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Special service at St. John Sunday morning remembers Charles City tornado anniversary, celebrates pastors

Special service at St. John Sunday morning remembers Charles City tornado anniversary, celebrates pastors
This window at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charles City – unofficially known as the “tornado window” – was commissioned to replace a window that was blown out in the tornado of 1968. Various parts of the stained-glass symbolize the destruction in the city (lower right), people coming together to move forward (lower right), the rainbow symbolizes the promise of a new day, and the rebuilt city is represented in the panels on either side of the image of Christ near the top. The red cross on the banner being held by Jesus is in honor of the 30 days that the Red Cross was stationed at the church after the tornado went through the city, helping people recover and keeping the kitchen open to feed people for that entire time. Submitted photo
By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charles City will have a special program on Sunday, as part of the yearlong celebration of the church’s 150th anniversary and in recognition of Sunday as the anniversary of the day the 1968 tornado went through the community.

At the 9 a.m. service there will be a presentation of pictures and video from that time after the F5 tornado struck the city on May 15, 1968.

It will include a video about the tornado in Charles City provided by Terry McInroy from the Charles City tornado Facebook site, and a reading of a manuscript of memories of that day and the weeks that followed that was written by Pastor Richard Trost, who served the congregation from 1964 to 1969.

“This is a very interesting manuscript with personal and inspirational stories of our community and surrounding cities and even states that sent support during those days and weeks following the tornado,” said Janet Petefish, a member of the St. John 150th anniversary committee.

St. John features a stained-glass window sometimes referred to as “the tornado window” that was commissioned to replace a window that was blown out by the twister. The window is full of symbolism referring to that day and its aftermath.

“The lower left corner is the destruction of the city. The lower right shows people joining together to move forward,” Petefish said, describing the window.

“Christ is the center, just as St. John was the center of Charles City during the days following the tornado,” she said.

The red cross on the banner being held by Jesus symbolizes the Red Cross, which was stationed out of St. John after the tornado struck, “and the kitchen didn’t close for 30 days after it blew through,” Petefish said,

The rainbow through the middle of the window stands for the promise of a new day, and on both sides near the top are scenes of the reconstructed city.

Also as part of the 9 a.m. service on Sunday, the church will be celebrating its pastors, past and present, Petefish said.

Current and former pastors, visitation pastors, interns and “children of the congregation” who have become ministers will be celebrated in the special service, she said.

“At least two former pastors will be with us in person and we have letters from some of those that aren’t able to attend and videos from others. A photo display of the pastors will also be presented in the narthex for viewing,” Petefish said, adding that a special coffee reception for the pastors will follow the service.

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the service and coffee reception, she said.

The service can also be viewed on the church’s YouTube channel during a live-stream, or the recording can be viewed later. Go to youtube.com and search for “St. John – Charles City” to get to the YouTube page.

A copy of the tornado video will also be available on that page.

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