To the Glory of God and
the Salvation of Man

On the Occasion of the Dedication of the Sanctuary of
Our Savior Lutheran Church Houston, Texas 25 June, 2000
The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

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The Cornerstone of the "Mountain Church" in Seiffen - 1779
(Norman Adams Photos)
 

"To the Glory of God and the Salvation of Man" - These words were engraved in golden letters on the cornerstone of the Mountain Church in the Saxon village of Seiffen in the year of our Lord 1779. In many respects, the design of our sanctuary has been inspired by this classic Lutheran Church. Our earnest and heartfelt prayer as we dedicate our new church today is that all may be done "To the Glory of God and the Salvation of Man." May the Gospel resound in this House of God with power from on high. May His Word ever be preached among us in all of its saving truth and purity. May the Sacraments which our gracious Lord has established always be rightly administered in our congregation for the forgiveness of our sins and strengthening of our faith. We dedicate our church today, in the year of our Lord 2000 "To the Glory of God and the Salvation of Man."

 

Church Architecture and Theology
"Architecture for churches is a matter of Gospel. A church that is interested in proclaiming the Gospel must also be interested in architecture, for year after year the architecture of the church proclaims a message that either augments the preached Word or conflicts with it. Church architecture cannot, therefore, be left to those of refined tastes, the aesthetic elite, or even the professional architect. If the Gospel of Christ is worthy or accurate verbal proclamation, week by week, it is also worthy of faithful architectural proclamation, where its message speaks year after year...It is most unfortunate that many people understand the word architecture solely in terms of style...A church is a place where God’s people gather together to worship Him, and how they worship, as well as what they believe, is either reinforced or undermined by the architecture. Church architecture is therefore first and foremost a matter of theology rather than a matter of style." (Donald Bruggink, Christ and Architecture)

 

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The City Church of St. Mary, Wittenberg,
Martin Luther’s Church [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

 

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1509 Woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder The Castle Church in Wittenberg

 

There is an indissoluble connection between what we build and what we believe. The design of our church buildings is both an expression of and an influence on the substance of our faith. In 1963, Dr. Edward S. Frey, the Executive Secretary of the Department of Church Architecture of the United Lutheran Church in America, published a thought provoking book entitled, This Before Architecture, asserting the essential priority of theology in the building of churches. Dr. Frey argued that the dominance of stylistic considerations and architectural fashion in the construction of American churches was indicative of the declining importance of theology within those churches. The ULCA leader offered the following acerbic observations: "The program of the church whose people will not think under God, takes on bit by bit the mores of the secular groups that surround it, bidding for attention - badges and buttons, banners, bingo, and bake sales, and a theology witless and anemic, with no power to save...I have visited many buildings in which the kitchen is the best planned room...What can one believe about this other than that the congregation understands better what goes on in the kitchen than what is meant to happen in the sanctuary?" (Edward Frey, This Before Architecture, p.6). Nearly four decades later, Dr, Frey’s warning about the disappearance of the church into the murky waters of the surrounding culture is revealed to have been tragically prescient. Superficial, generic church architecture is only one symptom of the more basic shift toward superficial, generic Christianity. In much of modern Christendom, the focus has turned from God to man. Sadly, in many instances, our religion is no longer theocentric (centered on God): instead, it has gradually become anthropocentric (centered on man).

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The Chancel of the City Church of St. Mary in Wittenberg [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

George Barna, the premier pollster of contemporary evangelicalism, urges us to "Think of your church not as a religious meeting place, but as a service agency - an entity that exists to satisfy people’s needs." The implications of this perspective for worship and church architecture are enormous. Michael Horton notes: "A human centered theology will regard worship as our activity, for God, each other, or ourselves. Consequently it will demand architecture that borrows from the entertainment or business world. Instead of calling us out of the world to "sing a new song," it will perpetuate our old identity which was buried in baptism." (Michael Horton, Why Sacred Space Matters, p. 12). This is, of course, not to say that there is only one permissible or proper form of church architecture. God has not prescribed a particular church design since the days of King Solomon. Rather the crucial point is that whatever size or style our churches may be, their design ought to be determined by and expressive of our theology. For Lutherans, as we shall see, that theology centers on the gracious God who comes to His people in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ: the God who speaks to us in His Word and offers us life and salvation in the Sacraments that He has ordained and established.

 

Click to view enlarged photoOur Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

This church building is a declaration of faith by the members of Our Savior Lutheran Church. It is an affirmation in wood and stone, steel and glass, of our steadfast resolve to believe, teach, and confess the saving truth of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions. At the inception of the planning process for our new sanctuary, the congregation unanimously adopted the following resolution: "To design a sanctuary whose external appearance and internal arrangement distinctively express our firm commitment to the doctrinal heritage of the Lutheran Church and are consistent with architectural expressions of that theology in historic Lutheran Church buildings both in Europe and in the United States." The resolve to build a deliberately Lutheran Church has governed the entire planning and construction process. The design of this building is an embodiment of that which we believe about God, His people, and their interaction in the Divine Service. This faith is our legacy, passed on to us by those who have gone before - the faithful men and women of preceding generations whose loyalty to the Word of God and whose willingness to sacrifice for their faith have made this congregation what it is today. We are resolved to pass that heritage along to those who will come after us. It is our fervent hope and prayer that this church will stand as a witness, not only for today, but for generations still to come. May our merciful God bless this House, built to His glory, so that long after we are gone, our children’s children may here encounter the Lord who graciously comes to His people in Word and Sacrament.

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The Mountain Church in Seiffen [Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

 

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The Castle Church in Wittenberg [Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

 

 

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Interior of the Castle Church in Torgau [Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

 

Lutheran Church Architecture
Many of the best known Lutheran churches in Europe were built prior to the Reformation by Roman Catholics. As the movement for reform surged across Central Europe and Scandinavia in the 16th century, ancient churches and cathedrals became Lutheran along with the territories in which they were located. Wherever possible, internal arrangements were altered to facilitate the gathering of God’s people around Word and Sacrament but of necessity the basic configuration of the buildings themselves remained unchanged. Only as Lutherans began to build churches of their own does a distinctively Lutheran style of church architecture begin to emerge.

