How things happen: The stained glass story

tree-of-life-ottawaOur church, Trinity United, received some media attention in the Ottawa area recently. We created two stained glass windows.

So, what’s so newsworthy about that, you might wonder?

The part of the story that drew the media interest was the artist, Beth Jenkin, who created the original pictures for the finished pieces; she’s in her twenties, and she’s quickly losing her vision. When she began the project, she could still see, but as the work progressed, her vision failed more and more.

Now that the work is complete, she can’t see it clearly, and it is the last work of this type she will be able to do.

That heartbreaking and compelling part of the story was unforeseen at outset of this project. People who were involved from the beginning know there are many other meaningful sides to this story.

The biggest meaningful piece is a man called Chris Humphrey. (Sometimes when I’m typing his name, I inadvertently add a “t” to the end so it comes out “Christ.” That’s not so far off the mark.) I admire Chris so much that even a writer like me can’t find the words to wrap up what an exceptional human being he is. He’s much more comfortable behind the scenes, but when he’s there you can bet that he’s the one building the scenes, holding up the scenes, beautifying the scenes, making sure the scenes work properly and have good sound, and that every other person with him is taken care of back there.

At a meeting last week, Chris presented his interpretation of how this stained glass project became a reality.


  1. A longing, a need. Our church building, designed by renowned architect James Strutt, is among Canada’s top 500 buildings of architectural significance. Some members of our church made their first visit it to us out of architectural curiosity. But architectural significance and beauty don’t always go together, and our building is also noted for its less than attractive exterior. The sanctuary within this architecturally significant building does not have windows. For many years the warm people who love this church have longed for, felt the need for, some stained glass to brighten our worship space.


    The Trinity exterior was created to evoke the spirit of an Ark.

  2. Vision. Our church has a memorial fund to which people donate in memory of someone they love. This money is then used to beautify the building or the worship experience of the church in some way. We accept proposals from congregation members, and one of our members had a vision of light shining through stained glass.
  3. Motivation. Many visions flit into and out of our heads without taking shape in reality. For thought to transform into something physical, one or more people need motivation to take the first step. This is where Chris’s work on this project began.
  4. Inspiration. In our church, we turn to the archaic use of this word: to breathe on, or to breathe into. In this case, Beth received the breath of inspiration during one of our meditation sessions. The guided meditation led her to a vision of the tree of life, infused with light, fed by a flowing river.
  5. Creativity. Beth began her artwork—still able to see her work at that time. She began with the tree of life, and the vision she received. From there she drew on the creativity of others to make the two pieces of art true to the spirit of Trinity. Each piece has a dove to represent the active justice and outreach work of our church. Incorporated into the body of the tree of life is our Trinity Cross, designed by Rev. Dr. Glen Stoudt. trinity-logoOur cross has three flags in three corners of the cross to represent Higher Power, Body, and Soul. One corner remains open to represent our minds open to new ideas and ongoing progressive evolution. The rainbow above the Trinity Ark represents our inclusivity. One of my favourite things about these two pieces is that they aren’t generic representations of Christian ideas; they truly represent the spirit of what our church is all about. trinity-ark-ottawa
  6. Action. With the vision in place, the work began. Chris got the glass, set up the work spaces and sought volunteers to help him. He trained people to cut and solder the glass.
  7. Enthusiasm. The more people thought about this, the more enthusiastic they became. The project became a labour of love for many. Their enthusiasm drew in others to help.
  8. Community Involvement. As Beth’s vision faded shockingly quickly, she had to reach out for help. Another church member, Alex Dunn, worked with Beth to support her emotionally through her dramatic loss of sight and to help her complete the artwork. More than 30 people helped to cut and solder stained glass. We didn’t farm out this work to other people. The people of our congregation created  and completed the windows from start to finish.
  9. The cycle. Chris drew his graphic with the community involvement flowing back into inspiration, creativity, action. He believes that when a group of people see the successful fulfillment of one dream, it allows them to believe in the possibility of other miracles: the impossible becomes possible. They ask, “What next?”

I can see Chris’s ideas in other projects I’m involved in, too. A need leads to a vision and a motivation to seek inspiration. The inspiration leads to creativity, enthusiasm, action and community involvement.

And the cycle carries on in a spiral of miraculous outcomes.


Read more about the battery charger that is Trinity here:

Good Work

10 reasons to go to church

See more about our stained glass here:

CTV Ottawa, Regional Contact:

Ottawa Sun

Ottawa Citizen

CBC Ottawa

About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on January 28, 2014, in Art, Belief, good faith, Gratitude, How do you define success?, Inspiration, Living life to the fullest, metaphor, modern faith, progressive christianity, religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ellie Barrington

    You carry Trinity Spirit so far and fine!

  2. I feel so honored, Arlene. Thank you. And they really do add something to the Sanctuary – apart from being a permanent tribute to Beth.



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