St. Luke-in-the-Fields, New York City



St. Luke-in-the-Fields is located in the West Village in lower Manhattan, in a city of over 8 million people, which can plausibly be claimed as the cultural capital of the United States. 

The population of Manhattan as a whole is 1,618,398, while the population for the West Village is 67,521. Manhattan is 47.4% white, 25.7% Latino, 12.8% African-American, and 11.3% Asian; the West Village is 80.6% white, 5.9% Latino, 2% African-American, and 8.4% Asian. Most adults in the West Village are unmarried. Median age in both the neighborhood and the borough is 36.6, slightly younger than the US median age of 37.9. 

Per capita income in the West Village is $103,195, well above the Manhattan per capita income of $63,610 and far above the 2014 national per capita figure of $30,176. Against this, however, must be considered the high cost of living in Manhattan, which for the period of these statistics was a bit more than double the national average (composite price index for Manhattan of 220.3 versus an national average of 100). Housing is particularly expensive, at about four and a half times the national average (index of 443.8 versus 100). In the West Village itself, median rent is $2000 (compared to $1480 for Manhattan as a whole), and the median value of owner-occupied units is $980,003 (compared to 838,400 for Manhattan as a whole). The upshot is that the parish's West Village neighbors are doing well, but not so much better than the national average as salary figures alone would suggest.

Educational attainment in the West Village is well above average: 39% of those over age 25 have earned a graduate degree, while another 44.8% have achieved a bachelor's degree; overall attainment in Manhattan is also high (28% with a graduate degree and 31.3% with a bachelor's). Nationally, among adults 25 years old and up, 12.8% have attained a graduate degree and 21.3% have attained a bachelor's degree. 

In short, St. Luke's neighbors are much better educated and a fair bit more prosperous than the average American.

size:  250 ASA [program size]

location: urban

Sunday liturgies:

  • 8 a.m. Rite 1 eucharist without music (ASA about 20)

  • 9:15 a.m. (ASA about 80).

  • 11:15 a.m. choral eucharist (ASA about 125)

  • 12:45 p.m. healing service

  • Summer schedule: 8:00 Rite 1 eucharist without music; 10:30 sung eucharist, 11:45 healing service

other liturgies:

  • 6:15 pm Monday–Thursday, Rite 2 said eucharist

  • 12:15 pm Friday, Rite 2 said eucharist

Tuesday and Thursday masses each week in Advent, and Wednesday masses in Lent and Easter include stations for prayer at devotional art made by parishioners, in a creative liturgical form. These liturgies follow the Order for the Eucharist: after an opening acclamation and collect, the congregation and presider move to each station in turn for a scripture reading and stational collect, then singing a brief text (in Advent, a stanza from the hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel") as they move to the next station. After the stations, the prayers of the people follow, and then the peace. The eucharistic prayer follows (in Advent, using prayer B), then the Lord's prayer, fraction, and distribution of communion, after which a locally composed, seasonally appropriate postcommunion prayer is said. Finally, the presiders gives a seasonal blessing and the dismissal.

  • School Eucharist Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. with choristers

  • School Morning Prayer Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays

The liturgy is central to parish life at St. Luke's, and it is at the center of the lives of many individual parishioners. That being said, the liturgy at St. Luke's takes place a wider context of Christian discipleship. The parish offers Christian education at all age levels, as well as a program in baptismal formation through the year, culminating at baptism (as well as confirmation, reception, and reaffirmation of baptismal vows) at the Easter Vigil. Additionally, groups for parents of small children and for young adults in their 20s and 30s provide opportunities for fellowship, mutual support, and service, while a Centering Prayer group fosters contemplative practices. The parish has a healthy endowment, enabling it to designate its pledge income towards outreach in the 2017 budget year. Outreach work includes the GO Project, which provides academic, social, and emotional support to low-income school children performing below grade level; weekly staffing of a local homeless shelter; Art & Acceptance, a weekly drop-in program for homeless LGBTQ youth; and providing labor for a local food pantry. 

The AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s (from the emergence of the disease until the first substantial decline in AIDS-related deaths in 1997, thanks to combination antiretroviral therapy) hit the parish particularly hard. Its impact prompted the creation of The AIDS Project of St. Luke's, which offered meals and support to some 35,000 individuals, and its presence is felt in the names and dates on the columbarium niches, marking young lives cut short. The parish continues to support those with HIV through its outreach work, and the years of crisis loom in longtime parishioners' memory.

parish website:


The site visit took place on the the Third Sunday of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday"). A rose colored chasuble was worn by the presider, while others wore blue Advent vesture.

