Messiah, Mandan members create stained glass project

Using horseshoe nails to hold elements in place, Messiah members, from left, JoAnn Dilger, Renae Hoggarth and Kristi Dilger work on individual pieces to form a stained glass window for the sanctuary.

    It’s a labor of love that started about a year ago after a modern problem — lack of funding — halted the Messiah Lutheran Church congregation’s idea of hiring a company to update the existing sanctuary windows with a stained glass project. The $60,000 bid for the project was “way more money than what was available,” the Rev. Kevin Zellers said.

    He offered up a solution. He’d share his knowledge of stained glass — learned a few years ago by going to classes “like some people go to bowling once a week,” he said — with anyone interested. Once they had some basic skills, they could make their own stained glass windows.

    Each 2-foot by 4-foot window for the sanctuary has the same basic design, which includes a circular centerpiece called a medallion. The medallions will be painted, not stained, and each will depict a scene from the life of Christ. When completed, likely in another year, the windows will be placed into the sound baffles on the sides of the sanctuary. Some new age technology — LED lights — will illuminate the windows from behind.

The project draws together a cross-section of the congregation. Participants range in age from 20 to 83. They work for a few hours each Sunday, taking a day off only if the community room of the church is booked for another function.

    The windows are being built two at a time, with a team working on each window. Each is going a little faster than the previous, said Kristi Dilger, a lifetime member of the church. She thought the process would be as simple as putting the pieces together and hanging them up, but she’s learned there are many more steps than she anticipated.

    The roots of stained glass are tied to architectural developments of the 1200s and 1300s in western Europe, said Nicole Derenne, an instructor at the University of North Dakota’s Department of Art and Design. Builders began using arches and buttresses to support the weight of buildings, which allowed for thinner walls that did not have to support as much weight. That in turn allowed for the use of glass in the walls.

Stained glass was a storytelling and communication medium in a time period when many people were illiterate, Derenne said. Churches at the time were in the heart of communities and were gathering places as well as places of worship, so the stories in the glass were meant to reach many people and be educational, she said.

    Some of the workers at Messiah Lutheran cut the glass into shapes, while others trim it to exactly fit the design mapped out for each panel. Once the pieces fit, they are soldered into place with lead came — pliable H-shaped strings of lead into which the glass fits –between the pieces. Putty will be added around each piece of glass to make the panel more firm. One of the final touches is the application of patina, a coating that keeps the glass from oxidizing and turning black.

    Anthony Steele, 20, has been part of the project since it started. His participation “just kind of happened,” he said, and he’s enjoyed working with a group to complete a project that will last for generations.

A dedication service will mark the completion of the project. The group hasn’t set a strict deadline, Ames said, adding “everybody is more interested in doing it right.

Original article first appeared in the Bismarck Tribune written by Travis Svihovec. We have shortened the article for the eNews but you could read it in its entirety at Search for Church Members Chip in to Create Stained Glass Project

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