“Windows to the Soul: Lighting the Heart of the City”
The First Congregational Church building, on the corner of Hanover and Union Streets, was built in 1880, with windows fashioned by the renowned glassmaker, Samuel West. One hundred forty years later, these windows have again come to prominence after a year-long restoration project. The public is invited to view these windows, from dusk to dawn, by driving by the continuously lit windows from December 20-27.
The craft of creating stained glass is highly specialized. Each section of each window is comprised of individually cut pieces of glass decorated and leaded together, so fragility is of paramount concern. The decoration, painted onto the glass, is fired in a kiln to fuse together. Each decorated section is held in place by leaded support bars. All this has been restored to its original prominence.
These windows offer a look into the soul of Christianity while also showcasing inclusivity. Each scene tells a story of spirituality and faith, as well as artistic creativity. The East Wall of the main sanctuary depicts Moses and the Ten Commandments, the cornerstone of many faiths, followed by the Disciple John, holding a Bible. Next comes the Good Shepherd, who goes after even one lost sheep.
The next two panels create one scene: the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary, who is calming sitting, reading a Bible (sic). The vibrancy of the colors here – green for hope and blue which becomes the enduring color of Mary – makes this window a Central focus of the Biblical stories and encapsulates the predominant colors used in windows throughout the sanctuary.
The West Wall windows depict figurative symbols of spiritual life: Purity, an angel holding a lily; Prayer, an angel looking upward, with hands clasped in prayer pose; angel with Open Bible, an invitation to all; the Cross and Crown, symbols of Jesus’s death and resurrection, and the promise of the ‘crown’ of everlasting life.
The circular windows above, representing God’s never-ending love, depict symbols from the Old Testament which transfer to the New Testament: For example, the sacrificial lamb becomes the New Testament symbol of Christianity. The Star of David was used in earlier times by Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Above the Annunciation window, is one with Three Cherubs, the number three playing a significant role from ancient times (3 Fates, 3 Graces, 3 Furies, Holy Trinity). And finally, there is the Dove, a universal sign of peace. These windows recognize the universality of many aspects of religion, and reveal the welcoming nature of First Church from its inception.
In addition to the ‘story’ windows, the main sanctuary hosts several others depicting various geometrical designs and floral motifs (note the South Entrance) intended to bring the outside world to sanctuary, again offering a welcome to all.
In this season of hope, the First Congregational Church of Manchester invites all in the community to enjoy driving by the continuing Light in the Heart of the City from December 20th – December 27th 5pm-5am.
- Authored by Selma Naccach-Hoff, Chair of the First Congregational Church Church Council.