Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Beyond the stained glass

Recently I’ve been posting photos from a stained glass window in a lovely wee church (St. Mary’s) in Wooler, Northumbria.

Several thoughts occur to me. Firstly, one of the original purposes of stained glass was to communicate key stories to congregations that were largely illiterate. The picture book approach made the stories meaningful and accessible. It strikes me that this is a key role for the church today – especially at times like Christmas when people are more likely to wander into a church.

Of course the danger is that we over-simplify the message, and in many ways this is the downside to the picture book approach. The images get lodged in our minds and the distortions that go along with that. For example, how many people firmly believe that there were three kings in the nativity story? Reality is – no number given, not kings! But the image persists.

The second thought is how do we, as Christians, remember the message of the stained glass window throughout the year? You know - Christ incarnate!

Sheilagh Kesting - the current Moderator of the Church of Scotland – speaking about the Christmas story said:

“It really does speak about justice and homelessness and the kind of world God wants us to live in, and the kind of people he wants us to be… We distort religion in so many ways, but it’s about a God of love, about a God who turns things upside down… That is what our faith is about and in lots of ways it’s disturbing because it unsettles people’s comforts.”

(The Herald magazine 22 Dec. 2007)

Have we moved beyond the stained glass windows?

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