Saturday, October 23, 2010

No names will be mentioned ...

One day in the summer of 2009, I headed to a town ... we'll just say somewhere east of Toledo, and spent the day photographing some stunning old churches (both Lutheran and Catholic). Near the end of the day, as I was heading out of town, I came upon another Lutheran church and stopped to take some exterior shots, none of which appear here because I don't wish to make the church readily identifiable. When planning a road trip, it is my usual habit to contact out-of-town churches and set up a time when I can get inside to take a few shots; however, I have visited a few churches unannounced and requested permission to take photos, which the church in question is free to either allow or disallow. Seeing that some folks were arriving for a meeting, I decided to knock on the door and ask permission to take photos.

I did so and was greeted by a gracious-enough gentleman who went to get a certain lady who turned out to be involved with church council. Wow ... from her reaction, you'd think I had asked permission to set the place on fire. First, she demanded in a confrontational manner to see my ID, which of course I produced because I have no problem with identifying myself. She then said I could come in for a few minutes but that they were getting ready to have a meeting. What I should have done right then was just LEAVE, and tell her I'd contact the church office. But knowing that I probably wouldn't get back out that way, I did go in and took as many shots of the sanctuary as I could squeeze into five minutes. While I was doing this, I was approached again by this lady, who basically began to interrogate me about why I was taking pictures and what I was going to do with them. She was clearly suspicious of my presence. She kept asking me my name; I finally asked her name, of which she gave only her first name. I explained this blog to her as politely as possible. I didn't hesitate to drop both my pastor's name AND Bishop Lohrmann's name, since he knows about this blog. I didn't say what I was really thinking, which was, lady, I'm NOT casing this place and I'm NOT going to be waiting outside with a gun!

The church was built in the 1970's, to replace an older building which still stands, and is now used by a different denomination. The congregation itself goes back much further. Among the items they brought from their old building are a nice altar crucifix and a lovely statue of Christ. The newer font nicely complements the ultramodern character of the church itself.

I had originally intended to post no photos of this church. But well over a year later, I said forget it, I'm putting up a few of these because they're nice photos! I appreciate being allowed with no advance notice to take the photos I did; but if it was really that much of an inconvenience for me to be there even for five minutes, or if anyone there was really that suspicious about my motives, why didn't they just say no??? It would have been fine; I would have understood!

I just hope that if total strangers come walking in there on Sunday morning -- and that may well be happening since the church is located in a tourist area -- that they are given a much warmer welcome!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Messiah Lutheran, Point Place, Toledo

This is the church that holds my earliest memories, that I grew up in, where I was baptized and confirmed. My adult life has taken me away from Point Place, however; and I had not returned since my brother's wedding over 25 years ago. Then, a couple years ago, I had the opportunity to attend an Easter vigil service at this church. A look at their website left me unexpectedly surprised and delighted with the photos of the extensive renovation that the church had undergone in recent years. I needed to see more! The church was brand-new at the time of my being there. Built in 1954, I remember it as being just about as sparse and spare and ultra-modern as 1950's extreme ultra-modern could get. Lots of blonde wood and right angles; cinderblock and linoleum; pale, blah non-colors; and NO ornamentation. NONE. On NOTHING. PERFECTION PLAIN.

Imagine how I felt the first time I entered what I snarkingly refer to as a REAL church ... which in my case, I believe was First English. Geez, even the old St. John's Catholic was more memorable.

I don't have any photos of the church as it used to be (for reasons that need no explanation, my brother was unwilling to offer any of his wedding photos; and I have no clue where my confirmation photos are, which I probably wouldn't post anyway for the same reasons!). If I manage to find any, I'll post them and try not to be too snarky about it!

While I had only my old camera with me at that vigil service and the flash was messing up, I got out there at a later date to photograph the church in better lighting. By then, my sense of surprise had been replaced by utter astonishment, and my sense of delight was off the graph!

The first thing I saw ... OMG, they put a REAL roof on the place! (Just picture it without the roof -- that's how it used to look. The flat roof had become a major maintenance problem, with water pooling up and leaking through. Best way to fix it was to get rid of it!)

What, that can't be ... stained glass windows???!?!!!

