When River East Mennonite Brethren Church decided to fill their 20 columns of ceiling-to-floor-windows with stained glass, the congregation immediately resolved to make it a community project.
“Community is an important concept in the way we understand what God is doing in the world. God is in the business of gathering people together,” said Mary Anne Isaak, pastor of River East MB.
A few years ago, a woman had left money in her will for River East to do a worship art project. With those funds available, the REMB Glass Project was born. For a year and a half, two teams from River East gathered together at Prairie Stained Glass ‒ one group on Tuesday nights and the other on Thursday nights ‒ to learn how to cut, grind, fit, solder, and lead glass for the new stained glass windows.
The theme for the windows is “God is Light” and depicts the story from Creation to the Resurrection. The colours of the windows also progress in greater intensity and brightness from the back of the sanctuary to the front so that people will be drawn in.
When the project was completed in 2015, there was an overall sense of celebration and accomplishment. “I imagine it was like a barn-raising or quilt-making party from long ago. People working on a common task, enjoying each other’s company,” said Mary Anne.
And Frieda Klippenstein, a volunteer who documented the whole process in a series of blog posts, said, “It was a privilege to be able to celebrate with those who were now at the stage where they could… say with a well-deserved measure of pride, ‘I made this!’”
For members of River East, it was important to embrace the arts as an expression of worship. At the dedication service for the new windows, member Lori Matties said, “Not all of us will make stained glass windows or beautiful music or other creations we know as art. Creativity is not only something made by the hands. It may be in found in computer software, a child well loved, or a moment fully and compassionately lived. We create beauty because we are the Creator’s precious creatures. We create beauty in imitation of the One who through unending love makes beauty rise out of whatever ugliness our broken hearts devise.”
Added Mary Anne, “Everything God makes is full of beauty and wonder.”
This community worked together to complete a project as an act of worship, and as a celebration of art and beauty. For them, these new windows symbolize the continuing story of God with God’s people – for all generations.