HUNTINGTON - The architectural beauty of Huntington's downtown churches is on display every day, but at First United Methodist Church in the 1100 block of 5th Avenue, renovations to its stained glass dome and windows are bringing back the beauty of the sanctuary inside as well.
"We have been working with Bovard Studio Inc. out of Fairfield, Iowa, on cleaning, repairing and restoring three large stained glass windows and our large stained glass dome," said Senior Pastor Mark Conner of First United Methodist.
Conner said after a small piece of glass fell from the dome this summer and posed a safety issue, the dome was taken out of the church in August and transported to Bovard Studio in Iowa, where each piece was taken apart, cleaned, rebuilt and solidified before coming back to Huntington to be installed.
"The dome has more than 30 panels of stained glass, including a large center piece that is over 5 feet in diameter and weighs over 500 pounds," said Brandon Hovorka, a worker with Bovard Studio.
Hovorka explained that the panels and dome center piece are lifted approximately 60 feet from the sanctuary floor using ropes and a pulley system.
"We started the dome installation process on Monday and expect to be completed within a day or two," he said Tuesday.
Conner said after the dome is restored, the process of cleaning, repairing and putting a new protective covering on the outside of the three large stained glass windows will begin.
"They will start with the Resurrection window, which is the south window," Conner said. "They will also be working on the 'lay light' in the back of the sanctuary."
Conner said the stained glass windows were part of the original sanctuary, which was completed on Easter Sunday in April 1914.
"We don't know who the original designers were, but the style is Tiffany," he said. "However, without any records we can't claim Tiffany, but there were a number of folks doing similar work. That is one of the great mysteries here that we don't have the exact history."
Conner said First United Methodist Church was founded in 1872 and had two structures on 11th Street before moving to 5th Avenue. The exterior of the building features two 100-foot towers.
"We are fortunate to have endowment gifts from the past, which help us keep the building going," he said.
Conner said if Huntington is known as the "City of Churches," then the downtown area of 5th Avenue is "Church Row."
"In the five blocks between 7th Street and 12th Street along 5th Avenue, there is an amazing collection of structures, which house congregations of our city," he said. "The architecture is varied even though most of these houses of worship were built around the early 1900s. Each sanctuary has its own style, personality and architectural beauty."
Conner added that while the church is an impressive work of art, it's not about the building or the stained glass.
"It's about the people who are here," he said. "It's about the work, missions and victories they share. We are blessed to have such a beautiful place in which to worship and feel the presence and power of God, but it's the people that make this congregation such a good place to be."
Conner said the members of the congregation devote their time and efforts in ministry to the community in many ways, from stocking and distributing food to the needy to participating in Habitat for Humanity.
"Our congregation is made up of people from all walks of life who share their talents selflessly," he said.
Conner encourages anyone who wants to feel the presence of God in their life to join in worship at the church at 8:45 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Sundays. Sunday school is at 9:30 a.m., he said.
More information about the church can be found online at www.firstunitedmethodist.com.
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