Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church

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Coordinates: 35°07′56.17″N 90°00′15.85″W / 35.1322694°N 90.0044028°W / 35.1322694; -90.0044028

Grace St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Memphis.

Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church is an historic church in Midtown Memphis, Tennessee. The church's history dates back to the mid-19th century and the current structure—located in Memphis' Central Gardens Historic Preservation District at 1720 Peabody Avenue—was constructed in 1912.

Today the parish is active and is known both for its progressive hunger ministries and its formal worship and music.[1]

The church is part of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee.


The history of Grace-St. Lukes dates back to the mid-19th century with the establishment of Grace Church in a rented room in what was then on the eastern outskirts of the city, now Midtown Memphis. After the Civil War, returning Confederate Officers founded St. Lazarus Church on Madison Avenue, in Downtown Memphis in protest to the Unionist views of the rector of Calvary Church. St. Lazarus was the site of the marriage of Jefferson Davis' daughter in 1876,[2] but St. Lazarus' congregation was decimated by the yellow fever epidemic in 1878 and merged with Grace Church.[3] St. Luke's Church was established in present-day Midtown in 1894 in a building designed by English architect John Gainsford.

By the late 1930s, Grace Church had a strong congregation, but found itself without a building. St. Luke's Church, on the other hand, had erected a new church in the heart of residential Memphis in 1912 (its present home), but found itself in a period of declining membership. The two merged, and celebrated its first service as the Parish of Grace-St. Luke's on Thanksgiving Day, 1940.[4]

The parish continued to grow and, by 1974, had doubled in size and was the largest Episcopal parish in the state of Tennessee.[5] Though no longer the largest in the state, the parish continues to have active membership and strong outreach and community programs.[6]

Ordination of Women[edit]

Grace-St. Luke's emphasis on inclusivity[7] dates at least back to 1981, when the parish ordained the first female in the state of Tennessee.[8]

The Rev. Ann Carriere was ordained deacon at Grace-St. Luke's on July 12, 1981 by Bishop Fred Gates in a nave packed with parishioners, ecumenical Memphis clergy, and community members who had followed the news in the media.[9] Carriere served in the supportive community at Grace-St. Luke's -- and out of the public eye where her role caused considerable controversy -- and was ordained priest there in 1982. She served the parish eight more years.[10]

Tiffany Windows[edit]

Detail from "Christ the Light of the World," a turn-of-the-century Tiffany window at Grace St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Memphis.

Grace-St. Luke's cares for seven extraordinary Tiffany stained glass windows that date back to 1889. That year, one of the benefactors of Grace Church, Mrs. W. A. Gage, met a representative of the Tiffany Glass Company at the Paris Exposition. She personally underwrote three windows, including a glorious window depicting Christ’s ascension to be hung above the altar. The vestry commissioned four more windows as it built its new building at the turn of the 20th century, and these were installed under the direction of Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. When Grace merged with St. Luke’s in 1940, it brought the windows, and they were installed throughout the building.[11] Today, Grace-St. Luke’s Tiffany windows are thought to be the largest collection of Tiffany windows in a parish church in the South, and window scholars recognize the windows as prime examples of the Tiffany palette.[12]

See also[edit]