The Castle Church in the Saxon town of Torgau near Wittenberg was the first such Lutheran church. Incorporated into the fortress residence of John Frederick the Magnanimous, Elector of Saxony, the Castle Church anticipates a number of the distinctive features which became characteristic of Lutheran church architecture. The cruciform configuration of the medieval cathedral with a long narrow nave separated from the altar by the choir is gone, replaced by a large central space surrounded by multiple balconies. The pulpit is in the middle of the first balcony thus enabling the entire congregation to hear the Word as it is proclaimed and taught by the pastor. The altar is not in a distant chancel, cut off from the congregation, but in the same central area, affirming the reality of a God Who is present among His people in the precious Body and Blood of His Son. The baptismal font stands before the altar as a visible reminder of the "washing of regeneration" through which God makes us a part of His family, the church. In his dedicatory sermon on October 5, 1544, Martin Luther captured the essence of evangelical worship and, in effect, explained the design of the new church with these concise words: "My dear friends, we are now to bless and consecrate this new house to our Lord Jesus Christ...that the purpose of this new house may be such that nothing else may ever happen in it except that our dear Lord Himself may speak to us through His holy Word and we in turn respond to Him through prayer and hymns of praise." (AE,51,p.333)

Click to view enlarged photoTrinity Lutheran Church in Carlsfeld, Saxony [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

The concept of a large central space surrounded by multiple balconies and focused on pulpit, altar and baptismal font as the architectural representations of the means of grace became the central theme of Lutheran church architecture in the years that followed. Lutheran churches were built in a variety of configurations - square, rectangular, and octagonal - but a consistent emphasis upon the means of grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, was maintained. Superintendent Christian Wilisch summarized the Lutheran perspective well in his sermon for the dedication of the new Lutheran church at Pretzschendorf near Dresden in 1733: "If our God is a God of order then it must please Him if everything is in order in His House. It is therefore fitting for a church building to be designed in beautiful symmetry with pulpit, altar, baptismal font and organ set each in their proper place in relation to one another. Every balcony and pillar in the church should also be built in such a way that all may clearly see the pastor in the pulpit and at the altar." (Harmut Mai, Der Evangelische Kanzelaltar , p.5)

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The Pulpit/Altar of Trinity Lutheran Church, Carlsfield [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

 

 

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The Pulpit/Altar of the Mountain Church in Seiffen [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

The development of the pulpit/altar (German - "Kanzelaltar") was the natural result of this emphasis. The pulpit/altar combines the architectural representations of the means of grace into a single unit which becomes the core component of the physical environment for the divine service. The pulpit/altar is considered by many scholars to be the single most important contribution of Lutheran theology to the history of church architecture. Dr. Harmut Mai argues that the evangelical pulpit/altar offers a unique opportunity for structuring a liturgical center in such a way as to give decisive architectural expression to the focus of the worship of the Lutheran Church upon the means of grace as the one center around which the congregation gathers. At the same time, Mai asserts, the pulpit/altar visibly expresses the essential unity of Word and Sacrament within Lutheran worship. (Harmut Mai, Der Evangelische Kanzelaltar, p. 201) The use of the pulpit/altar flourished in the heartland of the Reformation during the era of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, the later evolution of the pulpit/altar clearly demonstrates

Click to view enlarged photoDetail of the Pulpit/Altar in Carlsfeld [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

the indissoluble connection between theology and church architecture. The vital combination of Word and Sacrament so essential to a Lutheran theology of worship was distorted first by pietism and later by rationalism. Churches came to be viewed as little more than lecture halls and congregations became audiences. As the sacramental nature of the Divine Service was denigrated and ultimately abandoned, the form of the pulpit/altar also changed. The pulpits grew larger and the altars diminished until they were reduced to the status of insignificant shelves tucked unobtrusively beneath the massive pulpits which towered over them. These distortions of the original concept notwithstanding, the pulpit/altar remains an effective architectural expression of the means of grace as the center of Christian worship.

 

Click to view enlarged photoThe Frauenkirche with the Luther Monument - 1930 [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

The magnificent "Frauenkirche" built in the Saxon capital city of Dresden beginning in 1726 was designed to be an embodiment of the faith of the Lutheran Church. The impetus for the construction of this massive church was the 1697 conversion of Saxony’s Elector Augustus the Strong from Lutheranism to Catholicism. Augustus was offered the throne of the neighboring kingdom of Poland,

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Christmas Eve in the Fraunekirche – 1930 [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

on the condition that he join the Catholic Church. The ambitious politician was happy to comply. He proceeded to build a beautiful Catholic cathedral, the "Hofkirche," across from his palace so that the members of his court could worship according to the teachings of his new faith. The Lutheran burghers of Dresden were dismayed. They resolved to raise a church that would rival St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome; a church that would be, in their own words, "a St. Peter’s of the true Evangelical religion." (Hans Joachim Kuke, Die Frauenkirche in Dresden, p. 9) Their new church was named the "Evangelical Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul." It was to be built on the site of the existing "Frauenkirche" ("Church of Our Lady"), an older church in the central city that had fallen into disrepair. The citizens of Dresden, however, continued to refer to the church by its

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Interior View of the Frauenkirche [Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

 

 

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The Luther Monument in Front of the Frauenkkirche [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

traditional name and do so to this day. Architect George Bähr was commissioned by the city council to design a sanctuary which would express their commitment to the faith of the Reformation. Bähr proposed an octagonal sanctuary, surrounded by seven balconies, and surmounted by a massive sandstone dome. The architect’s intent was to embody the Reformation view of worship and the church. The sanctuary was specifically designed to facilitate the gathering of the congregation around Word and Sacrament enabling every worshiper to hear the proclamation of the Word and participate in the liturgy. The Frauenkirche accommodated 3,500 worshipers and towered nearly 350 feet over the city. Dresdeners affectionately nicknamed the great church which dominated the skyline of their city "the stone bell" (German "die Steinerne Glocke"). Seldom in the history of ecclesiastical architecture has a church building been so deliberately and emphatically designed as a confessional statement. Historian Matthias Gretzschel describes the significance of the "Frauenkirche" in this way: "The Stone Bell was the most important example of protestant church architecture in the world - Luther’s "Mighty Fortress" in Saxon sandstone, the St Peter’s Basilica of the Reformation, built in the center of the residence city of Elector Augustus, the Catholic convert." (Matthias Gretzschel, Die Dresdener Frauenkirche, p. 9)

Click to view enlarged photoThe Ruins of the Frauenkirche in the Aftermath of the April 1945 Bombing [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

The "Frauenkirche" stood as a monument to the steadfast faith of the Reformation until the morning of April 15, 1945. In the aftermath of two days of fire bombing which devastated the old city of Dresden and left 120,000 dead, the massive dome collapsed. The great bronze Luther Monument by Ernst Rietschel was blasted from its pedestal to lie in shattered fragments amid the ruins. Communist officials in the East German government refused to permit the reconstruction of the church. The huge mound of rubble laid untouched in the heart of Dresden for 45 years. It was not until German reunification in 1990 that the painstaking process of rebuilding began. In recent years, Our Savior Lutheran Church has joined with Lutheran churches from across the world in contributing toward the reconstruction of the "Frauenkirche." The completion of this historic project is planned for the year 2006.

