SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Years ago, Augustana University alumnus and art professor Robert Aldern created a reredos depicting the life of Christ.
A rerodos is a backdrop for worship.
“Often a piece of liturgical art to center us and focus our attention,” Augustana University campus paster Rev. Ann Rosendale said.
Aldern, known for his liturgical installations and landscape oil paintings, created the 14-panel art compilation for the 1961 Luther League Convention, a gathering of youth in Miami.
Bob’s wife Joey says her late husband was excited he landed the commission.
“He just seemed to have this innate feeling for liturgical art. An example, if someone didn’t think a Christ figure looked like Christ, Bob would say, ‘Well, the outside is not what matters. It’s the inside of a person,” Joey Aldern said.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in front of the artwork as one of the keynote speakers at the convention.
“This was really something for the time because, first of all, to have a Black Baptist preacher at a Lutheran youth convention was quite a thing and was just the beginning of his civil rights work, and that for its time was also quite a thing,” Rosendale said.
The rerodos was donated back to Augustana in honor of Paul Rogness, an Augie grad and Rhodes Scholar who died at 24 in a vehicle-pedestrian crash.
“He was a recent alum who was young many of faith, very talented, an emerging leader in the church and in the world,” Rosendale.
The Rogness Memorial was displayed in a gym used for chapel services until the Chapel of Reconciliation was built.
Aldern created a new reredos for the chapel.
The older reredos went into storage and was brought out occasionally for university events.
“Over time, the pieces became increasingly fragile and we didn’t want to damage them, so in recent times they’ve spent more time in storage,” Rosendale said.
That will change.
The Chapel of Reconciliation is set to get some upgrades.
More than half of the $3.5 million needed for the project has been raised.
Once the renovations are complete in the Chapel, the restored panels will hang in the expanded narthex.
“It’s very meaningful to us, in part because it seemed to be so meaningful to other people,” Bob’s daughter Noreen Aldern Groethe said.
“We’re excited about the possibilities of bringing that art out and telling the story, really the stories of that go along with this piece. The story of Bob Aldern as a gifted liturgical artist, the story about Martin Luther King Jr. speaking about racial justice and faith at the Luther League Convention, and the story of Paul Rogness who really was a great leader during his time at Augustana and died too young,” Rosendale said.
Telling those stories through the reredos will help connect the past, present, and future of Augustana University.