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Our History

A Short History of the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene 

St. Luke’s Church, Genesee Falls was founded in 1817, the first Episcopal Church (and the second church of any kind) in the new settlement
of Rochesterville. Among the founders, and the first Warden of the congregation, was Colonel Nathaniel Rochester. The cornerstone for the present St. Luke’s was laid in 1824. It is the oldest public building still in use in the City of Rochester. The church was dedicated on September 30, 1827 by the Right Rev. John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York (in the days when New York was one diocese). In the 19th century, St. Luke’s gave birth in whole or part to eight Episcopal churches: St. Paul’s (1827), Trinity (1845), Christ (1855), Good Shepherd (1863), Epiphany (1866), St. Clement’s (St. Andrew’s) (1871), St. John’s (1875), and St. Stephen’s (1892). Mission work among the deaf in the diocese was begun here in 1874, and the Church Home founded with the aid of the parish in 1868.

Among the Vestrymen in the early days of the Church were some well known Rochester names: Jonathan Child (the first mayor of the city), Oliver Culver, William W. Mumford, Elisha Strong and William Pitkin. 

Eleven individuals served as rector of St. Luke’s over the years: The Rev. Francis H. Cuming (1820-1829) (who was implicated in the Masonic “Morgan Affair”), the Rev. Henry J. Whitehouse (1829-1844) (Whitehouse was later Bishop of Illinois), the Rev. Thomas C. Pitkin (1844-1847), the Rev. Henry W. Lee (1848-1855) (Lee was consecrated Bishop of Iowa in 1855 at St. Luke’s), the Rev. Benjamin Watson (1855-1859), the Rev. R. Bethell Claxton (1859-1865), the Rev. Henry Anstice (1866-1897), the Rev. Rob Roy McGregor Converse (1897-1915), the Rev. Dr. Samuel Tyler (1916-1932), the Rev. Dr. Frederick M. Winnie (1933-1972 ), and the Rev. Bruce Hansen (1973-1987). 

St. Simon’s Church was founded in 1921 by a small group determined to establish an Episcopal Church in Rochester specifically for African-
Americans. The first service was led by Bishop Edward Demby, Suffragan Bishop for Colored Work in Arkansas. The Rev. Charles Allison helped with the founding and cared for the congregation in its early years. Among the places where they temporarily worshipped was St. Luke’s. Recognized as a mission of the Diocese of Western New York (as it was then) in 1922, they called their first vicar in 1927, and erected a church building in 1934 on Oregon Street. In 1960 they became a parish of the Diocese of Rochester. During the 1960’s several significant community ministries were founded out of St. Simon’s, including the Oregon-Leopold Day Care Center, St. Simon’s Terrace, and the Right On School. Clergy and members of the congregation were significant leaders in Rochester through the struggle for civil rights, including during the riots of 1964 and the FIGHT organization that followed them. 

Five clergy served as vicar or rector of St. Simon’s over the years: The Rev. Frank L. Brown (1927-1945), the Rev. Marcus James (1945-1946), the Rev. Quinton E. Primo, Jr. (1947-1963) (Primo was later Bishop Suffragan of Chicago), the Rev. Canon St. Julian Simpkins (1963-1983), and the Rev. H. Gregory Smith (1985-1987). 

On December 31, 1987, after more than a year of conversation, St. Luke’s and St. Simon’s merged to form the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene. Father Smith served as the first rector until 1990 (with Father Hansen serving as Associate Rector). The Rev. Gayle Elizabeth Harris was called to be the second rector in 1992 and served until she was elected Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts in 2002. The Rev. Richard Comegys served as Interim Rector from 2002-2004. Since the merger, St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, or “Two Saints” has continued support of the Oregon-Leopold Daycare Center and the Right On School, as well as becoming active in the Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN), which runs a shelter for homeless families who need assistance while they return to work and/or housing. The Very Rev. Michael W. Hopkins became the third rector of the combined parish on October 1, 2004. He became, in addition, the Dean of Rochester in 2011. He had served for fourteen years as first Vicar and then Rector of St. George’s Church, Glenn Dale, Maryland, in the Diocese of Washington. Dean Hopkins, however, was raised in Steuben County, New York, where his family still lives. In 2007, Two Saints entered a covenant relationship with St. Stephen’s Church, 350 Chili Ave., which continues to this day. It means the sharing of many ministries and programming.

The Parish's Bishops

  • The Rt. Rev. John Henry Hobart, 3rd Bishop of New York (1816-1830) consecrated St. Luke's; is remembered on the Episcopal
    Church's calendar on September 12
  • The Rt. Rev. Benjamin T. Onderdonk, 4th Bishop of New York (1830-1861)
  • The Rt. Rev. William H. Delancey, 1st Bishop of Western New York (1839-1865). The Diocese of Western New York created in 1839.
  • The Rt. Rev. Arthur C. Coxe, 2nd Bishop of Western New York (1865-1896)
  • The Rt. Rev. William D. Walker, 3rd Bishop of Western New York (1897-1917)
  • The Rt. Rev. Charles Henry Brent, 4th Bishop of Western New York (1917-1929). Bishop Brent is remembered on the Episcopal Church's calendar on March 27.
  • The Rt. Rev. David L. Ferris, 5th Bishop of Western New York (1929-1931), 1st Bishop of Rochester (1931-1938). The Diocese of Rochester was created in 1931.
  • The Rt. Rev. Bartel Reinheimer, 2nd Bishop of Rochester (1938-1949
  • The Rt. Rev. Dudley S. Stark, 3rd Bishop of Rochester (1950-1962)
  • The Rt. Rev. George L. Barrett, 4th Bishop of Rochester (1963-1969)
  • The Rt. Rev. Robert Rae Spears, 5th Bishop of Rochester (1970-1984)
  • The Rt. Rev. William G. Burrill, 6th Bishop of Rochester (1984-1999). The merger of the two congregations took place under Bishop Burrill
  • The Rt. Rev. Jack M. McKelvey, 7th Bishop of Rochester (2000-2008)
  • The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, 8th Bishop of Rochester (2008- )