Prior to the New Year we learned about Ebenezer Historical Trivia as it relates to the Founders, Pastors, Music Ministry and Sunday School. In January we focus specifically on the Altar.
On the Altar and the Altar Rail are the five colors of the Paraments or Altar Cloths that we use at Ebenezer. In your bulletins today, you have a summary prepared by Carol Luecke which our Altar Committee uses when deciding which Altar cloths are appropriate for the upcoming worship service. (See the listing of these colors and what they represent in this newsletter.) All Altar cloths are removed for Good Friday and the Altar remains bare until Easter Sunday. The Red and Purple cloths are our oldest cloths and have been in use for decades. The White and Green were purchased a few years ago to replace those cloths which had also been used for decades and were extremely worn and stained. The Blue paraments were a gift from the Wallaces and are a much appreciated addition to our worship services during Advent.
The Altar itself was purchased in 1913. It is believed that the center picture came with the Altar. The two side paintings did not. In the old Ebenezer Church, the Altar was not placed along a wall as it is now. But rather during processional offerings, you could walk forward, place your offering in baskets on the altar, walk behind the altar and exit to your seat from that direction. There are cabinet doors behind the altar base, and were most likely used for storing altar supplies. We own an old cross and candle sticks which were donated in memory of Gordan Mehus. At some point those were replaced and the current cross on the altar is in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Gunmand Haga and Oscar Haga. The Communion chalice and wafer vessel and small plate were donated in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Anton Ostmo, parents of Judy Engen, in the early 2000’s. Now all the Communion items are stored in the Sacristy behind the Altar.
The two side paintings were painted by members of Ebenezer, but it is unclear when those paintings were completed. The painting of Jesus knocking at the door (with no doorknob on his side of the door) was painted by Judy Engen’s great-aunt, Ida Ostmo, and the painting of Jesus as the Shepard was painted by Tammy Peterick and LuAnn Steven’s great-uncle, Oliver Thingelstad. These two artists were first cousins, with Ida being approximately 15 years senior to Oliver. Both were Eli Thingelstad’s grandchildren and children of our Ebenezer Founders. Ida was in the first Ebenezer Confirmation class of 1898 and was an Ebenezer organist for approximately 30 years. She was never married, attended Oak Grove Ladies’ Lutheran Seminary in Fargo in 1908, and lived on the Ostmo farm with Judy’s grandmother, Thilda Ostmo, and their parents, founder Anton (Ingebord Thingelstad) Ostmo. Oliver Thingelstad was Confirmed at Ebenezer in 1915, became a teacher, and was married later in life, becoming the step-father to Nels Tangen when he married Agnes Tangen. He was brother to Clara, Ida, Pete, Ted, Edwin, Adolf and Noel Thingelstad and son of founder, Andrew (Caroline Korsmo) Thingelstad. Ida Ostmo left many of her paintings including landscapes, wildlife and still life. Her family still treasures and displays those paintings in their homes. It seems that Oliver did not create other paintings but became a master of crocheted pieces. All the Thingelstad relatives received his creations as wedding and other special occasion gifts.
Where did Ida and Oliver paint these paintings; on site at Ebenezer or at either the Ostmo or Thingelstad farmsteads? They seem to have used the same palette of paints and worked closely to ensure the scale of both paintings were identical. What gave them the confidence to paint these pictures that would be a part of the Ebenezer Altar for over 100 years? How was it decided that they would be given this assignment? And how were these two images of Jesus selected?
Art is in the eyes of the beholder. As a child and even today, as Judy enters the Sanctuary, she always looks at the Altar. It brings her comfort, a sense of peace, calm, belonging and reassurance. When she looks at these paintings, she sees images of inclusion.
Revelation 3:20 says “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” and John 10:14-16 says “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd”. The paintings appear to symbolize that Jesus welcomes everyone. The center picture teaches us how to pray.
What do you see and how do you feel when you look at all three images on our Altar, the centerpiece of our Sanctuary? Were our Founders intentional in teaching us lessons by selecting these images? It appears that they were very intentional!