Maybe you’ve driven by the First United Methodist Church in downtown Bend and idly noticed its large stained glass windows fronting Bond Street and Kansas Avenue, plus some facing south, toward the parking lot.
Maybe you briefly turned your head for a better sense of the images in the panes. But you quickly drove on, and maybe even forgot you tried to look in the first place.
The windows are, after all, forgettable. At least, from the outside. Covered with Lexan plastic shielding that has fogged with age, the stained glass is barely visible from the outside of the church, bland blocks of gray interrupting the staid red brick of the building.
But step inside the church’s sanctuary and it’s a different story. Even on a cloudy day, the light passing through the stained glass causes the windows to glow with purpose.
There is the light of creation filtering through a scene depicted on the south wall. Here is the face of Jesus, lit, like the lantern he carries, with a light that seems brighter than stained glass should be able to render.
These windows, a fixture at the historic Bend church since its construction in 1922, inspire.
“I really think the windows preach a sermon every Sunday,” said Pastor Thom Larson.
Their sermon is about to get brighter. First United Methodist is three-quarters of the way toward raising the $48,000 necessary to restore the windows, work that will see the foggy protective covering on the outside replaced with new, clear acrylic, plus repairs to sections that sag and bulge. The work, planned for May, will be done by renowned stained glass studio Associated Crafts of Arizona.
And the thing is, these windows are not just windows. They are art, says Larson.
Indeed, the windows — 13 in all — were made by Portland’s Povey Bros. studio, Oregon’s largest and best-known glass producer in the late 19th and early 20th century. David and John Povey’s windows, which can be found in churches and other buildings throughout the West, were known as the “Tiffany’s of the Northwest,” according to Portland’s Architectural Heritage Center.
The First United Methodist windows are also documents of Bend history. Many of them honor early Bend families or notable religious leaders.
They tell a story of beauty. Of faith. Of family. Of community.
Every Sunday since 2004, Larson has preached from a low stage placed beneath two of the largest of the church’s stained glass windows. He loves the quality of the light that comes through them.
“It is interesting especially at this time of day,” he said late one afternoon in early December, standing in the soft glow from the windows, “to watch the windows and how the light changes. In the summer it is spectacular.”
Church member Greg Brown, who grew up attending First United Methodist and who is spearheading the restoration effort, said he remembers the color of the light that came through those windows during his mother Barbara Brown’s memorial service in 2009. He said listening to Larson speak during the service, with the golden light filtering through the windows behind him, made him feel like an angel was present.
It’s no wonder. First United Methodist’s windows line three sides of the sanctuary, flooding the long room with light. Like many church windows, they are meant to not only illuminate, but to inform and inspire. They are architectural, but they are also art.
“Povey did exceptional artwork,” said Tim Hudson, vice president of consulting for Associated Crafts. “He designed a nice window, with very detailed hand painting.” The face of Jesus in one window has six shades of color in it, he said. “That means it’s been hand painted and fired five to six times,” Hudson said.
In the context of churches, stained glass was often called the “poor man’s Bible” because of its frequent portrayal of Biblical scenes, Hudson said. The peak use of stained glass in churches in the Middle Ages coincided with a time when few could read. Stained glass windows incorporating themes from the Bible allowed worshipers to learn scripture through scenes represented in the glass.
At First United Methodist, the large windows on the south side of the sanctuary tell tales of the Old Testament, Larson said. One panel shows the clouds of creation lit in ethereal light. Then comes Noah’s ark, followed by the giving of the Ten Commandments. A snake wound around a cross represents the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and salvation through Jesus, said Larson. Another panel shows the promised land with a scale representing judgment. Finally, there is a scene showing the beating of swords into plowshares.
The large windows on the north wall depict New Testament stories and scriptures. A candle with three flames represents the Trinity. Sheaves of wheat represent the bread of love, Larson said. A particularly detailed panel shows Jesus standing at a door with a lantern in hand, a visual depiction of Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Another New Testament panel shows Jesus depicted as a shepherd, surrounded by sheep. A pair of panels suggest the birth and death of Jesus with a star image and a crucifix. The final panel shows the parable of the sower from the Book of Matthew.
