Month: August 2016

Is it a cult?

“Is it a cult?” was Church Historian Kathy Young’s first impression of the First Congregational Church. Before Kathy joined FCCLB she was a practicing architect who attended a Methodist Church. After she came out to the pastor in 1991, he politely suggested that she might find our church more comfortable. And she did, but not without some misgivings.

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She recalls the energy in the church immediately before the open and affirming stance. The congregation was so passionate that it frightened her a bit. What changed her mind was attending an “Anchors” meeting (a former social initiative that grouped like aged individuals together for supper) at the Miller’s residence. Mary Ellen, our pastor in the 1990’s, had just said something that was “pie in the sky” and Karen Miller boldly disagreed with her. Kathy remembers thinking; “Hot damn, it’s not a cult!!”


Fast-forward a few years, Kathy was called to become the church historian. One of her first tasks was to look into a file cabinet Jerry Stinson, our previous pastor, wanted cleared out of what is now the audio visual office off in the south east corner of the building. Kathy and Cynthia Holt pried open the bottom drawer and in it they found the original minutes from the first church meeting in 1888. Cynthia cried.

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They then began a campaign along with Barbara Smith, Pam Chapin, Kathleen O’Neal and others to locate and organize all of the documents. “We checked just about everywhere except the bathrooms.” Kathy says (Historic toilet paper anyone?). Once they sorted most of the materials into decades they used the old sheet music room as an archive space. Some of the found treasures include boxes of slides of photos dating back to the early 1940’s, two boxes full of architectural drawings including the 1914 originals, and my personal favorite the early women’s committee meeting notes, those ladies knew how to run the church.

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Once the documents were reasonably organized Kathy spearheaded the timeline initiative, the results of which are up in the Koinonia room. Working 4-10 hours a day almost every day for a year, nearly 1400-1500 hours, Kathy picked out church facts that she found the most interesting and matched them up to current events that she thought people would remember. Kathy was most astonished to find that the First Congregational Church had been ahead of the curve on almost every major social justice movement in the 20th century. From staunch anti-war stances in WWI, to women’s rights, to civil rights, to gay rights the First Congregational Church has always been open and affirming to all people.

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There is much more filing to do and many more hidden gems to find in the archive. Kathy hopes that someday students and church members will use our collection for research purposes. For now, the archives can be access by appointment with Kathy or Barbara Smith.

What is going on in the Koinonia Room?

One of the more pressing questions the Historic Preservation Committee has been receiving as of late is about the scaffolding in the Koinonia Room. Aren’t we just dealing with the rose window? The answer is we are dealing with both simultaneously.


The skylights in the Kononia Room have bowed significantly in their frames. Their state of deterioration is such that repair work cannot wait without further risk of endangering the people below if a seismic event were to occur. Their removal also coincided well with the removal of the rose window so both stained glass pieces are being addressed at the same time.

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While the glass is removed church staff will also be repainting the interior of the skylights and addressing the rusting on the frames. The process should take a few weeks. Preventive maintenance like this will ensure that the newly cleaned and repaired glass will stay secure in their frames for a long time to come.


Interior of skylight. Note rust on frame and previous water damage.


Removed skylights being cleaned


How is a rose window removed?

Our rose window is comprised of four layers: a terracotta exterior, a mortar and metal interior, the stained glass panes, and the interior wood frame.

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All of the windows must be vacuumed before they can be taken out. Dust and debris can obscure underlying damage and hinder the removal process so this seemingly simple step is actually critical to success.



Once the glass is cleaned, a portion of the wood frame called a functional stop must be removed. The functional stop is not the entire frame but rather a thin strip of wood that is nailed to the structural frame to hold the glass in place.

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After the functional stop is removed, a curved tool is used to release the glass from the old putty. In most cases there is leading around the outside of the glass but in some cases, the glass sits right up against the frame.


The glass is then taped together with masking tape. This ensures that broken pieces stay together during transport.


As soon as the window is removed, the remnants of the old putty are vacuumed up and the pane is replaced with a cream colored glass. The cream glass is held by a silicone caulk, which is further stabilized by foam functional stops that are nailed into the structural frame.


The glass panes and functional stops will be restored offsite at J. Michael Designs studio. Once the exterior terracotta is repaired the glass will be returned to the sanctuary in approximately six months.