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For more than 40 years, Norman Young has been worshipping at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church. He married his wife, Carol, there and watched his three daughters exchange wedding vows in front of the Italian marble altar.
In the back of church’s nave, above the pews, is a massive pipe organ that Young said produces the most magnificent sounds. With more than 3,300 pipes pushing their notes into the air, it is the jewel of St. John.
“When the organ plays, it’s just wonderful,” Young said.
Perhaps in a way the congregation has never done before, Young is pushing to open the doors of St. John so that the public – secular or devout – has a chance to appreciate one of Forest Park’s most impressive structures. Beginning later this year, St. John expects to host architectural tours to explain both the nuances and overtures of the Byzantine-Romanesque church at 305 Circle.
“We just think we’ve kept it to ourselves for far too long,” Young said.
The church is still in the very early stages of pulling these tours together, but Young said the outreach is not intended to raise money for the congregation or even fill pews on Sunday morning. A committee working on the tours is also looking for other outlets in which to showcase the building’s artwork, including festivals and street fairs.
Several decades ago, a church member, Gerhardt Becker, compiled a small brochure outlining St. John’s history and explaining the significance of various details within the church. The Byzantine-Romanesque architecture, for example, is uncharacteristic of Lutheran churches. There are Italian, Greek and German influences in St. John’s stained-glass windows and murals, according to a copy of Becker’s pamphlet.
Young said he wasn’t sure what type of response he might get from within the congregation when he suggested hosting tours, but said at least a dozen people offered to help. The group is working to produce a new brochure, and has yet to set a firm timeline for opening the church’s doors.