 

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The Frauenkirche as it Appeared from 1945-1990 [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

 

Click to view an enlarged photoThe village of Seiffen in the Erzgebirge (Norman Adams Photos)

A young man named Christian Gotthelf Reuther served as one of George Bahr’s apprentices during the construction of the "Frauenkirche." A few years later, in 1776, Reuther, now an architect in his own right, was commissioned to design and build a new church for the Lutheran congregation in the mountain village of Seiffen, about 45 kilometers south-west of Dresden. The village was located in the midst of an active tin and silver mining region known as the "Ore Mountains" (German - "Erzgebirge"). The mines played out and mining in the region declined by the turn of the 19th century. Seiffen is now known throughout the world for its woodcarvers and toy makers. Colorful angels, miners dressed in their traditional uniforms, nutcrackers, smoking men, music boxes, pyramids, and gleaming bows of candlelight are sent from the toymakers’ village of Seiffen to countries all across the globe. Many of those wooden toys include the picturesque eight-sided Seiffen Church. Reuther’s design in Seiffen was a miniature version of the "Frauenkirche," governed by the same theological concerns which had determined the configuration of the great Dresden church. The "Mountain Church" (German - "Bergkirche"), as this building came to be known, was also an octagon surrounded by multiple balconies, crowned with a wooden dome and steeple. At the heart of the sanctuary is the pulpit/altar and the baptismal font.

Click to view an enlarged photoThe Mountain Church in Seiffen [Foto Lohse (Chemnitz, Deutschland)]

The church accommodates about 550 worshipers. Miner’s lanterns fashioned of tin mined in the region line the balconies and glittering crystal chandeliers created at the Heidelbach Glass Works near Seiffen illuminate the sanctuary. The Mountain Church is situated on a hillside overlooking the village. On Christmas Eve the village is aglow with golden light. Strolling children’s choirs, "die Kurrende," move through the streets of the town singing the carols of the season. As the people gather for Christmas Eve Services, a brass choir on the balcony at the base of the church’s steeple plays the ancient hymns and carols which proclaim the joyful news that Christ the Savior is born in Bethlehem. As the congregation makes its way up the hillside toward the church to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, the sound of Luther’s great Christmas hymn "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come" (German "Von Himmel Hoch Da Komm Ich Her") echoes through the snowy streets of the town.

 

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The Seiffen Church Decorated for Christmas – 1930 [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

 

 

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Christmas Eve in Seiffen [Ruth Gerig Verlag (Quedlinburg, Deutschland)] & [Foto Lohse (Chemnitz, Deutschland)]

 

 

Click to view an enlarged photo"From Heaven Above to Earth I Come" [Ruth Gerig Verlag (Quedlinburg, Deutschland)]

The German and Wendish emigrants who came to Texas during the 19th century brought this heritage along with them to the new world. The churches they built, particularly in the first generation, reflected the distinctive Lutheran church architecture of their homeland. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Serbin is a prime example of this pattern at work. St. Paul’s is the mother church of Lutheranism in Texas. The congregation was organized in 1854 by a group of Wendish emigrants who left their homes in southeastern Saxony to escape the rationalism and liberalism which prevailed in the state church. Pastor Johann Killian, the leader of the group, was a close friend of C.F.W. Walther, the founder of the Missouri Synod. The church which Pastor Killian and his congregation built in Serbin was in many ways a reproduction of the Lutheran Church which they had left behind in the Saxon town of Klitten. The church expresses the solid commitment to confessional Lutheranism which led them to Texas. The beautiful pulpit/altar and the wrap around balcony of St. Paul’s Church reflect the characteristic features of Lutheran church architecture throughout Central Europe. The congregation continues to worship in their original sanctuary to this day.

Click to view an enlarged photoSt. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Serbin Texas [Studtman Photo Service (Austin, Texas)]

The same classic Lutheran "means of grace" approach to church design can be seen in the historic pulpit/altar of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Warda, built on the Texas frontier in 1882. Baptismal font, altar, and pulpit stand at the center of the chancel as the focus of the entire worship space. The unity of Word and Sacrament as the living heart of the Divine Service is clearly reflected in the unified structure of altar and pulpit. The altar, as the physical symbol of God’s presence in the midst of the congregation, is structured as the foundation of the pulpit. The pulpit does not overshadow the altar, but rises from it thus indicating that the message which is to be proclaimed here is not the word of man but the Word of God Himself. The Corinthian columns which frame the pulpit are surmounted by carved angels and at the pinnacle, the cross of Christ. The architecture unmistakably expresses the Lutheran theology upon which this congregation was founded.

Click to view an enlarged photoThe Pulpit/Altar of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Warda [Texas Wendish Society (Serbin, Texas)]

This is the rich heritage upon which we have built. It is no accident that there are few novelties to be found in our new sanctuary. Rather than pursuing the latest trends and conforming to the current fashions we have deliberately attempted to design and build in a manner that expresses our firm commitment to the doctrinal heritage of the Lutheran Church. This church building is a declaration of our faith and an indication of our resolve to stand steadfast in that faith through all the years to come. We dedicate our sanctuary today "To the Glory of God and the Salvation of Man."

The Artwork & Liturgical Appointments
of Our Savior Lutheran Church
Lutheranism’s historic openness to ecclesiastical art is deeply rooted in its theology of the incarnation. God is to be known, first and foremost in the person of His Son who became flesh and dwelt among us as a man. John Calvin, on the other hand, was preoccupied with the glory of God, and therefore with His Law. For Calvin, this emphasis resulted in a faith which "ushers him out of the world in every respect." (Werner Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, p. 460) Calvin rejected the use of the visual arts in the church as idolatrous. Classic Calvinist churches to this day are stark and bare, devoid of painting or sculpture. In sharp contrast, Martin Luther’s theology of the cross, focused on the God Who was incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, born in the manger of Bethlehem and crucified on the cross of Calvary. In Luther’s view the arts were a gift of God, to be enlisted as allies of the church to enrich and express the faith of God’s people.

