First Presbyterian restoring stained glass windows

Joel Alvis of First Presbyterian Church

Pastor Joel Alvis talks about restoration of stained glass windows at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Georgia.
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Pastor Joel Alvis talks about restoration of stained glass windows at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Georgia.

It was time for a facelift.

After all, your appearance suffers a bit after more than a century.

Twenty-eight stained glass windows in the sanctuary building at First Presbyterian Church on First Avenue in Columbus are being removed and sent to Lynchburg, Va., for repair and restoration.

Interim Pastor Joel Alvis said they have been in place since 1892 when they were installed following a church fire.

The project, with a price tag of approximately $600,000, will take 12-18 months to complete. The repair and restoration will be done in three phases, and it depends on the extent of the damage.

The work of removing windows began Aug. 8.

“This will really allow the wonderful colors to shine forth and be a reminder to people of the wonder and beauty of God’s creation,” Alvis said.

He said when a frame of glass has to be replaced because of damage, the company will use the same original process to make the new glass.

Not only will the reinstalled windows improve the appearance of the building for congregants, but also they will enhance the area in downtown Columbus, Alvis said.

“It will brighten up our little corner,” he said.

In phase one, the windows in the front of the building and towers were removed.

The second phase will include the windows along 11th Street.

Phase 3 will take care of the windows on the north side of the building.

“We want to make sure these windows last for another 100 years,” said Joe Addison, facilities manager for First Presbyterian.

Addison said a consulting firm came to Columbus in 2009 during a previous renovation to examine the windows, but the project was put on hold.

Earlier this year, the church decided this was the time to address the needs. The operations ministry authorized a group to guide the process.

Addison said the committee contacted about 10 contractors from across the country to request their input and consequent bids to refurbish the windows and frames. Lynchburg Stained Glass was selected from the four interested.

“The removal process in phase one took a week as the contractor would seal the interior of the building with plastic and then remove the window, sealing the outside with plywood prior to moving on to the next. The following week, the subcontractor, C&C Painting from Cordele, Ga., began the much-needed repairs of the window framing and seals and, once repairs are completed, will prime and paint so that the frames are ready to receive the windows once Lynchburg has completed refurbishing them,” explained Addison.

Then the crew will begin disassembling the windows down to each individual pane of glass.

Addison said to accomplish this, the team has to dislodge the glass from the came, a divider bar used between small pieces of glass to make a larger panel, and the lead that has held it in place for more than a century. Once removed, the glass will be cleaned of cements, lead, oils and other materials. Repairs will be done.

“The glass will be reassembled using new came and leading materials,” Addison said. “The window sashes will be inspected and repairs conducted as needed. Then each window will be reassembled to its original beauty and staged for shipping back to Columbus.”

He said when the windows are placed back into the building frames, a protective storm-style window will be installed in addition to the windows. The protective shield will be clear and vented to provide a protection against damage. It also will be vented so that moisture cannot build between the two, thereby causing premature deterioration. This will enhance the appearance and beauty. as the glass will allow the true colors and designs to be seen from outside as well as inside.

A cloudy plexiglass shield currently covers the windows. hiding the vibrancy of the colors.

Alvis said Lynchburg has informed him that some windows previously had some work done on them a long time ago.

“It is going to make a big difference,” Alvis said of the refurbishing. The pastor said the work has “created a lot of buzz” around town, and other churches are considering a similar project.

Alvis said the work seems to have the support of the approximately 550 congregants. No formal fundraising has been done, but Alvis said some members are already dropping checks in the collection plate on Sunday.

“First Presbyterian Church continues to be a community of faith that strives to share the light of Jesus Christ,” Alvis said. “The stained glass renovation is part of letting that light shine more brightly and clearly.”

Larry Gierer: 706-571-8581, @lagierer