Labor of Love

Trinity’s Faceted Glass Windows – lesson – October 30, 2022

Thank you for inviting me to share a project that’s grown more and more dear to my heart.  I’ve been around our sanctuary windows since they were installed in 1964. But being ten at the time I didn’t take notes.  As a focus of my attention since 1964, our windows came and went. For me, they were a given. Appreciated, but perhaps a little taken for granted. But one day last spring a member of my Sunday school class surprised me by saying he would like to understand our windows better.  He would like to better appreciate what the images mean. To understand, to appreciate, to love—this got me to thinking about how our minds and our bodies work together to discover meaning.  For instance, I’ve always been less interested in mastering our windows’ theology with my mind, and more interested in how our windows feel to my hand.  That’s just me. The colors attract me. I place my hand on a particular color, red for instance. Or cobalt blue. Or maybe purple. I place my hand on the glass, the cool smooth, the jagged edges, and it sings to me. I feel it. And when the sun spills through our glass in the morning, or the late afternoon, I’m just happy to be alive. If that sounds strange to you, well, the Apostle Paul said it takes all kinds. 

It takes all kinds to make up the body of Christ. And if we’re lucky we meet in a beautiful building. Our bodies, our buildings—what we see with our eyes and touch with our hands—this is a crucial part of how we’re formed in our Christian faith.  Made in the image of God we are, and meant to keep growing in wisdom and in strength. And so in that spirit I directed my mind to learn more about our windows.  The first fact I mastered is that our windows are made of faceted glass, also called dalle de verre. People started working with stained glass way back in the Bronze Age. For centuries it didn’t change much, though we got better and better at making it into windows. But faceted glass—dalle de verre—is a form of stained glass developed quite recently, which is to say, after the first World War.  So you can call our windows stained glass, but it’s much more precise to call them faceted glass. Dalle de verre, which to me has a nice sound to it.

Having more or less mastered the concept of what our windows are, I took a deep dive into the life of our designer.  Her name was Odell Prather. Billie to her friends. I never knew her; she died in 2001. But as with so many deep dives into a story, I fell in love.  I’m so happy to introduce you today to this extraordinary woman. 

Most important of all to me as a church historian, I’m counting on the work you’re about to see to connect us all more firmly to the story of our particular church in Beaumont, Texas, and by that means to each other.  It’s been my experience that the more we know and feel about a subject, the more dear we hold it in our hearts, minds, and bodies. So without further ado…our windows.