Click to view enlarged photoThe Frauenkirche in Dresden by Night 1927 [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

In his introduction to the Wittenberg Hymnal of 1524 the Reformer declared: "Nor am I of the opinion that the gospel should destroy and blight all the arts as some of the hyper-religious claim. But I would like to see all the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave and made them." (AE, 53, p. 316) This viewpoint is the direct result of Luther’s theology of the cross. Daniel Hardy summarizes Luther’s line of thought in this way: "For Luther, God’s justification in Christ and the dynamic of human transformation were deeply historical, that is temporally extended. It was for this reason, apparently, that Luther was open to the arts; his attention to liturgy and churches was no accident:...Luther seemed to regard human history as such as the theater for God’s action. This opened a possibility for the arts not present in the others...This may explain Luther’s greater attention to buildings, liturgy, and music as allies in Christian faith, which sharply distinguishes his view from the others." (Daniel W. Hardy, in Seeing Beyond the Word - Visual Arts and the Calvinist Tradition, p. 11,16) The rich abundance of painting and sculpture in the historic Lutheran churches of Europe offers vibrant testimony to the power of this theology of the incarnation. Paul Kretzmann offers this cogent summary of the role of art in the Lutheran Church: "The Lutheran Church, in matters of seasons, decorations, and ritual, with true conservatism and in the exercise of Christian liberty...in order to bring the knowledge of God’s grace to men’s hearts has preserved those usages of the past relating to the seasons of the church year, the appointments of the church buildings, and the liturgical church service which being good and serviceable, suit the true church of God in all ages. To confess its faith it did not hesitate to enlist the aid of pure and beautiful art forms, not only in the harmonies of poetry and music, but also in architecture, sculpture, painting, bronze work, wood-carving, and embroidery, so long as these aided its purpose of instruction and edification. In this it follows the lead of Luther." (Paul E. Kretzmann, Christian Art in the Place and in the Form of Lutheran Worship, p. 4)

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The Pulpit/Altar of the Mountain Church in Seiffen [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]


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The Frauenkirche From the Air [Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]


The "Lutherhalle" in Wittenberg displays a painting by W. von Kaulbach entitled "The Era of the Reformation" which dramatically illustrates this relationship between art - along with all other human endeavor - and Biblical truth.Click to view enlarged photo

"The Era of the Reformation" by W. von Kaulbach

Luther stands in the center of the scene, holding aloft the open Bible in the midst of a vast hall. He is surrounded by his fellow theologians who are distributing the Lord’s Supper to the princes of Germany. In this way, von Kaulbach reminds us of the centrality of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. All around the reformer and his colleagues are representatives of all the arts and sciences - painters and sculptors, musicians and poets, scientists and philosophers - each pursuing his craft to the greater glory of God as an application and expression of Biblical truth. Those who express the beauty of the earth and those who seek to understand her mysteries also serve the God who created all things and Who reveals Himself to us in the person of His Son, the Word made flesh.

Click to view enlarged photoThe Mountain Church in Winter [Foto Lohse (Chemnitz, Deutschland)]

Like both the Frauenkirche and the Mountain Church our sanctuary is eight- sided. In the symbolism of the ancient church, eight is the number of resurrection and the new creation. Christ rose from the dead on the eighth day after His entry into Jerusalem. In seven days God created all the natural world. On the eighth day one is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit to live by faith within God’s new creation. Hence, the octagon, with its eight sides, is the traditional configuration of baptistries and baptismal fonts. This reflects historic Christendom’s recognition of Holy Baptism as a "washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5) Aside from this most appropriate symbolism, the shape of the octagon lends itself well to the Lutheran architect’s desire to gather the congregation around pulpit, font, and altar as active participants in the divine service. The eight-sided configuration of our sanctuary is also reflected in the pulpit, the baptismal font, and the altar. Within this House of God, through the ministry of Word and Sacrament, we become a part of God’s new creation, rising from the death of sin to newness of life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Click to view enlarged photoSteeple Raising – November 21, 1999 (Lloyd Meseck Photos)

The Sanctuary is crowned by a unique steeple fashioned of steel and copper. The gleaming stainless steel cross at the peak of the steeple flares out at every direction signifying the determination of this congregation to serve the families of our community in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The steeple is 72 feet tall and 32 feet in diameter at its base. It weighs over 32 tons. It was constructed by J & L Sheet Metal Company of Houston. Our Savior’s steeple reflects the design of its counterpart atop the Mountain Church in Seiffen. The steeple’s distinctive "onion dome" (German - "Zwiebelturm") style is prevalent throughout the Reformation’s heartland in central Europe. Our Savior’s is the largest onion dome tower in North America. A huge crane hoisted the steeple into place in three sections during a festive celebration attended by over 800 people on November 21, 1999. A hymn, specially composed for the occasion, expressed the significance of this unique architectural feature:

"Raise the cross of Christ our Savior
Gleaming bright against the sky.
Lift the steeple up t’ward heaven
Glorious home of God on high.
May this soaring steeple signal
Faith in God Who reigns above:
Pointing out the path to heaven
Showing forth His grace and love.

Let God’s faithful people rally,
Round this shining upraised cross.
Now together, move we forward
Counting this world’s gain but loss.
In these days of fear and falsehood
Boldly now, His Truth proclaim!
Like the saints who came before us
Teach His Word! Confess His Name!"

Click to view enlarged photoThe Steeple of the Mountain Church [Foto Lohse (Chemnitz, Deutschland)]

As the great bronze doors swing open and one enters the sanctuary of Our Savior Lutheran Church, it is immediately evident that the emphasis in this place of worship is upon the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

Click to view enlarged photoAs the Great Bronze Doors Swing Open (Jack Cornett Photos)

This is not an auditorium where an audience gathers to be entertained nor a theater for flamboyant stage production. To enter this place is to stand in the presence of the Lord and exclaim as did Jacob, our father, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God; this is the gate of heaven!". (Genesis 28:17) The architectural representations of the means of grace - the baptismal font, the altar, and the pulpit - are in the center of the worship space. The pulpit/altar of historic Lutheran church architecture is restored, proclaiming the unity and the centrality of Word and Sacrament in the Divine Service. Pulpit, altar, and font are of similar design and material. Their intricate woodcarvings and beautiful colors serve to further emphasize their crucial role in the worship of God’s people. They are clearly the focal point of all of the other artwork and statuary in and surrounding the chancel - the crucifix and the angels. The orientation of the worship space is vertical, drawing the congregation together around Word and Sacrament, and directing our attention toward the God of heaven Who speaks to us in His Word, claims us as His own in the water, and offers us the precious Body and Blood of His only Son for the forgiveness of our sins.

