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Faith Lutheran Church began as a mission congregation, meeting for the first service at Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center on October 16, 1960. By 1963 property was purchased at 4930 Newanga Avenue, a site that had on it three chicken coups and a house, later named The Red Cottage, which became a focal point for worship, planning, and fellowship. In time the congregation cleared land and two of the chicken coups—the third became a Red Barn storage facility. A sanctuary, now Charter Hall, was built and dedicated on October 11, 1964. In 1986 the present Sanctuary was built and dedicated.
Before Faith Lutheran Church~One Charter Members' memories.
As remembered by Dr. Robert Bell
At first there were four families, one of which was the designated mission developer from Santa Rosa for the United Lutheran Church, the Reverend Robert Friestedt and his wife. These families had been congregants of a church of the Norwegian Lutheran Church and felt the need for a different kind of church experience. Their quest was supported by the United Lutheran Church and so on May 15, 1960, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel White, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Bell and Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Christensen accompanied the pastor and his wife to the pastor’s ordination service in San Francisco. By the time of the service of organization of the church on May 7, 1961, there were 140 worshippers.
(Service of Organization~May 7th, 1961~At Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center)
(present day Charter Hall)
As Remembered by Dr. Robert Bell
It came as quite a surprise that the bishop had come to Santa Rosa and purchased property for our congregation. He informed Pastor Friestedt that a beautiful site had been chosen on the west side of Sonoma Highway for which the Board of American Missions had paid $49,000. The bishop was correct in that it was a beautiful site and it fulfilled two requirements, it would be visible and near a main road. He should have checked our people. Walt Brelje, an engineer, did not like the choice for two reasons. One was that the ingress and egress on Sunday mornings would pose a real problem. The other was that the city planned to extend Calistoga Road, taking a good chunk of our property. We would also lose a usable portion when the south embankment was graded.
When we made this known to Dr. Anders Farstrup, regional secretary for the Board of American Missions, he directed us to look for another location.
A patient of mine, Mrs. Edna Fitzsimmons was a real estate agent. I asked her if she could search for us. One day she came by and said she would like to have our group look at some property that would soon be available on Newanga Avenue. A Mrs. Gott, who was the mother-in-law of Edna’s employer, Ed Hinkle, owned the site. It seems that Ed owned the land just south of Mrs. Gott. If we bought just Mrs. Gott's property, Ed would be landlocked because Hoen Avenue had not been extended to the east, so the Board of American Missions bought all the land for us. Later, the sale of some of that property made it possible to pay off the mortgage on a church building.
When Dr. Farstrup and his group met with us, I told them I felt bad because of Highway 12 problem, since they now had land they could not use. His assistant told me, "We are not in the real estate business. Over the years everything evens out," and in this case, it did. And so it was that Edna Fitzsimmons, a devout Roman Catholic, found a home for us devout Lutherans. A remarkable woman, Edna felt she had taken too long in finding the property for us, so she took no fee.
We now owned a little red house that we called the Red Cottage and three large chicken coops, surrounded by weeds that were in some places chest high. We built a temporary barbed wire fence just south of the barbecue and then permitted our neighbor to bring his cattle in to keep the weeds down.
We were now moving forward to fulfill what we saw as our real purpose, making known the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Building a Sanctuary and Social Hall.
As remembered by Dr. Robert Bell
(Daniel White and Pastor Freistedt)
The Red Cottage
As Remembered by Dr. Robert Bell
I have no doubt that the Red Cottage will be torn down, perhaps even during my lifetime, although I hope not. To some of us old folks who just can't let go of the past it is extremely important. Aside from chicken coops, it was the only building we had at first on the property to make our future plans and create a viable budget. At one council meeting I remember voting to decide whether to take money from the general fund to purchase cookies for a congregational meeting! We prepared food there and used it for a place for our youth to meet. Our first Lenten service was held there. Dorothy White provided the music on an old pump organ. Every time she hit a clunker one would hear, "Oh toot!" Faith Lutheran found its heart in this beloved building. It was truly our first church.
In January of 1965 we had an interim pastor who we housed in the Red Cottage. He was the renowned Dr. S. O. Thorlaksson, a native of Iceland. His wife who was quite ill eventually came to stay with him in the Red Cottage, where he tended her. A brilliant man Dr. Thorlaksson spoke eleven languages. He served the Allies during WWII in the Office of War information and in the Office of Strategic Services. He also held the post of Icelandic Consul General for Northern California. It isn't often one gets to meet let alone associate with a theologian who was truly a heroic figure. We hated to see him leave.
In the mid nineties there was movement to tear down the Red Cottage and replace it with a portable building. To us fogies it made no sense to deliberately destroy the "sturdy ole gal". When we had a man and his father come to evaluate it, they said we should raise it, and put a foundation under it for the redwood in it alone was worth $24,000.
I fully realize that the newer members have no emotional ties to the Red Cottage. To many of them it is an "Ugly Old Hag" and it will finally be destroyed in the name of "progress". To the rest of us who remember, she is still our lovely first worship facility, warts and all. When that day comes, I will not be present to witness what I will consider her execution.
