Agreeing to construct stained glass windows for the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd’s bell tower last spring began what church member J.J. Hayden believes is the most memorable experience performing his craft.
Hayden, a professor of Instructional Technology at Georgia College & State University, said he’s been interested in and studying about stained glass for more than 30 years.
"My first actual class was a weekend session about eight years ago," he said. "This (the project for Good Shepherd) is the first big project I have done for a church."
Although this has been the largest project he’s done for any church, it isn’t the first he’s done for Good Shepherd.
"I have created a large wooden cross and a cremains box, as well as small stained glass crosses and other sun-catchers for the bookstore," he said.
According to Hayden, he and his wife, Lois Upham, keep their schedules filled with several projects at various levels of development.
"Lois and I are constantly working on different designs and find inspiration in all sorts of places and situations," he said.
For the construction of the windows other church members helped by volunteering their time and talents. Most did not have previous work experience with stained glass so Hayden taught beginner classes. Fees for the workshops were used to offset the cost of the materials.
"I put an article into our monthly church newsletter and also announced the project during services and asked for volunteers," Hayden said.
After some attendees realized they wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time needed to take part in the project, they dropped out of the classes, according to Hayden. However, five people continued on, learning how to score, break and grind glass before starting to work on the window panels.
"It all started with the design," Hayden explained. "In this case the arches and the squares found in the windows are also found throughout the church so I wanted to continue that theme."
The color scheme, representing the spectrum that begins in the depths of the oceans and climaxes with the sun high in the heavens, was accomplished by the glass selected by Hayden’s wife.
The process was precise as Hayden and his volunteers diligently scored and broke the glass to fit the actual-size design pattern, one panel at a time, making sure the shapes were exact and it all held together.
Since the first beginner class in August 2009, the total duration for the project was about six months, Hayden said, admitting that the most difficult part of it was coordinating individual schedules with the availability of workspace in the parish hall.
"I estimate that if I were doing this alone and working full time that the project could have been completed in about six weeks, but then it wouldn’t have been a gift of labor from our team to the church," he said.
Another obstacle thrown their way was the challenge of having the design seen from the outside of the church, which is unlike the usual situation where the viewer sits inside the church and the sunlight streams in through the windows.
"It took several attempts at back-lighting before I finally was able to get the effect I wanted, he said."
"It was a real pleasure to see these busy people take time from their schedules to work on the windows," Hayden said. "I think that we will have a sense of accomplishment every time we see the windows in the years to come."
With that accomplishment will come many more, no doubt, for Hayden because he plans to devote much of his time to creating stained glass pieces even after he retires from the faculty of Georgia College in May.
Hayden’s best advice for people who share his passion is practice, practice, practice.
"Nothing takes the place of doing any craft over and over again," he said.
Good Shepherd is located at 4140 Clark St. S.W., Covington, GA, 30014. (770) 786-3278.