Expression of worship through art

Published on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters.

“He restoreth my soul.”

One by one, the verses of the familiar 23rd Psalm are brought to life in the windows of Christ Episcopal Church through a series of vibrantly colored stained glass creations, each depicting a scene that might happen on any given day in northwest 
Washington. But each window is more than just a work of art – they’re also a call to worship.

“The old windows closed the room off and made this intimate space feel smaller. We wanted it to be something that would lead us into prayer,” said priest Andrea McMillin, who spearheaded the project for the small church in Blaine. “So we commissioned Leslie [Mason] to create the landscape that surrounds the church, taking us from the Nooksack Valley to Mt. Baker and down to the bay. It’s a visual reminder of our calling to go out and minister in this landscape.”

Mason, who is a member of the church and operates Natural Glass Studio in Bellingham, said that redesigning the windows was something that she had longed to do for years. “From the moment I first walked into the church, I daydreamed about making new windows,” she said. “It’s a very personal project for me.”

It’s also the biggest project the stained glass artist has ever tackled. The 14 panels took more than 15 months to complete, not counting the planning and preparation process that tacked on another six months to the project. 

“We spent hours at warehouses looking for just the right glass,” Mason said, and it took a while before they settled on a handmade glass from Youghiogheny Glass in New Hampshire that mimicked the qualities of Tiffany glass, a style that creates brilliant textures and patterns that refract light in a unique way. “It’s really hard to get sometimes,” she said. “They sometimes only do one shipment a year.”

When the pieces finally came together, they knew it was the right fit.

“Our idea was to have a design that was somewhat modern, but not abstract, similar to what Louis Tiffany would have used in
 his work,” McMillin said, noting that the style fits in with the turn-of-the-century church building her congregation occupies. “It feels old. It’s much more historically accurate than the stained glass we had before.”

McMillin said she chose the 23rd Psalm for the commission because it was a theme that could easily flow through the entire series and was also easily visualized. “It was something that everyone could get behind. A lot of people live here because of the landscape and we wanted to connect the experience of worship and that appreciation for nature together,” she said, noting that they avoided the inclusion of buildings and objects to preserve the project’s timelessness. “The congregation was so supportive. It’s a beautiful and meaningful addition to the church.”

McMillin said the church plans to hold an open house in the next few months so that residents can see Mason’s artwork up close. For more information and to stay up to date on the open house, visit christchurchblaine.com.

For more information about Mason’s stained glass artwork, visit naturalglassstudios.com.