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On Sunday June 7th, 1885 at 4:30 p.m. the first Episcopal Church service held in the village of South Evanston took place at Ducats Hall at the southwest corner of Main Street and Chicago Avenue. The service, which over seventy people attended, was conducted by the Reverend Marcus Lane, an Episcopal clergyman who had recently moved to South Evanston from Michigan.

This was the start of the mission named “Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church of South Evanston” and Reverend Lane was appointed priest-in-charge. A storefront at 914 Chicago Avenue was rented for services. Ground was broken in 1886 for a church building at Main Street and Sheridan Avenue. Construction was completed in the spring of 1887 for a church measuring 45 feet long and 22 feet wide with seating for 200 people. In 1891, the mission became a parish of the Diocese of Chicago (being a ‘parish’ meant that St. Luke’s had to become financially self-sustaining).

George Craig Stewart, who became the second rector in 1904, is the longest serving rector in St. Luke’s history. During his tenure, the parish grew to a reported 3,000 congregants, making it the largest parish in the diocese. With Rev. Stewart began the dream and the reality of a cathedral-like building. 

Based on designs in the English Gothic Revival style by architect John Sutcliffe, the church was built in stages beginning in 1906. The first stage consisted of the foundations for the twelve piers of the nave, together with the walls and a low roof at ten feet. The second stage in 1909 added the chancel foundation (space around the altar, including the choir and the sanctuary), ten more feet to the walls, and the “Lady Chapel” in the northwest corner. When the third stage in 1914 was completed, bringing the walls and piers to their present height, St. Luke’s became the largest church building in the diocese. Based on designs by architect Thomas Tallmadge, the “Battle Cloister” (interior courtyard or Garth) and Parish House were built added in 1920. 


Since those early days:

  • In 1918 the Spanish Flu pandemic spread around the world, killing millions of people including Katherine Craig Stewart (age 15), the rector’s only daughter. All public buildings in Evanston were closed for three weeks including St. Luke’s. 

  • One hundred fifty-two parishioners served in the military during World War I including five who made the ultimate sacrifice. Rev. Stewart served as a chaplain during the Great War.

  • Three organs were in use until the current Skinner Opus 327 was installed in 1922. This world-renowned instrument, a popular feature of holiday concerts, was recently celebrated with a 100th birthday gala.

  • George Craig Stewart was the seventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago from 1930 to 1940. As was his ambition, when he became the bishop, St. Luke’s became the procathedral for the Diocese of Chicago from 1930-1940.

  • When Bishop Stewart died suddenly of a heart attack in 1940, he was interred in a crypt below the altar of St. Luke’s. An elegant wood-paneled “Jerusalem Room” in the church building’s southwest corner honors his memory.

  • Over the years St. Luke’s has owned ten rectories for clergy.

  • There have been five fires (none since 1950).

  • There was a nursery school from 1948-1962.

  • In 1964, Bishop Suffragan Montgomery consecrated the St. Luke’s altar, and reportedly did seal within it, primary relics from Saint Joachim and tertiary relics of Saints Benedict and Teresa.

  • The first woman priest to serve at St. Luke’s was the Rev. Joy Rogers in 1985. The first woman rector was the Rev. Jeannette DeFriest. The current rector, the Rev. Kathryn Banakis is the 11th rector of St. Luke’s.

  • Of the rectors at St. Luke’s, four have gone on to serve as Bishops (one each in the diocese of Chicago, Milwaukee, Northern Michigan and Albany).

  • Over 80 Curates, Assistant or Associate priests have served over the years.

  • Over 100 individuals who joined St. Luke’s as parishioners, interns, or seminarians have gone on to take holy orders.

  • For almost 140 years, St. Luke’s story has been told through wood and stone carvings, etchings on the walls, plaques, paintings, stained glass windows and more, all donated in memory or in honor of loved ones. 

  • Many choirs, guilds, and various organizations and groups for children and adults have served throughout the history of St. Luke’s. Many groups have endured as there is creative energy to explore new opportunities for service, ministry and social gatherings.

  • Some of the distinguished visitors over the years: The Honorable and Most Rev. Cosmo Lang Archbishop of York (1918); Prince and Princess Sukhothai of Siam (1924); Rev. Cannon T. Guy Rodgers Rector Birmingham, England and chaplain to the King of England (1931); Rt. Honorable and most Rev. William Temple Archbishop of York (1936); Princess Ileana of Romania great granddaughter of Queen Victoria (1953); Rev. John Andrew, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury (1970); Cannon Rowan Williams Professor of Divinity Oxford University (future Archbishop of Canterbury 2003 - 2012) (1991); and author Natasha Tretheway former poet laureate (2022).

  • There is a strong social justice focus at St. Luke’s from the pulpit and within the congregations with active involvement with the interfaith community of Evanston. 


During the recent pandemic, St. Luke’s was able to offer services online and with gradually increasing in-person attendance. Since reopening in 2021, the church has experienced growth that is both exciting and challenging. In recognition of St. Luke’s mission as a welcoming, multigenerational faith community, the church will soon embark on renovations that will accommodate more people and ministries. Critical improvements will enhance easier movement into and around the buildings, making St. Luke’s truly accessible to all who wish in worship in this beautiful space.

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