For God, who said, let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
When the current sanctuary was designed and built in 1960, stained glass windows existed only as a dream for the congregation. Throughout the years, the dream remained unfulfilled because of budget restrictions. In July of 1993, Donna Smith, Director of Children’s Ministries asked church member Gail Wells to teach a stained glass class to the children during Vacation Bible School. The children caught on quickly, and the class generated a great deal of interest and fascination as small hands helped create works of art. From this beginning, the idea was born to teach a group of adults to build the long awaited stained glass windows of the sanctuary.
Gail presented her idea to the minister, Rev. Jeanie Burton and in September, 1993, the Administrative Council voted unanimously to support the project. As others heard about it the excitement began to spread throughout the church and the first stained glass class began on November 1, with seventeen people. By the following February, the class had completed their first training project. The level of craftsmanship achieved in these early efforts combined with the dedication and enthusiasm of the students convinced all involved that the dream of stained glass windows would become a reality.
Bruce Wesson, a St. Paul member and professional graphic designer, began designs for the windows in the summer of 1994. The first design – the Descending Dove Window – was presented to the congregation in September of 1994, and three more designs followed quickly. The plan for the windows was based on the symbols found on the facade of the church above the doors to the sanctuary.
The central design of each window was to be reproduced from a rubbing taken directly from the stone symbol. The other panels in each window would reveal an interpretation of the symbol in art and text. Gail formally presented the first four designs to the Charge Conference on October 23, 1994, and approval was unanimous.
Following hundreds of hours of learning and preparation, the stained glass building team starting cutting in January, 1995.
David Dyer, a St. Paul member and professional architect, performed the dual role of window builder and architectural consultant. Exacting specifications were required for the production of the windows in the rendering process as well as actual installation and David provided this expertise. Once again, another critical step was performed by a member of the congregation.
During the early months of the stained glass window project, Rev. Jeanie Burton was appointed District Superintendent of the Little Rock District and was required to relinquish the role of pastor. In 1995, Rev. John Christie joined St. Paul as the new pastor. He enthusiastically supported the idea of the window project and provided continued support from the pastor’s office.
The first four windows were installed in May of 1995. In September, designs for the next four were complete and work started immediately. These were finished and installed in November of that same year. the first series of windows completed, the team enjoyed a much needed break while plans for the final four side windows were begun.
The design plan for the next four windows was based on the physical and spiritual events each church member experiences in the sanctuary. the Sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and the Services of Marriage and Death and Resurrection served as themes. The building of these windows began in January 1997. They were completed in three months and installed on April 8, 1997. Dedicated on August 2, 1997, these 12 stained glass windows stood as yet another milestone in the growth of our church.
Not long after this first dedication service the stained glass team began to cast their gaze upward once again and thus began the most ambitious plan of the entire project. Measuring roughly thirteen feet by twenty six feet, and enclosing more space than the first twelve windows combined, the large window opening at the front of the church, above the copper clad entry doors, begged their attention.
In January, 1999, Bruce Wesson went back to work creating designs for this huge space and David Dyer began preparing construction drawings for the framing plan. Under Gail Wells’ watchful eye the stained glass team was reassembled and ready to go.
The design concept emerged as a celebration of our namesake, St. Paul. The window was installed on November 16, 2006, and dedicated on January 7, 2007. St. Paul United Methodist Church minister, John Fleming was joined for the service by Bishop Charles Crutchfield who delivered the sermon and District Superintendent Rev. Phil Hathcock.
Throughout a long and rich tradition, founded on faith and commitment to God, the members of St. Paul United Methodist Church have not wavered from a course of growth and enrichment. From beginnings in a private home in 1910, St. Paul has served as a home for the hearts of people who came together for the purpose of worship and enlightenment – people who continue to grow, to build and to celebrate the presence of God in our lives. Over fifty church members participated in the creation of the St. Paul United Methodist church stained glass windows. Thousands of hours were required to complete a project funded and supported by a trusting congregation. Through this labor of love, we pass our legacy to those who will follow us.