A painstaking restoration of a fragile legacy Stained glass: At a small Carroll County church, worshipers have committed themselves to the costly preservation of their elaborately decorated windows.

March 24, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Inside a small Carroll County church, two workmen held the history of a 230-year-old congregation in their hands.

They shifted a cumbersome pane of stained glass. One stood on the top rung of a 10-foot ladder as his partner positioned the glass back in its sill. They said they have never lost a window.

Ehrhart Stained Glass has been restoring pane-by-pane all 20 windows at Emmanuel Baust Church in Tyrone, a brick building shared for centuries by local United Church of Christ and Lutheran congregations.

"We are preserving a gift from our past," said the Rev. Gerald D. Fuss, UCC pastor. "The windows are a treasure provided by previous generations that we need to preserve for the present and future generations."

Last week, workers struggled with a 60-pound pane, one-third of a large window in the sanctuary. Their conversation came down to an exchange of the same question.

"You got the window?" they repeated to each other.

"You have to make sure somebody has the window before you let go," said Mike Weaver.

A few weeks ago, it had taken them an entire day to remove the window in sections and transport the panes to their studio in York, Pa. There, restorers releaded the panes, washed and repaired the glass and in some sections, touched up the pieces with paint made for stained glass.

"It would cost more than $200,000 to make these windows today," said Mr. Weaver. "Churches today don't have these elaborate pictures. If anything, they have plain glass panels."

Scenes from the life of Christ play in brilliant colors across the windows at Emmanuel Baust. Soft greens, violets and gold outline holy images, painted 90 years ago.

The glass panels date to the opening of the third building to serve as a church for nearly 300 people in two congregations. Over the years, the lead joints, which hold the panels together, deteriorated and buckled. They could no longer support the weight of the glass.

"The upper weight on the bottom panels was so great that the windows were collapsing in on themselves," said Bob L. Miller, former president of the UCC congregation.

"The damage was so extensive, we had to remove the windows and take them away for repairs. There was never any questions that we would repair them."

To weatherize the glass and preserve it for the next century or longer, Ehrhart will also add an outer cover, similar to that of storm windows on a home.

The painstaking and costly process will probably take months, but both ministers agree the time and $75,000 are worth the effort.

"The windows represent the lives of most of the parishioners, all the existing generations still members of the church," said the Rev. Bob Wagner, pastor of Emmanuel Baust Lutheran.

Many families donated the original windows and had their names etched in the glass. Descendants of those families still worship at Emmanuel Baust.

"We are getting a real bargain and maintaining an integral part of the life of our congregation," said Mr. Wagner.

Where the emblem in one window has completely worn away, Mr. Wagner has donated $250 to have a picture of the church painted on it.

The congregations were unanimous in the decision to repair the windows, said Mr. Miller.

"Walking into this sanctuary with these windows on Sunday morning, even on a cloudy day, lifts your spirits," he said. "The gray of the day no longer exists. Every window tells a story. Every window inspires."

In the sanctuary, one window pictures a purple-robed Christ praying in the garden of Gethsemane, in the hours before the Crucifixion.

On the opposite wall, across the dark wooden pews, another window shows Christ knocking on a door. The inspiration for that portrait comes from Revelations, said Mr. Fuss. "The beauty of our setting adds to the inspiration of worship," he said.

Emmanuel Baust has always been home to two congregations and traces its founding to 1765, predating Carroll County. In its cemetery are graves of those who fought in the Revolutionary War.

"This is not the sterile mortar and bricks of today's churches," said Mr. Miller. "We don't want a congregation that worships a building more than God, but there is beauty and inspiration here."

Each Sunday, worshipers now see a Masonite panel where once the sun shone through multicolors. Missing windows combined with a faltering furnace to make for a few chilly services this winter, Mr. Miller said. Restored windows will soon atone for all the inconvenience.

"I have a 17-year-old daughter, who was baptized here," he said. "Fifty years from now, I want her to be able to stand in this sanctuary and talk about the beauty of these same windows."

The congregations have started several fund-raising projects to pay for the project. They are selling $10 wooden replicas of the building and $5 sun catchers, which duplicate pictures on several windows. They also are staging a romantic play with several performances set in the church hall next month.

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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