The worship bulletins are booklets with a brief, welcoming message on the cover and parish notices (extensive announcements and a prayer list) in the back. The booklet for the early, Rite 1 liturgy contains all of the variable texts (collect and scripture readings), but is otherwise an outline with page numbers referring the user to the Book of Common Prayer. The booklets for the 9:15 and 11:15 liturgies are full-text, containing all of the variable texts and almost all of the fixed texts from the prayer book; only the Nicene Creed is not printed out. The 11:15 booklet provides some service music (such as the opening acclamation and Trisagion), but otherwise the user is referred to the Hymnal for sung liturgical texts and for the hymns.

The liturgical space features a generous center aisle between traditional pews. A wooden platform at the "liturgical east" end of the nave supports the altar three steps above the marble floor. (The convention in describing church buildings is to use "liturgical east" to describe the end of a rectangular building at which the altar is located. In the case of St. Luke-in-the-Fields, "liturgical east" is geographically the west end of the building, so care will be used here to indicate which kind of east, liturgical or geographical, is being used.)  The altar is situated with clergy seating behind it, so that the presider faces the people across the altar when seated on the substantial presider's chair. What was once a deep chancel has been converted into an intimate chapel for weekday services, located behind the altar and presider's chair and separated from view by a partition. A single pulpit or ambo serves as the place from which the lessons are read and the word is preached.


8:00 a.m. eucharist

The early eucharist is a Rite 1 liturgy without music. The congregation numbers eleven. A portable lectern is placed two feet before the front pew; all of the lessons and the sermon will be read from it. The presider (the curate of the parish) enters with a vested assistant (the seminarian intern). Standing at the steps to the altar platform, she leads the opening acclamation, collect for purity, kyrie, and collect of the day. A member of the congregation reads the first lesson, after which the presider leads the congregation in the unison recitation of the psalm. Another member of the congregation reads the second lesson. The presider reads the gospel, after which the seminarian preaches a homily, focusing on the narrative of John the Baptist in the gospel reading and relating John's experience to a course she is taking in a women's prison. The presider leads the congregation in the Nicene Creed and then gives brief announcements. The presider reads the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church and the World (in this regard, reflecting the pattern of the 1928 prayer book rather than the directions of 1979), adjusting the language referring to humans to be gender-inclusive. The presider then introduces the confession of sin and delivers the absolution, followed by one of the "comfortable words." 

The Peace is relatively brief, because of the small crowd, after which the presider says an offertory sentence and prepares the table, assisted by a sacristan in street clothes, who will later bear the chalice. Wafer bread is used. Monetary offerings are brought forward, and the presider elevates them while reciting, "All things come of thee, O Lord, and of then own have we given thee." The presider leads the congregation in Prayer II from Rite 1 and then the Lord's Prayer. She breaks the large wafer while reciting the Fraction Anthem, and she then leads the congregation in the Prayer of Humble Access. After saying the Invitation to communion, she communicates herself and then the chalice bearer. The people come forward to stand on the wide step of the altar platform to receive communion. After all have received, the presider does the ablutions, cleansing the vessels at the altar, before they are then removed to a rolling cart by the sacristan, a somewhat incongruous combination. After this, the presider leads the congregation in the postcommunion prayer from the altar, blesses, and dismisses them. All stay in place until the altar candles have been extinguished, and the preacher goes to the main door to greet the congregation as they depart.


9:15 a.m. eucharist

The liturgy begins with an organ voluntary, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme. A bell rings, and the congregation stands for the opening acclamation, which is followed by the hymn, "On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry," during which the procession of acolytes, server, vested chalice bearers, preacher (the parish curate, vested in alb and stole), assisting presbyter (the senior associate, wearing a dalmatic and functioning as a deacon), and presider (the parish rector, vested in a chasuble) enters from the main door. Having arrived at the altar platform, the presider prays the collect of the day. A member of the congregation reads the lessons from the ambo and the congregation recites the intervening psalm in unison. During the sequence hymn, a gospel procession of torches, book-holder, and assisting presbyter moves halfway down the center aisle. The assisting presbyter reads the gospel, and then the procession returns. The curate preaches a twelve-minute sermon about God's subversive love at work in the world, drawing from the gospel reading. After a few seconds of silence, the presider leads the congregation in reciting the Nicene Creed. Parish announcements follow.

