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Posted January 3, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Symbolic images: Local Methodist church repairing stained glass windows

Ed Winkler
Strasburg United Methodist Church pastor Ed Winkler stands in front of a three-panel section of stained glass windows in the church. Stained Glass by Shenandoah Inc. in Front Royal is restoring the windows. Rich Cooley/Daily

Restored window
The sun shines through one of the restored windows inside the church at the intersection of Washington and Holliday streets.

Stained glass - butterfly symbol
Artwork will be reintroduced into the vacant space beside the butterfly symbol in this row of windows inside the church.

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By Sally Voth — Daily Staff Writer

STRASBURG — The century-old sanctuary at Strasburg United Methodist Church is getting some window dressing.

Craftsmen are repairing the putty and lead casing holding the colorful windows in place, putting new protective covering on the outside of the windows and, in some cases, replacing cracked or broken pieces of glass.

The project started a few weeks ago, and it’s part-way done, pastor Ed Winkler said.

“It takes a while to do that because the craftsmen who do it work very carefully and slowly,” he said.

The part of the sanctuary where the windows are being renovated dates to 1905, said Winkler. The church itself started in 1876, and has nearly 500 members.

Over time, the lead casing and the putty that goes into it have started to disintegrate and fall away.

“It’s mostly a matter of rebuilding the lead, reputtying in those windows that need it,” Winkler said.

Small cracks appear in some of the glass, which features swirly, iridescent coloring, as well as some traditional religious symbols.

Also, the coverings protecting the windows on the outside of the church have yellowed, so they’re being replaced.

A marked contrast can be seen between the old and the new see-through coverings while standing in the church parking lot, with the vibrant colors of the stained glass clearly visible through the new coverings.

Stained Glass by Shenandoah Inc., located in Front Royal, is handling the project. Glazier Paul Tribble said the windows are being taken apart and rebuilt, a lengthy process.

“It’s very hard to find the original glass it was made with,” he said. “You have to find exactly the same size lead. We replicate the window exactly as much as we can. It’s almost like working at a museum.”

Many times the glass can be pretty well matched, Tribble said.

“What we try to do is take the windows apart totally and rebuild them so they’re like brand new windows, using the same old glass,” he said. “Companies used to do like a Band-Aid. We try to discourage that. Otherwise, it’s just leaving the windows to the next generation to fix, and we don’t want them to fall apart.”

Stained glass windows are more than just pretty decorations for worshipers to look at, Winkler said.

“The stained glass, I think, does a few things for people,” he said. “One is for a place like Strasburg, which is very conscious of its history … in some ways, the stained glass preserves the history of the church.”

The bottoms of most of the windows list the names of people the stained glass is in memory of or was presented by. New sponsors can help defray the restoration costs, Winkler said.

“All religions are rich in symbolism, and Christianity is rich in symbolism,” Winkler said. “Stained-glass windows really go back to the Middle Ages when most people couldn’t read and they would tell the Bible stories in stained glass. Now people can read, but the stained glass tells our story in its many symbols.”

At Strasburg United Methodist, different images in the glass depict classic Christian themes — a butterfly representing the Resurrection, an Alpha and an Omega, an ark, a harp, a chalice, a lamp, a lamb on a throne, a cross, a dove.

“Symbols are so rich to us,” Winkler said. “Symbols have power to evoke images and thoughts in us that words don’t.

“Those windows, they preserve our history. They evoke meaning to us and just provide beauty. That kind of goes back to the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages, intentionally made as beautiful as possible [as] sort of a foretaste of Heaven.”

It’s the church’s responsibility to preserve the windows, Winkler said.

“We feel it’s part of the stewardship of our church, that this beautiful building is a gift from God to us,” he said. “The members of this church have a deep attachment to this church, to the congregation, to the building, so they want to see it well maintained.

“[The windows] are pretty, and I think people really feel a connection to them and to the church. It would be a different feeling without them.”

* Contact Sally Voth at svoth@nvdaily.com

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