What is the church? First, and foremost, it is the people. But what is the church building? It stands night and day as a beacon for the lost. It is a lighthouse for the lonely and troubled. It’s a structure built by man, dedicated to God and is a symbol of the hope and peace.
Every day hundreds traveling I-65 in southern Indiana find their attention drawn to a stone church just south of Exit 29. Families will often point or become visually captured by its unique architectural design. A graceful flow of stone rolls in concert with the surrounding hills. Flag-stone facing gently dips and cradles three aluminum crosses. Each is different in size. Their short horizontal pieces give the elongated shafts an appearance of stretching toward the heavens. Clearly the center cross has succeeded by extending above the stone to greet the eastern skies and the rising sun of each new day. This same cross will also cast a protective shadow upon the sanctuary roof at each day’s end.
This theme is continued inside the church building. The sanctuary design intentionally seeks to harmonize with the gently rolling hills surrounding the structure. A center aisle is disproportionately set, creating long rows and ceiling beams on one side. This aisle further compliments the building exterior theme by forming the shaft of another cross. The communion rail becomes its horizontal arm. Moving your eyes from the communion rail upward, the base of yet another cross begins. Close examination reveals a unique handcrafted cross made of mahogany imported from Africa.
Integration of the building with its natural surroundings is assisted by using clear glass in the upper part of each sanctuary window. Visitors and worshippers remain aware of a constantly changing world outside, while being surrounded with unchanging symbols of faith inside. Just below the clear glass of each window are panels made of faceted glass. This glass consists of one-inch thick glass and epoxy resin. The glass is cut by hand with a chip hammer or a diamond saw and is bound together with epoxy resin, which is much like concrete, except that it has greater tensile strength and a higher coefficient of expansion. It has an insulating value greater than insulated glass and is stronger than tempered glass. It weights approximately ten pounds per square foot and is made in panels approximately twelve square feet.
Each window panel embraces pieces of glass broken similar to the fractures and cleavages of the exterior stone creating continued harmony with the outer walls. Faceted glass panels set just below clear windows required a larger amount of black epoxy to bring out the brilliance of each color and story of the lower window section. One of the exciting aspects of colored glass is a spontaneous reaction to the changing quality of light hour by hour and day to day. The windows are in a constant state of flux as the exterior light changes.
As worshippers enter, faceted glass windows seek to tell a story of Christ’s earthly ministry. There are twelve panels containing individual vignettes from the life of Jesus. Panels one and two greet beholders just inside the sanctuary. They feature a Tau cross surrounded by a bed of pale violet. Tau crosses served to announce the anticipated coming of a Messiah. The background color on these panels is violet, a traditional color of modesty. Violet is also the shortest wave of the color spectrum yet equally important to the other seven. Red is the longest wave. With colors representing the full spectrum of emotions we will see the “violet modesty” of Jesus’ anticipated birth ended by the “raging red” emotions of misguided people.
Panel three features a white rose, symbolical of a child’s birth. The red center of the rose represents the blood later shed by Jesus to provide a way of salvation for all people.
Panel four contains a shepherd’s crook intersected with a Latin cross. Ultimately the test of Jesus’ claim to be a “good shepherd” would be met on the cross. Latin crosses are often used as symbols of crucifixion. The commitment of Jesus to be the shepherd of God’s people eventually intersected with the cross of crucifixion.
Panels five and six represent a blue scallop shell. For centuries shells have been used in the baptism event, either to hold or dip water. Blue is used as a reminder of the heavens opening as Jesus was baptized.
Panel seven uses a soft violet glass to outline a straight handled cup normally used at meals by common people. This symbol takes us to the Upper Room event where Jesus presented wine to symbolize blood he was about to shed for the sins of all people.
Panel eight and nine contain the clear pattern of a crown with thorns circling a bed of purple. The color purple is commonly used for both royalty and passion. After placing a crown on the head of Jesus, he was draped in a purple robe. These symbols provide an oxymoron with Jesus wearing the crown and robe of a king, yet the crown was made of thorns and the robe was intended as mockery rather than recognition of his true royalty.
Panels nine, ten and eleven, present a blue gray cross of crucifixion. It lays in the position used when driving nails into the hands of the person being crucified. The gray blue glass becomes symbolical of a person, once filled with color, being drained of life.
Panel twelve features an empty cross of resurrection and the promise of everlasting life. It’s surrounded by a crown of green, a color used to symbolize hope and new life. One might also interpret the green background as symbolical of a laurel victory wreath.
As individuals view the overall window pattern from back to front, a common thread of white glass clearly connects one panel to the next. Within the life events of Jesus’ life viewers see a blending of the cross in different shapes and forms.
Believers in Christ are also found in unique shapes and forms. Like the cross, each becomes a symbol of commitment, sacrifice, and hope for all people of the world.