Stained glass restoration exposes mystery
Some mysteries are written to be solved. Edmond First United Methodist has its own mystery. During a season of renewal, its members are on the case. A committee has been formed. Some unofficial groups have been established. Members pore over old documents, research architects and university history, and go down rabbit holes with the Historical Society.
The mystery is…who designed the church’s remarkable stained glass windows?
It might seem to be an easy task. Who wouldn’t want to take credit for their work on soaring, arched windows made with delicate, colorful panes of glass adorning a church sanctuary? Surely the glazier left a mark. Or maybe the architect wrote details into a ledger. Unfortunately, the search for the glass designer has come up with no clues.
On the case is Tim Brown with Artistic Glass in Edmond. The stained glass artist has a long and precarious task of restoring each individual piece of glass from every pane.
Originally, Edmond Methodist Episcopal Church was situated at the corner of Broadway and Hurd, beginning with a small frame in 1891. A large brick addition was built in 1905. Less than 20 years after it was built, the church and all of its contents burned to the ground.
The church began meeting in the high school gym. With fundraising and appeals, the current sanctuary was built in 1929. The building contains its original stained glass, which has lit the way for generations to contemplate the stories and symbols of their faith
Remarkably, the stained glass in Edmond First UMC has never been broken – though knocking on wood may seem appropriate here. Of course, in tornadic Oklahoma, that alone is a testament to the mystery designer’s capacity to add strength and durability to stained glass.
Though the glass has stood strong for nearly 100 years, it is beginning to corrode. With that corrosion come leaks around the sashes. The wall that holds five sets of panels is beginning to crumble. In order to save the building, the stained glass must be refurbished to prevent leaks and shore up the wall in which it is set.
This process, in which the stained glass artist will remove each individual piece of the stained glass mosaics and completely reconstruct the lead – the metal running through stained glass to give it its distinct appearance and lend it strength – and reinstall will ensure that the glass will last another 100 years.
“I did not grow up in [Edmond] FUMC, but upon moving here in 2006, we quickly felt this was the place to be with a great legacy of liturgy, architecture, music, and devotion to the Wesleyan tradition of service and faith formation” said member John Hudgens. “We think the stained glass project is an important feature that embraces much of that.”
The focus on the history and deep, abiding roots of United Methodist Church is what endears Hudgens to the project.
Organist and former music and worship leader Andrew Schaeffer performed a concert to benefit the stained glass restoration project on September 3, in the sanctuary at Edmond First United Methodist Church. The church took up a special offering to contribute to the fund.
While the congregation completes the restoration of this vital link to its past - and this honored reminder of its faith - it will eventually find evidence of the origins of the artwork adorning its building.
Until that time comes, the mystery of Edmond First United Methodist Church’s stained glass designer will continue to draw those for whom mystery is embodied by devotion.
Workers gingerly remove each panel of stained glass from its fittings in the sanctuary at Edmond UMC. The glass has withstood nearly a decade of Oklahoma weather, but the walls and fittings themselves have aged. Tim Brown with Artistic Glass and his staff are on the case.