History

St. Luke's Episcopal Mission was organized on March 31, 1954 with 17 charter members. At that time, North Little Rock was the largest city in the United States without an Episcopal Church. The Bishop of Arkansas, R. Bland Mitchell, appointed The Rev. William W. Wilcox as Priest-in-Charge. Father Wilcox also served as vicar to St. Mark's Mission, Little Rock.

The first service of St. Luke's was held on May 3, 1954 in the American Legion Hall at 215 West 14th Street. The congregation continued to worship there until our present property was purchased in November 1954. Initial improvements to the frame house located on the site converted the structure into a chapel, two Sunday School rooms and a kitchen. The first service in this building, located high on the hill at the present site of the church, was Evening Prayer on Christmas Day, 1954.

On Feb. l, 1955, The Rev. J. Stanley Gresley was named Priest-in-Charge of the mission. He was followed in 1956 by Frank Mangum, who first served as Seminarian-in-Charge, then as priest. Growth of the mission was rapid, and plans were made for the first permanent building. A contract for construction of the Parish Hall was signed May 1958 with opening services held Nov. 2, 1958. This building offered a place of worship on the upper level - the lower level was unfinished with completion later housing four classrooms and a kitchen. Movable walls between the classrooms allowed for use for fellowship.

St. Luke's Mission voted to become a parish on May 18, 1959. The 88th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Arkansas approved this petition on Jan. 18, 1960. The congregation of 203 communicants was led by its first rector, The Rev. Frank Mangum.

In 1961, Father Mangum received a call from the Diocese of Texas. The Rev. Rudolph M. Bangert was called in Sept. 1961 to become our second rector, a position he held until his retirement in Sept. 1975. Under his leadership the parish continued to grow in communicant strength. For several years during this period, it was noted that St. Luke's led the Diocese of Arkansas in numbers of those confirmed.

In the mid-sixties, St. Luke's need of a permanent church building became most obvious. Plans were initiated for its construction. Father Bangert and Bishop Brown led the ground breaking on St. Luke's Day, 1967. The building was occupied in January of 1969. As part of the building program, the house first used as chapel then later as classrooms was relocated to the rear of the property and named Fortenberry House, honoring the David Fortenberry family. Beginning in 1964 and continuing to 1975 Mary Glenn Bangert served as Christian Education Director and church secretary.

Following Father Bangert's retirement, St. Luke's called the Rev. Lawson Anderson in November of 1975 to be the third rector. With Father Anderson's direction and guidance, participation in diocesan activities took on a new importance in the parish. In 1977 the parish hosted the Diocesan Convention in North Little Rock. Father Anderson also mentored one of the first Education For Ministry Study Programs in the Diocese. This outstanding four-year study has been repeated several times over the following years.

During the late seventies and into the eighties, St. Luke's women completed an extensive needlepoint project. Their objective was to outfit the nave and sanctuary with kneelers, chair upholstery, Stations of the Cross, and a processional banner.

In 1981, Father Anderson took a six months sabbatical in Lincoln, England. During that period, Anglican Bishop Gerald Colin, retired Bishop of Grimsley, served as pastor of St. Luke's. The Bishop and his wife, Iris, endeared themselves to the parish family.

In 1983, the parish hall was renovated and expanded and Fortenberry House was converted into church offices. The kitchen was moved to the upper level, and a significant increase in square footage accommodated a new stairwell, additional restrooms, and several storage areas. The refurbished Parish Hall was dedicated to the memory of Victor Wilder.

With these improvements in place and with a grant from the United Thank Offering, the Respite Care Center opened in 1985 with participation from four other denominations. This outreach to the elderly of our community continues to the present, providing care every Thursday. St. Luke's was one of the founding churches of the Shepherd's Center of North Little Rock in 1986. For several years their office was located in Fortenberry House.

Father Anderson retired in January 1992. The Rev. Bill Hethcock of the University of the South served as Priest-in-Charge, from January to May 1992. On December 1, 1992, the Reverend Dr. P. Donald White, Jr. was called as St. Luke's fourth rector. Under Father White's leadership, Christian Education Programs were added and small groups formed offering study, support, and fellowship. The music program was greatly expanded, including the formation of four handbell choirs.

In 1998 a capital funds drive was held and construction begun to provide much needed space for program expansion. Additions completed in 1999 were a chapel and prayer garden, a labyrinth, renovations of the chancel and sanctuary areas of the church, installation of a new pipe organ, and a two story educational wing dedicated to the memory of Jonnie T. Schulte.

Father White left St. Luke's in August of 2002 to take a parish in the Diocese of West Tennessee.

Father Keith A.Gentry became the Fifth Rector of St. Luke's in June 2003. Under his leadership our mortgage debt was reduced by almost half and our commitment to Outreach Ministry grew.  Father Carey Stone (on left as seen with Bishop Larry Benfield) become our Sixth Rector in 2011 and with him came Deacon Dr. Joanna Seibert. The parish continues to offer substantive programs for all ages and our membership is growing.

 

 

Contact
4106 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
North Little Rock, AR 72116
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Phone: (501) 753-4281
Fax: (501) 753-4322 stlukesnlr@gmail.com

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