It has been a thought in the back of my mind for some time now that I would like to try my hand at learning how to make an item of stained glass. At first one thinks it would be easy, so I set about finding out as much as I could about how it is done, the tools I would need and where to obtain the glass, solder, lead etc so that I could make a start. I must have mentioned this to my wife quite a few times because she booked me on a day course as a present for my birthday! Patience is not one of my virtues but I managed to wait a couple of months before I bought any tools and the day of the course came. I may have had a few tools already in my toolbox so I selected from them ones that might come in handy and set out for the workshop, the venue for the course.

It was a busy, and an instructive day. I had read books, looked up things on the internet, and tried to find out for myself what to do, but nothing prepared me as much as seeing it done by the tutor and actually having a go at it myself. It is not as easy as it looks! As with most things in life most people can make a reasonable attempt at most things but I learnt that day that sometimes one has to take time, shape the pieces of glass carefully until they fit well together. They then need to be prepared so that they can be joined together, edges smoothed for a tighter fit. The use of the flux, solder and heat to produce a firm joint. By the end of the day I was holding in my hand my first attempt at a small piece of stained glass. There is much room for improvement but that day has encouraged me to devote more time and effort into the art of making stained glass. There are two types of stained glass ‘leaded’ and also ‘Tiffany’ styles where each piece of glass is wrapped in copper foil and soldered together.

I may have lost your interest at this point but if not I would like to point out a number of similarities about stained glass and a church, quite apart from the fact that many older churches have stained glass in their windows. There are a number of parallels with making a design in stained glass and building a church. Remembering it is God that builds his church. Firstly you must select a piece of glass, the right colour and texture. Then it is cut to size, there are many different techniques here but they all involve breaking that glass in some way to produce the right size and shape. Different pieces of glass need to be shaped to closely fit together. The edges of the glass need to be smoothed to make a close joint, and then prepared to receive the solder. The lead or the copper tape always goes around the glass and enables the different pieces of glass to be held together. Solder will not stick to glass at all so without the lead or copper tape there would be no joint at all.

I would like to suggest that what holds us, individual people, together in a church is the lead is a picture of God’s love surrounding each of us and providing the necessary support and the solder the Holy Spirit to hold things together, making a firm joint and holding the many pieces firmly together. However the solder will not do its job without the whole joint being cleaned. This is done by the flux applied to the joint so when heat is applied any impurities in the joint are burnt away and a good joint is made. May I respectfully liken this to the blood of Jesus which cleanses us and makes us fit for purpose, to receive his love. It is also interesting to note that as the loose pieces of glass and lead are placed together ready for solder they are held in place by nails! I will leave you to ponder the significance of that.

As God builds his church the picture it displays is enlarged. In times past stained glass provided pictures for those who could not read, when literacy was poor the windows depicted biblical scenes that the congregation would recognise and be reminded of the biblical story and its significance. May we as a church provide such an illustration to those people around us, of the message of the good news we have to share with them, which few of them know anything about.

Sometimes there comes the time for older windows to be refurbished, the ravages of time have caused the picture to fade and the window become leaky. Perhaps we each need at times to be subject to a cleaning process and then reinserted in into the whole with a deeper appreciation of God’s love for us, to provide a clearer more vibrant illustration to those around us.

My prayer is that, as Dawlish Christian Fellowship replants as Hope Church, we become a much brighter picture to Dawlish of God’s love holding us together, a work of art for all to see. Please do not push this analogy too far it is far from perfect, one major point is that the windows are seen best from the inside of the building, we must be aware that most people will not go to church in our current day and age, so we must each be a window into the church for everyone we meet outside, and provide a way for each to sample God’s love where they are.

But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I
have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.

John 13: 34-35 (CEV)