As the communities to the west of Syracuse grew in the postwar years, several families began to think about starting a new parish to meet the spiritual needs of the growing suburbs. In 1952, they began meeting together, and with Bishop Malcolm Peabody, to formally organize a mission in the Camillus area.
In early 1954, the Camillus Mission Project was formally launched under the supervision of Bishop Walter Higley and the Rev James Maghan, Rector of St Mark’s on the west side. The nascent church began holding service at the Baptist church in the village of Camillus and in April of that year entered into an agreement to purchase the property on West Genesee St where the church stands today. Deciding that Camillus Mission was no proper name, St Luke’s was decided upon as the new parish name. Other names which had been considered were St Timothy’s and St Aidan’s.
Within two years, the congregation had grown enough that the congregation felt it was ready to call its first full time priest. On April 29, 1956, the Rev Robert Haven was called as the Missionary in charge. Shortly after that, the campaign to raise money for the new church building was kicked off and the architectural firm Sargent, Crenshaw, Webster and Foley were engaged to design the distinctive new building.
Costing $65,000, the ground was broken for the new church building on January 13, 1957 and completed by October of that year, just in time to celebrate the Feast of St Luke (Oct 18). As the unique design took shape, it began to provoke curiosity and comment and has become something of a local landmark. Inside the sanctuary, the forty-foot tall stained glass window rising behind the altar with its prominent cross has impressed and awed many. All of the altar furnishings were hand-crafted by Carl Bass, a parishioner and talented craftsman, to match the space.
In 1961, Robert Haven stepped down as Rector, and the Rev George Stokes, Jr was called as the second Rector of St Luke’s. Even from the beginning, there was insufficient space in the church building for all of the activities. For many years, the parish rented the Westerlea barn, immediately adjacent to the church property, for Sunday school and other large events. It was during the Stokes era that a new education wing was built, more than doubling the parish’s space. Dedicated for use in February 1968, by Bishop Ned Cole, the expanded space housed all of Sunday School, provided office space for the Rector, a nursery and a lounge and other meeting rooms.
Having completed the building program, Stokes moved on in 1970 and St Luke’s called its next and longest serving Rector to date, the Rev Thomas Cooper. Cooper was rector for 24 years and in his tenure, the church grew and retired its debt.
In 1995, St Luke’s first female Rector was elected, the Rev Julie Calhoun-Bryant. Recognizing the need for a space to accommodate a gathering of all members that was accessible, it was decided to build a new parish hall directly behind the sanctuary. A capital campaign was organized in January of 1999 and pledges of $315,000 were gathered in short order. The groundbreaking was held on October 31, 1999 and the new space was dedicated on March 25, 2000. This design allows for the expansion of the worship space into the parish hall if needed.
Mother Julie left us in 2002, leading to the call of our fifth Rector, the Rev Craig Swann. Father Craig put a great deal of energy into the music program of the parish and also presided over the retirement of the debt from the parish hall expansion. Father Craig left the parish after twelve years to answer a new call.
St Luke’s managed through its longest interim period between Rectors after Father Craig’s departure. Due to the retirement of Bishop Skip Adams, the process was delayed for some time. In that interim time, the parish was more than ably led by the Rev Kathy Corley who helped us see where God is calling us.
Our newest and sixth Rector is the Rev Jon M White who began his ministry with us in May of 2017.