November 6, 2011
When Spot Holmes steps into Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church downtown, the windows are always the first things she notices.
Some are towering two-story high windows taking up almost an entire wall of the gothic building. Others are small and hidden high in the rafters. Depending on the angle of the sun, there is always something newly illuminated– perhaps a face of a saint, or an angel or a small symbol almost hidden among the colors and shapes.
To Holmes, those windows aren’t just art, they’re history. One of the glass artists at the church also made more than 3,000 windows at Yale University. One window, which depicts several stories of healing in the Bible, was dedicated in 1906 to a local doctor who came to Colorado Springs to help tuberculosis sufferers. Another window was commissioned by a former pastor in memory of his late 2-year-old daughter.
“They are all full of history,” said Holmes, who helped research a new book, released Sunday, titled the “Windows of Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church.”
The book tells the story of each of the windows of the church. It’s full of pictures that show the hidden details that easily could be missed.
Marianna McJimsey, who led the book committee, said she loved learning about the stories behind the windows and understanding what went into creating them. Each of the windows has an artist with his or her own story and was commissioned by someone who believed in the beauty of stained glass, she said. They held those beliefs even when money was tight, she said.
“Windows were made during the Great Depression and the World Wars,” she said. “Even then, people still believed enough in them.”
The book, she said, also was created to help unify the parish, which has endured upheaval during the past decade. In 2007, their former priest, Rev. Donald Armstrong, was defrocked from the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado after accusations that he embezzled almost $400,000 from the church. He then became an Anglican priest whose congregation occupied the church.
After a court battle, the Episcopal Diocese won the rights to the church, and the former congregation returned in 2009. Soon afterward, a committee formed to put together the book.
“The one thing we’ve learned through all this is that a church is not about a building, it’s about the people,” said Rev. Stephen Zimmerman, current priest at Grace and St. Stephens. The history of the windows also is a history of the people in the parish, he said.
“It’s given us the ability to appreciate the building as an expression of the faith of the people.”
Those stories, he said, are the most important to the church.
“This is not just painted glass,” he said. “Each of the windows is an expression of faith and love.”
Contact Maria St. Louis-Sanchez: 636-0274
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