Saturday, December 8, 2012

St. Paul Lutheran Church (ELCA), Soap Creek (Rural De Witt), NE

Saint Paul Lutheran Church (ELCA) at Soap Creek (Rural De Witt), Nebraska can track its roots back to December of 1883, when a meeting was held to call the congregation's first pastor.  At this time, services were held in a public schoolhouse near Soap Creek.  The congregation was officially established in the spring of 1884.

According to the congregation's website:

In 1891 a committee was elected to plan a larger church. This building was to be 32’ X 56’ X 18’ with a 10’ X 14’ hall and a 70’ tower. In the summer of 1896 this church was struck by lighting and burned to the ground. Later that year the building was replaced with another of similar dimensions. In 1923 the church was raised three feet and a basement was dug for a schoolroom and furnace. They also added a room to each side of the tower. In 1924 the chancel was carpeted. Electric lights were installed in 1926. In 1930 a twelve-foot addition was added to the west end to make room for the installation of a new Hinners pipe organ. By ballot vote in 1942, they chose to dig out the whole basement and purchase a new furnace. The inside of the church was redecorated in 1943-1944.
By 1952, the congregation had outgrown its former house of worship and the decision was made to construct a new church.  The cornerstone of the present church building was laid on November 20, 1955 with dedication being held on November 4, 1956.

The present church is full of fantastic Mid-Century details and has changed very little since the time of its construction.  The angular bell tower houses both the original church's bell and a typically 1950s electronic bell system.

The original narthex doors feature wonderfully detailed pulls.  The reflection of a brass sculpture of the Trinity can be seen as well.

In the narthex, an ornate statue of the Risen Christ from the original church building stands in sharp contrast to the sleek Mid-Century features of the overall space.

The interior of St. Paul's is characterized by a sweeping, uplifting feeling - largely due to the intensely vertical nature of the structure.  One does not readily apprehend this verticality from the church's exterior.

As with the rest of the building, the church proper is replete with Mid-Century details including the fantastic light fixtures, exposed wood trusses, and bare brick and concrete block walls.  It really is somewhat of a rarity to find such a well-preserved Mid-Century church.

The simple altar table is covered with a stunning needlepoint altar cloth featuring stalks of wheat and a Greek Cross.

A wonderfully angular pulpit stands to the right of the sanctuary.  Note the matching needlepoint parament. 

The baptismal font is probably the church's most interesting piece of liturgical furniture.  The simple base joins together to create a cross on each of the four sides that holds aloft an elegant cylindrical basin.

The church's nave windows are of colored plate glass, ranging from deep, rich colors nearest the chancel and fading to lighter pastels toward the back to the church.

Crammed into the corner of the choir loft is a 1930 Hinners pipe organ, transplanted from the congregation's original church building.  Further details on this organ are available from the OHS Database

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