Monday, June 8, 2015

Stained Glass Windows

For centuries, stained glass windows have been the hallmark of church buildings.  The great cathedrals of Europe commissioned large, elaborate designs usually depicting a Bible story.  Smaller country churches settled for more modest displays but still considered stained glass an essential part of church architecture.

   There are many reasons stained glass was favoured in churches. In the first place, it is beautiful.  Daylight filtered through stained glass creates a sense of peace and holiness, encouraging worshippers to pray and meditate.   Images of Jesus or the saints offer consolation to those who grieve or fret. Soft colours create an oasis of calm for those beset by worry.
  Stained glass is also used to instruct.  In mediaeval times most parishioners could not read.  The Biblical scenes represented in the stained glass were an excellent teaching tool.  Even today, images of Bible stories can help children learn and remember.

   After the Reformation, the sermon took on a central role in Sunday service.   Sermons that could go on for one or two hours! Preachers worried that the attention of the worshipper might wander.  A scene in a stained glass window would remind the congregant to focus his attention on worship.
 Our congregation opted not to put coloured windows in the sanctuary.  We are located in a beautiful wooded site and the scene outside our windows is quiet, peaceful and filled with the beauty of God's creation.  Still, last Sunday, during the hymn before the sermon, we had a graphic illustration of one purpose of stained glass. While singing fervently "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name," the entire congregation lost its focus -- or changed its focus.  Every head turned to the left, every glance rested on the velvet-covered antlers of a young buck grazing happily on the shrubbery by the Garden of Remembrance.  
    Instead of preparing their hearts and minds to attend to the message of the sermon, our congregation broke into broad smiles while feasting their eyes on one of God's creatures.  

    So who is to say whether coloured or clear glass is the best for a church sanctuary?  I love the play of light and colour through a beautiful stained-glass window, but I also revel in the glories of Creation, including horned, furred and feathered things.  Which one brings me closer to God?  Hard to say.

No comments:

Post a Comment