Churches, Oklahoma City
Though I didn't speak with any church officials, rumor has it that upwards of $3 million came from federal funds to renovate, repair and reconstruct the church. Throughout St Joseph's Cathedral, the stained glass is as dramatic, bright and dynamic as any you'll discover in Europe, all depicting key scenes and persons in Christian history. Every window is also surmounted with a representation of the Kingdom of God.
Overall, the interior of the First Lutheran is a study in contrast. The ceiling and walls are creamy. The altar is dark. The windows are nearly uniform. Besides the altar, which by itself is no special wonder, I found a painting in the entrance foyer (near the secretary's office) to be the most startling object in the church. Painted by one of the congregation, it depicts a perfect likeness of the exterior of the church (as seen in my tip above) with the Christ sweeping his hand over the Gothic towers in benediction.
The single most becoming object in the sanctuary's interior is the altar. Altogether the nave is simple, if not plain. The mellow tone of its interior is scarcely improved by the lighting from the stained glass windows, which appear uniform in design from a distance. To gain admittance, ring the bell at the functional entrance on the south side. The secretary will see to your needs.
Another early church on Robinson Avenue, which gained the reputation of "Church Row" in the first quarter of the last century, is the First Lutheran Church, like St Joseph's farther south a temple in Gothic style. The "church" (i.e. its people) was founded here in 1902, but building did not begin on this structure until 1911. On April 22, 1913 -- the first '89ers Day following its grand opening -- a century chest was buried at the site, to be opened April 22, 2013.
If you never make it to Oklahoma City, your life will not necessarily be less enriched, but if you do come here and miss the interior of St Joseph's Cathedral, you can thank yourself for missing the best stained glass in the city.
Mass is presented every weekday at noon at St Joseph's Cathedral, so visitors can stop by as early as 10:30 to see the reconstructed nave with its splendid ivory vaulting, and the renewed stained glass windows that line either side of the nave. Provided you do not interfere or distract the faithful who might have come to pray, you can discreetly move through the interior with a tripod.
On the other hand, there are some windows with Biblical depictions that have that etched effect so vital to real stained glass. Emblems and icons can be found aplenty in the drab interior of the "old" (i.e. rebuilt) sanctuary, but there is a grand and profound charm in the representation of the Christ shepherding his flock.
As usual, the stained glass windows of the First United Methodist Church (specifically the rose windows) are more dynamic when viewed from the outside, especially after dark, than they appear from the interior. Like many churches and businesses in the downtown area, the tragic events of April 1995 led to an infusion of federal rebuilding dollars, leading the church not only to reconstruct its lost windows, but to expand manifold the original house of worship.
For the chapel (i.e. the other portion of the First Baptist Church to boast stained glass), you'll have to con a church official to walk you through the basement cafeteria and into a smaller, rectangular chamber. The chapel has no especial character or design in itself, but its 1950s era stained glass windows are better Biblical storytellers than the golden orbs in the main sanctuary.
This enormous complex covers an entire city block, but though the Gothic towers and other architectural flashes seem to suggest a rich interior throughout, many of the hallways and reading rooms are walled in unadorned sheet rock, and the cafeteria in the basement is among the most homely of soup kitchens. Of special interest to the visitor however is the main sanctuary, complete with its 1910 stained glass (north side), its tremendous 1989 pipe organ (to mark the 100th anniversary of the congregation here), and the great wooden beams that shape and support the high ceiling.
Non-denominational, the CityChurch attracts followers through its charismatic approach to the scriptures. An Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice and our own District Attorney are said to be members. Though damaged in the 1995 bombing, federal dollars helped to restore the interior to a somewhat pretentious but functional appearance, if you can overlook the gilt capitals to praise its wonderful acoustics. The CityChurch offices are directly south of the church on 10th street. An official there will be happy to show you the interior of this 1910 structure.
On the western side of the Oklahoma City National Memorial stands the prominent red-brick steeple of St Joseph's Cathedral. Before the bombing in 1995, this grand church was reputedly the most significant old-fashioned religious structure in Oklahoma City. Built in the first quarter of the 20th century and later listed on the national register for historic sites, the stained glass was unparalleled and the exterior exquisitely detailed. After the Murrah blast, which all but hollowed St Joseph's, the new construction lost a lot of its former distinction, but happily the Gothic steeple rises again.
Since its reconstruction, the First United Methodist Church enjoys a distinguished profile in the downtown area. Sporting a significant rose window both on the front facade and its western side, the stained-glass representations contest the stained-glass windows of the First Baptist Church in this regard. The effects are particularly sharp at night.
Directly east of the Oklahoma City National Memorial stands the First United Methodist Church, which has occupied this site since the Land Run of 1889. For a congregation dedicated to remaining an urban church, the disappearance of the family from the city to the country in the 1960s saw the church's toughest period until 1995, when the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Building displaced the congregation for three years. The church has since been essentially rebuilt and significantly enlarged.
While its neo-Gothic towers dominate the neighborhood, the details of the First Baptist Church are more pretentious than real. By night its illumination is poor, almost nonexistent. Its buttresses are merely shaped pilasters, and many other niches or flourishes are decorative only. Its true dignity rests in its towers and in its sumptuous windows, both within and without.