our stained glass windows

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Update – April 2013

We’ve been relatively quiet – but our worship space task force has been very busy. Our architect – Richard Foster (you saw him at the Easter Vigil on guitar!) – raised some important question with his first design proposal. Since then we’ve gone through, questioned, deliberated about many aspects of the plan. We still feel that the basic ideas presented in November and at a recent annual meeting are mostly on target.

One of the ideas was having a screen in front, where there could be storage and even a TV that would pop up when needed for showing lyrics, images, etc… We’ve since discussed storage needs (such as music and paraments) and how such a screen might be configured so there aren’t visible doors and it fits the look of our sanctuary.  Here’s an image – still rough!  screenwallWe would be removing the top step in the chancel area, so we would actually end up with more usuable space in the chancel for pageants, musicians than we have currently.  As discussed previously, the altar & font & pulpit would be moveable, generally located on the floor closer to the seats.

We also discussed and have come up with a good solution for permanently housing the organ speakers, so they aren’t noticeable … a bit harder to explain in writing.

Richard is finishing his second design proposal, and we’re likely to be very close to a proposal for the congregation to look at.  Thanks for your patience!


Announcing St. Luke’s “new” Rodgers 905 organ

Article by Bettie Ross, church organist / pianist

I have the immense pleasure of announcing that St. Luke Lutheran is the proud owner of the Rodgers 905 Digital Electronic Organ.  It was purchased from a local church from funds generously donated by an anonymous donor. The organ is about 15 years old and is in beautiful condition. It is being installed by Nelson Dodge of Church Keyboard Center in Pasadena. It was first used in our 8:30 a.m. traditional service on March 10, 2013.

Here is a primer about the organ:
Pipe organ: Our new organ has the sound of a good-sized pipe organ, a type of organ commonly used in churches and cathedrals for centuries. A pipe organ produces sound by driving air through pipes which are selected by a keyboard.  Our organ’s sound is made from recordings of actual pipe organ sounds, and the sound is recreated digitally. This is similar to modern photography: formerly we took photos with film in cameras, and then had the film developed before we saw a picture. Nowadays we take photos that require no film;  they are called digital photos. The organ is a digital pipe organ; it has no real pipes. It recreates the sound of a real pipe organ without having the actual pipes with wind moving through them.39085
The organ has three keyboards or “manuals” (“manual” means of the hands or done with the hands). The three manuals are called by specific names, from the top down: Swell, Great, and
Choir. It also has a type of keyboard for the feet to play called the “pedals.” The main wood housing of the organ with the manuals and the pedals is called the “organ console.”
An organ stop (also called an organ rank) is a set of pipes of a similar tone.

When referring to the size of a pipe or digital organ, one says it in the amount of stops the instrument has. Our organ has 45 stops. It has the ability to perform just about
anything from pipe organ and church music literature, either contemporary or from hundreds of years ago. (How thrilling!)

In addition, our Rodgers 905 is MIDI compatible. MIDI is a widely-used standard for interconnecting electronic musical instruments (such as our organ) and computers. It stands for “musical instrument digital interface.” It means that our organ’s manuals and pedals can play sounds from other sound sources in addition to the digital pipe organ sounds you hear on Sunday: violins, cellos, timpani, French horns, bassoons (instruments from an orchestra), or Japanese flutes or Indian instruments (instruments from other cultures), or even sounds you’d hear in a film score. With careful inputting of the music parts into a computer program, our organ can play back music from a computer or iPad.
The organ comes with a remote keyboard that can be played from different locations in the church, such as by a second player or by the piano player.  Currently the organ’s eight speakers are located in the chancel near the altar (you can’t miss them!). Eventually these speakers will be permanently mounted in the front areas of the church. The organ also has the capacity for another set of speakers that can be placed in the rear balcony of the church. We are in the process of purchasing a set of balcony speakers from Church Keyboard Center. This means that the organ’s chimes or trumpet sounds, for example, can be sounded from the balcony and not from the main front speakers. Or, the balcony speakers can be used along with the front main speakers to create a fuller sound.
I look forward to enhancing our worship in music with such a versatile instrument. It will take some time to learn all of the facets of the instrument, so please bear with me. An organ concert is being planned for later this year. Please feel free to come up after services and ask questions about the organ, look at it up close, or simply watch it being played. May our new Rodgers organ enrich and elevate your worship at St. Luke for many years to come.

