The History of Saint Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church of the Lancaster District of the Columbia Annual Conference of the Seventh Episcopal District of the AME Church: Praising and Worshiping God for more than 125 Years in the Lower Richland Community. The earliest legal document of the Church shows Saint Luke was existed in 1889
The Saint Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church evolved from very humble beginnings. Saint Luke began as a “Bush Harbor.” Research indicates a bush harbor (brush arbor or bush arbor) was sapling poles covered with brush in the custom built by Slaves, often secretly and in secluded places, for religious services held at night. This story of Slaves often tells the story regarding the locations of African American Churches, today.
Some 28 years after the abolition of slavery in the United States, residents of the Wateree Community of Eastover, South Carolina, realized their vision for a new edifice. This group of dedicated Christians walked great distances and made many sacrifices in order to fellowship with other believers. By the late 1800’s, the fruit of their hard work and dedication was manifested through the erection of the first physical structure of Saint Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1893. The church was a small, white, wood-framed building that was situated just south of the junction of S.C. Highway 48 and U.S. Highway 601. The Church resides in this location today. To God be the glory for the great things He has done!
The founders of the Church who served as stewards, trustees, and official board members were Brothers Jack Jones, Ben Tucker, Anthony Taylor, Eddie Moore, Sip McCoy, Charlie Clark, George Moore, William Archie, Johnny Griddine, Merger Oree, and Frank Moore; and Sister Hazel Oree. It is due to the faithfulness of these great leaders that Saint Luke reaps a legacy of perseverance and vision. Look where He’s brought us from!
The pastors of Saint Luke over 120 years were Reverends Golden, Weathers, Ringer, J.P. Brown, Rufus Jackson, Nathaniel Allen, James. E. Moody, Willie L. Tucker, William Boozer, Anthony Washington, Joseph B. Johnson II, and Jessie Reed; Presiding Elder Lee M. Seward; and Reverends Abraham Temoney Sr., Janice Evans, and Fedrick Allen Wilson, the current pastor. (One pastor prior to Rev. Tucker is unknown.)
The members of Saint Luke who have gone on to preach the gospel were Reverends Heyward Allen Hinton, Henry J. Williams, Rosetta Tucker Myers, and Tony A. Montgomery. And, the Family Names of early Saint Luke are evident in the Church, today. The Church was moving forward!
During the early years, Saint Luke regularly worshiped with neighboring Saint Phillip and Saint James AME Churches. Saint Phillip, known to be oldest of the three churches and the “Mother Church”, serves in its original location on Highway 601, about one and a half miles north of Saint Luke. Saint James was located about three miles west of Saint Luke off Joe Collins Road, off Highway 601. The churches held a strong fellowship for many years until the edifice of Saint James was destroyed by fire. The Saint James Family, including the Cunninghams, then formally joined the Saint Luke Family. The Church was moving forward!
For some time prior to 1986, Saint Luke served in a “Circuit” with Mill Creek AME Church, which is located in Lykesland Community of Columbia, South Carolina. In this circuit, Saint Luke shared its pastor with Mill Creek. Mill Creek conducted services on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, while Saint Luke conducted services on the 2nd and 4th Sundays. But as a worshipping people, Saint Luke established an amazing relationship with neighboring Mount Nebo Baptist Church, whereby members attended Mount Nebo on 1st and 3rd Sundays and the two churches alternated hosting combined services. This partnership gave way to an agreement that would later permit Saint Luke to hold services in the sanctuary of Mount Nebo on the 2nd and 4th Sundays, while Saint Luke was being rebuilt in response to the decline of the first wooden structure. This building effort occurred under Pastor Willie L. Tucker. The Church was moving forward!
Under the direction of Reverend Tucker, Saint Luke’s longest serving pastor, the second edifice of Saint Luke was erected in the early 1960’s. This structure was also a small white building; however, this time it was constructed of concrete blocks and provided a safe haven for the members for several years. The blessings of God were upon Saint Luke: The church flourished. By 1970, it became necessary to build an even larger edifice. As a great story of the bible, Reverend Tucker declared the vision and the new brick church was built around and over the existing concrete structure. Saint Luke was literally “built upon a rock” and many of the members labored and toiled one Saturday until the old “walls came tumbling down.” Walking into today’s Saint Luke is as-if we are walking into the original structure. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
As the years progressed, the membership desired to continue the church’s development by constructing a multipurpose Fellowship Hall that would serve generations to come. During the process, Rev. Tucker, who served as the spiritual leader of Saint Luke for 28 years, was appointed to pastor Mill Creek AME. in 1986 and Rev. William Boozer was appointed as the 10th pastor of Saint Luke, effectively ending the “Circuit”. In the six years of Rev. Boozer’s pastorate, the Fellowship Hall was completed and on June 20, 1992 the building was dedicated. Shortly thereafter, Rev. Anthony Washington was appointed 11th pastor of Saint Luke. Under this great leader, the Church conducted intentional Christian Education, officer/youth/young adult development, hospitality, budgeting, and membership growth in size, spirituality, and evangelism. Rev. Washington founded a “Blue Ribbon Committee” to evaluate and plan for the future of Saint Luke. The Church was moving forward!
