Friday, June 3, 2011

Stained Glass and Fine Arts: Another Reason to be Rather Fond of the Episcopal Church (June 2009)

No one really knows where it came from, but it’s made from two of the earth’s most basic elements: sand and fire.  Some say the first stained glass was used in jewelry, but by the Middle Ages the stained glass window had taken over as an essential element of church décor.
Several factors played a role in its popularity, including architectural innovations that allowed for multiple (and big!) windows, plus the increasingly popular use of stained glass as a teaching tool – think of it as the Medieval church’s PowerPoint.

Today many Episcopal churches preserve and install stained glass for several reasons.  We remind ourselves of significant biblical personalities and events, we connect ourselves with the faithful of past generations, and we allow art to do what it does best – spur our imaginations toward what could be – heeding the words of Michigan boys home founder and Episcopalian Floyd Starr once said that ‘beauty is a silent teacher.’

While some Christians, wanting to identify with the poverty of Jesus, shun the beautiful and exquisite, others, including may Episcopalians, find in, not only stained glass, but sculpture, paintings, architecture, and all the aesthetics humans have been gifted to create, the very signature of God.  Of course, we can never make a day lily or a peregrine falcon (especially out of nothing!) but when we do engage in creative acts we particiate in the imago dei (the image of God) by doing what God originally and continually does.  And we pause to say ‘it is good, it is very good.’ 
What role does art play in your spirituality? 
People ask where the information from these posts originates- and they come from one of two books I've written for inquirers and newcomers to the Episcopal Church- you can check them out at:

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