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Local church refurbishes its 62-year-old stained glass windows

Jennifer Sprouse • Sep 18, 2012 at 10:22 PM

As church members step into the sanctuary of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Sunday, it may appear that their worship area gained new lighting, but in fact it’s just their stained glass windows.

For many years, plans to clean and repair the windows have been in the works, but Judy Watson, church member and stained glass committee member, said when the windows started to leak from a really bad storm, everyone knew it was time to get serious.

Deciding to go all in on the restoration process, Bethlehem hired Church Art Glass Inc. of Clinton, Ky., for the job.

Crews from Church Art Glass have been working at the church, 201 E. Watauga Ave., for the last two weeks, working to repair and restore the multiple stained glass windows around the church, and projected to finish up on Sunday.

Robert Hall, project consultant with Church Art Glass, said he and his crew have helped get the stained glass back to optimum level by either resetting and aligning the windows and on some even performing a historical releading restoration.

“What a historical releading process involves is when you have to disassemble the stained glass panel piece by piece and discard all the old lead came and put in new lead came,” Hall said. “It’s basically like putting a large puzzle together.”

An exterior protective covering was placed on the windows to add a layer of protection, and Watson said members were all for the investment to protect the windows they all love so much.

“In each window is a central symbol. Each symbol represents something very important to the Christian faith,” she said. “The windows aren’t just for beauty, they have a very powerful message.”

Pastor Steve Harmon echoed Watson’s description of the windows, and said that the whole process became more than just fixing the windows, but rather preserving them to preserve its message.

“We’ve come to the place where we’re focusing on the windows themselves and the symbols and talking about them as windows into God’s heart,” Harmon said. “Being able to look at the symbols in the windows and recognize in the symbol connected to that are stories of how God has shown his love to us, how God reveals his care for us and then be able to use those symbols to talk to people about that, both in the church and in the community.”

She said the light from the newly cleaned and fixed windows, especially in the sanctuary area, was a delight to see as the project neared completion.

“One of the workers brought me into the sanctuary and … you could see which windows had been worked on and cleaned and which ones hadn’t. The sun came out and the colors just came across the pews and onto the carpet and I’d never seen it like that before. It was just amazing,” Watson said. “Most of the windows have had no repairs since the church was built and ground breaking on the church. The windows have been in place for essentially 60 years with no maintenance, repairs.”

A rededication ceremony for the windows and an open house for the church will be held on Oct. 7 at 4 p.m.

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