By BRENNA GRITEMAN
“Glass Guru” Robert Lennox has had his hands on some very important windows, including those at Trinity Wall Street (yes, that Wall Street), the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But a winter stained-glass window restoration project at a historic Findlay church holds just as special a place in his heart as any high-profile, big-city endeavor.
“All windows and all churches are different,” Lennox says. “Being involved with this work and bringing things back and giving them new life, that’s my calling in life.”
The ambitious project at Trinity Episcopal Church has an added layer of sweetness, as one of the windows being touched up is in memory of the brother of one of Lennox’s closest friends, parishioner Tom Brumley.
Walking through the sanctuary of the downtown Findlay church, Lennox pointed out the time-tested beauty in the windows flooding the room in golden sunlight. Each of the windows was crafted in the medieval method from the 11th century, he said, leaded, hand-cut and hand-painted, with faceted jewels placed throughout. He stopped at a small cathedral window depicting Jesus and two apostles, with a plaque below reading “To the Glory of God in Memory of John Brumley, 1946-1966.”
It is this connection to this particular window that brought the owner of Stained Glass Imagery in Oviedo, Florida, to Findlay in the first place. Lennox and his wife, Tammy — also a stained-glass artist — are dear friends of Tom and Deborah Brumley. The Brumleys mentioned that their church had launched a capital campaign seeking to restore its many Victorian-era stained-glass windows, and “one thing led to another,” Lennox says.
The craftsman will make regular visits to the church over the next eight months, in an effort to ensure the windows stand the test of another 100-plus years.
Leaded windows such as the church’s are puttied as a form of water-proofing, and much of that putty has dried up over the past century. Some panels have been replaced poorly and, to a trained eye, stick out like a sore thumb, Lennox says. Still, he praised the church for taking such good care of its windows through the years and for keeping the collection from being broken up and discarded.
“It’s an intact set of original windows, which is hard to find,” he says.
Lennox’s work will be highlighted by the weather-proofing of the church’s large, south-facing Gothic window, whose exterior glass is no longer sealed and protected from Ohio’s harsh weather. While he alone will be able to repair most of the windows in the church, this particular window will require a team of about four.
The Rev. John Drymon has been rector of the church for about two years and says, upon arriving in Findlay, he immediately recognized that he had stumbled upon a “real hidden gem” in the 125-year-old sanctuary.
According to a centennial-year church history written in 1981, Trinity Mission, as the church was originally called, hosted its first services in 1881. The early church rented a room on East Sandusky Street, with the first baptisms performed in January 1882.
The church gained its first independent building on Maddox Avenue (now Lima Avenue) in 1887, and the building burned in 1890. The church was rebuilt on Mound Avenue and, in 1893, was again destroyed by fire. After each fire, the congregation continued to worship at the local YMCA.
In May 1893, the same cornerstone of the previous two church buildings was laid at Trinity’s current location, 128 W. Hardin St. The Good Shepherd window, a focal point inside the sanctuary, was donated soon after by Mrs. M.C. Murray in memory of her late husband.
Today, an average 70 to 100 parishioners attend weekly Sunday services.
Drymon says the window improvements are among the first of the church’s three-year capital campaign projects, which also include renovations to the pipe organ, restoring the church bell and upgrades to the kitchen and parish hall.
“The idea is, these are projects that are going to ensure the health of our physical plant” into the future, allowing the church to carry out its spiritual and missionary work over the next 100 years, Drymon says.
Lennox, who apprenticed in stained glass work for seven years before going on to launch his own business in 1989, says he enjoys traveling from church to church and discovering the novelties at each. Sometimes this is a box of Tiffany glass stashed away inside a crate in a church basement, but oftentimes it’s the more subtle nuances that can be found in each set of windows and the character of each individual church building.
“I love stained-glass windows and I love Victorian churches,” Lennox says.
Drymon invites members of the community to stop by the church to view the historic windows and to watch the restoration taking place. Lennox will be visiting for about a week at a time through early spring to complete the project.