Friday, April 22, 2011

Grace Lutheran, Fremont - exterior

Utterly magnificent ... palatial ... the best Lutheran church in NW Ohio! Now THIS is what I'm talking about when I say, small town treasure!

This Gothic Revival masterpiece was built in 1928-29. In 1946, the church began an ambitious project to replace the stained glass windows, which continued for over 25 years! Those windows are also masterpieces which will be covered in another post, just as extensively as I can!

This aerial photo of the entire complex is from the back cover of a book detailing the stained glass windows. The sanctuary, parish house, and former parsonage, now used for offices, cover an entire city block and wrap themselves around a cloistered courtyard. The church itself is cruciform in its layout.
I love these lacy quatrefoils ...

The parish house from inside the courtyard.
Wonderful carvings of an owl and eagle over a parish house door.

Nice monastic feel to this ...
The sanctuary windows also used to be this sort of smoke-glass geometric, but the congregation eventually decided to make some changes -- and they went whole-hog with it. The windows as they are now, beautifully complement the elegant, palatial nature of the building.
The former parsonage houses a day care center as well as the church offices.

Even the downspouts have class!

This green man standing watch at a rear door is a nice little surprise ...

Reaching for the sky, this beautiful steeple over the left transept ...

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!