A book published by Christ Memorial Church, Oshawa is helping the parish share both its own history and the story of Jesus Christ from the Annunciation to the Ascension. Sacred Glimpses tells the stories of the church’s 13 stained glass windows, with large photos, details about the dedication, and quotes from the biblical story portrayed in each window. Video interviews with some of the parish’s longest serving members will also be posted online to accompany the book.
The project was inspired by Christ Church’s 90th anniversary in 2018. A number of the parish’s long-time members are in their 90s, still attending and bringing with them memories of the parish’s earlier days. “This book was a way of honouring their contribution and sharing the joy of their faith,” says the Rev. Canon Christopher Greaves, incumbent. “We use those stories to remind us of the larger story of the good news of God in Christ.”
The idea for Sacred Glimpses was Canon Greaves’, but compiling the book was a team effort. He worked alongside Margaret Wilkinson, the parish archivist, and John Howard, churchwarden at the time, among others. Both grew up at Christ Church with parents who were lifelong members. Justin Greaves, a professional photographer and Canon Greaves’ son, took photos of each window. The parish leadership applied to the Trent-Durham area council for funds to print the book and create the accompanying videos.
Sacred Glimpses was published in spring 2021, and since then Canon Greaves has been interviewing some of the parish’s long-time members over Zoom. The videos have captured their reactions to photos of the windows as they share their memories of Christ Church and their own lives of faith.
One parishioner he’s spoken to is Dolly Lawrence, 99, who joined Christ Church in 1947 with her husband. She spoke about her sister, Helen Fox, whose children gave a window in memory of Helen and her husband, Cleve. “What I saw in her eyes as she was telling me the story – her eyes just lit up with the joy of remembering her sister as she’s looking at this window,” says Canon Greaves.
A number of long-serving members have died during the pandemic, so he says it’s a particularly important time to record memories of the parish’s past. “It has been a joy to have served alongside these people and recorded some of their stories,” he says. “The book brought some joy to the people who have seen it, and we’re hoping the video series will celebrate not only the past but the good news of Christ and its transforming work in people’s lives.”
Christ Church is lucky to have its stained glass windows at all. In 1976, the sanctuary was destroyed by fire, but nearly all the stained glass was saved. One of the firefighters who responded to the call was also the church’s part-time caretaker. He had a key to the building and was able to direct the firefighters’ efforts to save the windows. “We have a sense of the temporality of these things,” says Canon Greaves.
As well as helping Christ Church’s members share and remember their own stories, he says he hopes Sacred Glimpses will help introduce newcomers to both the parish and the gospel. “People spend so much time looking at glowing screens. Here’s a way of moving away from those hours logged in front of that kind of light and looking up, to re-imagine the natural light that’s shining through these beautiful works of art and to spend time reflecting on the stories they represent in the life of Christ,” he says.
Like many churches and organizations, Christ Church has struggled at times to find its footing during the pandemic. “We’ve had a number of newcomers, but not as many as we would have if the building were open,” says Canon Greaves. Still, the parish has built up its online presence over the past two years, offering Alpha courses, bible studies and worship.
Canon Greaves says he hopes the book and video series will continue to help Christ Church share the gospel message in its community. “Stained glass is a vehicle for telling the story – it always has been and continues to be,” he says. “Sacred Glimpses has reminded us about the biblical message of hope for the future and for people’s lives today.”
Copies of Sacred Glimpses are available from the church for $15 each, with a portion of proceeds going to outreach programs in two nearby schools.