Alden B. Dow regarded St. John’s Lutheran Church on East Carpenter Street in Midland as one of his most significant religious structures. Designed in 1953, the nave of the church accommodates 600 people with no one in the congregation more than 60 feet away from the center of the altar. Mr. Dow believed “the symbol and center of the church is the altar. All the life and activity of the church radiates and develops from this central theme. With humility and enthusiasm, the building is trying to show that growth is unrestricted so long as it radiates from the principle of God.”
The Church is octagonal in form, with seven banks of pews radiating from the core; the eighth bank contains the choir and the organ. The clerestory windows surrounding the sanctuary bathe it in light and give the congregation an unobstructed view of the open sky. The clerestories are formed by the gabled ends of the radiating wings and contain double membrane fixed windows, some with stained glass. Classrooms, social hall, library, chapel, meeting rooms and offices radiate from the worship space.
From the outside, simple but dominant sight lines merge toward the center of the structure where the stylized copper spire rises directly over the center of the sanctuary. Roof supports are fan-like and radiate 180 degrees from the central point of the steeple, providing some lightness and lift to the structure. Two church wings buttress the octagonal nave and are carefully proportioned and equipped to provide the congregation with a full range of services.
When seen from above, St. John’s is built like a flower, the Lutheran denomination symbol: the Luther rose.
Following its completion, the Church garnered much attention in the press. An article in The Christian Century called it “Midland’s most controversial and most publicized church…few churches can match this one for boldness and directness of translation from idea to line.”
An addition to the Church was designed by Mr. Dow and completed in 1963.