After the announcements, the assisting presbyter, standing at the "liturgical east" end of the aisle and facing the congregation, introduces the intercessions by offering the specific names and concerns of the congregation and inviting the congregation to add their own petitions, which they do (audibly). Standing at the end of the aisle near the font and facing the altar, a member of the congregation then leads the congregation in a locally composed, seasonal form of the prayers of the people. The presider adds a concluding collect. It is elegantly staged in the liturgical space. The assisting presbyter leads the congregation in the confession of sin, after which the presider gives the absolution and bids the peace, which is lively but not overlong.

A choir of children sings an offertory anthem from the choir loft as the assisting presbyter and server begin to prepare the altar. After the anthem, the congregation joins in an offertory hymn as their monetary offerings and gifts for the food pantry are brought forward and presented, and the assisting presbyter and server complete the altar preparations.

The presider sings the dialogue and preface of eucharistic prayer B. The congregation joins in the Schubert Sanctus. The conclusion of the eucharistic prayer is said, as is the "Great Amen." The traditional form of the Lord's Prayer is said. The presider and assisting priest break the bread and prepare the vessels in silence, after which the fraction anthem, "Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" is recited. A bell is rung at the invitation to communion, and the children's choir sings a motet by J. Philippe Rameau as the congregation comes forward. The congregation, including children of all ages, stands on all three sides of the altar platform to receive communion. As the congregation sings a postcommunion hymn, the assisting presbyter clears the altar with the acolytes and server. The presider leads the congregation in the postcommunion prayer from the altar, flanked by the preacher (who has donned a cope) and assisting priest. The presider blesses the congregation with a seasonal Advent blessing and the assisting priest dismisses the congregation. As the organist plays a voluntary, the crucifer stands at the edge of the altar platform, while the acolytes, chalice bearers, and clergy line up, facing the altar. All reverence the altar, turn, and depart in procession down the center aisle. At the end of the aisle, the preacher breaks off to shake hands with departing parishioners at the main door, while the remainder of the procession moves up the side aisle and exits through a door to the sacristy. The congregation remains, listening, until the end of the organ voluntary. 

11:15 a.m. eucharist

A three-and-a-half-minute organ voluntary starts promptly at 11:15. After a minute of silence, a bell rings, and all stand and sing the opening hymn as the procession enters from the sacristy door. The procession is led by a master of ceremonies, followed by a thurifer, crucifer, torches, choir, chalice bearers, a lay assistant in a tunicle (the "subdeacon," in earlier rites), and the clergy (preacher in cassock, surplice, stole, and cope; assisting presbyter in alb, stole, and dalmatic (vested as a deacon); and presider in alb, stole, and chasuble). [While the prayer book treats assisting presbyters differently than deacons, St. Luke's uses them interchangeably, and so for the sake of brevity we will use the latter term in what follows.] The procession moves up the side aisle to the back, where the choir splits off and takes the stairs into the choir gallery; the balance of the procession moves up the center aisle to the altar platform. The crucifer clamps the processional cross in place at the sedilla while the acolytes place their torches in racks to the side. The processional cross serves as the only cross in the worship space, which serves well as a visual focus for devotion. 

[On other occasions, the entrance varies. A solemn procession stops for a station collect at the font, with an introit and asperges following. In Lent, the choir begins in the gallery and sings an introit in place of the opening hymn, as the altar party enters the chancel directly from the side door.]

The presider (the senior associate) sings the opening acclamation, flanked by the deacon and subdeacon. This is followed by the Trisagion (with a setting after Alexander Archangelsky), during which the presider, deacon, and subdeacon reverence the altar with a profound bow. The deacon and subdeacon move out of the way, and the thurifer moves to the presider. After receiving the thurible, the presider censes the cross and then the altar. Returning the thurible, he goes to the sedilla, where he is flanked by the deacon and subdeacon, all facing the people across the altar. The presider sings the collect of the day, and then all sit for the lessons. 

Members of the congregation read two lessons from the ambo, while the choir sings the intervening psalm to an Anglican chant by Thomas Norris. After the second lesson, all stand and sing a sequence hymn. Following the hymn, a cantor and the congregation sing an Alleluia verse as the gospel procession, comprised of thurifer, torchbearers, and deacon, moves to the ambo. The torches flank the ambo, standing on the floor, while the thurifer steps to the side and allows the deacon to climb the steps into the ambo. Once there, the deacon announces the gospel, censes the book, and chants the selection for the day. When the reading is over, the gospel procession returns, with the deacon leading the torches and thurifer back. Soft organ music covers the movement. The curate preaches a twelve-minute sermon from the ambo. After the sermon, the congregation sings the Calvin Hampton setting of the Nicene Creed. The rector then makes the parish announcements, at the conclusion of which she invites the congregation to stand for the prayers.