But aside from the literal interpretations of the images, Larson said, there is art in the glass itself.
“Art is the way you express your deepest insights and feelings about your faith,” Larson said. “The church has been, at some points in history, the main promoter of arts. There’s such an intimate connection with the spirit that does draw from people something no one can convey with words — not even just the concrete symbolism, but the collective beauty. It’s like seeing a sunset.”
The beauty of Povey glass is evident even in the borders around the main panels. Intricate leaf detailing surrounds some panels, filigreed designs top others. Jewel-toned panes create bold borders and architectural details are recreated in the glass.
The largest window at First United Methodist is a west-facing piece dedicated to former Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Co. vice president and general manager John Pease Keyes. The 12-by-20-foot window dominates the entire west wall of the church and features some of the most intricate painting of all the Povey windows. The center panel shows a forested mountain and river scene, a nod to the Brooks family and their vast timber holdings in the region (Keyes was a member of the Brooks family, said Brown).
Other notable early Bend residents are memorialized in the windows.
Kathryn Grace Vandevert, whose family owned a large ranch south of Bend, is honored in one small window. Another honors Mr. and Mrs. E. Coyner, likely Elmer and Metta Coyner, who filed for a homestead near Crescent and brought their large clan to the Bend area.
Lon and Mary Fox are honored in a window, their names painted in fancy script at the bottom. Lon Fox was a pioneer auto stage manager and city councilman, according to historic Bulletin accounts, and died two days before the Aug. 13, 1922, dedication of the new Methodist church building. Fox was chairman of the church building committee, and Bend businesses closed their doors from 2 to 3 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 14, 1922, for Fox’s funeral, the first one held in the new Methodist church.
Other names are neatly remembered on the windows: Caldwell, Gibson, Gilson — these names also appear on the church building committee roster. D. Ray Miller, Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Munry, A.F. and M.F. Morrison. Rev. J. Edgar Purdy, a former pastor of First United Methodist.
But one of the most interesting is Rev. William Clyde Stewart, to whom the window depicting the parable of the sower is dedicated.
Stewart was a beloved pastor of the church, according to Brown. His most selfless act was also one of his last. In 1918, when the Spanish flu outbreak hit Bend, Stewart pastored to hundreds of ill Bend residents, regardless of their religious affiliation (sometimes conducting up to three funerals per day). But Stewart was also exposed to the deadly virus and died from it.
Undertaking a project like this one at a church is no easy job, according to Hudson. For one thing, “nothing happens fast at a church,” he joked. For another, windows like those at First United Methodist are precious beyond their financial value. He estimated their replacement value at $315,000.
“The people of the congregation may say ‘wow’ at that number, but in their hearts, they’re irreplaceable,” he said.
According to Hudson, aging stained glass often needs work. “They need to be taken care of,” he said.
Lead being a soft metal, the leading used between each piece of glass can allow the window to sag over time. First United Methodist’s windows do have a few sagging or bulging spots, which craftsmen are often able to flatten in place without disassembling the window.
Every 25 to 30 years, stained glass should be re-cemented on the exterior, meaning cement is carefully worked between the lead and the glass with a brush. Once the cement is cured, workers removed any cement from the glass with a wooden tool.
Other work on the Methodist windows will include sealing any cracks in the glass with epoxy, installing steel braces to support and strengthen some sections of windows and removing the old Lexan covering on the outside. It will be replaced with a clear, pure-cast acrylic that will protect the windows but still allow them to be seen. Stained glass is always designed to be seen from the inside, not the outside, but the new exterior covering should improve the appearance of the windows significantly.
And as Brown said, the windows are a piece of history for Bend, for the church, for its people.
They mean something more than just a collection of glass and lead.
“Even though these are works of art of monetary value, many times you’re going to have more sentimental value for the parishioner,” Hudson said. “There is family heritage, family history there, that exists across denominations, across the country. It’s a big deal to a lot of people.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0308, email@example.com