On January 3, 1998, Rev. Joseph B. Johnson II succeeded Rev. Washington as the 12th pastor of Saint Luke; and, the next 6 years were exceedingly prosperous and productive. God used Rev. Johnson, Saint Luke’s youngest pastor to that time, to leverage the work initiated by Rev. Washington. Rev. Johnson was also an exemplary saxophonist. It was as-if God had declared Pastor Johnson an instrument to further shape and enhance the ministries of the Church and the Lower Richland Community:
- The Sunday Youth Message was launched and incorporated into Morning Worship Services.
- The Young People’s Department was made a top priority of the Church.
- A number of auxiliaries/components engaged Young Adult members, e.g. the Usher Board, Allen Christian Fellowship, Mass Choir, and Church School.
- The Mass Choir and Sons of Allen Choir were formed.
- Guest psalmists were invited to participate in services and Pastor Johnson played sacred music by saxophone at Saint Luke and throughout the Connectional AME Church.
- The first United Way funded, faith-based partnership with the Wateree Community Actions, Inc. was formed. It operated as a social brokering program and an after school program for elementary and middle school students. The program brought more than $500,000 annually to the Lower Richland Community and served 300 disadvantaged individuals and families.
- A Hammond Organ and drums were purchased to greatly enhance praise, worship and special services.
- A Transportation Ministry started with the purchase of a 16 passenger van.
- Outreach programs were established, e.g. Women’s Weekend, The Rainbow Tea, and Health Ministry.
- An annual affair entitled “A Night of Christmas in Love, Joy and Peace” was initiated by the YPD.
- A “100 Men in Black and White” Worship Service was initiated by the Trustee Board.
Membership and tithes/offerings increased. The percentage of high-school graduates pursuing higher education, military and other career opportunities increased. Youth/Young Adult involvement in the Church grew. Church and Vacation Bible School were exciting and informative, including presentations by community groups and the Eastover Police Chief. Annual services were well attended and Saint Luke worked with local churches and the Town of Eastover in planning programs. Outreach activities included a food pantry with holiday food boxes, participation in the Annual Breast Cancer Walk, and services to seniors and families in need. Every Steward and Trustee acquired the Book of the Discipline of the AME Church and many pursued educational programs offered by the AME Church. The Church was moving forward!
Between 2000 and June 2012, Reverends Joseph Johnson and Jessie Reed (13th), Presiding Elder Lee M. Seward (14th), and Reverends Abraham Temoney Sr. (15th) and Janice Evans (16th) pastored Saint Luke; the Seventh Episcopal District prelates were Bishops John Hurst Adams (-2000), Henry Allen Belin, Jr. (2000-2004) and Preston Warren Williams II (2004-2012); and Lancaster Area Presiding Elders were Elders Lee M. Seward and James R. Glover. Years of leadership change challenged Saint Luke to maintain the vision for the Church. There was both growth and decline. There were 10 weddings, numerous baptisms, new members, and programs but membership slowed and there was much work to be done and supported. But, members kept faith and understood the need to “pass the test.” Steward Board Chairman Pro Tem, Brother Rudolph Cunningham, reminded members “Bishops and pastors may change but we will be here. We must work together to accomplish the vision for Saint Luke.” Trustee Board Chairman Pro Tem, Brother James Faber, reminded members to “Look where the Lord has brought us from. The Lord has always provided us what we needed.”
Over the years, Bible Study extended to weekly services with Brother James Faber, Sister Jacquelyn Nelson Cunningham and Brother Alton Cobb as teachers. Sister Mary Pringle elevated Church communications to effective, creative worship bulletins and coordinated mailings. The Gospel Choir acquired new robes under Sister Thelma Reese: Auxiliaries committed to taking ministries to the next level under the Music Ministry of Brother Sylmer Brown. Head Usher, Sister Carolyn Sumter, saw increase in the Usher Board Ministry. The Hospitality Ministry became a work of art under Sisters Jettie Jackson, Francis Faber, Elvira Faber and Sarah Moore. Sister Gloria DeVeaux Cobb consistently executed Church School, while Sister Linda Tucker faithfully managed the Church’s finances. The Young People’s Department saw awesome youth leadership under Sisters Kimyatta Moore, Angela Jackson, Tanesha Gridine, Tish Griddine, Rita Taylor, Erica Cunningham, Tanya Smith, Darianna White, and Whitney Hudson; and Brothers Malcolm Taylor, Willie Gilmore, Curtis Thomas, Jr., Samuel Cunningham, Demerio Daniels, Raymond Smith, Jonathan Moore, and Tony Pringle, Jr. The Women’s Missionary Society initiated programs and met in Eastover, Gadsden, Hopkins, Sumter, and Columbia. Sisters Pauline Cunningham, Rosa Sumter and Flossie Pringle ensured pastors and their families enjoyed awesome Sunday dinners: The Pulpit Aide served other pastoral needs. Devotional Services were led by officers such as Sisters Barbara Sumter and Joann Richardson with encouraging testimonials from seniors such as Brother Charlie Taylor and Sisters Mae Bertha Scott and Gladys Goodson. “O gimme dat ole time religion!”