The prayers of the people follow. The deacon, standing at the center-front of the altar platform reads the lists of names and concerns of the parish and invites the assembly to name their particular concerns. Several members of the congregation ask prayers for various individuals and circumstances. A member of the congregation, standing at the other end of the center aisle and facing the altar, chants the the intercessions, and the congregation chants a sung response to each petition. The presider chants a concluding collect. The deacon leads the congregation in the confession of sin, and the presider gives the absolution. [The confession is omitted in Easter season and on some other occasions.] The presider introduces the peace, which is lively but not overlong.

The choir sings an offertory anthem by Orlando Gibbons ("This the record of John"). At the start of the anthem, the deacon begins to prepare the altar with the assistance of the subdeacon and MC, placing on it the corporal and chalice. They return to their seats for the rest of the anthem. At the conclusion of the anthem, the congregation stands and sings an offertory hymn as the gifts of bread, wine, and items for the food pantry are brought forward and presented by members of the congregation to the deacon and subdeacon, who meet them in front of the altar, receive the gifts, and place them at the altar.  The deacon fills the chalice, places the flagon on the altar, and steps out of the way as the thurifer brings the incense to the presider. The presider censes the offerings and the altar, and then he returns the thurible. The thurifer censes the clergy and then the assembly. 

The presider sings the dialogue and preface of eucharistic prayer B. The congregation and choir join in singing the Schubert Sanctus, during which the thurifer swings the thurible. The presider, flanked by the deacon and subdeacon, prays the eucharistic prayer. All make the sign of the cross at the epiclesis over the people. At the prayer's chanted conclusion and "Great Amen," the presider elevates the bread and cup while the thurifer censes them from his position at the side of the altar platform. The altar party reverences the consecrated bread and wine. The congregation sings the contemporary version of the Lord's Prayer, after which the presider breaks the bread in silence. The congregation and choir sing the Schubert Agnus Dei as the fraction anthem, and the deacon prepares additional chalices while the presider prepares the patens. The presider gives the invitation to communion, a bell is rung, and the choir sings motets by Orlando Gibbons as the congregation comes forward. The congregation, including children of all ages, stands on all three sides of the altar platform to receive communion. The choir receives communion last, having completed the motets.

After the distribution of communion, the deacon clears the altar with the assistance of the subdeacon and acolytes. A postcommunion hymn is sung, all standing. The presider, standing at the altar and flanked by the deacon and the subdeacon, leads the congregation in the postcommunion prayer. The presider sings the multi-part, seasonal blessing for Advent from the Book of Occasional Services. The deacon sings the dismissal. As the organist plays a voluntary, the crucifer stands at the edge of the altar platform, while the acolytes, chalice bearers, and clergy line up, facing the altar. The thurible is not carried in this procession.  All reverence the altar, turn, and process down the center aisle. The preacher breaks off to greet departing parishioners at the main door, while the remainder of the procession moves up the side aisle and exits through a door to the sacristy. Most of the congregation remains, listening, until the end of the organ voluntary. 




Worship Planning and Choices

Worship is planned in two contexts. At an annual meeting in May, the liturgy for the upcoming program year is planned. Specifics are worked out at weekly staff meetings. The Director of Music selects mass settings and hymns, with occasional input from the rector and other clergy. Planning decisions about occasional liturgies (such as Holy Week) or the track of readings to use in the Revised Common Lectionary are made by the pastoral staff as a whole, with the rector making the final determination if there is not unanimity. Everything is done with the goal of "glorify[ing] God through the highest and best use of our gifts and resources as a congregation and staff." The parish offers a variety of liturgical options, each at the highest standard, so that those who want a Rite 1, said service can have that, while those who value solemn high mass can worship with that, and those families with small children who seek something shorter and less formal can find that.

The parish uses the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, with very occasional use of some texts from the New Zealand Prayer Book and the Episcopal Church's Enriching Our Worship trial use texts. Music is drawn from the Hymnal 1982, with some use of Lift Every Voice and Sing II (mostly at the 9:15 mass) and Wonder Love and Praise (including congregational mass settings, at the 11:15 mass).

