Parishioners seated in St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Joplin can look to their right and see the Christmas story expressed in two beautifully wrought stained glass windows.
The two windows begin the New Testament story of Jesus: a visit by the angel Gabriel to Mary, followed by the Nativity, depicted in the second window.
Some of the 17 other windows in the church depict scenes from the life of Jesus, from his youth to his resurrection and ascension. Other windows portray the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The windows are such an important element of the historic church that there is even a booklet explaining them. St. Peter’s, 812 S. Pearl Ave., was constructed in 1905 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Members of St. Peter’s have been away from their stained glass windows for more than six months while the church has been closed for a $1.3 million renovation. Services resumed there a week ago.
The project included the walls, ceiling, floor, pews and altar, but it did not include the windows. Like many elements of the church, the windows are original, and their costs were underwritten by founding families. The windows were refurbished most recently in the 1980s to repair damage and to correct fading and peeling that had occurred over the years.
Joplin artist Tricia Courtney, a member of St. Peter’s, said she was among those who were able to spend some time in the closed sanctuary during the renovation.
“I took a picture of the north wall, with the large window that has the Nativity,” she said. “That means a lot to me — that’s our salvation, right there.”
Courtney, a lifelong member of the church, was baptized there in 1957. She recalls the procedure when the windows were renovated, removed one at a time for restoration, then reinstalled. She said her parents, Elliott and Mildred Morse, were among the parishioners who sponsored a window.
“It was a slow process, but there was a sense of anticipation,” she said.
Lucille Duncan, another longtime church member, said the windows “have been a part of my life.”
“They’re so beautiful,” she said. “It’s an important part of the experience in going to church there.”
Judy Birk-Tutin, a member of St. Peter’s since 1958, said scenes depicted in the windows help parishioners and others “focus on the life of Christ.”
“When you can look at something, it can help you focus on the abstract, and faith is a big abstraction,” she said.
She said she also enjoys the windows as works of art.
“They give you a beautiful, spiritual uplifting,” she said.
PHOTOGRAPHS DEPICTING the recent renovation of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Joplin are on the church’s Facebook page, as well as the Facebook page of Ecclesiastical Studios and Sons, the contractor for the project.