Stained glass windows can be found in most of the churches in Eaton Rapids. Stained glass has been produced since ancient times and became a Christian art form in the fourth century when churches began to be built. The windows were tools to teach Christian beliefs to people.
Some excellent examples of stained glass can be found in the Plains Road Church at the Miller Farm. The church was to be moved to the Miller property from the Plains Cemetery, down the road. It was determined that the old church would not have survived the move. Instead, the building was reconstructed at the farm, according to Eaton Rapids Area Historical Society (ERAHS) records and the original razed.
The original Plains Road Church had simple glass windows, records show. Some of the volunteers working on the move were members of Robbins United Methodist Church and knew that their church had some stained glass windows in storage. Five windows were offered to the ERAHS to install in the “new” old church. Robbins church members Gary and Judy Clark created a new window which matched the others for the sixth opening.
Most of the 115-year-old windows are memorial gifts to the Robbins church; they might have served as a fundraising opportunity for the church, and a way for a person to be remembered every Sunday.
“I get a feeling of privilege when entering the church,” said Mary Ann Wesley, of ERAHS. “Those windows reflect the history of the area we live in and serve as a reminder of these families whose descendants still live amongst us.”
The First United Methodist Church of Eaton Rapids (FUMER) also has some historical windows.
Church historian Kristine Clements spoke of the church’s great “rose” window. It was made around 1871 by W.H. Wells Brothers in Chicago and cost almost $600. This was before there were computers and calculators to figure the precise dimensions, and a soldering iron heated in a fire was used to fuse the glass pieces together, Clements explained.
The enormous window was brought to Eaton Rapids from Chicago by train and then was carted to the church by horse and wagon. There were no cranes to lift it into position, but a block and tackle did the job, and the window was placed into the space.
Michael Comer of Eaton Rapids explained some of the window’s details. Each component of the window has special significance, from the colors chosen to the number of items pictured in the design. A dove, a bible, a cross, a crown and a star are included — all important Christian symbols.
“There is a sermon in that window that speaks to us, silently, without words.” Comer said.
FUMER also has the Fred D. Stirling stained glass window in the Fellowship Hall. The window was originally located above the north entry. This window was dedicated to Fred Stirling, who died at age 16. He was the son of mineral water pioneer David Stirling, who was also an important figure in the church. The window has a triangular heart in the center known as a clarsach, which is Gaelic for “small harp.” It symbolized the family’s Scottish heritage.