Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Montevideo is taking spring cleaning several steps further, with spring renovations. The church, which was under construction from 1919 to 1921, symbolized the unification of two congregations.

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Montevideo is taking spring cleaning several steps further, with spring renovations. The church, which was under construction from 1919 to 1921, symbolized the unification of two congregations.

The two congregations merged in 1879. One of their old church buildings now stands in the Historic Chippewa Village. As the merged congregations grew, a newer, larger location was necessary. South Fifth Street, right in the heart of Montevideo, was selected as a location, and the cornerstone shows the construction of a towering church building began in 1919, right in the midst of a residential neighborhood.

“It must have been quite a sight,” said Pastor Don Mckee. “It had to be amazing to see being put up.”

Over the years the church has grown, and added on. A balcony was added in 1962, and moved to make room for an organ. Two stained glass windows were removed in the 1950s. The church eventually moved to an electric setup, which allowed them to broadcast their ministry to Channel 8 and to KDMA. Despite changes, much of the original church remained. A painting behind the altar, created by William Gaust, still remains. The painting is the largest the noteworthy artist ever created; much of his work is on display at the Luther College in Iowa.

Now, on their 135th anniversary, the congregation decided it was time to revisit the church’s core, the sanctuary.

Church Interiors, of North Carolina, was hired to repair the plaster and paint the walls in the stairways leading to the sanctuary, and inside. It’s a large, $30,000 project inside the wide, open sanctuary, but the congregation is getting their money’s worth.

Jim Stathopoulos has made a name for himself across the United States, painting and maintaining the interiors of churches. Now, he works with Church Interiors, Inc., and is helping to oversee the work done at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, as well as add on some artistic touches of his own.

Stathopoulos, an immigrant from Greece, got his start as a young boy. He learned from his father in Greece, who traveled the country restoring churches and updating ornate artwork in sanctuaries. His father is now officially retired, but still makes his way to churches for “one more” project, again and again.

“I grew up with it,” Stathopoulos said. “I knew I would be doing it.”

After being mentored by his father, the family decided it was time to spread their work further, and Stathopoulos moved to the United States, where he still lives today. “I’ve traveled all over the states,” Stathopoulos said. Now 58, he has worked on over 1,000 projects.

Of note at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church is Stathopoulos’ work on the decorative tops (the capitals) of the sanctuary columns. Though created decoratively, the capitals were never accented or painted to bring out their features.

Using paint and patina, Stathopoulos is making sure the architecture really stands out. Gold and white help give the capitals color. To really make the color stand out, the compound patina is used.

“Patina was invented by Michaelangelo,” Stathopoulos explained. “It’s sort of see through, and shadowy. We use it often times to create a shadow and a sense of age in art work”

By applying it over the white paint, and then cleaning it away except in the corners and angles, the patina makes the gold and white really stand out, and give the capitals a stately and ornate appearance.

After finishing up work on one of the columns, Stathopoulos took a walk around the sanctuary, and pointed out the strengths of the architecture in it.

“The architects and engineers did a good job here,” he said. He commented that everything in the church and sanctuary stood out to him, because it was not only artistic, but each part was made with a real purpose in mind. “It’s an oldie but a goodie,” he said.

Stathopoulos pointed to the balcony as an example. “The pews are built on a cascade (moving down from step to step) and they curve. This helps a lot with the view for everyone,” Stathopoulos said.

He pointed out that the same was true for the sanctuary floor, which sloped gently downward toward the altar, with curving pews. “It helps people see. That’s a great feature,” Stathopoulos said.

Not only does the style help people see, but he said it is also great for acoustics.

“It kind of unites everyone. You face toward each other, instead of being pointed away from each other’s faces,” Stathopoulos said. “It creates unity in the church.”

Stathopoulos said he’s had a great time working with Church Interiors, Inc. in Montevideo, and has also found the congregation and local community warm and welcoming, and is happy to be helping out.

“You can’t overlook the goodness of small communities like Montevideo,” he said. “These are people who love their church, and make great efforts to keep it up. It’s a wonderful thing, and wonderful to see.”