Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Old Church (*P*S*C #50)

Somehow it seems quite appropriate to write today (Sunday) about an old church next
to the one room schoolhouse I wrote about in the last blog.

Bethany Lutheran Church, located in Beechwood, Michigan is no longer in use. We
walked around the building and I imagined how it looked back in 1913 freshly constructed.
In 1911, the co-owner of the Beechwood Store, Albert Sandgren, drew up the plans. 
The cornerstone reads 1912; my research indicates the church was actually finished in 1913.

The church construction was primarily carried out by volunteers - most likely Swedish
Lutherans in the small community.

The front of the church houses a square-shaped belfry tower.

The church "footprint" is rectangular with a gable roof structure.  Clapboard sides
sit upon a rough-cut rock foundation.  Knowing this is a rocky terrain, this indicates the
rocks are from local soil.  Farmers coped with this soil with limited success.  Wes
reports that his relatives tried various crops, including potatoes, thinking that it would be
a longer growing season like back in Sweden.  Eventually, it was realised that logging was
the best "crop" and Wes's grandfather and his three brothers owned a logging company
near Beechwood. 

But back to the church....really back to the back of the church.   It has an apse (love that
word!) hexagonal in shape with a small leaded window. 

Probably my favorite feature of the church exterior is the use of Gothic windows.  (How is it
that I can never look at a Gothic shaped-window without thinking of the couple depicted in the
painting American Gothic by Grant Wood? I think that as we age, Wes and I are going to
look more and more like this couple.)

Again I digress...back to the church. 

Though we couldn't go inside the vacant church, we were told that the sanctuary
was very typical of a Swedish Lutheran church back in the old country.  The curved
oak communion rail and altar were altered a bit after another congregation moved in
years ago, but the pieces were retained.  Perhaps someday, the Historical Society can
refurbish this building as well and restore it to its former simple glory.

It has been said (written) that this church is "significant" due to its unaltered
condition in a rural environment.  For me, it was a significant experience to walk around
the building and imagine the sounds of a congregation singing hymns with the
accompaniment of a pump organ wafting through the windows on a hot day of summer:

Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee

or from The Church's One Foundation

O happy ones and holy! 
Lord give us grace that we
Like them the meek and lowly,
On high might dwell with thee.

Coming next in this series of UP Oldies:  the cookbooks.

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