Visio Divina: The Beauty of the Stained Glass Windows of Snellville UMC


Rev. Tracy Rollins Sever, Associate Pastor of Snellville UMC, is leading church members in a new prayer and study initiative called "Visio Divina: The Beauty of the Stained Glass Windows." We checked in with Tracy to find out more about this meaningful experience. 

Q: Where did this idea originate?
Tracy: I'll begin by saying painting and art is my passion, my heart song, my uninterrupted time with God, my moment to be still, and my moment to create. Art can be an encounter with God! Our stained-glass windows are pieces of art designed/created to inspire such an encounter. 
Ironically, our time “away from the inside of our sanctuary” helped this idea come to be. As I shared photos of our stained-glass windows through social media, I was overwhelmed by the responses I read. These photos were a connection to the sacred space of the sanctuary. 
My love of art led me recently to a continuing education class at Candler. Our professor was Dr. Don Saliers and the class was "Visio and Lectio Divina: The Art of John August Swanson." Together, we examined the beautiful works of art of Mr. Swanson as Prof. Saliers asked the questions which challenged us to take a closer look. This class gave me “a nudge” as I was inspired by the questions. 

At the close of class, we were asked a question: How am I going to maintain the “practices” of visio and lectio from now on? After all, education is meant to continue the conversation outside of the classroom. My answer: I would like to start a small group at my church of Visio Divina using images around the church including the stained glass. The images of our sanctuary connect people in the thoughts/Word of God. These images, I shared, connected our congregation when we were not physically in person due to COVID.

Q: How did you pull the study together? What resources did you use?
Tracy: I began by taking photos of the windows. We compiled the photos into a book with discussion questions. The original purpose of the book was for homebound members who were unable to physically come to the church; however, we ultimately decided to make enough for in-person, online, and homebound participants. 

I study the window prior to our sessions. I reflect on the window and how I feel God is speaking to me. I am a “participant” prior to our session. I will write down the colors, the images, the feelings, and the scriptural references I see and I provide a sheet of these passages.

Q: What is the experience like for a church member who attends one of the sessions? 
Tracy: We offer our sessions in person, in our sanctuary, on the first Wednesday of the month. We also offer the session pre-recorded and posted on our website and church Facebook page.  

In person, we look at one window per session. We look at colors, images (within the larger stained glass image), and what scripture passages come to mind. I guide the discussion and allow, the participants to contribute their thoughts. I will then share my thoughts on the window. The participants are invited to take a closer look, study portions of the window on our large screens, use their books, and sit within the space to reflect. 
Q: What would you share with other church leaders who would like to offer a similar experience for their congregation?
Tracy: I began simply by taking photos of the stained glass windows. We used a resource right in front of us and around us. 

Q: Do you mind sharing the introduction to the initiative you included in the book of photos of the windows?
Tracy: The introduction page of the book of the stained glass windows of Snellville UMC's sanctuary reads:
The beauty of the stained-glass windows of the Snellville United Methodist Church are timeless! The artwork is captured through the formation provided by the lead framework, and the brilliance of the colorful glass are captured within their wooden frame.

Have you ever taken the time to look closely at these works of art?
Have you thought about their history and their message?
Have you ever felt God speak to you through their sunny glow?

Just as God can speak to us through the journey of our prayer life, God can also speak to us through the beauty of Art!  What story is God trying to tell us through the multitude of colors? How is God demonstrating God’s Divine Glow with the sun shining through the brilliance of the window? 
God speaks to us in many different ways. You are invited to take a closer look at the beauty of our windows, and if you are open, you may experience God’s presence and voice through the stained glass.  
The beauty is meant to be experienced!
In Christ,
Rev. Tracy Rollins Sever
—Sybil Davidson