St. Luke's became the umbrella organization for many non-profit community groups. The church was especially involved with Hospice from its beginnings. It also founded Gryphon Place, a crisis center for people with drug and alcohol problems. Autos House was a home for runaways and youngsters who had problems living with their families. A popular service for the community was created with the establishment of St. Luke's Thrift Shop, which is now located on Burdick Street, just south of the State Theatre. It was founded to serve people in the community who had little to spend on clothing and other necessities, and to make a steady financial contribution to the church.
St. Luke’s Boys Choir
Mention must also be made of the legendary St. Luke's Boys Choir. The choir celebrated its 100th anniversary year in 1984. By that time, current members and some 600 living alumni had sung stately hymns and anthems in the choir. The choir formed when St. Luke's and St. John's merged in 1884, but it wasn't formally introduced until 1885. A small stipend for each rehearsal and performance helped pull children in off the streets, especially during the Depression years. The boys were subjected to intense rehearsals twice a week and again on Sunday mornings before a service. James R. Powell, Jr., the choir historian, was quoted as saying 'What they do is something very complex. They all have to sing on the correct pitch, with clear words, pure vowels. They can't do this with mamby-pamby type singing." Highlights of the choir's history include a 1934 appearance at the Century of Progress for the Swift Company exhibition in Chicago, and concerts at the Washington National Cathedral in 1952 and again in 1968. Among the more notable former members of the choir was Thomas Schippers, who conducted the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Cincinnati Symphony, and the RAI Orchestra in Rome, Italy.
A Kalamazoo First
Approval to admit women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church came at the September 1976 General Convention in Minneapolis. St. Luke's soon joined this forward-looking movement with the ordination to the deaconate of their own candidate, Margaret Duncan Holt, daughter of the Rev. Canon James C. Holt, in June of 1977. She became the first woman to be ordained to Holy Orders in the Diocese of Western Michigan. Her subsequent ordination to the priesthood took place in St. Luke's, Worchester, Massachusetts.