St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, incorporated on October 18, 1847, was built upon land donated in 1851 by John Glenn, a federal judge and member of St. Paul’s Parish. The Glenn family’s wealth included a “slave farm” near what is now Catonsville. One of the church’s founding members and a significant financial supporter was Gen. George H. Steuart. The Steuart family were slaveholders and strong supporters of slavery. At the time the church was established Gen. Steuart personally owned several thousand acres of land and 125 enslaved people. He openly supported the Fugitive Slave Acts, the Dred Scott decision, and the Confederacy, and made strenuous efforts to persuade Marylanders to secede from the Union so that the institution of slavery could continue. That St. Luke’s Church directly benefited from slavery, and wealth generated by the toil of enslaved black and brown people, cannot be doubted.
The church property straddles the Franklin Square and Poppleton neighborhoods of West Baltimore. When the church was built, these old neighborhoods were occupied by wealthy merchants and professional people; but these neighborhoods have not continued to flourish. In the mid-twentieth century they were subject to the discriminatory redlining practices that sustained racial segregation and kept residents poor, negating the possibility of economic development and the ability of homeowners to build up personal wealth. Yet, while Episcopal churches in other areas of Baltimore followed the “white flight” of their members to the suburbs, St. Luke’s stayed in West Baltimore to serve its neighbors, especially the children.
Entering the twenty-first century, even as older members died, and church membership and financial resources dwindled, the church continued to maintain its ministry to the neighborhood. It provided a summer camp, an after-school program to the children, hosted community meetings and an annual Thanksgiving dinner. As this work became unsustainable, in 2015 the ministry was reorganized as Saint Luke’s Youth Center (SLYC).
(from “St. Luke’s Church, Baltimore: A History Related to Slavery and Its Legacy” written by Deacon Jane Mayrer as part of the Trail of Souls in 2017)