Theology & Architecture

Grace Lutheran Church
South Range, Michigan
Written by ~ Dale R. Skogman, Pastor
14th Pastor of Grace
1965 to 1971

Now therefore:
You are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

Jesus Christ himself:
Being the chief corner stone.
~ Saint Paul

Welcome to Grace Lutheran
It is with the hope and intention that the members, friends and visitors of Grace Lutheran might better understand the theology, architecture and symbolism of our new church complex that this brochure has been prepared. We, the members of Grace Lutheran, feel most fortunate to possess this new House of Worship. We welcome all visitors and friends to share our church and we hope you will find it meaningful for your spiritual life.
~ Dale R. Skogman, Pastor, 14th Pastor of Grace, 1965 to 1971

In January, 1966 the Grace Lutheran congregation at its annual meeting authorized the formation of a Planning Council to study the future program of the congregation and its facilities in relationship to its program. As a result of this action, several committees were formed to study the mission of the congregation as it related to its worship, education and fellowship life. Over fifty person served on the committees which made for a representative cross-section of the congregation. The reports of these committees were presented to the congregation on October 16, 1966 for action. Among the several proposals presented, it was recommended and approved to relocate the congregation and to construct a new church. Every aspect of the church program and the feasibility of buildings were investigated. In addition to the needs of the congregation and its program, the lay-out of the new building and its theology were written out in detail. Resulting from these plans was a building that was not formed by chance, but one that was carefully designed with its function in mind. The first service of worship was held in the new building on Palm Sunday, March 30, 1969. The Service of Dedication was held on June 1, 1969.  In the following pages we have attempted to describe briefly the theology and architecture of the building in order that it might be better understood.

Floor Plan with Number Code & Description
1. Nave: Described in detail elsewhere in brochure
2. Fellowship Hall: a multi-purpose room serving the following functions
a. Fellowship area for dinners, receptions, etc.
b. Sunday School space for grades 5, 6, 7, & 8
c. Overflow space for the nave. Windows in the end wall and loudspeaker in the ceiling permit participation
3. Storage Room: for tables, chairs, etc.
4. Storage: for garbage cans, lawn equipment, etc.
5. Kitchen
6. Utility Room
7. Men’s Restroom
8. Janitors Storage Closet
9. Women’s Restroom
10. Sacristy: Provides storage for vestments, audio-visual supplies, usher supplies, communion vessels, etc.
11. Narthex
12. Library: Houses congregation’s circulating library as well as Sunday School supplies, etc.
13. Pastors Study
14. Nursery: Used for Sunday School for 3 year olds and as nursery for morning worship
15. Children’s Restroom
16. Kindergarten I (4 year olds)
17. Kindergarten II (5 year olds)
18. Grades I & II (folding partition divides into two rooms)
19. Multi-Purpose Room: serves for
a. Choir robing and warm-up room
b. Overflow for worship with windows and speaker
c. Sunday School room for grades III & IV
d. Council & Confirmation meeting room

The Site
The building sits on a plot of ground which is nearly four acres in size. This land was a gift from the Copper Range Company to the congregation. The site was chosen with care and with the following principles in mind:
* The place the congregation in a prominent site in the community
* To locate on one of the two major highways leading into the Copper Country, namely Highway M-26
* To be in a strategic position to serve the entire Range communities
The influx of tourists and visitors, as well as the community attention which the congregation has witnessed underscores the practicality of the decision to relocate to this site.

Based on Ancient Church Plan
While our new House of God appears very contemporary in design, it is actually an adaptation of a type of plan used by Christians in ancient times. In the churches of the early centuries the altar was placed in a relatively central position, being surrounded by the ministers, choir and people. In the middle ages the alter was removed as fat from the lay people as possible; the priest was required to turn his back to the people as he offered an “unbloody sacrifice” to God. In the 16th century Martin Luther opposed this idea of the mass. The Holy Sacrament belongs to the whole congregation he insisted. It is not a mere sacrifice offered by man to God; it is God’s giving of the real presence of Christ to his living church. Luther once wrote: “In the true mass of real Christians, the altar could not remain where it is (against the east wall) and the priest should always face the people, as doubtless Christ did in the Last Supper.” Four centuries later, Grace congregation in South Range has attempted to carry out the implication of the Reformation doctrine in building its new church.

The Nave
The nave is the central part of the church complex and several of the items in the nave deserve explanation:

The Altar
As we enter the church from the main entrance we see that the altar is central. This is one of the major reasons for the glass windows in the wall of the nave which allow persons entering to see the alter. It is intended that from the very first entrance, the altar should dominate the building. The altar represents the perfect sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the world. As the family of God, we gather around this altar to be reminded of His love and to receive our spiritual nourishment through the word and sacrament. In this way we witness to the centrality of worship in the Christian life. Branching off from the nave with its dominating altar are the fellowship wing to the right and the educational-administrative wing to the left. While worship is central for the Christian, he also seeks to reinforce his worship life by the process of learning and fellowship. As you move into the nave, the altar retains its centrality. This is achieved by placing the congregation and the choir around the altar at the right angles.

The Pulpit
Man churches today are omitting the pulpit and the pastor preaches directly from the altar. In our nave we have retained the pulpit to give emphasis to the preaching of the Word of God. The pulpit, however, is placed behind the altar so as to keep the altar central as it witnesses to God’s supreme act for the salvation of mankind in the death and resurrection of Christ. The preaching of the Word must bear witness to this act.