Click to view enlarged photoThe Cranach Baptismal Font with the Carved Figure of John the Baptist (Norman Adams Photos)

In keeping with the ancient traditions of the church, the octagonal baptismal font is placed in the center aisle, near the entrance to the sanctuary as a reminder that Holy Baptism is the means through which God incorporates His people into the church. (Cf. Romans 6:2-4) The font is built of Slavonian oak with carved lindenwood relief panels inset on each of its eight sides. The relief panels are modeled after 16th Century woodcuts by the great Reformation artist Lucas Cranach the Elder. Six of the eight reliefs depict the twelve apostles who were commissioned to baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19). They are based on a series of woodcuts published by Cranach in 1512 entitled "Christ, the Twelve Apostles, and Paul." The apostles are depicted with the instruments of their martyrdom or the symbolic objects most commonly associated with their ministries: St. Peter - the keys and a book representing his New Testament epistles; St. Andrew - the "X’ shaped cross upon which he was crucified: St. James the Less - the fuller’s club with which he was beaten to death; St. John - the poisoned chalice from which the Lord delivered him; St. Phillip - a pilgrim’s staff and a cross for his missionary activity; St. Bartholomew - a human skin because he was flayed alive; St. Thomas - the lance by which he was martyred; St. Matthew - an open book because of his Gospel; St. James the Greater - the heads-man’s axe by which he died; St. Simon - the saw used in his execution; St. Jude Thaddeus- the stave by which he was beaten to death; St. Matthias - a butcher’s cleaver, the instrument of his death . The remaining two reliefs are also based on Cranach woodcuts and emphasize the importance of Holy Baptism as a means of grace: "The Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist," (1548) and "The True Religion of Christ" (1545). In the middle of the font is the carved wooden figure of John the Baptist, kneeling in reverent awe before the Lord Who has come to Jordan to be baptized by John. There John humbly proclaimed Jesus to be the,"the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Johnís confession is symbolized by the figure of the Lamb resting at the base of the figure.

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St. John Before the Christ (Jack Cornett Photos)
 

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"The Baptism of Jesus" (Jack Cornett Photos)

 

The carving is modeled after a marble statue by Francesco Mocchi in the baptistry of the "Hofkirche" in Dresden. In Our Savior’s Sanctuary, the figure of John the Baptist is looking up toward Christ on the cross, thereby signifying the manner in which our Lord paid in His own blood the redemption price for the sin of mankind and thus became "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The image of the Baptist gesturing toward Christ on the cross as the Lamb of God is drawn from the central panel of the magnificent Cranach Altar in the City Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Weimar.

Click to view enlarged photo"The True Religion of Christ" (Jack Cornett Photos)

 

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The Carving of the Relief Panels for the Baptismal Font [Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

Baptism is the water of new life. This is symbolized by the fact that the water of the font, which surrounds the statue, is constantly flowing. This is also consistent with the ancient custom of baptizing in "living water." "The sight and sound of living, running water is a powerful key to our remembering all of the meanings of water suggested by nature as well as all the meanings of water and Baptism suggested by Scripture." (Walter C. Huffmann, "Where We Worship" p. 22)

Click to view enlarged photo [Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

In the worship of the Lutheran Church the altar bears a threefold significance. It serves, first of all, as a portrayal of the sacrificial death of Christ in our place upon the cross as the central theme of God’s plan of salvation, prefigured by centuries of sacrificial worship during the Old Testament. Secondly, the altar is the physical symbol of the gracious presence of God among us in Word and Sacrament. In this sense the altar functions like the ancient ark of the covenant which was the physical symbol of God’s presence among the Children of Israel. In many of the historic Lutheran churches of central Europe a carved representation of the "Shekinah," the glory cloud which rested over the ark between the outstretched wings of the cherubim, was incorporated into the pulpit/altar to remind the congregation that the God who led Israel through the wilderness with the pillars of cloud and fire and Who dwelt within the Holy of Holies in tabernacle and temple, now comes to His people through Christ in Word and Sacrament. Finally, the altar is a witness to the use of the Lord’s Supper as an essential component in the corporate worship of the Christian congregation. Among the churches of Christendom, the Lutheran Church is unique in that it is the church of Word and Sacrament. By deliberate design, the altar stands at the center of our sanctuary, between the pulpit and the baptismal font. Thus do we affirm our belief that when we gather to worship here the God Whom the highest heavens cannot contain deigns to dwell among us through Christ in Word and Sacrament.

Click to view enlarged photo[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

The design of our altar is inspired by the "Luther Altar" at the Castle Church in the Saxon village of Torgau, near Wittenberg. The Castle Church in Torgau was the first church built by Lutherans. One of the most glorious and majestic visions of God’s heavenly throne is recorded in the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah saw the majestic serephim soaring above the throne of God as they chanted an eternal "Trishagion" - "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory!" (Isaiah 6:3). The Luther Altar at Torgau was designed to reflect this awesome scene. Four carved stone angels support the "mensa" (the top of the altar) upon their wings. The structure behind the altar is inscribed with the reference "Isaiah Chapter 6, Verse 3" and is surmounted by the golden beams of the "Shekinah." Our altar reflects the same themes. The eight sided inlaid oak mensa of the altar is supported on the wings of four kneeling angels. The angels are carved lindenwood, intricately detailed and brightly colored.

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(Jack Cornett Photos)
 

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A Master Craftsman Puts the Finishing Touches on the Altar Guardians [Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

They bow in reverent awe before the presence of God. The four altar angels are dressed as warriors, each presenting a drawn sword as the guardians who surround the throne of God. The acclamation"Holy," from the angels’ song of praise, is carved into four sides of the altar and highlighted in gold leaf. The word is presented in four languages, English, Greek ("Hagios"), Latin ("Sanctus"), and German ("Heilig")

The theme of Isaiah’s magnificent vision continues in the sanctuary tapestries displayed on either side of the chancel. These exquisite tapestries are 8 feet wide and 22 feet long. They were custom designed to our specifications by Dirk Slabbinck at the Slabbinck Art Studios in the historic city of Bruges, Belgium. The tapestry angels surround the "Shekinah," the glory cloud which represents the presence of God. The cloud is pierced by the rays of gleaming light which emanate from God’s glory. The divine presence is depicted by the four Hebrew letters of God’s sacred Name, "Jahweh." The angels worship in humble adoration. The words of their song of praise are printed on the scrolls which wind their way through the banners. The angels at the top of the tapestries gesture toward the altar and the crucifix thus indicating that in Christ "we behold His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

Click to view enlarged photo[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

Two bronze angel candle holders stand mounted on carved oak pedestals between the altar and the pulpit. The angels face one another across the altar with their magnificent wings outstretched behind them. In this way they appear to stand over the altar like the great golden cherubim upon the lid of the ark of the covenant.

