Immanuel’s sanctuary at 645 Poplar Street was dedicated in 1886, built at a cost of some $27,000 (including furnishings and organ!). A complete renovation of this structure was completed in 2008 for the congregation’s 150thanniversary, including the complete re-plastering and painting of the walls and ceiling, a completely new tile floor, and traditional liturgical decorative painting in the chancel (altar area). A few years later, our stained glass windows were cleaned, reinforced as necessary, wood trim painted, and protective plate glass installed.
The focal point of our worship, visually speaking, is the altar. The altar is the symbol of God’s presence, the place where God meets us to distribute His gifts. The altar is now a free-standing altar, allowing the pastor to face the people for the sacramental portion of the Divine Service. The altar, reredos (the large ornate screen behind the altar), the baptismal font, the communion rail, the pulpit, and the canopy are all of native American walnut. The reredos contains a large painting of Jesus saving Peter from drowning in the sea [Matthew 14:30] and serves to remind us of Christ’s power to save us from our sins. It was painted especially for Immanuel in Dresden, Germany, in 1887 by an artist named Schoenherr.
At the top of the reredos is a small crest or shield bearing four Hebrew letters יהוה. They spell out God’s Old Testament covenant name, frequently transliterated as YHWH, or Yahweh. It is called the Tetragrammaton, Greek for “four letters.” The name is a kind of Hebrew anagram for “I AM WHO I AM” or “I AM” as God names Himself to Moses at the burning bush [Exodus 3]. This is a feature seldom found in modern churches, but one which was used in German churches in past centuries.
Above the altar in the chancel is a round, stained glass window called an oculus, Latin for “eye” because it resembles an human eye, especially when viewed from above. This window explains the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Around the outside of the window are the words “Heilig! Heilig! Heilig! ist der Herr Zebaoth!”: Holy! Holy! Holy! is the Lord of Hosts!
In the center is the graphic representation of the Holy Trinity. It says: The Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God. The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Father; the Holy Spirit is not the Father. This can be read in both directions to show that the Persons of the Holy Trinity are not to be confused nor co-mingled.
The entry into the sanctuary is through the narthex, the entry room next to Poplar Street. As one enters the nave, one is confronted by the Baptismal font. The position of the font reminds us that it is only by Holy Baptism that we dare come into the presence of the living God. In Holy Baptism God the Holy Spirit has placed the mark of Christ on our foreheads and upon our hearts, marking us as those redeemed by Christ the crucified. Water is kept in the font so that those entering may remind themselves of the “mark” of their salvation, the cross of Jesus Christ.
The place where the people sit is called the Nave, after the Latin word navis for “ship.” This reminds us that we are journeying toward our heavenly home in the ship of the Church on the waters of Holy Baptism [1 Peter 3:18-22]. On both sides of the nave are stained glass windows of somewhat ornate design. A unique feature of churches of this era is that the stained glass was painted with designs. One east window contains a baptismal font with a dove, symbolizing that, in Holy Baptism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are conveyed, the chief of which is the forgiveness of sins. In the same window is a chalice with grapes and wheat, a symbol of the Sacrament of the Altar. Again the theme is forgiveness, because Lutherans confess that forgiveness of sins is distributed through the Sacraments. On the opposite side, the west side, the window contains the Word of God in book form with a sword. The sword is symbolic of the power which the Holy Spirit wields through the Word [Ephesians 6.17]. In the next panel is an anchor. The anchor reminds us that our hope and constant for this life is to be found in the Word of God [Hebrews 6:19].
In the loft is a large arched window containing an angel with a harp. Because the choir sings from the loft and the organ is located there in traditional Lutheran fashion, this is a symbol of our joyful praise to God through song. The Lutheran Church is often called “The Singing Church” because music in hymns and liturgy has been put to the service of the Gospel since the Lutheran reformation to teach Christians in song and melody the truths of the Scriptures, and the comfort they have in the forgiveness won for them by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Our organ, a Rogers pipe-augmented instrument, was installed in August 1998. A similar instrument was installed in 1983 to coincide with the congregation’s 125th anniversary, but was severely damaged in a lightning strike to our tower in 1998. The organ has about 25 different draw knobs, or stops. Two ranks of wind-blown pipes augment the electronic portion of the instrument. In addition to the normal stops, a Zimbelstern, a device with a series of high-pitched bells, is used on festive occasions.
In the northwest corner of the building is the tower with a four-armed cross on top. This cross is the second cross to grace our tower. The original cross, likewise a four-armed cross, was destroyed in the lightning strike and fire of 1998. This new cross was installed in 2001. This cross and tower can be seen from the top of the hill at Deming Park (Poplar Street) as well as from other vantage points around town. Two large bells are used to call the people to worship, each weighing over 2,400 pounds.