Restoring the Russell and Rebecca Church Stained Glass Windows

The Russel and Rebecca Church windows are in the back of the sanctuary, on the side of the parking lot. When Sullivan Studios first surveyed the windows in the fall of 2019, they were identified as in the most urgent need of restoration. Several pieces were cracked. Various spots showed buckling. The glazing was flaking off, especially on the nameplates. Thus, they were the first sanctuary windows (following the front hall windows) targeted for restoration.

Who were the Churches?

These windows were dedicated to Russell and Rebecca Church, paid for by friends or family in their memory. Russell (his gravestone has two L’s, but the window contains one) was born in 1776 and died in Vernon Centre in 1847. He married Rebecca Hurlbut (1779-1872). Their children were Hiram (1793-1853) and Caleb (1807-1893).

The Church family has a fascinating story, including a theory of where the donation came from. It involves meat biscuits, a dairy empire, and the founding of Texas.

Assessing the Condition

Several elements led them to be in the worst shape of the sanctuary. First, being on the west side, they were exposed to a century-plus of sun and wind. Second, the plexiglass covering them for 5 decades, without venting to enable air to circulate through that space, caused a greenhouse effect to superheat that space compared with the inside, leading to condensation, bacterial growth and degradation of the lead came that holds the window elements together.

The window had several missing pieces. One whole square and various shards were missing, including a piece of the nameplate. But half a dozen bits were found at the base when removed and collected in hopes we could find where they should go. Several other pieces had been repaired previously.

On the right side, the lower area is contained in a vent that could be opened in, a primitive but once necessary venting mechanism for the building About half of the window groups have such a vent. The vent pane, about 1′ by 1′, was in the roughest shape as is often the case.


In September 2023, Rich Greene and I used 2 levels of scaffolding to remove them. First, we had to unscrew the inner and outer wood trim pieces, and then the top trim. From there, we could lean the window inward from the top, lift up and over the lower stop, and then out and down.

Don Henry of Sullivan Studios picked them up shortly after that. He pointed out that the window sill was too weak from rot to sufficiently support the windows again. I helped load them into his van – they fit with about 2 inches to spare! He said the window sections are unusually tall. Normally, windows of this height are divided into more than one section.


Meanwhile, I began cleaning and refinishing the trim pieces – the top piece is about 2 feet wide, and the left and right side boards are each 12 feet long! To maintain as much original look as possible, I simply cleaned them with 409, brushed them down with a 3M foam sanding block, and then applied a light coat of Minwax Polycoat, which is a little stain (light pecan) and polyurethane together to provide some protection to the original wood without changing the look.


Given the historic importance of these windows, we wanted to follow best practices for our preservation scheme. That means preserving as much material as possible, not aiming to make anything look “new”, and making it clear for future generations to know what was repaired and when.

  • The nameplates were very worn, making it very difficult to read the original names and dates. Experts advise against repainting over the flaking paint in a way that is irreversible. One option is to seal the remnant paint, then paint over with a water-based paint that could be removed later. We chose another option, to paint the name on the back of a new, very thin piece of glass which we then placed over the original. It is now easy to read the names, the original paint is sealed in and protected, and the new plate can easily be preserved.
  • We were able to return many of the pieces back into their original spots!
  • For the pane that was missing, we replaced it with a near-matching glass pane and repainted the floral pattern. You can tell it is repainted, but on quick glance, it fits in well with the original.

Sill Repair

The week of November 10th, Dwight Cramer began and completed work on the sill. He had to rebuild several of the supports underneath before building a new exterior sill, and a new lower trim piece. He painted the exterior and stained the new sill. The inside sill was replaced, unchanged.


On November 17, 2023, the windows returned. With help from my father Don Law, Rich Greene, and Dwight Cramer, we hoisted them back into place and secured the trim to hold them in.

Your Support is Helpful

If you’d like to support the restoration of the windows, we welcome donations of any size.