Thursday, August 27, 2009

A nod to my favorite church ...

Sorry I haven't done much here lately, I was working a temp job and I just plain haven't had time ... but I wanted to give a big HOO - RAH!!! to the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis during the course of last week ... and post a quick few outside shots of my favorite and best-overall church in NW Ohio: Grace, Fremont.

Friday, August 21, 2009

former Grace-Ascension Lutheran, Toledo

Sometimes the storied face of historic churches turns tragic.
This was the first location of Grace Lutheran Church. The congregation, established in 1900, built this cute little church at Forest and Pinewood in 1902, to serve its German neighborhood of that time. This is where my mother was confirmed, and my parents were married. Grace left this building in the early 50's, selling it to a new, predominantly African-American congregation called Ascension Lutheran. Ascension used the building until moving into their current location at Dorr and Collingwood, 30 years ago. I don't know who has owned the building since then ... but they *HAVE NOT* been good stewards of it.
This once-charming church is now a sorry, abandoned wreck and a blight on a neighborhood that already has too many blights.
These crosses, now rusted, still strike an unsettling profile against the sky.
Many of the windows still have partial panes that are original, but nearly all are broken and/or boarded. The original large trefoil window under this Gothic arch must have been beautiful.
There is one - count it, one - original window that is still intact. This is up over a doorway porch roof, less susceptible to being broken out. Lovely little windows these were.
This is what most of the windows look like - partially intact, but broken and boarded.
Cracked, stained cedar shingle ...
One old window (that looks ready to cave in) and one newer window in this gable.
The old postcard photo shows a nave much shorter than this. Everything going all the way back looks original, but I still have to assume that the back of the building was extended at some point after it was built ... quite skillfully.
Glass block in the basement windows?? ... The downspouts appeared fairly recent also. I am guessing that this church may have housed an active congregation perhaps as recently as 5 to 10 years ago, but things can go downhill awfully fast with an old building when no one cares for it any longer.

The sign out front - sad.
Old doors, but they're not original.
Sad ... that door hasn't been used in a LONG time ... is there any hope for this building?
The silver lining on this dark cloud is that Ascension took the beautiful, ornate Gothic chancel furnishings - altar, pulpit, carved wooden eagle lectern, font, lovely old silver Communion set, hymn board, and a couple of old pews! - with them to their current place. That's next.

Ascension Lutheran, Toledo

This inner-city congregation was started in the early 1950's, and took over the building at Forest and Pinewood that had been home to Grace Lutheran. They stayed there until this facility at Dorr and Collingwood was built, 30 years ago. Now, several social service agencies operate out of the church as well. These photos are from two separate visits, the first one last March for a rummage sale, and the second one on Ascension Day.
When you enter the narthex area, you'll see pictures of their former pastors. Now, Pastor John Berger oversees the congregation.
As you first enter the sanctuary - actually, they call it the chapel, and it's a simple all-purpose room with a sloping ceiling - this is what you see, and I became very excited the first time I saw that, thinking that there was only one place this could have come from. But it wasn't until talking to Pastor Berger, at the Ascension Day service, that I was indeed able to confirm that.
When they left the old church, they took all these glorious furnishings with them, rather than leave them to the dubious future that the old church now has.
My mother was confirmed and my parents were married before this altar!
In order to turn the table into a freestanding altar, it was cut away from the reredos (possibly also something that had to be done in the process of getting the altar out of the old church). I've also seen this done in a couple of historic churches now, done nicely; and it's certainly more acceptable an option than just ripping the whole thing out and coming in with a plain, sterile slab of something that flies in the face of the church's historic character.
Lovely lace piano cover.
I'll have to take a closer look at the dedication plaques on the font and pulpit the next time I'm in there.
Fantastic carved wood eagle lectern!
Lovely silver pitcher in the Communion set.
There are two pews that came from the old church. Both are different. This appears to be the older of the two. It's in a corner of the chapel.
And this old pew is in the narthex.
A few photos from the Ascension Day service ...
I didn't make note of this vicar's name, my bad. He is from Detroit and was soon to be ordained. From listening to him preach about his experiences in the church and in the process of becoming a pastor, my feeling is that he'll be an inspired leader.
The multifaith choir draws from both Ascension and All Saints Episcopal on Pinewood.
The two directors were presented with certificates of appreciation.
This was a wonderful service. Pastor Berger sat this one out, and handed the baton off to pastors from St. Paul's, Salem, Glenwood, and All Saints. It was a beautiful liturgy and very enjoyable to hear a sermon from the pastor from Detroit. Ascension is a very small congregation now, but they partner with All Saints and the social agencies that work out of their location, and still do some very needed and blessed work in their central-city neighborhood.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The statues of Bethlehem Lutheran, Pemberville

Under an arch at the right-hand front of the sanctuary, are displayed these antique statues: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John the Baptist, two angels, and a dove that was atop an old baptismal font. They are beautifully preserved now, thanks to the efforts of church historian Dale Bruning and restorative artist Valerie French.
The statues are around 145 years old. They were originally displayed on the altar in Bethlehem's old church, built in 1862. This scan, from Bethlehem's 125th anniversary booklet in 1986, shows the interior of the old church, with the statues visible on the altar.
A closeup, showing Pastor Winterhoff. This photo would have been taken somewhere between 1899 and 1908.
The current church as it would have appeared when it was new in 1908, with the old altar still in place and the dove on top of the font clearly visible.
According to Dale Bruning: "The statues were in the original church and when the present church was completed and dedicated in May 1909 the altar furnishings (the statues and angels, baptismal font with the dove and pulpit) were all moved into the new church. In 1944 the church was redecorated. The altar, which was painted white, was stripped and stained an oak color as was the pulpit. The statues, which were in a bad condition, were stored in the attic, and the dove placed in a box. Here they remained until 2004, a period of sixty years. I was alerted and shown their location in the attic. I spoke with my brother, Bob and his wife, Joanne, and showed them the statues. Joanne said that she knew of a place in Bowling Green that might do restoration work. I went to Bowling Green and came in contact with Valerie French. I had taken one of the statues along. She looked at it and said that she would like to have this type of reconstruction project, but that she would do it at home in her studio."
"With someone to do the restoring Bob and I went to the Church Council and asked for permission to have the statues and angels restored at no cost to the church. Council unanimously agreed and the project went forward."
"This turned out to be a much more difficult project than anticipated. Hands etc. were missing; cracks etc. But Valerie did a tremendous job of restoration even to matching the original paint. I would venture to say that the 5 pieces look better now than when they were new. Valerie also had the niches constructed. Volunteers did the necessary cutting into the arch to place the niches. There was opposition to placing them back on the altar, so we had to find a new home. Everyone now says it looks as though the statues have always been in the arch."
"I was shown the dove at a later point in time and when Valerie delivered the statues in January 2007 I asked if she would consider restoring the dove, to which she consented. The dove is hand carved and very beautiful."
St. Peter with the keys to the Kingdom ...
... and St. Paul with his sword.
St. John the Baptist ... how unusual! ... is the largest of the statues.
From Dale Bruning: "Valerie French lives on McCutcheonville Road, Perrysburg, Ohio. She did the scenic set pieces for the Toledo Opera's production of "Salome" at the Valentine Theater last March. She is a very talented lady; we were fortunate to have had her expert services." This is most certainly true! The beauty and artistry of these statues speaks for itself. Bethlehem is fortunate to be able to display these statues again, beautifully restored; and fortunate also for people like Dale Bruning who care about the church's heritage. Thanks for all your help, Dale!