Building & Art
St. Michael’s building was erected in 1959 by members of the congregation at a total cost of $146,272. Interior furnishings, carpet, and architectural fees brought the total cost to $185,048 (approximately $1.7 million in 2021 dollars.) The architect was Mr. Oliver Olson of Seattle and Weston Construction Company was the general contractor. An example of mid-century modern buildings, it continues to attract the interest of architects in the Portland area. St Michael’s has been the venue for many weddings and family celebrations over the years. If you are interested in St. Michael’s facility for a gathering, please get in touch with Sharon Carlson, the church secretary. A description of the building and use policies can be found here.
We have some home movies created at the time of the building’s groundbreaking and construction. The video is here.
The building consists of a large nave which seats nearly 400 at capacity and a sizeable fellowship hall to the south of the nave which also functions as an overflow seating area. A small sacristy is found off the chancel area and a large kitchen is located off the fellowship hall. In 2020 the extreme south end of the building was converted to an office space and leased to a not-for-profit organization that assists college students in Rwanda: These Numbers Have Faces. In the 1990s a significant remodel to the building updated the restroom facilities and created a handicapped restroom along with expanded storage.
The interior of the building is marked by the clean lines and minimalist style of the mid-20th century. The great window behind the altar, framed by the large, arched beams, draws one’s attention to beauty on the other side of the sacramental gift. The large windows let in a great deal of natural light, to the delight of the eye and frustration of mid-afternoon wedding photographers. The interior, in addition to the usual paraments, banners, and other accouterments of a liturgical parish, is adorned by several works of art: The baptismal font was created by a local artist and Concordia professor, Larry Gross. Its swirling tiles, predominantly blue and white, bear witness to the water and Spirit which compose this sacrament. The cross and the dark empty tomb at the base which are worked into the pattern reminds us that in Baptism we are buried with Christ and raised with him to new life. (Romans 6:1-6)
Upon the altar rail are twelve plaques representing the twelve disciples of Jesus who shared the last supper with him.
Of particular interest is the inclusion of a blank plaque on the extreme right of the rail. This represents Judas, the betrayer. He too partook of that meal with Jesus (Mk 14:20). This calls us to repent, for we too may have come to this rail in sin and betrayal. But it also speaks words of grace and peace to us. Jesus brings anyone to this meal who needs him and what this meal confers – life and salvation.
On the east side of the nave, on the north facing wall, hangs an ensemble of pieces by the important NW artist Ernst Schwidder. This ensemble was originally placed in the Chapel of the Upper Room on the campus of Concordia University. With the closure of the university, the ensemble passed to the Northwest District which has elected to display this piece here at St. Michael’s. In the upper right one finds the Greek work “Kyrie” and in the upper left is the tetragrammaton, the four letters which form the covenental name of God in the Old Testament. The largest element, in the center, is the crucifix. Jesus’ head rests upon his right shoulder, a defining feature of Schwidder’s crucifixes. The fourth element, on the lower right, is a large plaque formed by the words “Christi Crux est mihi lux” (The cross of Christ is light to me.) This was the motto of Concordia university but also an idea which has guided Christianity for millennia.
Another cross made its way to St. Michael’s from Concordia. In the final years of Concordia, chapel services were held in the FAB and Pastor Bo Baumeister oversaw the addition of several pieces of art, including a cross constructed by the important Nebraska artist William Wolfram. This cross was placed in the fellowship hall where it cheerfully oversees fellowship meals, educational opportunities and more.
St Michael’s building was dedicated to the glory of God in 1959 and for more than sixty years has been fulfilling that noble task. If you would like to know more, please stop by, set up an appointment with Pastor and he will gladly give you a tour.