St. Luke’s is a local congregation of the United Church of Christ, an American denomination that can trace its roots to the Pilgrims. We were founded as a German Reform church on December 25, 1872, by approximately 20 early settlers and founders of Columbus. In 1899 we reorganized and renamed, reflecting the German Evangelical Protestant tradition.In 1947 we officially joined with the Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church of America.We were an early supporterof the merger of the Synod with the Congregational Christian Churches, having voted in support of said merger in 1947, ten years before the merger was finally made a reality. We changed our name to “The Evangelical and Reformed Church” in 1950, and a cornerstone bearing this name is still visible on the east side of the church. In 1956 we first became known as St. Luke’s Church when we officially named the church, “St. Luke’s Evangelical and Reformed Church.” In 1957, the United Church of Christ was born through the merger of the E&R and Congregational Christian traditions, and we changed our name to “St. Luke’s United Church of Christ.” For a time thereafter the church adopted the name “St. Luke’s Congregational United Church of Christ” but in 2007 returned to the now-familiar “St. Luke’s United Church of Christ”.
Our original church building was on the east side of 21st Avenue, and we broke ground in 1951 for a new church building on the west side of the road. The first service in our current building was held on June 15, 1952. In 1976 we added on our Fellowship Hall, a gathering space able to accommodate large numbers of people. In September of 1985 we started Rainbow Preschool, which still operates as a Christian preschool reaching out ecumenically to the Columbus community. In 2001-02 new construction on the south side of the building added offices for the pastor and church secretary, a work room, and a large multi-use storage space.
Gruetli Parish started in 1869 as a German Reform church; we built the present building in 1917. Gruetli was an actively worshipping congregation until July 27, 1975, when the parishes of Gruetli and St. Luke’s voted to combine into a single congregation. We still hold services at Gruetli at 8:00am each Sunday of the summer, starting Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day weekend. We also celebrate at Gruetli an 10:00pm service on Christmas Eve and a 7:00am service on Easter Sunday.
As a local congregation of the United Church of Christ, St. Luke’s enjoys complete autonomy in all matters. At the same time, we remain accountable by covenant to the other local congregations within the denomination as a whole, within the Nebraska Conference of the UCC, and within the Living Waters Association of the Nebraska Conference (northeast Nebraska, including Omaha) This means that while we do not agree on all matters, we are committed to remaining in relationship with each other as churches of the UCC.
At St. Luke’s we celebrate and support the ministry of Kamp Kaleo, the church camp we share with the Nebraska Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Located just east of Burwell, Nebraska, the Kamp has provided Christ-centered camping experiences every summer for youth and families for over 50 years on an idyllic spot along the North Loup river.