St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was founded in the fall of 1975 in Hobe Sound. On October 24, 1980, the Eleventh Annual Convention of the Diocese of Southeast Florida admitted us into union with the Convention as the Congregation of St. Luke’s Church, Port Salerno, with Priest-In-Residence, the Rev. John V. Higgins. St. Luke’s also acknowledged the assistance of St. Mary’s, Stuart. The Right Rev. Bishop Calvin O. Schofield, Jr. celebrated the dedication of the new church in November of 1981, and the second and current sanctuary in February of 1986, with the installation of the Rev. James Minshew as rector, whose ministry began in 1985. The Rev. Carol Barron was called as co-rector effective January 1, 2006, as St. Luke’s began a transitional period preparing for the retirement of Rev. Minshew. The Rev. Barron served as Rector from August 2008, until her retirement on October 31, 2020. During the tenures of our two rectors, several men and women also served the congregation: Deacons Cass Dailey, Don Whalen, and Carol Graves (Carson-Hull). Our current Priest-In-Residence is the Rev. Stephen Fregeau.
In the almost 44 years of her existence, the “glass church in the woods” has grown from a small group of determined friends to, at its peak, a congregation of 450! Like the little fishing village of Port Salerno, whose tides ebb and flow, so have the many people and varied missions and ministries of St. Luke’s. We began in rented spaces and have grown to a lush campus with five buildings for worship, administration, belonging, sharing, and learning. We have known financial struggle early on and during the recession of 2008. We have also realized great financial gifts and the celebration of paying off mortgages in 2016. We have had small response to children’s programs, but we have given away between 500 and 800 backpacks to the community in each of the last 10 years! We have consistently supported homeless individuals with food, clothing, and showers as needed. We have consistently offered financial assistance with the True Fund and flexible meeting places for recovery groups.
When we ushered in 2020, we knew we were facing change! Just not as we thought. We knew we were welcoming a new and experienced Minister of Music in Randy Umfleet, and we knew we would say good-bye to our beloved Rev. Carol. However, we could not have imagined the flexibility demands of a global pandemic as it impacted our community and parish! We responded under the leadership of Rev. Carol and Dr. John Clark, an epidemiologist church member, communicating protocols for stay-at-home orders and Rev. Carol offering daily prayer via YouTube. We purchased equipment to video-record church worship services when only a small team of four were allowed inside the church. Our Rector and Vestry created and submitted a plan for re-entry to inside worship that was approved by Bishop Eaton. That plan remains in effect as of January 2021, and will remain so moving forward. Even though Rev. Carol received extensions to her planned April 202, date to retire, those concluded on October 31, 2020.
Our able Vestry and Wardens along with our Minister of Music and Priest-in-Residence continue the work. Our “Drive In” Sunday morning worship has thrived and has been augmented with a lawn-chair component. For a time when Martin County enjoyed a COVID testing positivity rate of less than 5%, we assigned seats and divided our sanctuary into designated areas for people to sit 6 feet-plus apart, and worshipped inside. With the resurgence of the virus, we have reverted to recorded Sunday worship and continue the drive-in only service. With new equipment and the commitment of our ministers and staff and vestry, we began new live-streamed worship in real time for our parishioners on January 10, 2021, the First Sunday After Epiphany. We continue to know God’s grace and presence as we seek to Know God and Make God Known.