Hand-painted panels returned

St. John’s Lutheran Church in Grand Haven recently received some hand-painted Communion Panels that date back to the 1850s.
Tribune Staff
May 26, 2013

James Timberlake presented them to the church on May 20.

The panels originally resided in the old St. John’s Lutheran Church at Sixth Street and Franklin Avenue, which was built in 1867. That property was sold to St. John’s Episcopal  Church in the late 1950s after the Lutheran church had already moved to its present location on Taylor Avenue.

In 1957, Timberlake’s parents, George and Eleanor Timberlake, arrived with family to become the Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Almost immediately, planning began on the possible expansion of the church. While this planning was going on, the old Lutheran church, now deconsecrated, was used as event space for the Episcopal church.

By early 1965, the Episcopal church had a master plan for the site complete and documents were ready for the first phase of expansion. The old Lutheran church was razed about this time. During the demolition, some salvaging of the old church's windows and pews occurred.  

The Communion Panels ("the Body of Christ" and "the Blood of Christ") flanked the altar of the old Lutheran church. George Timberlake, knowing these panels would likely be demolished, along with a lectern, took them home. The Timberlakes cleaned up the panels, which were quite shabby at the time, improving the frame and restoring the color.

The Timberlakes then hung the panels in the living room of the Rectory on Howard Street. George TImberlake, who had taken German as part of an advanced degree program at Hope College, understood the German language panels and translated them for visitors to their home.

When George Timberlake took a new parish in LaCrosse, Wis., in 1970, the panels moved with them. They stayed with the family until Eleanor Timberlake’s death in 2004.

James Timberlake brought the panels to Philadelphia in 2005. About two or so years ago, he mentioned to Field Reichardt, a current member of St. John's Episcopal Church, that he had the panels. Reichardt pledged to help him return them to St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Timberlake said his family hopes the panels will reside as an important piece of the local Lutheran congregation's history.

"I am sure my mom and my dad  — who is approaching 90 and well — would want them to reside with their proper parish family now 50 years after their salvage and restoration," James Timberlake said.

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