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[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

Holy Scripture designates only two angels by name - the archangels Michael and Gabriel. Carved lindenwood figures of these two mighty servants of the Lord, over 7 feet tall, stand at the rear of the chancel. Michael (Hebrew - "He Who Is Like God") is the prince of the hosts of heaven. In Revelation chapter 12, it is Michael and his angels who fight against the dragon to defeat Satan and those who follow him, casting them down from heaven. Our statue of Michael depicts the Lord’s champion at the moment of his victory over the devil. Satan lies helpless at the archangel’s feet, defeated and chained. Michael’s sword is raised in watchful triumph, lest the ancient enemy attempt to rise again. Lutheran commentators have historically understood John’s vision of war in heaven in Revelation 12 to be a symbolic presentation of the success of Christ’s ministry of redemption. By His death on the cross, the Savior has won forgiveness for the sins of mankind and thus removed the basis for Satan’s accusations against us. As Jesus promised on the eve of His death: "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself." (John 12:31-32). Hence, the image of Michael, victorious over Satan is a Gospel promise that by the sacrificial death of His only Son, God has snatched His people from the jaws of Hell and won for them eternal life with Him in heaven.

Click to view enlarged photo[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

Gabriel (Hebrew - "Mighty One of God") stands at the other side of the chancel. The archangel Gabriel is the messenger of the Lord in Scripture. It is Gabriel who announces the births of John the Baptist and of us. In Hebrew tradition, Gabriel is also associated with the judgment of God and is thus often pictured with the trumpet of judgment in his hands. We have chosen to depict this great messenger of the Lord in the role of a guardian. In Matthew 18, Jesus holds the humble trust of the little child before His disciples as the exemplary faith of those who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He warns His disciples not to disparage the little ones because: "For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10). The concept of the guardian angel who watchesClick to view enlarged photo over and protects the children of God has provided great comfort and security for the people of God. Like the two children in the statue, we live out our lives under Godís loving protection and care.

[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

Two trumpet angels, mounted on the sanctuary wall on either side of the organ, add their presence to the angelic host that adorns our place of worship. These carved lindenwood figures are 6.5 feet tall. Each holds a golden trumpet. These are the trumpets of jubilation and praise. "Praise the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His great acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord." (Psalm 150) The Bible tells us that the angels in heaven worship and praise the Lord without end. As we worship the God of our salvation within this place, our voices are added to those of the resplendent "ten thousand times ten thousand" who surround the heavenly throne. (Revelation 5). The early church father Origen was correct when he noted: "So, when the saints are assembled, there will be a double church, one of men and one of angels."

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[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

 

 

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The crucifix is suspended at the center of the sanctuary, acknowledging the death of the God/Man as the foundational reality of the Christian faith. Christ’s sacrificial death, in our place - for the forgiveness of our sins - is the only basis for the salvation of humanity. To worship in this sanctuary is literally to gather at the foot of the cross. The placement of the crucifix over the altar and the pulpit serves to emphasize the altar as the emblem of Christ’s sacrificial death and the responsibility of the preacher to proclaim Christ and Him crucified in every sermon. The "corpus," that is, the body of Christ upon the cross, is 8 feet tall, carved in lindenwood. The realistic nature of the figure is designed to impress upon the worshiper the grim reality of death by crucifixion, and thus the high price that God’s Son was willing to pay for our salvation. Nowhere else can the depth and the power of God’s love for us be seen more clearly than at the cross. The Savior bows His weary head, still crowned with the mocking thorns, as if to look down in love upon the congregation gathered below. The intricate detail of the carving is inspired by the Nikolaus Gerhaert crucifix in the Lutheran Church of St. George in Nördlingen, Germany. The "titulus," that is, the placard over the head of Christ bears the full inscription "Jesus of Nazareth - King of the Jews" in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin (cf. John 19:19-21). The 16 foot cross is carved of rough hewn oak and bowed in the traditional manner.

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(Jack Cornett Photos)

 

 

 

Click to view enlarged photo[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

There are guardian angels stationed on either side of the crucifix, placed on both ends of the music loft. These two life-size lindenwood figures have been entitled the "Calvary Angels." They are dressed in the chain mail of a warrior and each holds a lance in his hand. They appear to gaze in solemn wonder at the sight of God’s only Son sacrificing His life for fallen mankind upon the cross. Their position and their posture serve to further direct the attention of the worshiper toward the crucified Christ.

 

Click to view enlarged photo[Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

The English word "pulpit" comes from a Latin term which refers to a raised platform or dais. The pulpit is the historic site of the proclamation of the Word of God within the sanctuary. As the preaching of the Word faded into insignificance in the medieval church, so did the prominence of the pulpits within the churches. This architectural trend was dramatically reversed by the Reformation. Martin Luther declared: "Know first of all that a Christian congregation should never gather together without the preaching of God’s Word and prayer, no matter how briefly...Therefore, when God’s Word is not preached, one had better neither sing nor read, or even come together." (AE,53,11) The pulpits of classic Lutheran Churches in the heartlands of the Reformation are massive masterpieces. They serve to dramatically emphasize the crucial role of faithful Biblical preaching in the worship of the church. "For that reason Lutherans have regularly placed pulpits in prominent positions in church buildings and by both the usage and the symbol of the pulpit have given unmistakable testimony that the Lutheran Church is the church of the Word." (Wayne Schmidt in Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, p. 208) The disappearance of the pulpit in the modern church is symptomatic of the fundamental shift that has taken place in our view of worship, centered no longer upon God, but now upon man. Michael Horton explains the significance of the change in pulpit design: "The old Reformed pulpits were exalted works of supreme craftsmanship. Why so many steps? Why so high? Why so prominent and unmovable? Because, theologian Karl Barth answered, preaching used to be God’s Word to His Church. But now it has become the preacher’s wit and inspiration for the consumers...`Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word will never pass away’: such promises should move us to make it impossible to turn the chancel into a stage. It should be inconvenient to move the pulpit, font, and table. It is, after all, these which make us a Christian people, not the praise band, not the drama team, not the special effects." (Horton, Modern Reformation, 7,3, p.9-10)

