Hundreds flock to window unveiling
A Sheffield church attracted the biggest congregation to its Sunday morning service in many years as it unveiled a new west window to mark its 150th anniversary.
The new stained-glass window at St Mary’s in Walkley bathes the congregation in soft blue light and complements the church’s Victorian east window.
Rev Melanie FitzGerald said she was impressed by the large turnout.
“I think we had over 200 people, the biggest we have had for Sunday morning service since I’ve been here in nearly 17 years,” she said.
Renowned stained glass artist Mark Angus designed the west window. Rev FitzGerald said he had a style that was ‘sensitive and at the same time modern’.
“It is extraordinary,” she said. “Every time, whatever the light, whenever the time of day, it looks slightly different. The more I look at it, the more I see in it, which I think is a mark of really good art.
“It’s full of surprises and rich in symbolism and as for Christians, a west window is to help us to go out to the world and make it a better place.”
Mr Angus, who was among the special guests at the service, said the window symbolises the role of women in the bible.
“When Melanie and I first met, we talked about this theme and we were immediately in harmony and this seemed right for St Mary’s Church, which is helmed by a lady vicar.
“A lot of images are already on the east window so we had to think of something to complement that and we came up with this.
“The west window is glorious in its simplicity and quality of the light, and the soft blue gives a very warm experience and the dove above complements that very well.
“As you leave the church, you will pass the seven small windows underneath the balcony and they’re very informal – like little sketches, and each of them focuses on the role of women in a typical narrative.”
The Bishop of Sheffield Peter Wilcox, who dedicated the west window, said it made a dramatic backdrop to the west end of the church.
“When the sun comes through, it comes a blaze of beautiful light and it’s very beautiful,” he said, adding that this was his first Sunday morning service at the church.
“It was a very uplifting experience and it is wonderful to see the church so full of civic partners and regular members of the community here. It is really a joyful act of worship. For me, it is a great privilege.”
Congregation member Veronica Hardstaff said: “The west window – including the seven small windows underneath – shows the birth of Jesus, of him healing a sick child, helping a woman and these are all to do with Jesus’ interaction with women, because our scriptures often overlook the bits about women.
“There’s been quite a struggle in England for women to play a full part in the church and I suppose it is appropriate, because it is St Mary’s Church, to focus on the role women play in Jesus’ ministry.”
Sheffield Lord Mayor Tony Downing also attended. “It is a fantastic thing for the church and the people of Walkley. It will bring the community together,” he said.
The new stained glass window was installed in June, replacing one that had badly deteriorated.
The public are invited to see the windows up close on several open days on September 14 (10-4pm), September 15 (1pm-4pm), September 28 (10am-4pm), October 13 (1pm - 4pm) and October 26 (10am - 4pm).