Lutherans in Minnesota

A window into the world

Members of Bethel Lutheran Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, produced stained glass windows for a companion congregation in Tanzania. Photo provided by Patti McCann.

Two metro Lutheran congregations have found that, as painstaking as it was to handcraft stained glass windows for an overseas church, getting the finished product to its intended recipient was just as challenging.

A number of amateur artisans who attend Bethel Lutheran Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, gathered for marathon crafting sessions totaling hundreds of hours in order to create five large windows for a church in Tanzania. That is an impressive feat for what some experts say is painstaking work that can try one’s patience, to the point where it becomes necessary to walk away for a while.

A minister from the Tanzania church arrived in Hudson to oversee the progress as it nears conclusion. He told project participants this was his dream and had arrived in Hudson thinking all the windows were basically done, not just three of the five, some of which still need soldering. “He wanted to take them back with him,” said Patti McCann, one of 15 parishioners working on the project, adding that the pastor noted that this will give the children in his congregation something to continue viewing as they grow up.

“They have great pride in their church,” said McCann, adding that the windows depict five symbols important to the worship in Tanzania. “We wanted to see if we could teach them to cut the glass themselves, but they didn’t have the time, because they are busy working to feed their children … [and don’t] have the resources. This was not in their realm.”

The handiwork was sent to Tanzania using a plywood box for overnight shipping, with plenty of prayers that it would arrive safely.

The Bethel project has included providing a sound system for the cathedral and is an offshoot and expansion of a program of the Saint Paul Area Synod (ELCA). McCann and the other volunteers made the project proposal to Tanzanian leaders after visiting there three times.

St. Paul to St. Petersburg

A West St. Paul church has recognized that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Petrozavodsk, Karelia, Russia, has many needs. While many of these needs may be financial or physical, it may be the gift of a coat of arms in a stained glass window from four partnering Midwest churches that is most treasured.

The Rev. Alexei Krongolm, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Petrozavodsk, Karelia, in Russia, holds a stained glass gift from U.S. churches in his newly built congregation.

The handiwork was sent to Tanzania using a plywood box for overnight shipping, with plenty of prayers that it would arrive safely.

The coat of arms was forged by an artist and former St. James Lutheran parishioner Dennis Grabuski, whose parents still attend the independent Lutheran congregation in West St. Paul. Pastor Richard Stadler described stained glass as Grabuski’s avocation, since he has a fulltime white collar job.

The congregational project took hundreds of hours to complete the window; the coat of arms has a five-sided figure that contains several symbols, each of a different color.

“We had a professional packing company prepare it so we could take it with us as our ‘second piece of luggage,’” Stadler said. “We had to pay $60 for the second piece, and $150 for being overweight, so the total cost of ‘shipping’ it to Russia was dramatically … cheaper than if we had tried to mail it.”

The Russian church will now have an artistic symbol of support and “oneness” with all the churches involved. While not structurally essential, the window could brighten the former plain windows, Stadler said.

“But when we safely got it off the plane in St. Petersburg, after a transfer in Chicago and Helsinki, Finland, we discovered the lady who was picking us up to haul us and the package to the train station for the eight-hour train ride to Petrozavodsk, only had a small compact car and the box wouldn’t fit no matter how we tried to wedge it in.”

Enter the backup plan. “So we ripped the coat of arms out of the box, and hand-carried it in the back seat to the train station, [then] on the train, and finally, with a huge sigh of relief, into the hands of the Christians in Petrozavodsk,” Stadler said. The coat of arms was then transferred into the hands of the Russian pastor, Alexei Krongolm.

“I also took pictures of [members of] our congregation, waving to our Russian brothers and sisters in the worship services on September 25 before I left for Russia, so I could show these pictures to them at the festival service and remind them of our global family membership,” Stadler said.

Joe Winter is a freelance writer living in Hudson, Wisconsin.

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