When I first came to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in 2000, the congregation was looking to grow, not only in size but in commitment to the surrounding community. That has always been the hallmark of St. Luke’s.
Our church has many different expressions of community outreach. We’ve got a theater program, an early childhood daycare center, and an afterschool program. On any given weekday, we’ve got toddlers downstairs, children upstairs and adolescents and teens in the theater, and we don’t see ourselves stopping there. At times our physical space is at capacity, so we look outside of our church space to find ways to be engaged.
For example, we have an annual holiday program that our congregation looks forward to every year. We collect gifts and holiday items and distribute them to families in Queens Community House’s Eviction Prevention program. Each year there are more and more names on the list of families in need. It started out at about 50 children and has now grown to over 100. But we stay committed no matter how long that list grows. We also do what we can to supply food and volunteers to QCH’s monthly food pantry.
Outreach is a big piece of who we are. It’s about putting faith into action. It’s not about showing off faith, but rather demonstrating compassionate care where it needs to be. It’s a big part of the beating heart here at St. Luke’s.
William J. Stokes is a native North Carolinian and has served the church as a musician all his life. He was a choirboy for one year at the Church of the Holy Comforter, Burlington, North Carolina, and from high school years until the present, has played for liturgy and conducted choirs of all ages in the praise of God.
Bill (everyone calls him that except his late grandmother who always said, His name is William!) attended the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, where he assisted Dr David Craighead at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and became a confirmed Episcopalian. He holds a graduate degree from the School of Sacred Music, Union Theological Seminary in New York City along with the Associate and Choirmaster certifications from the American Guild of Organists. Additional study has included the Aspen Choral Institute for three years and a summer intensive at New College, Oxford, England. He has served as organist and choir director of St. Luke’s Church Forest Hills since 2006.
Attendance at performances of choral masterworks with the choir and great organ of Duke University Chapel during his formative years along with a brief period of observation at Washington Cathedral gave him an appreciation of both the beauty and splendor of music in a grand space and the transforming power of music in the liturgy. It is hoped that our music in St. Luke’s, a beautiful and intimate space, will be similarly uplifting.
Joseph J. Occhiuto was born on an unseasonably warm Ash Wednesday at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
He was raised with his younger siblings (two brothers and twin sisters); later his family moved to Middle Village, Queens.
Joseph was raised a Roman Catholic and was led by the faithful example of his parents. After 4 years of studies Joseph was ordained a permanent Deacon for the Brooklyn Diocese on April 25, 1987 and for the following 10 years served at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Williamsburg where he taught adult religious education, ministered to the poor, and counseled those in need.
In 1997 Joseph began his life as an Episcopalian at St. Paul’s in Whitestone, Queens, moved on to St. Paul’s in Carroll Gardens and finally discovered St. Luke’s in Forest Hills, Queens where he increased his involvement in service. Subsequently Joseph studied at the Mercer School of Theology and on December 5th, 2015 Joseph’s Diaconal Holy Orders were received into The Episcopal Church by Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano. Subsequently Bishop Provenzano assigned Joseph to Church of the Ascension where his ministry included the “Greenpoint Community Table” and the Angelmobile Meals of the North Brooklyn Angels.
Joseph is a product of New York City’s public school system, including Grover Cleveland High School and Hunter College. He began his 25+ year career in advertising at Grey Global Group where he was a Director of Finance. Joseph is now semi-retired, which permits more time for ministry, and is a manager at Trader Joe’s in Queens. Joseph’s motto is “Never give up. Never give in. Always keep going. Ours is not to question why. Ours is to trust in God and not be afraid.”