St. Luke's in the 1933 Earthquake at 7th and Atlantic
Begun in 1897, when only 2000 people lived in Long Beach, Saint Luke’s Church became the center from which other parishes sprang up as the city expanded. Whereas the first services were led by the Rev. Octavius Parker in a Masonic Hall, the parish grew so rapidly that a church built in 1899 was replaced by a larger one with a parish hall on 7th Street and Atlantic Avenue in 1917. The Sunday School seems to have involved as many as 200 children at one point, stimulating construction of a large educational wing. Thanks to the growth of the U.S. Navy in Long Beach, services were broadcast by the Long Beach station KFOX for a dozen years. The Boy Choir established in 1930 by William Ripley Dorr likewise was featured in many movies.
The parish responded impressively when the Long Beach Earthquake of March 10, 1933 destroyed much of the church. The Reverend Perry G. M. Austin led a wide-ranging program to raise funds to rebuild the church, receiving $500 from Eleanor Roosevelt and bringing about dedication of the new church in July 1934.
The Social Service Committee began doing its good works in 1918, so from the 1970s the parish focused an increasing amount of its attention to ministries in the community at large. The Reverend Leroy Young confronted the growing poverty in the downtown by establishing links with the African-American, Caribbean, and Cambodian communities. Programs developed for meals and showers on Saturdays and for sponsorship of refugee families. A Sunday service given in Spanish began in 2005.
Attention to diversity has been the focus in the last decade, particularly Gay Pride activities led by the LGBT community. A wide variety of programs in spirituality include the Women’s Spirituality Group, the Order of the Daughters of the King, and the Healing Prayer Ministry. Activities by contrasting age groups include Episcopeeps, for young adults, and the 30s and 40s Fellowship. The St. Luke’s Choir, involved with students from Cal State Long Beach, offers several concerts during the year linked with different aspects of the parish or the larger community. Thus have the traditions in the parish served the poor, the arts, and recently radical inclusion.
A more detailed history of St. Luke’s will soon be up on the Diocesan History website here.