Click to view enlarged photo [Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

A word ought to be said about the absence of a permanent lectern in our chancel. The presence of lecterns has become common in Lutheran churches since the gothic revival of the 19th Century. Lecterns were not characteristically included in Lutheran churches prior to that time. In the liturgical worship of the Lutheran Church the lessons were read either from the pulpit or from the traditional "horns" of the altar. In this way, the symbolic significance of altar and pulpit as the architectural locus of God and His Word were clearly expressed. Originally, the lectern was intended for use only when the lessons were read by someone other than the pastor. Over the years, that significant distinction has been lost. Pastors today typically read the Word from the lectern and preach the Word from the pulpit. This practice tends to send an ambiguous message. James F. White argues: "The lectern, now so common in many Protestant churches, was introduced in the 19th Century, which copied it from the Middle Ages. Often, it is used to balance a pulpit at the other side of the chancel. But why should the reading of the lessons be separated from the preaching of the Word? Indeed, placing the Bible on a lectern apart from the pulpit suggests that the source and authority of printed Word and preached Word are different." (James F. White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, p. 37) In many chancels the lectern now joins the pulpit and the altar as one of the three visual centers of the church, often relegating the baptismal font to an obscure corner. This only serves to compound the confusion. A 1987 study of church architecture, sponsored by the three major Lutheran synods in the United States, rightly concluded: "One place of the Word and one congregational Bible speak more eloquently of our Lutheran understanding of ministry and of proclaiming the Word...Today there is no theological or liturgical reason to have a lectern. It is better to have a single place of the Word, from which the Word of God is both read and preached." (Walter C. Huffmann, "Where We Worship," p. 23)

Click to view enlarged photo[Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden)]

The "Wittenberg Pulpit" is inspired by the Altar Triptych of the City Church in Wittenberg by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The City Church is the church where Martin Luther served as preacher. This masterpiece of Reformation art was dedicated on 24 April, 1547, the same day that Lutheran forces suffered a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Mühlberg. Its three panels depict the means of grace. On the left, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is shown. Phillip Melancthon, Luther’s close friend and colleague at the University, performs the baptism of an infant before the assembled congregation. Cranach here exercises a bit of artistic licence, in that Melancthon, although one of the most influential theologians and teachers of Lutheranism, was not an ordained pastor, and therefore would not have actually performed a baptism.

Click to view enlarged photo[Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

The center panel dominates the altar in the original. In this scene, Christ institutes the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Our Lord and the apostles are seated around the circular table of a typical German castle with the Saxon countryside clearly visible through the open windows. The elements of the Passover meal are spread out upon the table. Christ is reaching out in love to Judas, who bites the Lord’s extended hand to signify the betrayal. Again Cranach alters the scene, in this instance to include Martin Luther at the communion table. Luther, who has turned to take a cup from the waiter so that his face may be clearly visible, is the bearded figure seated across the table from Jesus. By including themselves in these Biblical events, the artists of the Reformation were asserting their confidence that believers in every place and time are active participants in that which Christ has done for the salvation of mankind.

Click to view enlarged photo(Jack Cornett Photos)

The right panel presents the Office of the Keys. John Bugenhagen, the pastor of the City Church is depicted in the "Confessional Chair" (German - "Beichstuhl" ). He holds a key in each hand representing the power to forgive or to refuse to forgive sin. With his right hand, he forgives the sins of the penitent sinner, humbly kneeling at his side. With his left hand, he refuses to forgive the sins of the impenitent sinner, and the man in the red robe, his face flushed with anger, stalks away, his hands still bound. The predella, that is, the panel across the base of the triptych just above the altar, shows Luther preaching Christ crucified to an attentive congregation from the pulpit of the Castle Church in Torgau. The panels of the altarpiece depicting baptism, communion, and the keys, are carved in lindenwood reliefs in the front three sections of the octagonal pulpit. The skill of the master carver’s has reproduced the painted scenes in incredible detail. The seal of Our Savior Lutheran Church, the open Bible, with Luther’s crest, surmounted by the cross of Christ, is carved into the two adjacent sections of the pulpit. Cherubim adorn the pulpit’s corners. The pulpit is elevated five steps above the floor of the chancel to maximize visibility from all three levels of the sanctuary. A hand carved oak staircase provides access to the pulpit.

Click to view enlarged photo(Jack Cornett Photos)

The Wittenberg Pulpit stands in our sanctuary as a testimony to our conviction that the Gospel preached and proclaimed among us is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes (Romans 1:16). It is our fervent prayer that God may graciously continue to bless our congregation with faithful pastors who will declare God’s Word in all of its truth and purity.

 

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(Norman Adams Photos)

 

Dr. Martin Luther stands in the narthex of our church. The stern, determined figure of the young Doctor of Theology is depicted as he appeared on the morning of 10 December,1520. On that day, Luther walked through the Elster Gate on the southeast side of Wittenberg and proceeded to a nearby fire kindled by his students from the University. He held in his hand the official document, the papal bull (from the Latin "bulla" - "seal")of Pope Leo X , which condemned him to excommunication. Luther would later recall that he stood before the fire "shaking and praying." He hurled the decree of excommunication into the flames thereby rejecting the pope’s judgment and affirming his resolve to stand faithfully in defense of the doctrine of the Bible no matter what the cost. The Luther bronze is modeled after the Luther Memorial in Eisleben, Germany, where the Reformer was born and where he died. The original was cast in 1883 by Rudolf Siemering in honor of 400th anniversary of Luther’s birth. The impressive statue is 6.5 feet tall and weighs 650 pounds. It was cast using the "lost wax" method which enables the artist to reproduce his subject in particularly fine detail. Luther wears the robes and cap of a doctor of theology.

Click to view enlarged photo Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)

The Bible is clutched to his heart. His right hand crushes the "Bull of Excommunication," which bears the official seal of Pope Leo X. The dynamic bronze figure presents Luther at the moment of decision as he steps forward toward the flames. The lines of his face are set in firm resolve as he prepares to thrust the document into the fire, knowing full well the personal risk involved. The presence of this statue in the narthex of our church is a statement of our commitment to remain faithful to the truth of Holy Scripture as that truth has been confessed by Martin Luther and the church which bears his name.