Where we’re at … from February 2013 Chatter

We have been blessed! An anonymous donation of $20,000 towards an organ coincided with finding an excellent used digital Rodgers organ at a nearby congregation. We are working on setting up a temporary installation as we figure other plans for the sanctuary. We will let you know if additional contributions might be needed to get it moved in – but we can look forward to wonderful organ music soon.
We have contracted with an architect, Richard Foster – known to St Luke for his guitar contributions with the folkjam. Richard will take our work thus far and is providing some design help that can move us forward. At the same time, a finance group (David Primuth, Kristi Magnussen, Joy Wenzel, Neil Gillespie, Brad Wood, Stephanie Flood) is looking at what we might be able to afford and funding options.
At the end of January we were blessed with a visit from Anne Gerrietts, the Church Building Consultant who serves the western US for the ELCA Mission Investment Fund. She had read through our blog (stlukeworshipspace.wordpress.com) and gave advice on various aspects of the project. She expressed praise for our ideas and approach, and encouraged us above all to keep the focus on mission: that any work in our sanctuary or elsewhere not simply be an “update” or cosmetic, but an opportunity (as we say) to be more welcoming to all people and encourage sharing the joy of faith.

Feedback and Ideas from Forums

During November and into December, we had three discussions of ideas from our worship space task force.   There was a great deal of feedback on ideas presented and some new ideas as well.  The primary issue was, as could be expected, cost: we don’t want to go into overwhelming debt, no matter how good the idea!  Otherwise, I (Pastor Hillesland) felt there was real, even surprising openness to some of the possibilities brought up.  Thanks to Sybil Buff for taking notes.

Some concerns, seating:

  • Aesthetic: what would chairs look like in our space, compared with pews?  Too casual?
  • The pews were bought when the sanctuary was built, there is a sentimental connection with them.
  • We need to be sure that pews / chairs are comfortable for all people, no matter what their size.  Also, space to accomodate as many people in wheelchairs, with casts, strollers, as needed.
  • The current pews are functional.  Perhaps they could replaced (angled?) or even modified to work better in our space?
  • A stated goal is to be flexible.  But we need to also think about who might move chairs or other furniture, when needed.

Narthex area:

  • Concern about cost of removing back wall, which is weight-bearing.  Will it be worth it?
  • Would people sit in narthex area if it were opened up?  Would it really increase seating capacity?  Would they be too far removed from the altar, pulpit, “action” of the service?
  • What about having a nice “buffer zone” between outside and sanctuary?  A place to greet guests and not disturb visitors?  To prepare for entry into sanctuary?  For cold winds from outside world to dissipate?
  • If we modify the cry room, we’d have to work around the electric panel.  What about, instead of having window access to the sanctuary, there’s video access through a screen (set up in the library / cry room) and video camera (set up in the sanctuary)?

Front of sanctuary / general:

  • If we do have a screen or TV in front, it would need to be big enough to be visible to the whole sanctuary.
  • There is a certain integrity to the original design – front wall cross over central altar in Chancel, and pulpit of size that corresponds with altar.  If we change the placement of furnishings, will it all still fit together?  With altar & pulpit front and center, in a way that befits Lutheran tradition and theology?
  • What about kneeling around the altar, which I find meaningful?
  • Agreement that an altar brought forward would eliminate clutter.
  • Wood rot on stained glass windows must be dealt with as soon as possible.
  • Concrete floor might lend a very warm look to sanctuary.


  • Is a new organ necessary, with our fine piano?  Or, can’t organs make piano sounds, would we need a piano?
  • Currently, when people play guitar in front they sometimes have problems hearing the piano.
  • Agreement that the carpet deadens sound and is bad for accoustics.
  • We want to get instruments out of the exit – as they can prove to be fire hazards.

Ideas: in Jesus Christ

This is the third little talk about ideas for our worship space. Today, the big question: Does all this really matter? Yes, in different ways. Some of our ideas are about enhancing our worship experience. Some ideas, such as work on the floor, are also about safety and maintenance. With other issues, such as accessibility, it may be that the integrity of what do is at stake. The last couple of weeks, I’ve tried to be a spokesperson for our worship space task force. Now, I speak more just as Pastor. We have to ask, what ministries are vital to us? What ministries do we live on? “A Christian community extending God’s love and compassion, welcoming all to share the joy of faith in Jesus Christ.” The condition of our sanctuary matters, because worship is vital to us. “Welcoming all to share the joy of faith in Jesus Christ.”

