The Cross

The accepted symbol of Christianity is the cross. Worldwide, it is the singular reminder of what Jesus did for us. He died on a cross; it was the price He paid for our redemption. The cross is visibly displayed throughout if one walks through our church building. It might be impossible to count all of them. One such cross hangs rather inconspicuously between two of the stained-glass windows in the East Room. That cross, while being yet another symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for us as Christian people, also has a story of its own and symbolizes a significant event in the history of St. John’s.

During the nighttime hours of Thursday, February 2, 1984, hymnals were lit in a pile under the grand piano in the sanctuary. The fire grew to enormous heights and burned through the ceiling of St. John’s. Much of the sanctuary was damaged and the beloved stained-glass window depicting Jesus with the children was blown out of its frame. The glass remnants lay scattered in the alley on the west side of the church.

Lois Cooperrider, wife of the late Reverend Luther Cooperrider, who served as pastor of St. John’s from 1962 until 1973, still lived in their home at the time of the fire. The back yard of the home is adjacent to the alley behind the church. As the story goes, in the early morning hours after the fire had been extinguished, Lois, a small but determined lady, was seen in the alley retrieving pieces of glass from the window that was destroyed. From those pieces, she enlisted the expertise of an unknown person to fashion a cross. It is that cross that hangs in the East Room. It is unclear where the cross was stored for many years, but it was found during the time of the renovation of the East Room in roughly 2012. Not only is it a symbol of sacrifice and redemption on the part of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but it is also a symbol of unity during a time of trial in the life of St. John’s Lutheran Church.

The fire took place just a few days after the installation of the Reverend Charles Steinke. The first sermon preached by Pastor Steinke was to a “standing room only” crowd on Sunday, February 5, 1984, in Room 7 of the Education Wing. That Sunday stands as a reminder of the unity, solidarity, and brotherhood that came from the tragedy of the fire. The cross that hangs in the East Room will remain as a symbol of that time in the history of our community of believers.

Skip to content