Lighting Our World: Inspiring Each Generation to Reach One More

Stained-glass windows are living stories of faith and grace, connecting generations through vibrant hues and enduring narratives. Each person, like each pane in the stained-glass window, has a unique role in illuminating the world with the love of Jesus. Together, we create enduring narratives of faith and grace, connecting us in our shared mission to brighten our world with His love.

We invite you to explore the journey of stained-glass artists Clinton Conley and Monte Church and reflect on how you, too, can make your own unique difference in your community.

Angels, stars, ʻiʻiwi birds and nail-scarred hands crafted in light-shattering, inch-thick glass have textures and colors so brilliant your eyes forget to blink.

Place the masterpiece in the wall behind a pulpit or at the top of a long staircase. Illuminate it during the day with full-on sunlight, and light it at night from inside the building with the brightest LED lights you can afford.

Now, stand nearby and watch as worshipers of all ages bow in awe or stare in wonder.

Many churches across North America have stained-glass windows conceived and created by Oregon artists Clinton Conley of Cottage Grove and Monte Church of Boring.

They are the artists associated with Church Glassworks. Conley does most of the original artwork. Church turns the design into glass. Not only are these windows a thrill to view, but they are also a satisfying legacy for the artists.

“It’s not about the glass or even the design,” Conley smiled from above his crystal-white worktable, “it’s all about giving light a chance to sing.”

Conley has spent his life making windows for God and placing them where people will see God’s stories etched in light for years to come. It’s a many-step process that often starts with a call from the chairperson of a building committee.

People ask:

  • “We’d like to tell the story of creation on the wall of our new summer camp nature center. Could you help us with that?”
  • “When we built our new church 13 years ago, we put a clear glass window behind the pulpit. But we always wanted a huge stained-glass window that tells the story of God’s grace. We finally have the funds and would like you to give us some design options. How soon could you work on this with us?”
  • “We need your help with a very special project. We're building a new union office and would like a giant stained-glass window at the top of the stairs — a window that shows how God is working in each of our conferences.”
  • “This church needs a window that speaks clearly of how God loves America’s Native people. Monte, you have Native blood. What would you include in the design?”

Conley loves to draw the “possible,” and often starts work before the phone call ends. Once he has the basic details — horizontal and vertical dimensions and theme colors — he begins to dream and draw.

Then he calls Church and the men begin putting the details together. Conley draws and gives Church full-sized plan sheets. Church orders the glass dowels, cuts the colors to match the design and sets them in place. Then Conley and a handful of helpers come to Church’s workshop for days of mixing, pouring and sanding the cement that will hold the design in the window.

There’s much more, including multiple conversations with the building committee to make sure everyone is in love with the design, colors and message. Don’t forget the wonderfully long hours of chipping facets out of the glass so light will fracture into mini rainbows.

“My favorite part of this work is watching as people walk into the room and see their dreams come to life in living color for the first time,” said Church.

Their most recent Oregon masterpiece is the story of Christ’s Second Coming, which shines behind the pulpit in the Seventh-day Adventist church in Brookings, Oregon. The lower frames of the window show the ocean rocks at nearby Natural Bridges and the colors draw you to the face of Christ who is coming to bring His children home.

“We waited 13 years for this window,” said the chair of the building committee, “and now it’s here, promising the return of Jesus, brilliantly! We are so pleased!”

The light story currently on Church’s workshop table uses green leaves, a waterfall, bright flowers and joyful angels to tell the story of God’s creation and love. This window is being crafted for a church on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

“I love each of the windows we’ve created,” said Conley. “When I see them, my eyes fill with tears. It’s just God’s light shining through colored glass, but I love the stories they tell.”

God’s presence often shows up in unexpected ways — beyond Sabbath sermons, food banks, special music, Pathfinders and special church events. His voice also speaks through your church building’s architecture, the quality of your church’s landscaping and the cleanliness of your parking lot.

Just as light refracts through the intricate beauty of stained glass, God's love is clearest when we come together to create a tapestry of light, guiding us toward a shared future filled with His grace and truth.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can each generation in your church community find ways to let their light shine for Jesus?
  2. What are the unique gifts and talents that each generation brings to the table?
  3. How can the different generations in your church community collaborate to ensure that the timeless message of Christ is communicated effectively and creatively to a rapidly changing world?
  4. What innovative approaches can your church use to bridge generational gaps as you seek to share God's light?
  5. How can your church encourage each generation to find their unique voice and role in advancing the Kingdom of God? With your family, small group or Sabbath School class, share practical ideas for fostering a sense of purpose and belonging among all age groups.


Featured in: January/February 2024