And now this bell tower WORKS! Made me nearly bump my head on the roof of the car when I was parked alongside of it and the carillon cut loose!

And to see the sanctuary now, with the old memories spinning around in my head, was just about as delicious as it gets!

All that bland 50's blonde woodwork had been stained a darker color -- the pews, the doors, the cove rail under the ceiling, the cross hanging over the altar, hymn boards, even the organ ... all original woodwork had been given some wake-up color. And they put drywall up over that awful cinderblock and got rid of that ugly carpet!

And let's talk about that chancel! That rear section, where the choir chairs and organ now are, used to be a plain (I can't say "plain" often enough!) step-up platform with an altar that pretty much looked like a schoolroom bookcase. Now ... completely redone and wonderfully inspiring; the floor is polished hardwood, and that lovely round altar and rail were handmade by a member of the congregation. Amazing work!!

Note the two backlit stained glass panel cases on the back wall: The one on the left is new; the one on the right was the window over the altar of the legendary Little White Church. Yes ... after 40 years, all the stained glass from the Little White Church had been found in storage somewhere around there -- and was put to great use all through the renovation. You'll see more as we go along ...

The pulpit and lectern, now side by side, were also handmade. Probably the same for the font, although I didn't ask about it. The left-hand transept used to contain a riser-pew choir loft next to the organ.

And the windows! ... the old windows were these narrow frosted-glass things, that had become loose and leaky with time. They were thankfully replaced with these big, beautiful clear glass windows with wide windowsills at the bottom. Now there's a place for Christmas decorations, Easter lilies, wedding flowers, whatever they want to have to make the place look more festive. And the three big stained glass windows in the transepts -- I never thought I'd see the day!

The original recessed lighting is now augmented with stylish hanging lamps.

The right-hand transept used to have a flat choir loft used by the children's choirs (I did plenty of time there). It now has chairs instead of a loft, and a bell choir table. Love that Holy Trinity icon! (The senior pastor who served up until the time I was in high school, whose name will not be mentioned, was so anti-Catholic that I imagine he did an enormous flip-flop in his grave the day that was hung on the wall!)

He probably did flip-flops over this too! This magnificent work of art graces a very noticeable spot at the rear of the church. It was a gift to the church at the time of their renovation. Risen-Lord crucifixes have become quite commonplace now, and I've seen some rather cheesy ones. This is NOT one of those!!

I thought at first that this was a new organ. No -- it's the same old one, as renovated as the rest of the place, with a new darker coat of stain and a state-of-the-art sound system plugged into it. The sound is wonderful!

Some closeups of the new windows. The south-facing ones have shades. Note the framed panels at the top. The only hint of sacred art in the original design was those frosted-glass chrismons you see at the top of the panels. Each one of the old windows had a chrismon at the top. The chrismons were saved and mounted into those frames along with new stained glass panels to harmonize with the windows in the transepts.

What a breath of fresh air -- and fresh light!!

Closeups of the three new transept windows...

The new panel behind the altar ...

And the fondly-remembered Gethsemane window from 1925, when Point Place was just an isolated lakeside hamlet.

Even this hallway door's window was replaced with a lovely stained glass panel. The only original frosted-glass window remaining in the sanctuary is in the sacristy door.

Stylish eternal flame oil lamp. I don't even think there was an eternal flame in the old church!

And what have we here? ... why, it's the original altar, now in a lounge/classroom area behind the sanctuary. I don't really remember that painting -- could it have been downstairs somewhere? When I first visited, they had a coffeepot sitting on top of this. How Lutheran...

Now here is what became of the rest of the stained glass from the Little White Church. This is the panel that was mounted over the front door of the little church. It is now mounted over the back door, in what used to be a plain (there's that word again) window. The Little White Church was demolished in the mid-60's to make more parking space, but I remember the pewless sanctuary being used as a Sunday School space.

The rest of the stained glass was cut to size, framed, and used to give some artistry to the abundance of plain windows over the various doorways. Finally, the Little White Church lives on...

A closeup of a chrismon in a square frame, hanging in a lounge area.