Having been excommunicated by the spiritual authority of the church, Luther was summoned before the secular authority of the Emperor in April of 1521. An Imperial Diet, that is, an assembly of the princes and rulers of the Holy Roman Empire was held in the ancient city of Worms on the River Rhine. Emperor Charles V, a loyal son of the Roman Catholic Church, demanded that Luther retract his writings and recant his doctrine. If he refused to do so, he would be declared an outlaw, subject to immediate execution. Martin Luther responded to the Emperor’s demand on April 18, 1521, with these courageous words: "Since then Your Serene Majesty and Your Lordships ask for a simple answer, I will give it in this manner without horns or teeth: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason (for I trust neither pope nor councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have cited, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since to act against one’s conscience is neither safe nor right. I can do nothing else. Here I stand. God help me. Amen." Since that fateful day, the bold declaration "Here I stand!" has been the great rallying cry of the Lutheran Church. This crucial moment in our history is commemorated by a magnificent bronze relief mounted on the stone retaining wall outside of the sanctuary to the northeast. The relief is 7 feet tall and 15 feet long. It depicts Luther before the Emperor at Worms, surrounded by the leaders of church and state, as he declares "Here I stand!" Moving across the relief from left to right, the figures depicted on the panel are: Duke Frederick the Wise Click to view enlarged photoof Saxony (Elector of the Holy Roman Empire), Emperor Charles the Fifth, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Archbishop Albert of Mainz (Elector of the Holy Roman Empire), Johann von der Eck, Duke John Frederick the Magnanimous of Saxony, Duke Joachim of Brandenburg (Elector of the Holy Roman Empire), Dr. Laurence L. White, Dr. Martin Luther, Count Ulrich von Hutten, Cardinal Aleander, Pastor William Gerdes, Pastor John Schultz, the Arch Bishop of Trier, Pastor Allen Schultheis, and Pastor Walter Huber. The five Senior Pastors who have served Our Savior Lutheran Church from its founding to this day are included in the scene. By the presence of our pastors at the Reformer’s side, we confess the firm resolve of our congregation that God’s Word and Luther’s doctrine pure shall now and evermore endure among us. The relief is inspired by a much smaller relief panel at the base of the Luther statue in the world renown Reformation Monument in Worms designed by Ernst Rietschel in 1868.

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 [Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)

 

Click to view enlarged photo[Foto Marburg (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg im Kunstgeschichtlichen Institut der Philipps-Universität Marburg)]

The stained glass windows behind the chancel depict our Lord Jesus Christ as the Alpha and the Omega. In the opening scene of the Book of Revelation Jesus declares: "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8) At the conclusion of the Book, Jesus reaffirms: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. Using this effective image, our Lord identifies Himself as the eternal Son of God, the second member of the divine Trinity. He is the Alpha, the beginning, the starting point, the source in Whom all other reality originates. The Evangelist, St. John informs us: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1-3) Christ is also the Omega, the End, the Destination, the Goal toward which all creation is directed. Jesus is where we came from and where we are going. This Biblical imagery is artistically presented with great power in the colorful stained glass windows above the organ. "Christ the Alpha" presents our Lord amid the gleaming brightness of divine glory, surrounded by the beauty of the new creation. The sun, the moon, and the stars are all in their appointed places in the heavens. The verdant earth is alive with the lush blues and greens of growing plants and clear flowing water. The harmony of the animal kingdom in the original creation is represented by the lion and the lamb resting at peace among all the other creatures. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, can also be seen in the perfection of Eden. The outstretched arms of Christ the Alpha beckon toward the creation, reminding us that everything that exists has come to be by His mighty power alone. In the halo around the Lord’s head are the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, articulating the theme of these exquisite works of art.

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(Norman Adams Photos)

In the "Christ the Omega" window, the Almighty Judge of the Universe is depicted in glorious tones of gold and white. The Lord is seated upon His Judgement throne amid the four living beings, based upon the imagery of the Book of Revelation. "In the center, around the throne were four living creatures and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second wasClick to view enlarged photo like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle." (Revelation4:6-7). Before the throne the angel host stands poised and ready to sound the trumpets of judgment which will raise the dead. The arms of our Lord reach out to embrace the world, the wounds of His crucifixion clearly visible at the base of His hands. As in its counterpart, the Greek letters Alpha and Omega are inscribed in the halo around the Lordís head. Rejoice, for the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign! Alleluia!

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[Foto Lohse (Chemnitz, Deutschland)]

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(Norman Adams Photos)

 

Stained glass will also be installed eventually in the remaining eight oval windows in the sanctuary. Like the Alpha and the Omega windows each of them will depict one of the Messianic titles of Christ from the Revelation of St. John. The design work for the remaining windows has already been commissioned and is currently underway so that whenever the windows are actually installed they will all have been designed by the same artist. The themes of the sanctuary windows are: Christ the Alpha (Revelation 1:8); Christ the Omega (Revelation 1:8); the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5); the Lamb Who Was Slain (Revelation 5:6-7); the Son of Man Amid the Golden Lamps (Revelation 1:12-16); the Firstborn from the Dead (Revelation 1:5); the Root of David (Revelation 22:16); the Child of the Woman (Revelation 12:2); the Son of Man - the Judge of Mankind (Revelation 14:14-16); and, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

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[Art Studio Demetz (Ovieto, Italy)]

 

Glory to God in the Highest!
After extensive research, both in Europe and the United States, the master craftsmen of the Art Studio Demetz, in the Alpine province of South Tyrol, were commissioned to prepare the chancel furnishings, woodcarvings, and bronze statuary for Our Savior Lutheran Church. The Demetz Studio has maintained the highest standards of traditional European craftsmanship in providing ecclesiastical art for churches all around the world. Mr. Ivo Demetz and his remarkable staff implemented our original designs with incredible artistry. They were consistently responsive to our concerns and patient with our occasionally repeated requests for revisions. We are also most grateful to Mr. Angelo Gherardi, the U.S. co-ordinator of the project for Demetz, who prepared the shop drawings for all of the art work and provided invaluable assistance and counsel throughout this effort. In addition, Mr Gherardi personally designed our beautiful stain glass windows. We give thanks and praise to God for the artistic ability that He has bestowed upon these men, and for their willingness to use that talent to the glory of the God by Whom it was given. Without their remarkable talent and dedication, this magnificent house of worship would not have been possible.

PHOTO CREDITS:
Our thanks to those who have allowed us to use their photographs and illustrations. Every attempt has been made to identify and acknowledge the source of the illustrations and photographs that appear in this book. If any omissions or errors have occurred, we will be happy to correct them in future editions of this publication.