Mary Taylor Church finishing up stained glass repairs

There is wood covering the windows at Mary Taylor United Methodist Church downtown, but no, there’s been no vandalism. The church’s stained glass windows are out for repair.

This is the second phase of a stained glass window restoration project.

Last year four windows were repaired, and this year another four main windows, plus one from an ancillary room, are being restored.

The windows, believed to date back to 1893 when the church was completed, will be “re-leaded” as part of the restoration project.

“The windows are taken apart and the lead that connects each separate glass plate to each other is replaced (called ‘re-leading’),” said the church pastor, the Rev. Dr. Brian R. Bodt. “This lead can fatigue over time, particularly under the stress of heat.”

The repairs, when the entire project is completed, will cost approximately $65,000.

“This investment in our capital plant is part of a continuing plan of upkeep and maintenance, some of which had been deferred in recent years,” Bodt said. “As members’ financial support has increased, these projects have become feasible.”

Bodt said the church got a deal by having the work done now, during important church holidays. He estimated the savings at about 20%, and said the church members thought the savings justified being without the windows during Easter and upcoming holy days.

“There’s a reason many churches today are not being built with stained glass,” he said, explaining that maintaining them can be expensive and could raise questions about the church’s priorities.

“On the other hand, the church has always supported the arts,” he said. “And we are the inheritors of these windows” and therefore entrusted to preserve them.

Following a news report last year about the project, Bodt said, some church neighbors sent in a donation of $2,000 because they were pleased the work was being done and thought it was good for the downtown area.

The windows were showing signs of bowing, and that will be corrected and the top louvers will be repaired so that the top portion of the windows may be opened for ventilation, Bodt said.

The contractor is Stained Glass Resources Inc. of Hampden, Mass.

According to a company website, bowing is an indication that the “lead channel, which is the primary structural support system of the window, is deteriorating,” and repair is needed.

Depending upon the alloy composition, lead has a service life of 75 to 100 years, the website notes.

If not repaired and the problem progresses, the window may tear away from the support bars, “and eventually glass will break as a result of this stress,” according to the Stained Glass Resources website.

Bodt said being able to open the top part of the windows that have already been repaired has been appreciated on hot worship days. The church is not air conditioned, so the ventilation makes a big difference.

It would make sense to leave the top louver open all day in the summer, but Bodt noted with a laugh that they can be kept open only a short while. Already pigeons have found their way in when the windows are open too long, he said.

It takes a while for the company to restore each window. The first four were gone for five months. The second group of windows were removed and sent for restoration two weeks ago, and Bodt expects to have them back around July.

But then, the windows should be good for another 75 to 100 years, he said.