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Carving out our worship space

by Judy Godfrey

In July of 1966, some magnificent hand carved oak altar furnishings were installed in the Heavenly Rest Nave and Chancel. They were ordered from renowned woodcarver William B. Schieffer (1913-2001) of Dallas in 1963 and paid for with memorial contributions. Bill Schieffer and his son Paul custom designed them for the space after visiting the Church and personally viewing and measuring areas of the Gothic structure. The hand carved items installed at that time were the pulpit, lectern, chancel screen, communion rail, organ console, sedilia, prayer desk (prie-dieu), and a stand for communion hosts and wine. The pulpit is the most intricate with the likenesses of four evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John carved into the base. Schieffer conducted considerable research on the four evangelists, modeled them, and Paul carved them. The evangelists are intentionally depicted in random order so as not to give more importance to any one.

The cost for these items in 1966 was $17,933. Jack Minter was the chairman of the furnishing committee for years and said in 1966, “Naturally, we are thrilled to death that the appointments have arrived. It has been a long wait, but we believe our members will consider it worthwhile when they see the wonderful job that Mr. Schieffer has done for us.”

In the 1970s the Schieffers made the choir pews and platform they sit upon, as well as the west end paneling and crest, below the grand Gerhart stained glass window and above the Baptismal font. In the 1980s they received the order for the Reredos. William carved the image and Paul built the frame and backing. William also carved the crest above the altar. Later that decade they carved the handrails at the chancel steps.

In 2000 Heavenly Rest ordered a wood cover for the stone Baptismal font. William had had a stroke, was bedridden, and unable to speak. However, together they designed the font with William sketching it in the air with his good hand. Paul carved it. The intricate cover was dedicated to the memory of Davis Scarborough by his family and friends.

Indeed, the Schieffers did create some extraordinary pieces for Heavenly Rest. Photographs of the intricate pulpit, lectern, and baptismal font cover are on the Schieffer Studio website today under “Religious Furniture”, 56 years after delivery and installation at CHR. Today, Paul Schieffer is proud of the legacy of their body of work at Heavenly Rest.

The Schieffer Studio is still active today. From their website: Schieffer Studio is a family-owned custom woodworking business in Dallas that’s been around since the 1920s. William B. Schieffer founded the studio, and his son Paul continues the business today. Every piece of furniture we create is custom designed for its owner.


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