First United Methodist Church's Good Shepherd window (above) is one of the many windows that needed restored as it aged. The scene depicts John 10:11 which tells that Jesus is the good shepherd. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
First United Methodist Church's Good Shepherd window (above) is one of the many windows that needed restored as it aged. The scene depicts John 10:11 which tells that Jesus is the good shepherd. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
VAN WERT – First United Methodist Church, located in downtown Van Wert, has been focusing their efforts on the restoration of several of their stained glass pieces in their sanctuary and other areas of the church.

“They were in very poor [condition],” said Kay Okuley, a member of the church, of the windows. “The wooden frames around them were rotting, the windows themselves were becoming unstable. We have replaced the wood frames with aluminum frames and have added insulated glass to help with heating efficiency.”

Over the years, as pieces needed to be repaired, replacement pieces that didn’t necessarily match in color were used to repair the stained glass. Now, the pieces have been repaired to match. Window Creations Stained Glass Studios outside of Ottoville is helping with the process.

Okuley said that because the church has a rich history in the community, it is important to them that they restore parts of the church rather than build new.

In 1838 a group of Christians started meeting in a private home to celebrate Christ. As the group grew, they decided to build a church on what was then the corner of Jefferson and Water Street (now Central Avenue). The corner stone of the building was placed in 1877. The stained glass windows are an original part of the church and have been in the sanctuary since it was built.

“This church is a little bit of Van Wert history,” said Okuley. “We’re right here in the middle of downtown. To me, this is kind of like restoring a historical place. It’s part of our community. Too often we tear down and start over. Some of these windows also tell a wonderful story that can lead people to understand better what it is to follow Christ.”

One window in particular that the church holds dear is the Good Shepherd window which depicts Jesus holding a lamb. The window is based on the Bible verse John 10:11 which reads, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

“It tells people that Christ is their good shepherd,” said Okuley. “He will protect you, He will provide what you need, He will show you the way, and if you’re lost, He is going to find you.”

While the Good Shepherd window is the only stained glass piece in the sanctuary that is an actual scene, several other pieces are placed in other areas of the church that depict disciples in a more modern stained glass style that were designed during the church’s 2000 renovation. A brand new window has been placed in the pastor’s office which was created with a newer technology. Rather than several pieces of glass fused together, this particular piece is one large piece of glass that is colored with a picture on it. The picture depicts Jesus’s hands under the Earth.

Okuley explained that a lot of the church’s ministry happens because of their location.

“We feel like our location, right in the middle of downtown Van Wert, allows us to minister to and serve the community of Van Wert and those who pass through town and are in need of help,” said Okuley. “First Church is a busy place with lots children, youth, and adults in and out our doors daily. There is something for everyone as we strive to grow in our spiritual life and work to serve others.”

First United Methodist Church provides a variety of services including 14 adult life groups, pre-school, an after school program, missions and service projects, a community food pantry, and more.

“At First Church we are working to learn more about how Jesus would have us share with others,” said Okuley. “We’re here to glorify His name and be Christ’s hands and feet as we strive to enlarge the circle of disciples through Jesus.”

So far the church has restored the Good Shepherd window and a couple of rose windows in the sanctuary. Restoration of the stained glass windows will continue as the church has funds. The next to be repaired will be the bell tower windows which Okuley said are in desperate need of repair due to rotting wood.

“The congregation has been very generous; this is a very expensive endeavor,” said Okuley. “If there are individuals in the community who enjoy the beauty of our sanctuary and stained glass windows and would like to help us keep them from deteriorating and would like to contribute, they could call the church office if they were interested in that.”

First United Methodist is located at 113 W. Central Ave. For more information, citizens are urged to call the church’s office at 419-238-0631.