Methodist church hopes to restore unique windows

James HowellStaff

August 26, 2012

Grassy Creek United Methodist Church is known for its stained glass windows, but those light-bearers for the church may be threatened.

At 108 years ago, it’s obvious that Grassy Creek UMC is in need of some restoration. Church members have known that the windows were in need of repairs, but recently, the members have noticed the worsening condition of the windows.

While attending one of the church’s events, craftsman David Carpenter noticed that the support structure was completely gone from one of the windows.

After hearing Carpenter’s opinion, the church decided to get estimates from Lance Wagner of Statesville Glass. To restore the window in the most need, it would cost $6,300. Statesville Glass would ask for $2,100 up front.

In order to repair the windows, Statesville Glass will remove them from the church and take them to their office in Statesville. Restoring all of the windows would cost around $41,000.

When asked why restoring the windows is so important, the church’s pastor, Rev. Martha Kincaid, said, “First of all, they’re irreplaceable.”

Typically, stained glass windows contain images of biblical figures, and each glass panel is one color.

The windows in the Grassy Creek UMC are each one of a kind. They display geometric patterns rather than biblical figures. Also, each glass panel may contain several colors instead of only one.

The truly unique thing is that each window is named after a prominent member of the Grassy Creek community and tells a story through the use of symbols. Walking through this church is like walking through the history of the area.

Local historian David VanHoy said, “This church is valuable because while everything else around the world has changed, this little church has stayed the same. This church is the last tangible artifact of how Grassy Creek used to be.”

When asked about fundraisers, both Kincaid and VanHoy said the church probably will have them, but they need to know the cost of preservation before anything is decided. “We want it to last for another 100 years,” said Kincaid.

VanHoy said he wished more people understood the history of the Grassy Creek area. “By 1914, Grassy Creek was the most thriving community in Ashe County because of the agriculture, the church and the school (Virginia Carolina High School),” he said.

The church itself was built in 1904 by Lydia Robbins. Throughout the early years, the church was a community hub that housed graduations and school plays.

However, the Grassy Creek UMC is older than the building that was constructed in 1904. It has roots stretching back to the Civil War.

After each battle, a group from the Grassy Creek community cared for both the Union’s and Confederate’s dead and wounded. One Confederate soldier in particular, George Reeves, was moved by the group’s willingness to care for their fellow Americans in spite of the war.

The group later identified themselves as Freemasons and opened the Mouth of Wilson Lodge in December 1865. This created a schism in the Union Baptist Church, as its members didn’t trust the masonic fraternity. Once they were dismissed from the Baptist Church, the masons joined the Methodist Church in 1876.

Up to that point, the Methodists and Baptists shared a church. In 1904, the Methodists would get their wish for their own church. This connection to the Freemasons is the source of the windows’ unique geometric patterns and symbols.

For 108 years, the church has survived many changes around the Grassy Creek community, and now church members are hoping to restore the church’s stained glass windows before it’s too late.