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Stained glass is their cross to share

September 20, 2010|By JANET HEIM
  • Members of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Funkstown are making crosses from the stained-glass windows of their former church building.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

FUNKSTOWN -- On Wednesdays in the basement of Charlotte and Dan Miller's Halfway home, the sounds of grinding and the smell of rubbing alcohol fill the air.

The lower level has become an assembly center for stained-glass crosses, made by a team of amateur stained- glass artists who quietly go about their work.

Charlotte Miller chairs the Activities Fellowship Committee at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Funkstown. Her husband, Dan, is church council president.

As the church began planning its first homecoming, scheduled for Oct. 3 -- "like a family reunion for the church," is how Pastor Mike Louia describes it -- Charlotte Miller put out a call for volunteers to make gifts for the special event.

The idea for the crosses came after considering what to do with smaller windows that had been removed from the old church building when a new one was built in 1980.

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The memorial windows from the old church are being stored in crates, but the smaller windows that were in the vestibule and choir loft of the early-1900s church were of little use.

"We hated to see them just go by the wayside," Charlotte Miller said.

Instead, some of the men removed the glass of dark gold, blue and an etched-looking clear, from the window frames. A plan was hatched to make keepsakes from the glass to be shared with church members and visitors to the homecoming.

"I think this is so neat. These are beautiful symbols of God's love," Louia said.

As a team formed, eight members signed up to take a six-week stained-glass class this summer at the Glass Loft near Cearfoss. Their teacher, Mary Lemen, created a cross pattern and the work began.

Charlotte and her team of Helen Bussard, Vivian Gardner, Dan Miller, Barb Mumma, Nelda Prather, Jeanette Pierce, Diana Smith, Dave and Jean Unger, and Krista Wilson, have worked five Wednesdays and created about 250 stained-glass crosses.

They work from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m., with time out for lunch. Their goal is to make 300 to 350 crosses by Homecoming Sunday.

The majority of work is done on Wednesdays, but Dave Unger cuts out the small shapes from the larger pieces of glass at home. He spends 12 to 15 hours a week cutting the glass, he said.

The Millers attach the metal rings at the top while they watch baseball games in the evening, they said.

Charlotte Miller said there are at least 15 steps to making the crosses and everyone has taken a turn doing most of the steps. Now, they've gravitated to working in the areas they like the most.

Prather likes working the grinder, while Bussard and Smith do the soldering.

"It's the fellowship together, learning something new and doing something for the church," said Prather, who plans to take more stained-glass classes.

Group members range in age from early 40s to mid-80s, with most in their 60s and 70s. Each bought a piece of equipment to share the expense, Charlotte Miller said.

"This has been a real team effort," she added.

All the team members said this was their first time working with stained glass. The finished result looks far above the work of amateurs.

Smith said she's done quite a bit of crafting over the years, but has enjoyed learning something different.

Charlotte Miller thinks people will be touched by having a piece of the old church.

"I told Pastor Mike they're not perfect, but a lot of heart and soul went into them," she said.

Charlotte Miller said they plan to use up all the glass and hold a bazaar to sell the extras, plus some other crafts. She said they're already working on ideas for the next Homecoming Sunday because they've had so much fun making crosses for this one.

"I'm just so grateful this group has come together to do this. It's a blessing to our congregation," Louia said.

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