At the national headquarters for the ELCA, they recently rearranged their chapel. At the center is the baptismal font, ever reminding us that we’re claimed by God. Pulpit and altar/table face each other. The Word is heard, seen, and tasted. The idea that Word and Sacrament proclaim and present Christ together is very Lutheran.

In our work on a vision for St Luke last year, we noticed that people are busy: driving, working, they live far away, and may not always be able to make it to church during the week. So our Sunday morning becomes increasingly important. Also, remember that when we have visitors, this is usually the first and often the only room they see. In your own house, you get used to how clean or messy things are, to that step into the kitchen. You forget it’s there. What first impression might visitors have about us, based on what they see here?  Imagine you are someone who was raised without church, and you’re here for the first time. What do you learn about the faith of people at St Luke? What do these surroundings say about God?
In the past weeks we’ve talked about “welcoming all,” “sharing the joy of faith,” today we complete the sentence “in Jesus Christ.” In Christ, God became flesh. Lutherans believe that Jesus Christ is made known by our words, but also in the flesh, the stuff of creation, the water of new birth, the bread and the wine.

How prominent is the bread and wine? Six years ago, we went to weekly communion – a tremendous step forward. Now, a few weeks ago, we brought up the idea of an unobstructed, more approachable altar. When it wasn’t being used every week, that may not have been as important. The main thing isn’t the altar, or table, but the bread and cup. Are they visible, prominent symbols here?  What about water of baptism? In past years, we’ve baptized children and adults. One of you made a new stand for the Christ candle that shows us who we are connected to in baptism. And we’re celebrating the Easter Vigil, which reconnects Easter with baptism. How do we further emphasize that baptism isn’t just a special rite that happens on a rare occasion, but a new birth that we revisit daily? One idea would be to have a font that’s visible during worship, with space to gather around, and water always available.

The presence of water connects us to creation. The baptismal font is a very appropriate place to put flowers and plants.

An “Ambo” sized proportionally to worship space and natural height of reader, connected with the table in style.

What about a place for reading scripture and preaching? One custom was to have two places – a smaller lectern and a big pulpit. Our national church guidelines questions whether this practice makes it seem like there’s a difference in status between laity and clergy. For some people, a pulpit can seem a little high and mighty. So one idea would be to have one portable place of reading, an “Ambo,” that matches our altar or table.
We know Christ in word, water, bread and wine. Also, in each other. Awhile ago, we heard the story of Jesus’ disciples asking, “‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; whoever is not against us is for us.” Who are the people who “aren’t with us” now, but may worship Christ here in the future? Jesus says to his followers, “whoever welcomes you welcomes me.” When we welcome Jesus’ followers, whoever they may be, we welcome Christ.
What kind of space will welcome future worshippers here? In whatever changes we do make, I believe we should keep things as flexible as possible, for a changing society. Moveable table, reading place, baptismal font. Moveable chairs or benches that can be reconfigured. Think about what takes place here: a baptism, with plenty of space needed around the font, space that might not be needed every Sunday. A children’s pageant or Christmas concert. A funeral with casket, or wedding. A neighborhood watch meeting with Dennis Zine, where people want to see each other and interact. Evening prayer during Lent, with 20 people, who may want a smaller circle to sing well together. What if we used words projected on a screen? What if we had the chairs in a circle around a table for Maundy Thursday? In my previous congregation, they started a contemplative Taize’ service – mostly for young adults, where you set on cushions on the floor – but they couldn’t do it in the sanctuary because of fixed seating. Not that we’d necessarily planning to do this.

Young adults sit on the floor during “Prayer around the Cross” at Lutheran camp & retreat center Holden Village in Washington State. 

The point is, when we bolt pews down or secure furniture, we limit possibilities. At one point in the past, we maybe could have looked twenty years in the future, and guessed that the church would be pretty much the same as it is now. That’s no longer the case. I don’t know what church will be like when my kids are adults.
I try to make sure they learn piano, violin, and to sing just like I did, even if I don’t have any control over what they do with music in the future. It’s even more important that we teach the basic practices of worship, even if we don’t have control over how they will worship. It’s the Holy Spirit who keeps us in Christ.
One other idea. Recently the national church has come up with a new five week course on the fundamentals of our worship, created by young leaders. I suggest we do this course in the new year. Knowing more about what we do enriches our experience of it, and also prepares us for decisions about worship in the sanctuary.

Ask Lisa Curtis about her experience at this church near Ground Zero in New York. Chairs in the center allow visitors to circle around during the day looking at memorials, while worship / workshop takes place in the center. They did save George Washingtons’ pew – it’s off to the side!