There's a birthday to celebrate in 21Country this Sunday...actually more of a re-birthday.
They're restoring the Conrad Wyneken home in northern Adams County and that's something to celebrate.
Conrad Wyneken was an immigrant German Lutheran minister who used this building as a base from which he rode a circuit in the 1840's that stretched from Michigan to Indianapolis, preaching to frontier families and establishing dozens of Lutheran churches along the way.
The best known of his congregations however, was right here in Fort Wayne.
Pastor Richard Radtke, of St. Paul's Church says, “All of this was given to us so that we could worship and give thanks and praise to God for what he has done.”
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church is the centerpiece of the Lutheran presence in 21Country.
There are 1,700 in the congregation who worship each Sunday in this church that is itself a magnificent expression of devotion and faith.
St. Paul's congregation was founded in 1837, but this breathtaking structure wasn't built until 1889.
Fourteen years later, on December 3rd, 1903, just after an Advent service, one of the church furnaces overheated and St. Paul’s went up in flames.
Pastor Radtke says, “Read some of the old newspaper accounts. Not only the people of St. Paul’s, but the entire community was horrified that the fire had destroyed this beautiful church.”
The fire gutted the sanctuary, but the brick walls, held together with still-fresh mortar, were left standing.
Before the embers were even cold, the rebuilding began.
Sixteen months later, April 4th, 1905, the new sanctuary was rededicated.
It is nearly identical to the one that was destroyed.
Immense hand-stenciled vaulted ceilings arch gracefully above the congregation as stained glass windows of the reddest reds and bluest blues cast a reverent glow across the sanctuary.
Pastor Radtke says, “The Gothic architecture, the painted arches, the steeple and everything else in the church always lifts the eye to heaven. And that's the point of gothic architecture, to remind us that indeed while we are citizens here on earth, we are also citizens of heaven looking forward to that day when we will be with the Lord.”
In a world of chaotic change, St. Paul's provides its flock with an unbroken tradition that reaches back to the Missouri Synod's very beginnings.
Conrad Wyneken, St. Paul's second pastor, was the synod's founder.
This Sunday, St. Paul’s will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the sanctuary's rebuilding...that day a century ago when this holy place rose like the phoenix from its own ashes to resume its solemn mission in 21Country.
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