Beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary of the newly renovated First Christian Church were constructed by member Rick Hanks with the thought of creating a comforting and calm place to worship.
The 11-panel installation, on the east wall of the church, involves thousands of hand-cut stained glass pieces created in Hanks’s workshop on his rural Hughesville property.
Although many in the area know Hanks and his family for growing edible mushrooms, many don’t know he is a stained glass artist and has been for years. Hanks has a degree in design and illustration from the Kansas City Art Institute. He became interested in stained glass after taking a class years ago.
“I used to work for a company in Kansas City, we did it for restaurants all over the country,” he said. “I did that for about 13 years, decor in restaurants.”
Hanks said First Christian recently renovated its sanctuary adding new pews, new tile and a sound system. He noticed the windows needed updating and volunteered to help out.
“I said ‘would you want some stained glass’ and they said ‘well yeah, we’d love some,’” Hanks said. “So they gave me carte blanche, they said ‘do whatever you think.’ I’ve never had anybody do that, they always want to put something of themselves into it.”
Hanks was given permission to create the design of the windows. He drew up plans for the 11 panels on paper first.
“God gave me this design,” he noted. “He showed it to me. It took me a year and almost six months.”
Hanks also worked on technical aspects making sure the pieces lined up with one another.
“Everything has to be drawn and then drawn to size,” he said. “Each piece has to be cut out, laid out, and then you go and you start building,” he added. “Each piece is a separate piece.”
Each of the 11 panels have 150 to 200 hand-cut glass pieces held in place with lead that has been welded or soldered. The panels depict subtle, modern abstractions of Christian icons such as the Holy Trinity, the cross, and the fish symbol.
“There’s elements in it that represent icons of Christ,” he said. “Some are easier to see than others.”
Creating the stained glass installation was a spiritual experience for Hanks.
“For me and a lot of the congregation,” he said. “A lot of women came to me with tears in their eyes, they were just so overwhelmed when we unveiled it. They were very moved by it.”
“I think it’s amazing,” Church Secretary Winnie Weitkamp said Wednesday. “It’s amazing, I love it. We’ve had a lot of complements on it.”
Weitkamp added that the Sedalia church was established 155 years ago and is now pastored by the Rev. Chad McMullin. Both Hanks and Weitkamp said they believed First Christian to be the oldest church in Sedalia.
The dedication ceremony for the stained glass windows took place April 24. Seeing the windows as a unit for the first time along with the congregation was moving for Hanks.
“The window is full of chaos, just like the world,” he said. “I wanted the church to be a place of comfort and to represent a comforting place. As we move closer to God it’s supposed to be calming …”
Hanks added that stained glass is a “dying art.” He said he wished he could pursue the art as a profession, but realized churches aren’t being built as often. Most congregations, now days, find custom stained glass windows cost prohibitive too.
“So much good art, back in the Renaissance, was commissioned by the church,” he noted. “Michelangelo, Leonardo, and so many other artists, Degas, were commissioned by the church. Churches don’t seem to do that anymore. It’s so expensive that they put money in other things.
“This church has allowed this to happen because they wanted to see God glorified,” he added. “Hopefully it will draw people, because it’s beautiful. Whenever you are driving in and the lights are on at night, from the outside it’s beautiful.”
Hanks and his wife Anita have three children, Kassandra 24, Katie, 20, and Patrick 18. Patrick was instrumental in helping Hanks install the stained glass panels.
“He was a big part in moving these things, and installing these things,” Hanks said. “He did really good.”
Installation of the 11 panels took approximately a week.
“When it’s all put together, it’s made to be one expansive piece,” he said.
The design from one panel runs into the next creating cohesiveness. Hanks emphasized the piece isn’t about him but about the church and God.
“I tell them it’s not about me, it’s about giving us a place of worship and calming that leads back to God,” Hanks added.
Hanks welcomes inquiries about his stained glass art. Those interested may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.