By Brandon LaChance
For the last 11 years, Dwight has been a little darker. When a natural disaster came through town in 2010, the United Methodist Church was damaged and the lights for the stained glass window depiction of God as the Good Shepherd no longer shined over the church.
With the help of some kind donations, Dwight is brighter once again.
“We just got the lights fixed in loving memory of Tammy Miller Pulver, who was well known around town. She was in her early 50s and died of colon cancer this past year,” said Pastor Mary Arnold, who has been the UMC directing pastor for the last year and has been a pastor for 30 years. “Tammy was very active in the church and the children’s ministry.
“With the help of her memorial money, we were able to fix the lights. In 2010, we had a bad tornado that hit the church and the lights were damaged. We couldn’t figure out why they weren’t working. What it is was, when the roof was fixed, some of the cords for the lights were cut. So, we had to have it all rewired.
“Now, the lights shine out to the community to remind everyone that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. When we’re lost, we can come to him and he’ll bring them comfort.”
Dwight native John Geschwind remembers when the stained glass became a staple of the church. In 1975, he was the chairman of the building committee for the new-at-the-time United Methodist Church, located at 701 South Columbia St., as it was moving its coordinates from kiddy corner of the U.S. Post Office, where the Dwight-Gardner Health Care Center currently stands.
“The old church was quite a big church with a lot of leaks in the roof. We were still in the old church and had decided we were going to build a new one here and had already bought the property where the church stands now, it used to be a farm house,” said Geschwind, who has been an active member of the UMC since 1956.
“We had a bad wind and it blew a big glass window out and did a lot of damage to the old church. We didn’t have a choice and were then motivated to build the new church. The new church has worked out real well being next to the schools.
“The design was from Philip Miller, who had an architecture firm in Bloomington. They came up with the design. The stained glass was part of the original design. At the time, someone said the same image was on a smaller picture at the Zion Lutheran Church.”
The former chairman added there was nothing but nice remarks about the window and everyone appreciated it in 1975.
Pastor Mary has received the same comments from the community with the lights returning to working order.
“People are thrilled to see it. The lights bring hope and it isn’t so dark here anymore,” Pastor Mary said. “When I first came here a year ago, I asked, ‘Why is our church so dark?’ We had to get something done about that and now we have.
“It brings comfort to people, especially out at night when you’re driving around. It’s nice to see something lit all of the time and not just at Christmas.”
When you walk into the church during the daytime, the sun is all the light the stained glass needs to decorate the cross on the altar wall with brilliant shades of blue and red.
Pastor Mary mentioned the church has blue for royalty and red for passion. During Easter mass, it is quite clear the red in the stained glass appears on the alter wall as the blood of Jesus because it is what the congregation assembles to celebrate.
The symbolism adds to God as the Good Shepherd.
“The theme of Jesus is the Good Shepherd is very prevalent in Christian theology, especially in Luke 15 where Jesus talks about the lost sheep,” Pastor Mary said. “In John chapter 10, he talks about being the Good Shepherd. When you look at those, you can see how he is comforting the sheep and the sheep are happy to be around him.
“In Christian theology, people of faith are often called sheep, Jesus is the shepherd and we often wander around lost without a shepherd. That is what the stained glass depicts.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at (815) 876-7941, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.