The History of St. Luke’s, 1767-2018
The original St. Luke’s Church, established in the mid 1700s was burned and rebuilt in 1824 and still stands today near Pritchardville.
Perseverance and Miracles
The St. Luke’s Church legacy is one of perseverance and miracles. The church itself traces its roots to the mid-1700’s when St. Luke’s Parish was established near the tiny community of Pritchardville, located south of the Broad River in what was then called Granville District (later to become Beaufort County). The initial St. Luke’s Church (circa 1786) burned, and was promptly rebuilt in 1824, and that structure (eventually sold to the Methodists) still stands today along Highway 170 near the back gate of Sun City. It had a prime location near a roadway called The Charleston-Savannah Trail — an extension of the King’s Highway, an historic wagon trail, covering more than 1,300 miles from Boston to the Savannah River.
Site for The Chapel of Ease, St. Luke’s original location on Hilton Head Island, is now an historic churchyard cemetery that includes the gravestones of Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers. It sits at the corner of Mathews Drive and and Highway 278.
The Beginnings on Hilton Head
Part of that original St. Luke’s congregation were the families of plantation owners living on Hilton Head Island. Each week these intrepid Anglicans would travel by boat and buggy – a 30-mile round trip – to attend worship services. Wearied by the weekly trek, the Islanders decided to build a small wooden chapel of their own (known as Zion Chapel of Ease) on Hilton Head to be served by the St. Luke’s vicar.
The plain wooden chapel built atop a brick slab was erected in 1788 near the current intersection of Highway 278 and Mathews Drive. The first full-time rector, The Reverend Philip Matthews, came to the Island in 1811. Then in 1834, when the young church was to be consecrated, two handsome silver chalices, handcrafted by a noted silversmith in London, England were donated and shipped all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
However, in 1862, with the arrival of hostile Union Troops during the Civil War, church members were forced to flee and the imprint of St. Luke’s on Hilton Head Island disappeared. The wooden structure was dismantled piece by piece to help build homes for the newly freed local slaves while the chalices were stolen and taken north by the Union soldiers.
A handful of new St. Luke’s parishioners attended the St. Luke’s official groundbreaking, including current member, Margaret Greer, shown standing in the middle behind the row of children photo.
A 20th Century Rebirth
Approximately a century later, in 1964, a small cadre of stalwart Anglicans, with the same intrepid spirit as their predecessors, saw the need once again for St. Luke’s to bring the word of Christ to the many new families who had begun re-settling the island as the result of new entrepreneurial real estate developments. This ardent group of less than 50 resurrected the original St. Luke’s legacy by securing its name as an island “mission church”. A generous land donation along the freshly constructed Pope Avenue by Sea Pines Company founder Charles Fraser enabled the new church to become a reality in what would become one of the island’s prime locations.
The small congregation contributed joyous enthusiasm to the newly dedicated 5-acre site located in the heart of the growing island community. Initial donations contributed to the construction of a Worship Sanctuary and a Sunday School wing. A large bell tower, which hangs in the church yard, was secured from an Episcopal Church in the Florida Keys that had been destroyed by a hurricane. It now serves as a symbol of St. Luke’s resolute spirit.
Additionally and quite miraculously the church’s original silver chalices, which had been assumed forever lost, were discovered and retrieved. They had been accidently found in the back storage area of a Philadelphia flea market by a couple looking for silver goblet gifts for their daughter’s wedding. Realizing the chalices belonged in their rightful place, the couple returned them to Beaufort County to await St. Luke’s restoration where they have been reunited with their body of believers and burnished to their original beauty. The chalices once again serve the St Luke’s family every Sunday, and the church has grown steadily, establishing itself among the most prominent, community-minded congregations in the area.
St. Luke’s church has grown in numbers and in spirit since it’s 20th Century rebirth. The congregation has dedicated itself to worship and serve the Lord, to grow spiritually in the knowledge and love of Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and to share our faith our hands and our hearts for the sake of the gospel, our community and the world.
A 21st Century Following Christ
The 21st century has brought conflicts between St. Luke’s belief in the authority of the Holy Bible and the statements and actions of The Episcopal Church which demonstrate their willingness to disregard scripture. In 2009 the Vestry of St. Luke’s confronted this conflict by voting to remove St. Luke’s from any authority or allegiance to The Episcopal Church. This action was ratified by a historic all members meeting on December 1, 2009. At that meeting a quorum of the members of St. Luke's voted by a large majority with votes adding up to more than two thirds of the active membership to:
A. To change the name of the corporation from “Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island,” to “Saint Luke’s Church, Hilton Head Island.”
B. To amend and restate the Charter to remove any and all references to the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, the Diocese of South Carolina, and any Canons associated therewith, so that the Fourth Article of the Charter is deleted in its entirety and the following new Article Fourth is inserted in its stead:
"The purpose of the Corporation is to operate as a religious non-profit corporation (or church)."
Following that decision, St. Luke’s chose to continue in support of the Diocese of South Carolina but stipulated that no funds from St. Luke’s should be used in support of The Episcopal. Following actions by The Episcopal Church against the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, the Vestry voted to join the churches of the Dioceses in requesting that the courts of South Carolina affirm the rights of the churches in South Carolina to the ownership of their property. This action was based on our understanding of South Carolina law and trial precedents. The case was ruled in favor of St. Luke’s and its fellow churches in 2016, but in a surprise reversal, the State Supreme Court made a very split decision against the churches.
St. Luke’s continues to be a vibrant community of follower of Jesus. A total campus revitalization program was completed in 2017 and was celebrated with a beautiful dinner honoring Rev. Greg Kronz and his wife Meredith for their 25 years of service to St. Luke’s. This was celebrated in our new Fellowship Hall with 256 in attendance and included a video tribute from golf commentator Jim Nance.
St. Luke’s Preschool, St. Luke’s youth and the St. Luke’s congregation are now making wonderful use of the new facilities. The Neighborhood Outreach Connection has come to the Fellowship Hall for their weekly support of neighborhood youth. And St. Luke’s continues to be well known locally for its ministries outreach— helping start Habitat for Humanity in the Lowcountry, initiating and hosting Memory Matters for its first dozen years, and a home Alcoholics Anonymous among many outreach initiatives to old and young alike.
St. Luke’s has been blessed by its faithful following of Jesus and our trust in the authority of the Holy Bible.