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“Across the Pond”: Church of St. Luke, the Beloved Physician, Saranac Lake


The following is a reflection from the Rev. Carole Wageman following a retreat she did with the Church of St. Luke, the Beloved Physician in Saranac Lake, NY (a parish in the Diocese of Albany for which Bishop Ely provides Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) at the request of the Bishop of Albany.). 

StLukesChurchExterior250“QUIZLET”: Can you name the Episcopal congregation that is associated with the Episcopal Church in Vermont (although not located in Vermont) that was also at the epicenter of a “Cure Industry” in the 19th and 20th centuries?

HINT: This congregation was the first Christian church built in its community and was conceived, founded, funded and established by lay people.  [Talk about a real baptismal ministry!!]

HINT: The establishment of the church was led by a doctor who had emigrated from New York City to this community in the late 1800’s expecting he would die of tuberculosis at age 26. He recovered instead! He credited his healing to the area’s unpolluted air and brisk climate. He then established a medical center for what became the epicenter of treatment and therapy for thousands of patients seeking “The Cure” for “The White Plague” (tuberculosis). In the mid-20th century, the development and widespread use of drug therapies mostly eradicated this disease and the burgeoning “Cure Industry” waned as people were able to finally find healing from this deadly illness. This small community in the Adirondacks is now the home for an Institute (named after this doctor) that has become “a world renowned leader in the effort to better understand the immune system for the purpose of preventing and treating human diseases.” 


Any Ideas?

ANSWERS:    The Church: “The Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician” (Episcopal).

The community: Saranac Lake, NY.

The founder: Dr. Edwin Livingston Trudeau.

The ongoing research: The Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, NY.

The “Quizlet” above reflects some of the distinctive things I learned about this unique congregation while leading a retreat for the Vestry and their Rector, the Rev. Ann Gaillard, on the weekend of April 24-26 deep in the Adirondacks at Camp Rockwood. The Episcopal Church in Vermont is connected to St. Luke the Beloved Physician through the Episcopal oversight provided by our own Bishop Tom Ely to this congregation.

As with many congregations these days, the question of how to move into the future spiritually and economically while facing declining numbers and finances has been front and center on the minds of the vestry leaders prompting our retreat theme: “Never Be Afraid to Trust an Unknown Future to a Known God”. 

We explored God’s Story in our individual spiritual journeys.

We investigated God’s Story as revealed in Scripture when the people of The Story didn’t know how their story would turn out…but then, neither do we! However, God showed up then and we must trust, is showing up now.

We considered the unique journey God has been taking with the good people of St. Luke the Beloved Physician for generations and we identified the core values that are present — the threads of history that subtly shape the future —- and we envisioned where God was at work “in the neighborhood” in new ways.

“Are you the Inheritors of the Past, Ambassadors of the Present or Shepherds of the Future?” was one of the questions offered up to the vestry leadership as a way to ponder God’s call to this congregation.  

While this vestry continues its ongoing discernment about their future, the words of Peter from the Book of Acts (the Peter and Cornelius story) left us all with the question that Peter pondered: “Who was I that I could hinder God?” Indeed, the Holy Spirit is always way out in front of us it seems – leading, coaxing, offering up new vistas that we do not always imagine for ourselves. Perhaps our challenge is to listen carefully, observe the world around us prayerfully and respond faithfully with the trust that God is in the mix with us even if we cannot understand how it will all turn out. Well, actually, the folks in scripture didn’t know how their unique stories would turn out either, so we have good company!

It was truly a blessing and privilege to work with this vestry and its rector on their annual retreat. The work of “transition ministry” is not limited only to congregations experiencing a shift in clergy leadership. There is a significant need to find hope, health and direction as we all go through a paradigm shift that is every bit as significant as the Reformation itself.

My thanks to the Rev. Ann Gaillard and the vestry for the invitation to lead this retreat and to share with them a small part of their journey that was exciting, invigorating and faithfully responsive to discovering God’s call to them now and into the future. 

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