By Kim Steele
Harker Heights Herald
Jerry Tate stood behind a makeshift table on Monday, tapping sheets of cut stained glass to break them apart.
Tate, of Harker Heights, was working with about 20 other members of New Beginnings Assembly of God Church to fashion the pieces that would be used in a colorful stained glass window. The members have been meeting two nights each week for the past year, crafting eight windows for the church's sanctuary.
"I wanted to do something for the church," said Tate. "It lifts people up when they see the windows in the sanctuary. And it's satisfying for me, because I know that I helped make the windows. It makes me feel good, and it's different from what I usually do. I like it and that's why I keep coming back."
Tate, who teaches a hazardous material transportation course at Fort Hood for Central Texas College, said he and his wife, Cathy Tate, joined the group when it started in January 2011. He said the work also helps his wife, who has Parkinson's disease but is able to grind the glass.
As others watched, Tate placed paper patterns on a glass sheet and drew around them with a black marker, then cut out the pieces of glass. From there, workers ran the glass edges over grinders to smooth them so they could be placed on a paper drawn with the window design.
The twice-weekly meetings were the brainchild of church member Carol Milner. Milner, who moved to Harker Heights about two years ago from Ely, Nevada, has taught the art of making stained glass windows for about 20 years, including to inmates when she was a psychologist at Ely Maximum Security Prison.
"Everyone appreciates a good picture," said Milner. "Hopefully, these stained glass windows will inspire people and touch their imaginations when they come to church. I know that the windows have given the people doing them confidence and pride in their work."
Milner's home in Harker Heights has served as the group's meeting place. There, they have created windows depicting Peter's hand reaching up to Jesus' as the disciple sinks in the water, the Holy Spirit as a white dove, multi-colored fish and a flow of descending white doves.
The windows, which measure 1½ feet wide by 5 feet tall, were framed with cedar by Milner, who also is a woodworker.
The group is getting ready to make six 3 feet wide by 10 feet tall windows for the church's foyer, which Milner estimates will take about eight months to complete.
No design has been chosen yet.
"The pastor has been talking about working together in the church," said Milner. "Each member of Christ's body is called to do something different, but we all get to do something. This group made itself available to complete a creative project that will edify the whole body through its beauty."
Pastor Mike Tracy said the colorful creations have been a blessing to the church. Tracy said he is not looking forward to the project's end, but plans to take a group to an inner-city church in Dallas this summer and teach youth how to make stained glass projects to boost their self-esteem.
"I absolutely love these windows," said Tracy, who helped make one of them. "We are a five-generation church and have both contemporary and traditional. The stained glass windows are a blending of both. And the best thing is that our people made them."
Harker Heights resident Edna Roberts, 89, recently joined the group and has served as color coordinator, helping arrange the window's glass colors in complementary settings. Roberts, a former librarian at Ellison High School, said her background in oil painting and quilting has helped her.
"I always wanted to make stained glass windows," she said. "I like their beauty, and it makes me feel good to think that others will enjoy them. Working together like this is fun and I'm enjoying the good fellowship. Each person does their part and the windows are turning out good."
Randy Harrell, who lives in Harker Heights, said he decided to join the group when it started because he thought it would be an interesting hobby. His wife, Elaine Harrell, also participates, grinding the glass to remove its sharp edges. Randy Harrell said their participation gives them a feeling of ownership.
"This church was built by its members," he said. "There are three buildings here, and I helped with them and was involved with paving the parking lot. When I see these windows, I feel good because I know I had a part in them. The church means a lot more to the members because it has our blood in it - literally."
Contact Kim Steele at email@example.com or (254) 501-7567.