Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Signs and symbols

Sunday's visit to St. John's Church in Mason City also was an opportunity to revisit All Saints Chapel, one of my favorite spaces in a large complex that sprawls over a quarter of a downtown block with the grand old First Congregational Church and the studios of KIMT television as next-door neighbors.

The chapel is open daily to anyone seeking a place to meditate or pray and also is used for smaller services because it seats fewer than 100 people comfortably. At the height of the war in Iraq, we met here every Wednesday evening for Compline, dedicated to those killed in armed conflict. Morning and noonday services on Ash Wednesday are held here and I believe the 8 a.m. Sunday service now is held here, too.

The main block of the original St. John's as well as its parish hall were built during the 1920s to replace an older building and are very much products of that decade, incorporating everything thought then to be appropriately Anglican.

I believe the chapel and the office wing date from the 1960s or 1970s and the chapel, to my eye at least, is a very successful representation of a period of church design that now can seem far more dated than traditional church architecture.

The windows, rather than figural, are focused on symbols of the church --- many condensed into the big and colorful south window. A steel cross, hardly evident here, hangs from thin wire over the free-standing altar and appears to float.

The symbols that are the focus of six side windows, however, attempt to place St. John's in context in a larger universe, commencing with the shield of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa.

Then the shield of The Episcopal Church.

And a symbolic representation of the United States of America.

The Compass Rose represents the Anglican Communion.

The Oikoumene window, the World Council of Churches.

And the United Nations symbol, the known world as a whole.

This is the chancel of St. John's before Sunday's ordination, looking much browner than it really is --- but my little camera was doing the best it could to compensate for the relatively dim lighting and overdid it. But you get the idea.

I was happy, too, to get an update on St. John's 1930 Reuter pipe organ (Opus 384, 3 manuals, 16 ranks). It's pipe chamber is hiding behind a screen to the right behind the pulpit. When I moved south, it had begun to develop issues after 80 years of use, and the projected repair cost seemed intimidating.

When a Reuter crew, in town to work on the Trinity Lutheran organ, took a look, however, the situation was not as grim as projected --- and it now has been repaired and returned to full voice.

All Saints Chapel
Main church with parish hall roof to the far right.

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