Architectural, symbolic beauty on display on house of worship tour
On a cold late-December afternoon last year, Mark Schoberg walked through some downtown Hagerstown churches with his eyes on angles.
The Waynesboro, Pa., photographer was taking part in his first Historic Houses of Worship Tour. Camera in hand, he was focused on architecture and age.
"I love architecture, I really do," said Schoberg, 57. "I was looking really for the old churches."
His inaugural tour led to his first time entering the photo contest associated with it. He won the $200 grand prize for his original picture, titled "Architecture to Altar," taken at Trinity Lutheran Church on Randolph Avenue in downtown Hagerstown.
It was hardly beginner's luck — he's been a photographer since 1979. He wasn't feeling competitive when he submitted the shot for judging by photographers Mark Youngblood and Ira Lourie, both of whom will judge the 2017 submissions.
"I'm really very critical of my own work," said Schoberg, who is a painting subcontractor. "If I won, I won. If I didn't, fine."
The judges liked it best out of the 49 photos submitted by 18 photographers, awarding him not only monetarily, but by using the image on posters and promotional materials for this year's tour.
This year's Historic Houses of Worship Tour is from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 26. There are 15 sites on the roster, including the Miller House, home of the Washington County Historical Society. The snow date is Wednesday, Dec. 27.
The free, self-guided walking/driving tour can be started and ended at any of the participating buildings. Parking is available at each site, but vans will run on a continuous loop for those who would prefer not to go on foot or drive themselves.
For photography enthusiasts, another contest is being offered. Images highlighting the beauty and architecture of the tour locations must be submitted by Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, to the Washington County Arts Council. Contestants may enter up to three images. The winning photo will earn the man or woman who took it $200 and will be used to help publicize the 2018 tour.
Schoberg said he only visited five of the churches on last year's tour. The first site at which he stopped was packed — "It was like a press conference," he joked — so he visited some less-crowded ones.
"Unique architecture is what I was looking for," he said. "It's always been my passion, looking for something unusual."
At Trinity Lutheran, his winning photograph was taken from a balcony on its second floor with a Canon 6D camera.
The cold weather during the tour led Schoberg to cut it short. To those who are planning on photographing the houses of worship this year, he suggested keeping their cameras warm as they travel between locations. If they don't, their lenses might fog up indoors and moisture can develop inside their cameras.
"You can ruin your equipment that way," he said.
A time to shine
For staff and parishioners of the houses of worship, the tour is a chance to share the history and aesthetics of their spiritual homes.
At Trinity Lutheran, the stained-glass windows and baptismal font are among the focal points. Some of the images in the windows represent the Apostles' Creed.
"We do have beautiful windows," said Judy Conrad, chairwoman of the committee that organized the tour and a member of the church since the 1990s.
The 3,000-pound marble baptismal font was carved in Italy of Carrara marble. It is a reproduction of one at a church in Copenhagen, said Greg Shook, minister of music and visitation pastor at the church, whose congregation was founded in 1859.
He added that the sanctuary holds an eagle-shaped lectern, which is symbolic of the apostle John and the divine nature of Christ.
A figure of Christ is situated above the altar, and symbols of communion and the Savior are found around the sanctuary. Shook said the imagery is significant.
"It's not so much Lutheran, it's Christianity," Shook said.
Conrad said her church will have four volunteers on hand every hour of the tour to educate people about Trinity Lutheran's history and lead them around. Refreshments will be served, and music will be played on the Schantz organ and a harpsichord. There also will be a display of Nativity sets from around the world that were contributed by the congregation.
Other houses of worship on the tour will offer edibles and music, and some will offer art or history displays.
"It does take a lot of volunteers," Conrad said.
She has found that the tour draws some helpers who don't always assist at other church functions.
"This has a different feel, I think," Conrad said. "I think it's the history, welcoming people into our sanctuary."
If you go ...WHAT: Historic Houses of Worship TourWHEN: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 26; snow date is Wednesday, Dec. 27, same hoursWHERE: 14 Hagerstown historical houses of worship and the Miller HouseCOST: FreeCONTACT: Call the Miller House at 301-797-8782MORE: The third annual holiday tour photo contest will take place and a $200 prize will be awarded for the best original photograph. Anyone may submit up to three images taken during the 2017 tour for a chance to win. Tour organizers are seeking pictures highlighting the beauty and architecture of the houses of worship. The winning original photograph will be commissioned by tour organizers and used to create posters and promotional materials for the 2018 tour. The deadline for submissions is noon Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. For more information and to submit an entry, go to www.washingtoncountyarts.com/holiday-worship-tour.
The following sites, some of which are wheelchair-accessible, are featured on the tour:
- St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 601 Washington Ave.
- Washington Square United Methodist Church, 538 Washington Ave.
- First Baptist Church, 15 High St.
- St. John’s Episcopal Church, 101 S. Prospect St.
- The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown, 20 S. Prospect St.
- St. Mary Catholic Church, 224 W. Washington St.
- Congregation B’Nai Abraham, 53 E. Baltimore St.
- Otterbein United Methodist Church, 108 E. Franklin St.
- Zion Reformed United Church of Christ, 201 N. Potomac St.
- Trinity Lutheran Church, 15 Randolph Ave. (at North Potomac Street)
- John Wesley United Methodist Church, 129 N. Potomac St.
- St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 141 S. Potomac St.
- Asbury United Methodist Church, 155 Jonathan St.
- Christ’s Reformed Church, 130 W. Franklin St.
- The Miller House, 135 W. Washington St. The winning photo and honorable-mention photos from the 2016 tour photo contest will be on display there.