A new window for The Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland hopes to bring hope and light to the community.
After 13 years of planning, creating, and constructing, Cathedral parishioners, Cynthia Wheelock and Nancy Barba, recently watched over the installation of their gift – the first large-scale stained glass window donated to the main space in the Cathedral in almost 40 years.
In August they learned from the stain glass maker, Robin Neely, that the window was finally ready for installation. The window as designed by Wheelock’s brother, artist Scott Wheelock of Philadelphia.
The inspiration for the Barba-Wheelock window came over 13 years ago, when the women were encouraged to hold their blessing/union ceremony, at the Cathedral, the first of its kind in the Episcopal church of Maine sanctioned by then Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Chilton Knudsen and performed by then Dean, the Very Rev. Stephen Foote. The window may be the one of the few windows in the country acknowledging gratitude for a church service for a same-gendered blessing.
“What better symbol of light and joy than to celebrate this window and its meaning now,” said Barba.
The window is comprised of three panels, Blessing – Memory – Joy, each two feet wide by seven feet high and will reside on the East side of the clerestory, at the end closest to the chancel cross, about 30 feet above the church floor. The theme of the window is an array of angels ushering light into the church, a metaphor for both the open and welcoming gesture the congregation offered in support of their Blessing ceremony and for the seminal shift in the church’s encouragement and the acceptance of diversity.
St. Luke’s Cathedral was founded on the principle of equality to all; counter to the practice of the day, the church did not sell specific pews to raise money for the construction.
Built in the late 1860s, the cathedral, in typical fashion for cathedrals, originally installed ordinary, stenciled glass panels. Over time, the expectation was that they would be replaced with donated memorial windows. This gift brings a total of seven memorial panels of the 18 on the East side clerestory. Of the 18 panels on the West side, 12 are memorial donations.
A dedication ceremony for the new window was held on November 5.