Episcopal Church making over St. Luke's

LA CRESCENTA — A day after it gained control of St. Luke’s of the Mountains Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles Tuesday in initiated a major property makeover.

Landscape workers were busy early Tuesday, using a bulldozer to clear dead plants and tending to a garden that had fallen into poor condition in recent months, said the Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese.

“It was sad for me yesterday when I saw how it had fallen into disarray,” said Bruno, who thought the grounds had not been well-managed as the diocese’s court-mandated date for taking over the church approached.

The property, at 2563 Foothill Blvd., was the home of St. Luke’s Anglican Church until its final service at the site Sunday, following a three-year legal battle for ownership of the building.

The diocese prevailed in the lawsuit, which resulted in a court order for the Anglican congregation to move out Monday.

The Anglican congregation had been affiliated with the diocese until 2006, but broke away following the election of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

St. Luke’s Anglican Church will begin holding its services Sunday at Seventh Day Adventist Church on Vallejo Drive in Glendale, while the Episcopal church is scheduled to hold its first service at the reclaimed Foothill Boulevard site at 2 p.m. the same day.

The diocese hopes to make significant improvements to the property, which was once “the crown of the San Gabriel Valley and La Crescenta,” Bruno said.

“When I saw the property and saw the condition it was in, we called [landscaping crews] yesterday and started work to bring it to a vitality that it used to be,” he said.

Community members had, in recent months, noticed the rougher appearance of the St. Luke’s property, which was always a landmark on Foothill, said Steve Pierce, president of the Crescenta Valley Town Council.

“It’s always been a beautiful site, with the landscaping and the rock structure,” Pierce said. “It’s probably the most significant structure in our community and to see it sort of go the other direction was disappointing.”

Pierce welcomed the changes to the site.

Bruno would not offer specifics, but said some minor landscaping upgrades would be in place by Sunday.

The church had already replaced a sign and marquee with a blue-and-white sign reading “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” over the new church name, St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church.

The diocese plans some more significant property changes, including a new irrigation system to support landscaping improvements, but those will be completed over the long term, Bruno said.

Bruno hoped the “spruced up” site would attract community members back to the church after some former congregation members moved to other locations following the 2006 dispute, he said.

The church had been affiliated with the diocese for 85 years and had more than 400 active members before the congregation broke away, he said.

St. Luke’s Anglican Church reported attendance of about 175 at its final day of services at its old site, indicating that the Episcopal Church had plenty of room for growth in the area, he said.

“Its my hope that many of them will come back,” Bruno said. “This used to be a very large congregation.”

The diocese’s three bishops are scheduled to attend will the Sunday service, he said.

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