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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Let There Be Light

The stained glass windows that shine inside the hollowed sanctuary of Immanuel United Church of Christ are not just a recreation of Bible verses, but also a symbol of the congregation’s determination and history.

Located at 5812 Ford Road between Evansville and Mount Vernon, Indiana, the windows were not made by fabricators or skilled artisans, but by members of the church themselves.

As the original stained glass windows dating to 1966 began deteriorating by the late 1990s, one church member decided to do something about it.

“It had started to deteriorate, where it wasn’t looking very nice,” says Richard Knee, a member of Immanuel UCC since 1978. “The 11 side windows were just a plain yellow glass, and the light that came through was really yellow. I knew we were at the point where we needed to do something with that window at the front of the church.”

Knee, who was working the sound system for weekly services, noticed another member, Neil Eifert, observing the faded windows, and the two struck an agreement to find a way to replace them.

“One day I walked up beside him and said, ‘Neil, it sure would look nice up there to see the last supper, wouldn’t it?’ He simply agreed that we apparently were thinking the same thing,” says Knee.

The two received a quote for replacing the side windows, a price Knee says was “astronomical.” The small church could not afford such an expensive undertaking. A few weeks passed before Knee came up with the idea to make the windows with Eifert themselves and split the cost of materials.

After creating one of the side windows, they took the idea to the church council, which agreed to set up a special account into which members could donate funds.

“They told me that as long as I had money in that account to buy glass, it was OK to keep making windows,” Knee says. “I never ran out of money.”

Knee and Eifert worked for more than three years to build the 11 side windows, each costing about $500 to create using glass purchased from Sunburst Stained Glass in Newburgh, Indiana. They worked nights and weekends cutting and framing the windows on a worktable in Knee’s basement. The congregation even pitched in to donate stained glass from windows from the old church that was originally located across the road.

After finishing the side windows, Eifert moved to Princeton, Indiana, so Knee had to recruit another person, Marsh Kissinger, to help build the windows at the front and back of the sanctuary.

With Sunburst creating the patterns to cut the glass into place, Knee and Kissenger finished building the 10 frames that comprise the front window in 2003. But they weren’t done yet: They still needed to replace the window at the back of the sanctuary, and Knee knew just the scene to recreate.

“The last window we made was the ‘Woman at the Well’ at the back of the church. That’s my favorite,” he says. “The woman was given forgiveness, and if she could receive forgiveness, then certainly I could see forgiveness for the way I’ve lived in my life. That was my feeling for the window.”

To see the windows for yourself, visit Immanuel UCC for its worship service held at 10 a.m. each Sunday.


Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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