A Spendid Past and an Unlimited Future
For nearly 200 years, St. Luke Church has faithfully served the people of Columbus, Georgia, and the Chattahoochee Valley. With a single-minded purpose of making disciples of Christ, St. Luke has touched thousands of lives here in this community and indeed, across the world. As beautifully stated in the official St. Luke history book, Line of Splendor, “Beginning in 1828, the church has sought to minister through the perils of all the years. St. Luke has sought to be faithful to God through such perils as the establishment of the church in frontier times, the development and forward movement of Columbus, the split and reunification of the early Methodist Church, the Civil War, various other wars, the Temperance Struggle, the upheaval of social issues and in countless other ways. Above all, St. Luke has always sought to be faithful to the call of God in Jesus Christ.”
The St. Luke story begins in 1828 when Reverend James Stockdale was sent by the Methodist Episcopal Conference to organize congregations between Chattahoochee and Flint counties in western Georgia. The congregation of St. Luke Church was the first Methodist Church established in the frontier town of Columbus.
At first, preaching was carried on in the open air on the riverbank. By 1829, when the land on the block that became known as Church Square was designated for religious purposes, Methodists moved to the southern part of the block and used a brush arbor for worship. The newly formed Methodist congregation of 54 white members and seven African American members organized and built a log structure on the southwest corner. In 1833, a frame building was constructed and painted white. When membership boomed once again, Georgia’s first brick Methodist Church was built on the site in 1836. A still larger brick building was erected in 1847 (pictured below) – this would be the fourth structure on the lot.
In 1897, the construction of the fifth church structure was started (pictured below). It was not complete until it opened for worship in June of 1900. A bell salvaged from a river boat would ring from the tower as the invitation for worship.
Fire destroyed the 1897 church building on Mother’s Day in 1942. After the fire, St. Luke built the original Stockwell Hall (which faces Third Avenue) under wartime restrictions. It served as a place of worship for six years. The present sanctuary is Georgian in architecture; the portico is supported by graceful columns and a tall spire with a cross on top. The eight windows in the sanctuary depict incidents from creation to establishment of the Methodist Church in America. It was “officially” opened in 1948.
Continuing through the 1990s to today, St. Luke has expanded and grown with the needs of our congregation, as well as with the needs of this community. The St. Luke Ministry Center was built on Third Avenue on a site from where several historic houses were moved. St. Luke Preschool and Early Learning Center were established within existing buildings across the intersection of 11th Street and Third Avenue. St. Luke School started in 1998 and returned our city’s first high school building, today the Cunningham Building, to become a functioning school once again.
From its pivotal location covering four blocks in the heart of Columbus, St. Luke ministers to our community through many outreach programs such as Respite Care, Meals on Wheels, Samaritan’s Fund, BRIDGE, Open Door Community House/Circles of Columbus, Valley Interfaith Promise, Right From the Start, Bereavement Ministry, Prayer Shawl Ministry, Food Pantry, and FANN (Friends and Neighborhood Network.
Since 1828, through six structures and over 90 pastors and their associates, St. Luke Church and its membership have served our community. By the grace of God, St. Luke will continue to move forward, be a blessing to our community and world, and serve as an exciting sign of God’s continuing purposes.