Lutheran Church, Sunday services began on January 23, 1944, with Mission Pastor George Curran. Services continued to be held in the Winnermark’s basement. On April 2, 1944, the charter was signed and the Reverend Samuel Besecker was called to be the first Pastor.
The original sanctuary at Grand and Hawthorne Streets was completed and dedicated on December 8, 1946. A parsonage was built next to the church in 1948. In 1950 a steeple was added to the original sancturary. The original sanctuary is now used as the first, second, and third grade Sunday School classrooms.
With the continuing influx of people into the Franklin Park area, the church grew in membership and those created a need for more building space. In May, 1954, ground was broken for an addition to the church building which included educational and office expansion. These rooms now are used as the Conference Room, Music Room and three offices.
As the congregation continued to grow, the current sanctuary was built and dedicated in 1962. In 1991 a Friendship Hall was added which also contains a basketball court.
Design Notes on the Chancel and Chapel
by Pastor Bill Hutchison
(Asst. Pastor at RLC 1988-1992)
(from RLC archives and conversations with Dorothea Miralgio)
The wooden liturgical furniture in the Chancel of Resurrection Lutheran Church, made of African mahogany, was designed, assembled, and hand-carved by Prof. Ernst Schwidder, an assistant professor of art at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN, in the early 1960’s. He eventually taught at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, until his retirement. His concept, initially provided by the RLC Chancel Design Committee, was to depict significant milestones in the story of Christ, His Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, as a way of setting the larger context behind the name of the church: Resurrection.
The Incarnation was depicted by Schwidder in the symbol of an oversized pulpit as a bold expression of the Incarnation of Christ, the Word, dwelling among us, hence the scriptural verse carved into the panel on the front: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” – John 1:14. It should be noted that at RLC, the pulpit is the only place from which the scriptures are intended to be read, a very bold liturgical move in the early 60’s when it was far more common to have a lesser lectern, in addition to a pulpit, for the reading of scriptures by lay persons.
The Crucifixion of Christ was depicted very subtly by Schwidder with the suggestion of his death upon the altar of sacrifice. Thus the altar was designed as a funeral bier, the platform upon which a dead body would be laid for a funeral, hence the carved verse: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him.” –Mark 16:6. A typical Roman Catholic depiction of Christ’s Crucifixion is his dead body on the cross, but since the church is called Resurrection, and it’s a part of the historical Reformation church movement, the cross is usually empty. At RLC, the idea is that we as worshippers are invited, like the women who discovered the empty tomb where they were expecting death on that first Easter, to encounter the empty funeral bier; thus, we, too, are invited to witness the Death and Resurrection of Christ afresh, in our own way and in our own time!
The Resurrection of Christ was to be depicted by a carved figure of Christ hanging on the wall behind the empty altar/tomb; originally there was to be no cross. This Christ figure is most interesting because it depicts Christ emerging from the linen wrappings that would have been applied at his burial in the tomb. It can be seen that the cocoon-like wrappings are just starting to slip away from Christ’s shoulders and coming unraveled, as if we, too, are witnessing the very moment of his Resurrection. Christ is looking heavenward as if about to speak, while at the same time giving the sign of peace to one and all, hinting perhaps at the verse Christ was said to have spoken from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34. It was a matter of some controversy when the dark figure of Christ was first installed because it suggested a non-white Christ; yet clearly the skin complexion of most persons living in the Middle East is darker-toned. Once again, RLC made a very bold move that was far ahead of the times!
At the time of brick laying for the wall that would hold the Christ figure, mounting rods had to be positioned that would be strong enough to bear the weight. An idea was raised with the brick masons to perhaps lay the bricks in such a manner as to form the outline of a cross. The first idea was to position the bricks to project out from the wall; but the brick masons came up with an even better idea: recessing the bricks slightly into the wall to provide merely a shadowy hint of the cross that is no longer really there. So we worshippers are given yet another tool with which to assemble a theology of Christ’s death and resurrection—an empty tomb/altar, a resurrected Christ emerging from the death wrappings, and just a hint of the cross that the Gospel of John emphasizes ought to be raised up (like Moses raising his staff among the people of Israel) as a sign of God’s presence and power in our midst.
As an additional part of the story of Christ, the windows behind the Altar were intended by the RLC Chancel Design Committee to suggest Christ’s Ascension. The upward angle of the stained-glass panels and the various colors were all carefully chosen to suggest a sense of moving heavenward. The design was intentionally abstract and devoid of any overt symbol to suggest an ethereal realm in which everyday shapes melt away. The traditional color of red was omitted from the palette to steer clear of any reference to Christ’s blood and sacrifice; at his Ascension Christ’s robe became dazzling white so there were no blood stains to be found. It should also be noted that these same colors of stained-glass were used around the rest of the sanctuary, thereby providing a subtle clue that during worship we, too, are catching a glimpse of the glories of the heavenly realm; we are invited to see the world through the colored lens of Christ’s victory over death and the grave.
Lastly, the Pentecost experience, which is actually alongside of but separate from the story of Christ, is appropriately depicted in the RLC Chapel, which is alongside of but separate from the main worship space. In the Chapel the scene of the tongues of fire alighting on the heads of the Apostles is vividly depicted with bright shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. The fact that the Chapel is adjacent to the street is no accident; it suggests that others outside the Church are invited into the life of the Spirit in the Church. The Pentecost experience is the quintessential reminder for all Christians that the community of Christ is led by the Holy Spirit, compelled and driven, to welcome one and all into His Living Body.