View a slideshow of the making and installation of the stained glass windows at the new home of St. Francis of Assisi.
For hundreds of years, the stained glass windows of churches around the world have served as storytellers to the people who worship inside.
The colorful windows are often pieced together to illuminate a story from the bible.
While the windows of St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Catholic Church in Gainesville fulfill their role as scriptural storytellers, they reveal a bit more about the people inside the church.
After years of worshiping in borrowed locations around town, the church has finally found a permanent home on Thompson Bridge Road. The building was once a residential home but is being renovated into a traditional church building.
While the renovations are being done by a contractor, several of the parishioners have combined their talents to create an inviting place to worship — a house of God.
One parishioner used his skills as a carpenter to build pieces of furniture, like the alter for the church, while others teamed up to make the church’s 11 stained glass windows by hand.
"In a way this was a church that we have built from the ground up," The Rev. Shaughn Casey said. "Yes, there was a contractor and yes there was a work crew, but in addition to that it really has our touch on it. You can see our fingerprints all over it, so to speak."
Pat and Nancy Harmon learned the art of creating stained glass in Germany more than 25 years ago. They helped another church in Illinois create its own stained glass windows several years ago and saw the opportunity to use their skills for the church again.
Every week since June, the "St. Francis Glass Company" met with boxes of Band-aids at the Harmon’s studio to tackle the enormous task of creating the stained glass windows.
Each piece of colored glass has to be carefully cut and fitted together. The company members started learning the process by making Anglican Shield sun catchers which they sold to offset the costs of the materials for the larger windows.
The windows took more than 400 man-hours and 1,800 pieces of glass to complete. Pat Harmon estimated the church saved thousands of dollars by making the windows themselves. He said after the earnings from the sun catcher sales, it only cost the church $721.
Pat Harmon said the weekly work sessions were very rewarding and provided an opportunity for fellowship that resulted in strong friendships.
One of the church’s founders, Dan Hall said he believes all of the people who came together to build the church were sent directly by God.
"I have no doubt they were sent," Hall said. "I believe we all were in some way, to be honest. It just fit together."
Hall said when the church is finally complete in a few weeks and he’s sitting in mass he’ll be able to look at the windows and all the cracks and crevices of the building with a sense of ownership and pride.
"You look at the little parts of the window that you remember struggling with and you look at it and you’re kind of proud," Hall said.
Hall said that the process has been easy. In fact, he said, everyone is a little worn out from all the work.
"It’s not been without frustration like any major project," Casey said. "But I think the end result is we’ve drawn closer together."
While the church is grateful for the First Baptist Church on Green Street that has given them space to worship for the last two years, they’re ready for a place to call their own.
Casey laughed and said no one will mind not having to set up and take down the alter, the alter rail, kneelers and candles every Sunday. He said all of their struggles will become wonderful stories to tell the future generations of the parish.
The church is still a few weeks away from opening its doors but hopes to have its first service before Easter Sunday at the end of the month. Those who are interested in following the church’s progress can follow along on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/StFran cisOfAssisiAcc.
Casey said all the work that so many members of the congregation have done to make the church into what is, is what it’s all about.
"I think what it proves is the church isn’t necessarily the building but the people in it," Casey said. "They all bring their own unique ministries to it. Whether it’s building something, or praying for other people in the congregation or singing in the choir, everybody has a role to play in that. When everyone engages in what they’re called to do it really makes a church come to life."