After the stresses and challenges of the last many months, a place for quiet reflection and contemplation may be just what you need. For some, serenity may be found in nature, and for others, it may be found in a lovely chapel with colorful light pouring through stained glass windows.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, artist Frank Peacock was working with church leadership at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in downtown Las Cruces to create new stained-glass windows to replace the painted windows that had adorned Kendrick Chapel since about the 1930s. For Frank, “It was a project of faith, exaltation, and praise,” as well as a “career-capping event” to be invited to create a permanent installation for the church community of more than 400 members.
A fifth-generation New Mexican, Frank began attending St. Andrew’s about six years ago when he and his wife, Jane, returned to Las Cruces after living in Northern New Mexico for a time. Frank had been working on faith-based imagery since the early 2000s and felt that his new style of art might work well in St. Andrew’s. Father Scott Ruthven, who was at the church for 17 years and has since retired, shepherded the project, along with Junior Warden Bruce Brown and Frank. Mother Jan Hosea was the interim rector and oversaw the completion of the project after Father Ruthven retired. The new permanent rector, Jonathan Hanneman, joined the church family in October 2021 and will be part of the final stage of the project: blessing the windows.
In June 2019, Frank refined 12 designs to present to church leadership, and, with their blessing to continue the project, he developed small models of the windows. By September, the models were displayed in the common area of the sanctuary so members of the church could give feedback on the designs. In early October, members voted on their favorites, as only eight windows could be crafted to fit the windows in the chapel. Frank retained the right to select one of his own choosing.
The window casements at Kendrick Chapel are wide at the bottom and peaked at the top and are, as windows tend to be, exposed to elements both from the outdoors and indoors. Architectural stained-glass experts were needed for the next step, creating the windows. Frank visited a company in San Diego to select the 1,943 pieces of glass that would fulfill his vision for the windows, and they were crafted by the company with Tiffany-style caning for delicate spacing.
The eight non-representational windows are titled Glory of the Cross, Praise the Day, I Saw Paul Go Dancing from Damascus, Angel in the Garden, Cross of the Ages, Grace in Full Bloom, Cross of the Martyrs, and Light of Faith. Frank explained that they are “site-specific, spiritually based, and unique to Kendrick Chapel.”
Mother Jan said, “The new windows add a dimension of modernization to an old, historic chapel. The windows blend in with the existing structure. You don’t walk into an old church and immediately see modern windows. You walk into an old church and know it is an old church, then you are drawn to the beauty, color, and artistry of the windows and notice they are more modern than traditional stained-glass windows in churches.”
Frank donated his talent and time — about 450 hours for design and installation of the project — but even so the project cost $40,000 for the actual windows and architectural work to accommodate them. The windows need to be protected from vandalism, so bullet-proof glass was installed on the exterior. Many local businesses worked on the project either as volunteers or at cost, making it a community effort.
The windows were installed in virtual silence, Frank explained, as they were working in April 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately, once the windows were in place, COVID restrictions kept the chapel closed for many months, delaying the windows being blessed by the bishop and enjoyed by church members and visitors.
However, even during COVID, the church found a way for members to revel in the beauty of the new addition. “It was a marvelous motivator to happen early on in COVID,” Mother Jan said. “It gave a true bright spot in the congregation’s life — literally and figuratively. We had an open house ‘drive through’ on a Saturday and members of the parish could come through two by two to see them. They were delighted to be able to come in and see them in place. The bright spot to me was that it was such an uplifting and happy thing to be talking about!”
In addition, once members could see the windows, they were motivated to help support the project financially by sponsoring windows. “Not only were people delighted by their eyes but motivated by their pocketbooks. Once they were in place, seven of the eight windows were sponsored,” Mother Jan said.
The chapel comfortably holds about 50 people, making it a lovely space for small gatherings, weddings, music events, and quiet contemplation. One goal of the project, Frank said, was to provide a faith-based venue for people traveling through the area to visit, in addition to the many historical and natural locations around Las Cruces. Fortunately, COVID restrictions no longer prevent the chapel from welcoming those who want to sit in quiet reflection while enjoying the beauty of the new windows. Two one-hour services are held in the chapel each week: Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. (morning prayer) and Thursdays at noon (eucharist and healing service).
“The windows have made this chapel so singularly precious. Kendrick chapel is now a precious place to visit and it’s full of life,” Frank said.
“It’s about hope, and faith, and praise — all those things that elevate the human condition. That was the purpose of these windows.”
Mother Jan said, “Morning, or early afternoon, the light coming through the windows is awe-inspiring. It’s really a transfiguring experience for people who are in the chapel.”
St. Andrew’s Church is located at 518 Alameda Blvd. in Las Cruces. Find the complete schedule of services and events at saintandrewslc.org or call 575-526-6333. To visit the chapel when not in use for services, stop by or call the office to schedule a time. The church office is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The cornerstone for the original St. Andrew’s church was laid in November 1913, and in April 1914 it was organized as a mission. It was one of the many churches established in the area by Reverend Hunter Lewis, known as Preacher Lewis (who was beloved for his missionary work as well as the many baptismal caps he crocheted for new members of his flock, sometimes while on horseback riding from mission to mission). That original church building is now Kendrick Chapel. The main church used today was constructed in 1962 with a further expansion in 2001. Kendrick Chapel was named for Bishop Miles Kendrick, who was consecrated as a bishop in 1889 and whose district covered more than 200,000 square miles in New Mexico, Arizona, and a portion of Texas.
Written by Cheryl Fallstead
Photos courtesy Frank Peacock
Originally published in Neighbors magazine.
Posted by LasCruces.com