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Labour of love and light: a retired schoolteacher employs his talents in beautifying the sanctuary of his congregation.

Question: What do you get when you add a large dose of artistic talent to a deep commitment to faith and church? Answer: A beautiful stained glass window. At least, that's how it was with Tom Shackleton of Knox Church in Bayfield, Ontario.

Tom, a retired mathematics high school teacher, and a perfectionist in detail and design, pursued his interest in stained glass about 10 years ago. Despite the fact it is an exacting and unforgiving hobby, he found it relaxing to score and shape pieces of glass. He's perfected his techniques and expertise until his exquisite works of art, such as lamps, hanging shades, miniature lighthouses and church buildings, are in much demand.

When he and his wife, Joan, joined Knox, Bayfield, a few years ago, his attention was immediately caught by three small arched windows in the chancel that still held the original plain glass from the 1930s when the church was built. It struck him that stained glass in those windows would enhance the sanctuary. Drawing up meticulous plans, he presented them to the session and asked if it would grant him and his wife the pleasure of donating the windows at no cost. Session happily agreed.

In soft tones of rose, mauve and green, he executed three small contemporary-design windows using doves and lilies in the resurrection theme.

More recently, when Knox Church received a bequest from longtime members Russell and Gladys Heard, the congregation thought it fitting that part of the inheritance be used to install a stained glass window at the back of the church as a memorial. Although it was larger than anything Tom had tackled before, he drew up detailed plans, carrying out the same theme as the smaller windows, and presented them for the congregation's approval.

The large original window, seven feet by six feet, faced Bayfield's Main Street and was made up of 34 individual panes. Tom decided to use the original sash; but, since no two panes of glass were exactly the same size, templates had to be made for every piece of glass. Each pane was designed individually and installed separately to comprise the overall picture.

The window features several types of glass, both in texture and colour. All pieces were hand-cut, wrapped with copper foil and soldered together. "It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle," Tom explains.

After 200 hours of intensive labour, the window was ready for installation. In November 1997, it was dedicated to the glory of God. The memorial window is a beautiful reminder of a committed couple who faithfully served the church in past years. And it is also a reflection of a man, Tom Shackleton, who serves the same church today with his extraordinary gift.

Gwyneth Whilsmith is an author and member of Knox Church in Bayfield, Ont.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Presbyterian Record
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Author:Whilsmith, Gwyneth
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Jul 1, 1999
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