The Baptismal Font
Central to Christian belief is the thought that a person becomes a child of God and a member of His body, the church, by the Sacrament of Baptism. To symbolically underscore this fact, the church through the ages has given attention to the placement of the baptismal font. Each placement on the font has sought to bear witness to this concept of “entrance” into God’s family by Baptism.
* In the early church baptism was often held in a separate structure from the church. Only after a person was baptized could he “enter” the church.
* Later the font was placed in a side enclosure attached to the church proper. Baptism was still seen as a “preparation” to enter.
* Some churches moved the font from a separate enclosure to the entrance of the church. A new Roman Catholic church in Hastings, Neb., for example, has its font in the narthex.
* In later centuries the font was moved to the front of the church so that “God’s family,” the congregation, could witness the entrance of its newest member.
It is in recognition of the concept of Baptism as God receiving us as his child and a member of his family that the font has been placed in the middle of our nave. When a child is baptized at Grace the “family” literally gathers around the new soul which is becoming a part of us.

Thus the Trinity
Thus the three chief pieces: pulpit, altar, and font, witness to the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) who comes to us in worship through the preaching of the Word of God, through the Sacrament of the Altar, and through the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Eternal Light
For centuries churches have kept a light continuously burning in the nave to symbolize the eternal presence of the Holy Spirit. Hanging directly over the baptismal font at Grace you will find an “eternal light.” This light burns continuously to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit. The red globe reminds us of the flames which rested on the heads of the disciples on Pentecost. Red, the color of flame, is an ancient symbol for the Holy Spirit. The circular disk over the globe symbolizes eternity. For centuries a circle has been the symbol for eternity as it has neither a beginning or an ending. Thus as the circle and the red light are associated together you have the symbols for the eternal (circular disk) presence of the Holy Spirit (red light.) The light is placed over the font since it is by Baptism that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and become partakers of eternal life. An electric light was intentionally used instead of the more traditional candle. It was out feelings that the “old, old story” must continuously be reinterpreted in contemporary forms. Jesus made extensive use of the common and every-day materials of his day to tell his message. Electricity and not wax candles are the chief light source for contemporary people.

The Stained Glass Windows
In Genesis 28: 10-17 we read: Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ It is this story which the stained glass windows contained in our nave are meant to portray. Symbolically the ascending and descending windows portray the ladder to heaven which Jacob saw in his dream. Like Jacob, we are firmly convinced that “The Lord is in this place,” and that “This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.” It is our prayer that our House of Worship may be the “ladder” which enables us to ascend into the presence of God as we join in Christian worship, fellowship and learning. We cannot ascend that ladder to heaven by our own powers, but God has given us the means of Grace in the Word and Sacrament as we receive them here. As you look at the lowest panels of glass, you will note that they are done in darker tones. As the panels ascend they become lighter and brighter in intensity as though you were coming closer to heaven and the radiant presence of God. This effect is achieved by using lighter shades of the same colors in each ascending panel of glass. Since each panel is the same design, it is easy to trace the changing shades. Mr.Erhardt Stoettner of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the designer of the windows. Born in Germany, Mr.Stoettner was trained in the artistry of stained glass by some of the finest craftsmen. The glass used in our windows is all hand blown and was imported from Germany and Italy. Warm colors were used in the design of the windows to portray the warmth and radiance of fellowship in the presence of God. Mr.Stoettner also hoped that the warmth of the glass would be a welcome contrast to the bleak cold of the Copper Country winters!

The Color Scheme
While the colors used in the nave and throughout the church do not have a religious symbolism, they were chosen with reference to the “Copper Country.” While financially prohibitive, it was hoped that copper could be used in the building. Thus the altar rail was suspended on copper posts. To continue the copper theme, the vinyl wall covering behind the chancel area was chosen because of its copper-leaf effect. It is commonly known that oxidized copper turns a blue-green and hence the carpeting and colors in the adjoining rooms evolve around this theme.

Throughout the entire planning and construction of this Grace Lutheran Church, the primary aim was to give us a feeling of being the family of God as we gather around His altar. Due to the lay-out of the church, worshippers have the impression of being gathered with their fellow members in a joint activity rather than being merely observers of the minister’s activity. Just as a family gathers about a table at meal-time in the home, so the people of God surround the Table of the Lord in common worship signifying that Almighty God is the Father of all and that Christ’s people are brothers and sisters of each other.

Fact Sheet

Grace Lutheran was formed by the merger of these congregations:
Painesdale Ev. Lutheran – organized in May, 1905.
Baltic-South Range Ev. Lutheran – organized in March, 1906.
Toilola Ev. Lutheran – organized in February 1917.

Cost of the total program including the building, furnishings, equipment, interest and funding as of April 30, 1970 was $154,383.53.

The nave seats 204 persons.

Mr.Richard Linda, Sheboygan, Wisconsin was the architect.

Mr.Theodore Palonen, a member of Grace held the basic contract.

July 21, 1968 the Service of Groundbreaking was held.

November 17, 1968 the Cornerstone was laid.

March 30, 1969 the first service was held in the church on Palm Sunday.

June 1, 1969 the Service of Dedication was held.

January, 1970 the Stained Glass Windows were Dedicated.