When the renovation of the Heritage Chapel at Trinity Lutheran Church began, workers uncovered a surprise when they removed the dark wood paneling on its walls — a circle had been roughed in to the rear wall of the chapel.
Trinity Lutheran Church member Troy Wiens said it was not long after the discovery of the hole that church members realized it had been intended to hold a circular stained glass window that had been in storage for nearly 80 years.
"When they redecorated in 1938, they put that in a crate," Wiens said. "We knew it was in the basement here, but we didn't know where it was supposed to go. For reasons we don't know, they changed their mind and never installed it."
The window, along with other furnishings from the church's original building, have been placed in the renovated Heritage Chapel.
The space that used to be covered in dark wood paneling and red carpet now has cream-colored walls with stenciled designs of blue and gold — an element that had been forgotten until an old photograph was discovered in the church's archives.
"We didn't know until right when we were getting ready to start that this was the original decorative scheme," Wiens said.
In 1938, the church decided to renovate before hosting a Lutheran conference and painted over the stenciling.
"They just wanted a more clean look — less of the Victorian influence," Wiens said.
Even the church's altar was stained a dark brown to match the pulpit and the font.
"Many of the Lutheran churches around here had that exact same altar," Wiens explained. "They were a kit. When they were new, they were white with gold trim."
The original stencil work on the church's walls was done in 1911 by G.N. Malm of Lindsborg, who also painted designs in the McPherson Opera House in 1913.
"His stencils were sold all over the United States," Wiens said.
Naomi Ullum copied the stencil patterns for the Heritage Chapel's renovation by looking at the historical photographs.
"We didn't recreate anything that wasn't already there," said Larry Malm, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church and great-great-nephew of G.N. Malm.
Trinity Lutheran Church was founded in 1883, when members of the New Gottland Lutheran Church wanted to worship closer to home. Its original building was located on the corner of Kansas Avenue and Oak Street. When trains came through, the noise disrupted services, so the church built a new building at 119 N. Elm St. in 1911.
Many of the items in Trinity Lutheran Church's Heritage Chapel remain from that time.
"The rail, the pews, the window, the pulpit, the altar, the font and all the light fixtures are all from our old church," Wiens said.
Visitors can see all those pieces through the windows installed in the chapel's new doors.
"It's nice now, because when you come in the front door of the church, you see light," Wiens said. "Before, all you saw was a solid panel wall."
"It's more visible. It's less hidden," Malm said. "Some people didn't even know we had it."
When the building that houses the chapel was constructed in 1970, the space was originally designed as a kitchen.
"The members at that time wanted to honor their Swedish heritage and not dispose of all this stuff, so they gutted the plans to do a kitchen and they switched it to a chapel," Wiens said.
The mission behind the chapel's latest renovation is to preserve its Lutheran heritage of faith for future generations to enjoy, Malm said.
"We're proud of our Swedish heritage," Wiens said. "We want this to be the cornerstone for renovating the rest of our church — making it lighter, brighter and more inviting."
The chapel's dark red carpet has been replaced with a light brown carpet with a river pattern pointing towards the altar.
"It means a lot to a lot of people," Malm said. "It's going to be really special."
With the assistance of Wagoner Construction, the renovation of the Heritage Chapel was completed in five months. Members of Trinity Lutheran Church have reacted positively to the changes.
"We've had people actually in tears," Wiens said.
In 1967, Sharon Ledell married her late husband, Joe, in the chapel.
"I get chills every time I walk in here," Ledell said.
Sandy and Owen Kaufman renewed their wedding vows in the chapel.
"The church has become a passion of ours, and we would be delighted to have it displayed for all to share in our wonderful heritage," Sandy Kaufman said.
The Heritage Chapel will be used for funeral services, weddings, vow renewal ceremonies, baptisms and worship services.
"We want to encourage people who are not members of our church to make use of it, also," Wiens said.
Trinity Lutheran Church is located at 119 N. Elm St. in McPherson. For more information, call 620-241-0424 or visit http://www.trinitylutheranmcpherson.org.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.