Laypeople are deeply involved in the planning and execution of the liturgies, both on Sunday morning and through the week. The innovative "stations" liturgy in Advent, Lent, and Easter (described above) serves as a particular example: the parish arts guild, artists in the congregation, and the worship committee drafted a liturgy, created the art for the stations, and prayed through the liturgy to refine it before introducing it to the parish. But the Sunday liturgies themselves are also marked by the engagement of a wide range of people in the parish, from the altar guild to  the acolytes and choir, with the worship committee and rector overseeing the planning and direction.

This lay involvement can be traced back to the development of the parish's current worship style and liturgical customary, in the wake of the development and rollout of the 1979 prayer book. Among the lay leaders at St. Luke's were Howard Galley, Frank Tedeschi, and Mason Martens, all of whom played principal roles in the creation of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal 1982. They translated the theology and ethos of these two liturgical resources into a style of worship that reflected both the Anglo-Catholic heritage of the parish and the insights and achievements of the twentieth-century Liturgical Movement. The parish installed a free-standing altar in 1974, and it was one of the first in the diocese to shift to observing the Easter Vigil as the principal liturgy of Easter Sunday.

Their work was aided by decisions made after a devastating fire that gutted the church in March 1981. The rebuilding committee, working with architect Hugh Hardy (of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates), decided not to restore what had been a renovation in the 1920s--complete with a chancel screen modeled on one at St. Clement's in Rome--but to restore some of the building's Federal elements (the cornerstone was laid in 1821) while drawing on the principles for liturgical architecture articulated by the Liturgical Movement and tailoring it to the ethos of the 1979 prayer book. The reconstruction, completed in 1985, used a significant altar from St. John's, Varick St., a massive, Georgian-style church finished in 1807 but demolished in 1918 (after which the congregation joined St. Luke's). It also relocated the font from the "liturgical south" side of the altar to its current position, near the main door. The font is now atop a graceful platform that slightly elevates the ministers and candidates at baptism, to improve the congregation's view of the liturgical action. The choir was moved from the chancel to the organ loft, and multiple side altars were removed. The chancel itself, which had been deepened by a nineteenth-century renovation, was altered by moving the altar to stand on a wooden platform in proximity to the people, while the deep chancel was screened by a partition to create a chapel for small services of daily worship. A columbarium was added in the 1990s. The result of these architectural changes is a space that reflect its Federal origins but is well suited to the liturgy of the 1979 prayer book.

Just as the old building was adapted to fit the a Liturgical Movement sensibility, so the traditional Anglo-Catholic liturgy was recast to reflect the ethos of the Movement and of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. A small feature or two persists from the older tradition: the practice of vesting an assisting priest as a deacon and performing all of the diaconal functions is not really imagined by the 1979 book, which apportions the functions differently when there is an assisting priest but no deacon. Similarly, in-house customaries describe the lay assistant vested in a tunicle as a "subdeacon," a remnant from pre-Vatican 2 liturgy. But these small features do not detract from the overall sense that the liturgy at St. Luke-in-the-Fields captures the essence of the 1979 prayer book's theology and ethos, as refracted through the Anglo-Catholic tradition. If one wanted to show a stranger what the 1979 prayer book envisioned behind its pages, one would do well to take them to St. Luke's.


A note about context and statistics:

The statistical sources used to look at other parishes in this project can be slightly misleading when examining St. Luke's. First, a statistical area with a three-mile radius includes Hoboken, New Jersey, but not other parts of Manhattan—and it is more likely that someone from elsewhere in the borough might attend St. Luke's than that someone might cross the Hudson. Second, population densities and the sheer number of Episcopal parishes in Manhattan are quite different than in the rest of the country, in which a parish might well be the only Episcopal church in the three-mile radius. There are nineteen other parishes in Manhattan within three miles of St. Luke's, and as a result ministering to one's context has a different meaning.  Figures from the New York City Department of City Planning are more useful because of their geographical divisions, which allow an examination of the West Village and of Manhattan as a whole. 

Manhattan and West Village population and economic figures are from the NYC Department of City Planning, which relies on the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey data for 2010-14  (, accessed 1/5/2018). US national figures are from the US Census Bureau ( and, accessed 1/15/2018). 2014 national figures have been used for uniformity with the NYC data.

Economic data on the cost of living is from the Council for Community and Economic Research, as reported by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development in June 2014.