Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Something Bigger Than Ourselves

United Methodist Church. Clay City, Illinois. October 2006.
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"Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves." ~ Adrienne Clarkson (Governor General of Canada, 1999-2005)
I love stained glass windows. It doesn't matter if it is the grandest cathedral in Europe or, as here, a small country church; the light that shines through these windows illuminates the soul and soothes the spirit.

Most churches built today forgo the stained glass windows; they are expensive to install and repair and that is a shame. A little country church in Bible Grove, Illinois, south of Effingham in the middle of corn country is case in point. For years this little church held Sunday worship for the farm community and for years averaged 30 in attendance. It was an old fashioned country Methodist church with a circuit preacher who came every other week; those Sundays without a minister they held Sunday School and worshiped in song. At least a third of the congregation were relatives of mine directly and probably another third considered distant family. Children heard Bible stories sitting in little red chairs and played tag on the grounds outside. This little white country church, this Shouse Chapel was special to the farm families. It was built with care and devotion with some of the most beautiful stained glass windows. Many were documented memorials to family members and all were unique and special.

The ravages of time finally became too much for the little white chapel on the prairie and the damage from termites too great. Shouse Chapel was condemned and scheduled for demolition. Most of the congregation drove to Clay City or other larger towns to worship, many of the older folks had moved to warmer parts or passed away. The people of this community held to the "waste not, want not" philosophy and many wanted to save the windows. I don't know if they auctioned them or simply allowed people to purchase them outright but my cousin bought several and with his woodworking ability, he recycled them into personal pieces for various family members. A sister church, the church with these windows, had Ricky take several of the larger panes and built them into displays in their church. In this way Shouse Chapel will never be forgotten and those original builders, those artisans in glass and those country farmers who wanted a beautiful place to worship with their families, did indeed create something much bigger than themselves.

Submission for Tuesday Challenge topic "glass". (end of post)

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