Blessed Sacrament in Midland <span class='image-credits'>Ben Tierney</span>

Worship and wonder: Mid-Century Modern churches in Midland

Somewhere along the line, the city of Midland was bestowed with the moniker “City of Churches”. While that might be true, a more accurate description would be the “City of Beautiful Churches” given many have historic ties and lines from many of the city’s well-known architects.

 

Home to over 100 places of worship representing a variety of denominations and architectural styles, Midland has rightfully earned recognition for its vibrant church scene. There are at least eight different architects or firms that have designed religious structures in Midland alone.

 

While there are several local houses of worship which deserve praise for their unique architecture, we recently visited three standout examples from different architects to give you a glimpse inside these striking buildings.



“The symbol and center of this church is the altar. All the life and activity of this church – the congregation, the minister, the music, the meeting rooms and finally the gardens and the open sky – radiates and develops from this central theme.”

St. John’s Lutheran Church

St. John’s Lutheran Church is located at the corner of East Carpenter and Townsend on a plot of land two city blocks long by one block wide. You’ll likely recognize the architect’s name: Alden B. Dow.

The main section of St. John's Lutheran resembles a flower.

 

St. John’s Lutheran was designed by Alden B.Dow and built in 1954.

Dow reportedly spent many hours studying Lutheran tradition prior to coming up with the final plans. In his correspondence with the church, he describes his thought process:

 

“The symbol and center of this church is the altar. All the life and activity of this church – the congregation, the minister, the music, the meeting rooms and finally the gardens and the open sky – radiates and develops from this central theme.”

The church is marked by a broken roof line and copper spire.

St. John's Lutheran operates a school on site as well.
 

In typical Alden B. Dow style, nature was a strong influence for the design. With a broken roof-line and stylized copper spire at the center, the main section of the church resembles a flower. The rose-red carpet in the interior reflects this as well.

Natural light flooding inside from the peaked windows.

Some of the stained glass work from the outside.
 

An aerial shot of St. John's Lutheran in Midland.

St. John’s Lutheran Church was founded in 1884 by German speaking immigrants and the current building occupied by St. John’s was built in 1954.

Midland’s United Church of Christ is tucked away on Chestnut Hill Drive.

 

United Church of Christ

Tucked away on Chestnut Hill Drive, Midland’s United Church of Christ is less publicly visible than many churches, which is a shame - the architecture is stunning.

The view facing out from the podium.

Some of the original plans for the church.
 

The sanctuary’s 148-foot long roof is what’s known as a hyperbolic paraboloid – a mathematical term that essentially means it’s a saddle shape with four sections, two of each being identical shapes.

The original pews were recently stripped down and re-finished, restoring them to their original vibrancy.

The sanctuary’s 148-foot long roof is what’s known as a hyperbolic paraboloid.

 

Two buttresses support the roof, each containing 45 yards of concrete and 10 tons of reinforcing steel. The 157 tons of lightweight concrete that comprise the roof was completed in one continuous poor, with trucks coming from all over the region for an entire day during the construction phase.


A stunning 360-degree wall of windows provide a canvas of light for the worship space.
 

The building was designed in 1962 by the architectural duo of Charles Blacklock and Robert Schwartz.

The beautiful 360-degree windows provide a canvas of light for the worship space. Liturgical colors were used for the purple carpet and red pews. Recently, the original pews were stripped down and re-finished, restoring them to their original vibrancy.

Midland's United Church of Christ welcomes all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, ethnic background, difference in ability, economic circumstance, or family configuration.

 

The building was designed in 1962 by the architectural duo of Charles Blacklock and Robert Schwartz, who owned a firm together and were responsible for many mid-century modern designs in Midland and beyond.




The church was designed in 1966 by architects Brysselbout, Starke, Hacker, Simon and Associates.

Blessed Sacrament

Located on Swede Avenue, it’s hard to miss Blessed Sacrament Church and its 97-foot high steeple, which is lit by spotlight at night. Its circular shape was designed in 1966 by architects Brysselbout, Starke, Hacker, Simon and Associates of Bay City.


The organ has 33 ranks of pipe of different sizes.

Blessed Sacrament is easily spotted for its 97-foot high steeple.

The interior is arguably even more striking than the shell. With marble obtained from a quarry near Florence, Italy, solid and veneer walnut woodwork (with the exception of the exposed cedar ceiling), and stain glass windows designed and constructed by the late local artist and teacher James Hopfensperger, the building’s beauty is unmistakable.


The round sanctuary design features 16 cedar arches.
 

Everything about the church is striking, from the round sanctuary design that features 16 cedar arches and contributes to the unity of the parish. The circular design also means no one is more than 70 feet from the altar, which is 7-foot long and weighs 10,000 pounds.

The stain glass windows designed and constructed by the late local artist and teacher James Hopfensperger.

 

The circular design makes for a feeling of togetherness, and no one is more than 70 feet from the alter.

The organ, which forms the backdrop of the altar, features 33 ranks of pipes ranging from 10 inches to 33 feet. Blessed Sacrament’s bell is a 1,000-pound Holland Bell.


Details of the stained glass work inside Blessed Sacrament.
 

If you choose to worship in Midland, one thing is for certain: You have no shortage of incredible, architecturally-significant structures to choose from. Combined with the large variety of denominations and worship styles, there’s something for everyone in the City of Beautiful Churches.

 

To learn more and tour additional Mid-Century Modern buildings, homes and places of worship, check out the recently launched Mid-Century Modern Midland (MCMM) app that Catalyst Midland has previously reported on or the MCMM website. The MCMM app can be sorted on building type or architect and you can view all MCM religious structures in Midland here.

 

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