New Tree of Life blooms at First Presbyterian

September 4, 2010 8:27:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


In the morning quiet, Pastor Tom Bryson can stand in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in Columbus and marvel as the rising sun creates a rainbow in that peaceful space. The new phenomenon is thanks to a striking stained glass window designed by Joseph Beyer of Philadelphia, Pa., and installed by Beyer Studio craftsmen in August. 


"The reds, greens, blues and purples just glow and move across the sanctuary; it''s beautiful," Bryson praised. The near year-long project is the culmination of a vision planners had when the church was built at the top of a wooded hill on Bluecutt Road in the 1970s. 


The congregation will celebrate the long-awaited addition with a dedication Sunday, Sept. 12, in an 11 a.m. service. Special guests will include former pastor Rob Debnam, former interim pastor Wayne Bruchey and members of The Presbytery. The public is encouraged to attend. 




Artistic vision 


Beyer recently visited the church to inspect the completed installation. He traveled to Mississippi with his wife, Rita, and daughter, Heidi. The artist is no stranger to Columbus; his expertise is also evident in the windows of Annunciation Catholic Church on College Street. 


"We really enjoy working in the South," the Pennsylvanian said. "People go out of their way to be helpful, which only serves to advance the project." 


Bonnie Boyd chairs First Presbyterian''s Worship Committee and stained glass window task force, which liasoned with Beyer. Also on the task force are Fran Brown, Rachel Hurt, Genie Hutchinson, Carol Jones, Bill Threadgill and Bryson. 


"The committee got together some ideas about subject matter. We told him we like nature, trees, creation," Boyd said. The concept began to take shape, and Beyer''s inspiration became firm after a visit to the sanctuary in December 2009. 


"I had a moment when I knew what the window was going to look like," the designer shared. The result is a semi-circular window set high in a soaring brick wall behind the pulpit. Its multi-hued scene depicts a graceful Tree of Life and the changing of the seasons. The border is filled with scripture. Outside the window, towering oaks moving in the breeze behind the glass add an inspiring dimension of movement. 




Work force 


Nineteen people worked on the window that measures 19-feet-6 inches at its widest and 9-feet at its apex. Its 15 panels are of glass hand-blown in Germany and hand-picked by the artist.  


Bryson said, "When he came to town, Mr. Beyer brought pieces of glass with him, and he''d hold them up to see what they would look like." 


"The selection of glass has a tremendous influence on the finished product," Beyer explained. "The hand-blown glass has this wonderful clarity, colors and textures," stated Beyer. "The palette is so broad, we have hundreds of colors available to us." 


Precision is necessary through the entire process. Each piece of glass is cut by hand. One studio artist, Jason Hettel, did all the text along the window''s border. "It''s so exacting that you don''t want many hands in that pie," Beyer remarked. 


As his stop in Columbus neared an end, Beyer prepared to leave, sharing good-byes 


with Boyd, Bryson and several task force members who had stepped in to view the window. The apparent universal sentiment was summed up when Boyd was heard to say to the visiting artist, "I don''t see anything that we wish you had done differently."

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.