By Lindsay Peyton
Right behind Cypress UMC stands the Angel House, a studio for the congregation’s unique stained glass ministry. Inside, volunteers are hard at work creating colorful works of art. Guests stop by to shop for ornaments, crosses, stepping stones and other stained glass creations – or they might attend a workshop to learn a new skill. All of the proceeds from the ministry’s sales fund church missions and outreach projects.
The door is always open, Debra Kinsey, a long-time volunteer with the ministry, explained. Someone shopping might have a story to share, a reason they want to buy a stained glass cross, and she’s eager to listen.
Or, if someone comes to learn about stained glass and wants to try their hand at the craft, that also becomes an opportunity to learn more about them. “It’s such a great way to connect with people and become part of their lives,” Kinsey said. “It’s important to have connections, to be able to sit down, talk to people and walk alongside them.”
There’s also a fellowship that has developed between the volunteers who are regulars with the ministry. Kinsey said there are about six other regular volunteers – Charles Clauder, Gail Liebelt, Bill Gafford, Bill Bailey, Marcela Triana, Susan Roberts – who come and go in the building. They always gather on Tuesdays. And they always have a mandatory coffee break, where they stop whatever they’re doing to talk.
Kinsey explained that the ministry started in 1989, when a member wanted to create a glass window for the narthex of the church. “But he got transferred to Dallas, and it all kind of stopped for a while,” she said. “Then in 1994, someone else picked up the project.”
An initial group of about five volunteers took one stained glass class – and then they dove into the project of creating the narthex window. In 1999, they completed another stained glass window in the back of the church, and in 2001, tackled a third.
Then, the ministry grew to incorporate small standing angels, as a fundraiser for the church. Before long, proceeds from the sales increased and more products were added to the list. Stained glass sales have funded mission trips and even Vacation Bible School expenses.
“God is working,” Kinsey said. “God took that one little, tiny thought in 1989 and turned it into this.”
That’s an example from which everyone can learn. “How do you know your spark is not one to ignite the fire and become something?” Kinsey asked.
Each artist in the ministry creates different objects and in their own styles, she added. They even collaborate to create crosses to sell at auctions to benefit the church. “We all work together and know what each other’s talents are,” she said.
Kinsey was already a church member and a stained glass enthusiast, when she discovered that the congregation had a ministry prefect for her. “Here was a place I could learn something,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much God would be part of this and change me. I came in for my own personal reasons, and I became better in touch with what God wants me to do and how to serve Him.”
At first, the Angel House Stained Glass Ministry operated in a small workshop on church campus. The new building was donated in 2004.
Now, there’s enough room for workshops, and Kinsey has hosted various groups there who want to learn more about stained glass.
Individuals donate glass and even restoration pieces to the ministry. Kinsey said one time, a mission trip was in Mississippi after Katrina and rescued a stained glass window out of St. Rock UMC that had been destroyed by the storm.
The pastor had the panels in his backyard. “They had holes in them and were falling apart,” she said. “We had those windows for a couple years while we figured out how to piece them together. They were done just in time to place them in the new building in Mississippi. We were able to bless them in that way.”
The stained glass ministry provides fellowship for its members and an opportunity to use art for outreach, Kinsey said. There’s also an evangelism component. Members can invite a guest to the shop to learn about creating stained glass art.
“You can find more people through an activity than simply inviting someone to church,” Kinsey explained. “People open up while they’re working on stained glass. You can go to church and sit next to someone and never talk.”
She compares the ministry to those at other congregations that focus on woodworking or knitting. Each offers members and newcomers a chance to bond.
Connecting over stained glass can actually become a salve spiritually, Kinsey explained. “Creating something is good for healing,” she said. “We’re all broken glass until we put it together and become part of something beautiful.”
For more information, visit cypressunited.org/the-angel-house/.