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Our Windowless Megachurches Are Killing the Stained Glass Industry

Illustration for article titled Our Windowless Megachurches Are Killing the Stained Glass Industry

For more than a thousand years, people have worshipped under stained glass windows. Is there any more appropriate setting to celebrate god? According to modern churchgoers, yes, yes there is. And more and more, that involves a giant LED screen in a darkened big box.

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Stained glass makers are looking for new ways to market their skills these days, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal looking at the secularization of the industry. Fewer and fewer churches are investing in stained glass windows—or windows at all—and membership in glass trade organizations is dwindling. In a way, it makes sense: Stained glass was originally a way to communicate biblical narratives to worshippers who couldn't read.

But contemporary churches aren't eschewing stained glass because their congregations are literate now. They're eschewing it for more compelling technology, like giant screens and "video and photo slideshows." The way the faithful absorb religion is changing quickly, as the WSJ explains:

"'They want to have it dark, so they can project PowerPoint onto a screen,' says Richard Gross, editor of Stained Glass Quarterly.

[...]

This spring, Asbury United Methodist of Tulsa, Okla., installed five projectors to generate images such as mountain scenery, song lyrics or subway trains onto the walls of the church, stretching more than 30 feet high and 230 feet wide."

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The rise of the megachurch (roughly, a church with more than 2,000 worshippers) fits in perfectly with this new techno-centric vision of church-going. The only venues large enough to host these large congregations are typically stadiums, gymnasiums, or even big box stores—all structures that tend not to have windows. What's more, many churches can't afford the steep prices of stained glass, anyways—or they don't want to remind worshippers of traditional churches.

So churches are getting more like movie theaters. And what would a great movie be without action sequences? Just ask the Texas pastor who preaches in front of a predator drone. [Wall Street Journal]

Illustration for article titled Our Windowless Megachurches Are Killing the Stained Glass Industry

Lead image: meunierd

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DISCUSSION

I was just discussing mega churches with my mom the other day. As someone who was raised Catholic, I don't understand the phenomenon at all. There's little ritual, the congregations are so large that there's not a big sense of community, and each of these churches seemed to be based around the particular pastor.

Is entertainment the draw?

I am sad to see that stained glass windows are becoming obsolete. They can be quite stunning and it takes a skilled artist to create them. I wonder how they can rebrand their work.