At the December 13, 2005 (first) Official Board meeting under Rev. Temoney, Brother Charlie Taylor presented his findings on the church property, plat information, and history: He suggested the Church resolve any issues and address pending bridge construction. The Board also focused upon membership, evangelism, extensive building repairs and pending financial assessments. Officers observed several overall needs: “Tithe. Change our mindset, get on one accord. Do more than meet or react to information. Stewardship, evangelize. Have regular meetings of commissions and class leaders … Conduct a workshop on tithing.” The body then asked: “So, where do we go from here?” The conclusion: “All auxiliaries of the church should look around and gather ideas for church improvement, physical or spiritual; and, we should meet again on December 28, 2005 at 6:30pm and have the auxiliaries report their information. That meeting should be the first of many others that would allow us to properly and strategically plan for the future of St. Luke AME Church.” In subsequent meetings, all members were indeed invited to freely express their concerns.
On July 12, 2008, the Church Relocation and Planning Committee was formed to make and carry forth recommendations to meet all concerns. Elected or appointed were, Brothers Rudolph Cunningham (Co-Chair), James Faber (Co-Chair), Phillip Tucker, and Alton Cobb; and, Sisters Claretha Green, Jacquelyn Cunningham, Joann Richardson, and Barbara Sumter. Upon these works, the Church made four important decisions: purchase 24.8 acres near the Town of Eastover (May 2009), relocate, tithe, and limit fundraising to the 1st Rally (February) and 2nd Rally (September).
In September 2010, Rev. Janice Evans succeeded Rev. Temoney. With exemplary musical talents and love for young people, she introduced a wonderful Praise Team. Young Brother Robert Lloyd was hired as drummer. She delivered powerful, inspirational Youth Messages. The 1st Rally for 2012 was the “Children are the Future” program; and, summer and tutoring ministries were planned for the Town of Eastover. In early 2012, Rev. Evans introduced the Church to “25 Points” for growth as “the Lord establishes [her] steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Her words were prophetic. The Church was moving forward!
On June 17, 2012, Saint Luke received its successor to Rev. Evans and its 17th and current pastor – the Reverend Fedrick Allen Wilson. On that day, Father’s Day, believers may have seen symbolism in his appointment, that God answered many prayers. At age 28, the anointed preacher and teacher was the youngest pastor appointed to Saint Luke, yet his wisdom was not evidence of his youthfulness. Rev. Wilson was prepared, experienced and ready for the vision that is God’s plan for Saint Luke. [By the] 120th Anniversary of Saint Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church, under the dynamic leadership of Pastor Wilson:
- The Church has established its Vision Statement and Mission Statement in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
- The first year theme was “Expect the Great!” according to Ephesians 3:20
- Christian Education was established, beginning with weekly Wednesday night bible studies and services, “The Five Practices of a Fruitful Congregation (Schnase, 2007), and studies in Advent Season
- Visitor cards, study guides, and texts have been made available to members and guests for evangelism, new membership engagement, and spiritual growth
- The Class System for Christian Discipleship is re-enforced by teachings and accountability
- The balanced budgeting process is re-enforced by teachings, technology and accountability
- The 501 (c)(3) application process was initiated to form an organization aligned with the Church’s social actions
- Weekly service attendance, benevolence, tithes and offerings have increased; worship services and instruments have been advanced for greater praise and worship
- Children, youth and young adult involvement in the life of the Church increased
- The Stewardess Room, Pastor’s Study, and Fellowship Hall were renovated and/or retooled
- Participation in local church initiatives and ministries increased or were revived
- The Town of Eastover annexed Saint Luke’s new property as petitioned by the Church
- Power One Sundays and Fifth Sunday Community Emphasis Evangelistic Initiative were launched September 2012
- The Church advocated restoration of and expanded social services from the Wateree Community Actions Inc. in the Eastover Community. The community was organized and a media covered public forum was held on August 23, 2012 to affect change. The WCA later reopened its office in the Town
- An interactive Saint Luke website was launched September 1, 2012
- National Back to Church Sunday was adopted September 16, 2012
- Women’s Weekend featured a renowned preacher with national exposure October 20-21, 2012
- The annual Lay Witness Day featured the Allen University Concert Choir October 28, 2012
- The weekly Tuesday evening Breakthrough Prayer Line was launched November 25, 2012
- Collaboration with the Community and the Town of Eastover produced a Community Call to Prayer January 12, 2013
- The inaugural Heritage Celebration, a Christian rites of passage service, was hosted March 9, 2013
- A powerful, 4-night, interdenominational revival was held July 2013
- Collaboration with the Webber Alumni and the Town of Eastover produced a well-attended, highly successful Back 2 School Rally September 2013
- On, Sunday, September 22, 2013, Saint Luke celebrated its Anniversary with General Officer Dr. George Flowers, Executive Director of the Department of Global Witness and Ministry of the AME Church, as preacher for the Morning Services
What a time! What a time in the Lord!
To God be the glory! The Church is moving forward!