And the front walkway, stretching from the office entrance to the parking lot, is now a memorial walkway and bricks can be purchased. These bricks list many of the church's pastors over the years:

Still ultramodern ... but now, fresh and distinctive and inspiring. The memories will always be there ... but the changes are wonderful!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I knew this was going to happen ...

Nearly 2 months ago, I finally found a job after being laid off since January of 2009. Far from being a downer, last year was just a big vacation and I did alot of things I hadn't had time for previously, this blog being one of them. But even though the new job is part-time, I'm finding that it's still taking a big chunk out of my computer time (and I'm still seeking another part-time job). I'm sure it's obvious that I just haven't had time to post the way I did before. Rather than these sweeping photo collections of each church I've visited, I will probably go to posting shorter reviews of each one, and several reviews of the same church if needed to get everything posted. If anyone would like to become a contributor and help out with this, please let me know, thanks!
- S.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Happy and Blessed Easter to All!

(the Resurrection window, St. John's Lutheran, Oak Harbor)

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia, alleluia!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Requiescat in Pace

Pastor Larry Smith of Epiphany Lutheran, Toledo, who led the congregation for nearly 15 years. The last time I saw him was at the Toledo Symphony concert in December. He'll be sorely missed. Please remember Pastor Smith, his family, and Epiphany in your prayers.

Welcome Pastors Olson to St. Paul's!

In the Toledo Blade, February 13, 2010:
Lars And Katherine Olson Become Co-pastors Of St. Paul's Sunday

May God bless and enrich the ministries of the Olsons, and of St. Paul's. Welcome!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

St. Paul's Lutheran, Toledo

The grand old church on the courthouse square; Toledo's second oldest Lutheran congregation!

From the history page on the church website:

St. Paul’s was organized on Sept. 1st, 1857, with Pastor Carl Markscheffel its first pastor. St. Paul’s is the second oldest Lutheran church in Toledo…

The founding members of St. Paul’s were originally members of Salem but broke away [because of dissatisfaction with certain church practices; and also because horse car service hadn't started in Toledo yet and it was an awful long walk from the South End-my words]...On March 1st, 1858, Lot No. 1411 was purchased by the members in the "Vistula Division" on Erie St. ...Construction of the new church began immediately on its present day site…On Good Friday April 16th, 1858 services were held in the newly built church…May 2nd, 1858 the church was dedicated by Pastor Markscheffel "who presented the building to the Lord under the name of the Evangelisch-Lutherisch St. Paulus Kirche". In 1866 a decision was made to construct a brick church…On August 15th, 1867, the cornerstone was laid and the new “brick church” was dedicated on the Sunday before Christmas of 1868. The church had no steeple or bells. The choir loft was small, the basement unfinished, no furnace, gas or electricity. The ceiling was flat, there was no altar niche, and the church had a single entrance. The members were proud of their accomplishments. The total cost was $18,353.00.

In 1876 preparations were made for building a steeple, and a bell weighing 4,000 pounds was ordered [from Germany]. By the end of 1877 the steeple was completed and the bell installed...shortly after the new altar was installed with the statues of Christ and the four Evangelists...In 1888 improvements in the church continued with the erection of a wall at the front of the property because Erie St. had been raised. The ceiling of the church was vaulted and two additional doors, on each side of the main entrance were added to the front. In 1896 electric lights were installed.

... and at that point, it pretty much looked like this:
On September 21st, 1924 the new parish house was dedicated. Space was now available for a church office, pastor’s study, a ladies parlor, living quarters for the custodian, an auditorium and class rooms for the Sunday school. A gymnasium with showers and lockers was also a part of the new five story building.

EXCEPTIONAL Gothic detailing, and tracery on these windows, especially the large one! What a work of art this parish house is!
(Exterior photos in this section by Jeffrey Smith.)Look at that gargoyle!

Major renovations to the church took place in 1953. An effort was made to have the renovated church blend in with the Gothic style of the parish house erected in 1924. Among the improvements were the facing of the church with stone, the building of a new base for the steeple, the complete remodeling of the front entrance, the formation of the narthex by construction of a glass walled partition at the rear of the church, the addition of a first aid room and cloakroom, new pews, and the complete redecoration of the chancel and nave. The old pews, pulpit and other woodwork that was stained dark were replaced with light oak wood construction material. This brightened the whole inside considerably. Air conditioning was installed and the nave windows were replaced with stained glass. Seating capacity would now be about 800.

