Rich Shaffer, a son of a United Methodist pastor, has spent his entire life in the church. As a small boy, he became intrigued by the colors and design of the stained glass windows in the various churches his father served. Later he began to realize the stories that were told and read from the Bible were also reflected by the images in glass.
This fascination with the glass remained as an adult when Rich and his wife, Deborah, purchased a National Historic Home in Parkersburg, W.Va. that had been known for its many portrait stained glass windows. Unfortunately, the windows had been removed several years prior to the purchase but photos of the original panes were given to the couple. Rich immediately decided he would learn how to create stained glass windows for the grand home. He found a class, and when the instructor asked the attendees on the first night what kind of sun-catcher they wanted to make, Rich responded, “I want to make a window.” While the instructor felt that this was a rather ambitious first project, Rich did indeed finish the class with a new stained glass window for his new old home.
Through the years Rich refined his craft and formed his own company. Word began to spread and Rich’s restorative and creative abilities with glass can be seen in churches around the conference.
As life got in the way of his creativeness, he set aside the soldering iron and glass UNTIL that day the Bishop’s Lead Team began the discussion about the need for a visual interpretation of 2,400+ professions of faith. What could be created to show the progress toward this very special goal? Many thoughts were given and finally someone suggested a commissioned piece of stained glass. Great! But who could do that? Rich sat quietly as he listened to the ideas about the possible stained glass piece. He then felt the nudge. “God is it me? Am I the one to make this affirmation of our love for you?” The answer came. “I know how to make this. The glass and supplies are waiting in my shop to build this visual.” The assignment was his.
Rich is a native West Virginian and he knew the design needed to represent the people of West Virginia. His thoughts went to one of his favorite places in the state, Canaan Valley. And so the mountains and the streams took form around the cross and the flame in the design. Twenty four pieces of colors from the rainbow spectrum spun around the full image with each piece of glass representing 100 people who by a first time profession of faith accepted Christ as their Savior throughout the WV United Methodist Annual Conference. The glass, all WV made glass, idle in the shop for 15 years, appeared to be so excited to be chosen for this sacred panel that each piece fractured along the score line with each tap. It was as though the artist and the glass became one in the task of this important piece.
Rich began to again study the colors of the stained glass as he once did as a small child. Only when the sun shines through the colored pieces of glass can we realize the true beauty of the translucent medium. And only when Jesus the Son shines through our lives can the true beauty of our souls be realized. After all of the glass had been cut, the edges were ground smooth on a water-cooled grinder to remove the razor sharp edges as well as remove excess glass to improve the fit. It is also as we yield to the Holy Spirit our rough, sharp edges are removed and our excesses are removed to improve our fit into the body of Christ.
As the design took shape, he began to make other comparisons to our relationship with Christ.
- Edges wrapped with copper foil – It is like we are surrounded/wrapped by grace.
- The glass, diverse in color and texture, joined together, creates a pleasing expression of God’s love for all of His people.
- Many pieces of glass have imperfections and impurities that just as they are, are still used for God’s pleasure. It would not be much of a visual if every piece of glass was perfectly smooth and void of color.
- Fluxed and soldered together – we are held together by love.
WV black walnut lumber, originally purchased for another purpose, patiently waited for the special job for Christ. The metal frame was repurposed from another stained glass project.
It was as though all of the materials and the artist had waited to be used for this special and sacred moment to become a reminder of God’s 2,400+ children who accepted Christ as their personal Savior.
Rich Shaffer is the Lay Leader for the West Virginia Annual Conference.
For more information, contact Deborah Shaffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.