This blog post is part of a series I (Richard) am writing about my past life experiences that helped develop a love and appreciation for agricultural heritage in general and landrace grains in particular. The series is called "Sickles and Sheaves - Farming, Faith, and the Frye" and you can view the other parts of this blog series here.
Construction of our substantial Trinity Lutheran Church built in 1949 was based on Old World Northern European ecclesiastical design by Edwin W. Molander (1901-1983). The Spokane architect had received prominent regional commissions for Northwest churches and public buildings that reflected his distinctive blend of traditional and modern features characterized by exposed rough-hewn timbers, natural stone, and decorative carvings. A regnant color scheme of Prussian blue, turquoise, and umber with gold filigree and trim was used throughout the vaulted sanctuary and an attached cloister porch featured a substantial frieze of carved wooden panels depicting the life of Christ in symbols and Latin monograms. One approached the church’s main arched entry as if gently entering hallowed space.
The schedule of Pastor Fred Schnaible’s lectionary readings—presented weekly in both German and English, featured associations of such ancient Jewish harvest festivals as the First Fruits “wave offering” of barley sheaves and Feast of Harvest Ingathering with Early Church commemorations of Easter and the Transfiguration of Christ. Pastor Schnaible safeguarded the church’s remarkable library of rare books contributed by his predecessors including a massive volume by Christian Hebraist Johannen Lund (1638-1686) on the Old Testament offerings, Die Alten Jüdischen Heiligthümer, Gottesdienste und Gewohnheitenbound (The Old Jewish Shrines, Worship and Customs). The book, printed in 1701, was bound in vellum and lavishly illustrated with woodcuts by the German engraver Johann W. Michaelis of many biblical scenes related to ancient pastoral and agrarian traditions. Pastor Schnaible learned of local farmer and church member Walter Scholtz’s special skill as a calligrapher and prevailed upon him for years to inscribe countless confirmation certificates and other church documents in his distinct Old World script of red and black with gold embellishments that have become treasured works of art in their own right.
Weekly worship services at Trinity featured “All Praise the God of Harvest” (“… with head and heart and voice. All praise the God of harvest; creation all rejoice”) and “Where Are the Reapers” (“sheaves of good, sickles of truth”) choir cantatas and hymns as well as sermon texts from Ruth about barley gleanings and her Kinsman Redeemer, Boaz. Our old brown hymnal featured considerable music of classical origin including John Galloway’s “Lord of the Harvest, Thee We Hail,” based a Franz Haydn tune from his 1798 oratorio Creation. Architect Molander’s majestic panels also included broad window base panels displaying carved grain sheaves as if homage to pre-literate medieval times when clerics valued visual expressions of biblical history and spiritual truths in cathedrals and chapels throughout Europe. We heard Psalms on “abundant wheat throughout the land” (72:16), prophetic words on nations giving up war and beating “swords into ploughshares and their spears into scythes” (Isaiah 2:6), and the weekly-sung offertory: “Gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown, that we may be fed with the bread of life….” Jesus’ familiar parables told of grain seed, bushel baskets, sickles, and harvest—these in the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel alone.