At this point, it's arguable that the church interior NEEDED brightening, since by then the north side of the church was enclosed by the parish house, and the south side by that five-story office building that was erected around the turn of the century.Another historic shot from the same angle, for comparison. How things have changed!This stained glass window over the front doors, carries depictions of the church before and after the parish house was added.
Photo of new-church panel by Jeffrey Smith.
These windows were installed during the 1953 remodeling. Only one of them, at the right-hand front of the sanctuary, is open enough to the outside to catch the sun all the way across.
Each of these elaborate windows centers on a scene depicting an event in the life of Christ. Various other chrismons and symbolism appear elsewhere on the windows.
The butterfly, a symbol of the Resurrection that doesn't seem to be used very often in church art.The windows were difficult to focus on, not only because of the angle needed to focus on some of them (I should have brought a tripod), but because of the lack of light on the other side.
Instruments of the Passion -- a couple of them, anyway. This isn't often used in Lutheran church art, but is frequently seen in historic Catholic church art.Moses and St. Paul are in small rooms at the sides of the front door ... first-aid rooms, or utility rooms. I don't know if they're from 1953 or earlier. But I wonder why these striking windows were placed, or left, in such hidden locations...
Windows running up into the balcony -- much easier to focus on!
The hand of God and the Holy Spirit are high on the wall over the altar.
Now those ceiling beams are ASTOUNDING, as is that marvelous curved balcony!!
A closeup, taken in the balcony, of the detailing on the beams.This is the altar that was installed around 1878. While the rest of the chancel was outfitted with wood paneling and the pulpit and lectern replaced during the 1953 remodeling, this treasure was thankfully retained.
Sts. Matthew and Mark ...
... and Sts. Luke and John.
This font, like all the other chancel furnishings, is from the 1953 remodeling.One of the historic photos on the website, of the chancel before the remodeling. I'd love to know what became of not only that pulpit canopy, but of that original baptismal font, since that is where my mother was baptized on December 13, 1931 ...
The wonderful full-front view from the balcony.
Yes, it's LOUD!
I didn't get into the parish house any further than the front door, but I couldn't miss this gorgeous ribbed ceiling!There are portrait collages in the basement fellowship hall, of all of St. Paul's pastors.This is hidden by the surrounding buildings, but ... if you walk down the alleyway from the parking lot, you can see the back of the church as it was long ago ...

In Jan. 1978 St. Paul’s was asked to consider moving its location by the Toledo Development Committee because of plans to locate a City-County-State office building on the church site. This would later be known as the Government Center Building. The proposal was made to St. Paul’s for construction of a new church and parish house complex on Erie St. one block north of the current church site. The original cost for building the new complex was estimated at 3.2 million dollars and later change to 2.9 million and would be paid through the sale of St. Paul’s present site to the State.

The first proposal in Jan. of 1978 for the sale of the church site was voted down by a more than 2 to 1 decision of the congregation. In mid April of 1978 the Board of Trustees mailed to the Congregation details of the new complex including a color rendering of the new church and parish house. The Trustees requested a “vote of confidence” to proceed with negotiations to obtain the new building site. The church steeple in the rendering was close to the present one and other than that, the new church would look completely different from the current one.

The Trustees called the project “an opportunity of a life-time” and said it would give new life to a congregation that had declining membership and was looking at major expenses in the short term to renovate the present church.

On Sunday April 30th, 1978, the congregation voted in a special meeting against pursuing the proposal of a new site and church construction. It was apparent by the show of hands that the members had not changed their opinion expressed in the ballot vote taken in January. The issue of re-locating the church was dropped.

YEAH! YEAH!! Kudos to the congregation of 1978, for NOT selling out their heritage for 40 pieces of silver! I can't believe the city just wanted to TRASH this shining part of Toledo's history! Government Center worked out just fine being across the street. And the Church with a Heart in the Heart of Toledo still proudly stands as one of downtown Toledo's inspiring historic showpieces, and continues its mission to all that it serves.