wife Margaret on Nov 8, 1889.
- In 1910, the stained glass memorial window over the altar was acquired and installed primarily based on fundraising efforts and contributions from the Young People’s Group.
- Electricity was installed in 1919.
- The Church hall was built in 1927.
- In 1935, St. Luke’s celebrated its Golden Jubilee with the highlight being a theatrical play being performed on St. Luke’s day, “Just Peggy Ann”.
- On February 2, 1937, there was a wood fire between the church and the Hall and it did some damage to the front of the Church and Chancel.
- The Turkey Supper began in 1945 on the third Thursday of November and continues to this day.
- The doors of the church started being locked in 1972 when insurance requirements necessitated it.
- In 1959, a new electric organ replaced the previous pump organ that had been in place for 50 years. The current organ replaced this one in 1983.
- A new floor and foundation was installed in the hall in 1975.
- In 1977 an addition was built connecting the Church to the hall. This allowed the furnace to be relocated to its present location.
- In 1983, a ten foot extension was added to the kitchen.
- In 1983 the annual Hamburg Roast was first held. Initially it was held to fundraise for the kitchen extension, and still runs to this day as part of the Niagara Poultryfest.
- In 1985, St. Luke’s celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Many activities were undertaken. A small booklet entitled “St. Luke’s, the First 100 Years” (much information in this article is based on information from it) was written and published by Margaret Haines. Some of the funds raised from the many activities were deposited in a separate fund for the future purchase of chimes for the entrance.
- In 1999, a generous donation from a church member along with the funds previously raised permitted the chimes equipment to be purchased and installed.
THE LITTLE CHURCH WITH A BIG HEART
In 2008, there was consensus that the tag line “The Little Church with a Big Heart” be adopted and added to communication messages and advertisements. It was felt that the tag line fully captured the way St. Luke’s goes about doing things in the community.
WITH FAITH AND DEDICATION
St. Luke’s looks forward to fulfilling its vision and mission long into the future. To reiterate what the then current minister Rev. C.M. Dumas stated in 1922, and still holds true today, that “We are not a large congregation. We can accomplish much by zeal and Christian Faithfullness.”
POEM TO ST LUKE'S CHURCH CENTENNIAL (in 1985)
By Sadie Dickinson
In this little town of Smithville
One Hundred years ago,
St. Luke’s Church was founded
With pride we watched it grow.
As we turn a page in history
And celebrate this day,
Remembering generations past
Who helped to pave the way.
Within this house of worship,
Good fellowship you’ll share,
With willing working hands
That support, maintain and share.
May the young folk of tomorrow,
With each year’s celebration
Keep St. Luke’s Church filled
With faith and dedication.