Our History

Sanctuary and old Fellowship Hall, 1970s

Sanctuary in early 1900's

Saint Lukes, 2021

The Lutherans in western Rowan County were Germans who had migrated south from Pennsylvania.  Those who lived in the Bear Poplar community had been worshiping at Salem Lutheran Church since 1850.  In June, 1869, twenty one people met on the property of Mrs. Catherine Kistler in Mount Ulla Township (across the road from our church) and resolved to form an Evangelical Lutheran congregation.

The new congregation purchased property from Mrs. Kistler in the Bear Poplar Village and laid the cornerstone on May 9, 1871.  The building contained only one large room with pews being elevated from the chancel to the rear of the church.  As soon as the congregation was organized in 1869, one of the first items for consideration was the matter of education.  In 1872, a subscription school was organized in the home of Jesse W, Miller.  A parochial school was built in 1880 and St. Luke’s provided a school for the community until 1897 when it closed due to public schools moving into the area.

The Women’s Missionary Society of St. Luke’s now known as Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (WELCA) was the first to be organized in the North Carolina Synod on April 14, 1885. St. Luke’s was the first church in the NC to organize the Children’s Missionary society in 1886.

St. Luke’s shared pastorates with  Salem, Grace, Concordia or St. Mark’s, Mooresville until 1920 when the congregation was financially able to call a full time pastor.  The church building was remodeled in July, 1930 for a cost of $18,000.  Fourteen Sunday school rooms, two assembly rooms, two restrooms and a basement were added.

In 1936, The Lord’s Acre Plan was adopted to obtain money for the debts of the congregation.  Members were asked to donate money from an acre of cotton, wheat, corn or whatever crop they could.  When crops were gathered in the Fall, members gathered for a meal prepared by the ladies in the basement of the church and gave their donations.  In 1938, this festival was changed to “Ingathering” and has been held on the second Friday night in November ever since.  Monies given are used for special projects and upkeep on the church property.

By September, 1949, membership had grown and more space was needed for classrooms.  The ground breaking service for the Educational Building was held on September 16, 1951.

A century and a half since St Luke’s congregation was formed and members are still reaping the blessings of the sacrifice and devotion of all who carried out our Lord’s commission to be his witnesses in all of the world.  Some especially memorable hightlights over the past 50 years or so (how do you pick our so many things over that time?) have given St  Luke’s members an opportunity to experience outreach to others. 

  • Haylift in 1986, when the entire southern U.S. suffered severe drought, Mid-western states were able to share their abundant harvest of hay with our area
  • Haylift #2 in 1988, when the south was able to re-pay the favor of their abundant hay crops with the Mid-western states
  • Missouri Flood Relief (1993) – sent money, food, building supplies and manpower to help with clean –up and rebuilding projects.
  • St. Luke’s  members are always willing to respond in a time of need through outreach to others through
  • Christmas in the Mountains ministry, which has become an annual project since 1994, sharing grace and gifts to members and neighbors of sister congregations in the NC mountains

Building projects are easy to remember, but more importantly are always intended to provide a location and facility for ministry.  It isn't the building - it is what God can do with and through it!

  • The new Fellowship Hall (2013) through an "act of God", wind and a big old tree that crushed the old hall.  The Holy Spirit works in many ways!  The new, wonderful, and much larger hall, office space and classrooms were redesigned and constructed at the same location.  This space serves as host to many community organizations for meetings, training, meals and social events, seating 250, easily the largest space in this part of western Rowan County. 
  • Activity Building (2013) As part of the same Fellowship Hall project, St Lukes members decided to build a large multi-purpose activity building with gymnasium, kitchen, bathrooms with showers.  But not just for sports.  St Lukes planned for and has continued to work on improving this space as an Emergency Shelter/Response facility, coordinating with Rowan County and the Red Cross.  A backup generator was added in 2018, multi-purpose flooring in 2021, and the next enhancement will likely be adding air conditioning.   The building has been used for basketball and volleyball, walking space, fall fests, square dance, "Meet Mr & Mrs Claus", staging for FEMA supplies, our indoor yard-sale, and so much more. 

The COVID epidemic of 2020 and 2021 required many adjustments to life - at work, home, school and church.  During these two years St Lukes has constantly adapted, including

  • "Worship in the Grove" outdoor services where folks can come and sit in camp chairs, on blankets or sit in their cars under the cathedral of trees we have in front of the church.  A popular new spring and fall tradition is born...
  • Livestream video, broadcasting our worship over the internet.  This has become a popular choice for some members not ready to return in-person, folks on vacation, those ill or recovering from surgeries, friends and family out of town, etc.  Livestreaming also serves remote family and friends for special events such as seminars, weddings and funerals.

Our congregation continues to witness also through our youth programs, music programs, Sunday School program, Meals on Wheels, Rowan Helping Ministries, quilt ministry service projects and many more.  As our community continues to change, St. Luke’s congregation remains committed to being faithful witnesses to serve the needs of others.