(1963 architect proposed drawing of Chuch grounds)
The Artwork of the Chuch
The Creation Window
As Remembered by Faith Parson, the Artist
For two years, every season, every side, every pew, Faith Parson sat and contemplated the 50-inch plain glass window over the altar. In the choir where she sang, she saw what other choir members saw, the sky. She let her mind contemplate a work in progress and then started sketching. “I sat throughout the sanctuary in different seasons, various positions, in all kinds of weather.” In the end, she presented her design to the church council and it was approved.
Broad, vertical bands in varying shades of blue, yellow, orange, and white stream from a central sun and curve over sunbathed green hills of Sonoma County. Every California season is there with colors representing times of day—morning, afternoon, evening, night—while three birds fly in the colors, winging their way to heaven. Faith put the doves in the work to represent three earlier members who had died, Roy Besser, Art Lindberg, and Elmer Burns, but as she grew older and losses increased, she came to see the doves as a metaphor for all departed saints of Faith Lutheran.
Worshippers see the window through their eyes as Faith intended. “Some see a rainbow, and that’s fine. Whatever the window means to you, take that meaning.” Some have told Faith they see the Russian River between the hills. She smiles, “If it’s there, it’s an accidental happening.” No accident is the inclusion of an oak tree that grows on church property. The pastor at the time of the window’s installation, Lorents Flak, saw the Creation in the work and so the name “Creation Window” was adopted.
As Faith intended, the window reflects a variety of moods. At times, fed by the light of day, colors and warmth from the window, like blessings from God’s hands, fall upon worshippers taking Communion or singing in the pews At other times, the colors are subdued into the weather or a darker time of day, reminding worshippers of God’s presence in times of hardship or sorrow. The window is placid, yet alive with possibilities as art and worship meet and meld.
Faith designed the window and Terry Raikes, who worked in stained glass and lead, built it. Faith selected the glass, donated by Dr. Earl Rothburg, and Terry built a frame and did the cutting and soldering. Jack Smith Glass installed the work in 1990. Written by Kathryn Miller
Other Art in the Church
As Remembered by Ruth Bell and Faith Parson, Artists
Besides the Creation Window, there are a number of artistic works in the church, designed and made by church members. The Martin Luther Symbol stained glass window in the sanctuary above the entrance to the narthex was designed by Faith and dedicated to honor the memory of Roy Besser with installation funds donated by Roy’s wife Donna and their daughters Allison and Jennifer. Luther’s symbol is a white rose, first published in a woodcut of Luther in 1520, and later depicted in the design of his seal in 1530 (see note below).
One ambitious and endearing project is Noah’s Ark. “We, Ruth and I,” Faith remembers, “were asked by Pastor Craig Geiger to do something with the side wall of the storage unit facing the Dan White Memorial Garden. We designed the Ark. Ruth cut out all the wooden figures and I painted them.” There was the Ark, itself, and 54 figures of animals coming off Mount Ararat after the Biblical flood. Working with a 9 by 11 foot wall and taking into consideration the habitats on earth in which the animals would settle and live took a lot of thought and creativity, Ruth and Faith remember. When the work was new, insects came out of the jar on the bow of the Ark. “Really monstrously large mosquitoes,” Faith laughed. “Spiders, too,” Ruth added. These insects have disappeared as well as some of the other wooden figures, including Mrs. Noah, but most of the animals remain. Lutheran Magazine published an article on the work in its January 1999 issue.
In 1966 Ruth and Faith painted a large mural on the wall of Hummon Hall that depicted Reformation banners. The design was borrowed from a church bulletin. The mural is not visible today as it was covered up shortly after the pre-school moved into Hummon Hall. Judy Eng did the castle on the hill depicted in the mural. During the painting, Ruth’s two-year-old son Dan napped on the floor or, when awake, was tended to, in turn, by either his mother or Faith in a mixture of domestic duty with artistic aspiration and labor.
In 1968 Ruth designed the Dan White Memorial Garden in front of Noah’s Ark and a stainless steel sculpture of Christ on the cross under the eaves of Charter Hall. The sculpture can be seen through the trees around it. Dan White was a founder of Faith Lutheran. The Dan White Memorial Garden was designed as a place of meditation or a place of congregation for members to socialize after worship. Another meditation spot is the Dream Garden on the side of Charter Hall, which has a Grecian figure fountain among the flowers, trees and shrubs of the garden. Diane Martin started this garden and was helped in its design and plantings by Grace Forrest and Jan Goree.
The painting of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Schlosskirche (castle church) in Wittenberg on the 31st of October 1517, hung near our present-day choir, was drawn by Ruth and painted by Judy Eng Dick. The full-sized painting celebrated 450 years of Lutheranism in 1967 and was displayed in a booth that Faith Lutheran had at the Sonoma County Fair that year.
Ruth also designed and created a bronze cover for our baptismal font for the baptism of Dr. and Mrs. Hummon’s grandson in 1986. Ruth also made the church symbol staff with its cross and handle that is carried into worship each Sunday. The same symbol is replicated in metal on the back of our church. Written by Kathryn Miller
The Meaning Of Martin Luther’s White Rose Seal
Martin Luther in a letter to Lazarus Spengler explained the significance of his seal: “ The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. ‘For one who believes from the heart will be justified’ (Rom. 10:10} Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matt. 28:3 John 20:12) Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_rose