The stained glass windows in Masonic Village at Elizabethtown’s Sell Chapel flood the 93-year-old sanctuary with colorful rays of light. The carefully selected symbols provide inward-looking thought for worshipers.
To ensure the windows continue their luminous and inspiring glow for another century, they’ve undergone a full restoration, and the congregation re-dedicated them on Nov. 11.
A Bright History
John S. Sell, R.W. Past Grand Master, (1920-1921), served the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for 24 years and the Committee on Masonic Homes for eight years. Throughout his lifetime, he also acquired wealth as a merchant, businessman and banker.
To show the love and appreciation he had for his wife, he left his entire estate to her. Mrs. Kate E. Sell readily accompanied her husband on trips and hospitably opened their home for many dinners and guests. With her husband, she frequently visited the Masonic Village (then-Masonic Homes) and saw staff did everything possible for the comfort and well-being of the guests. She also recognized a long-felt need for a suitable and appropriate place to worship the Almighty God.
Mrs. Sell gave $100,000 to cover the building costs of a chapel and promised to give $25,000 more for furnishings, including stained glass windows. Masonic Village laid the cornerstone of the John S. Sell Memorial Chapel on Dec. 5, 1925, with appropriate ceremonies, and dedicated the completed building on June 30, 1927. The final construction costs were $103,000 to erect and $30,000 to furnish, including $3,000 for the stained glass windows purchased from Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios.
Now run by the third generation of the Weaver family, Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios completed the restoration work in 2018 on the windows in the same building where they were originally assembled.
More than 90 years of weather, sediment and sunlight had damaged and worn the windows and threatened their long-term survival. Restorers disassembled the frames and glass, and hand-cleaned each piece of glass. They repaired or replaced any broken pieces, reassembled the cleaned and conserved glass with new lead came (a soft medal that joins the glass together), grouted it with waterproofing putty and reset it into the restored frames.
“When we’re replacing damaged glass, we’re using the original brass stencils from 1927. We walked right to the drawer and pulled out the stencils with each specific symbol,” Kirk Weaver, president of Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios, said. “My grandfather would be thrilled that after 90 years someone actually used them.”
The preserved windows will reflect their original glory for years to come.
As prices have risen over the years, and due to the amount of labor-intensive hours such a project requires, the 2018 restoration project cost much more than the 1927 installation. It is an investment that will ensure the windows remain an important part of the spirit of Sell Chapel and Masonic Village well into the future.
A Special Dedication
Members of Masonic Village’s Roosters Woodshop completed a pulpit for Sell Chapel several years ago. With the addition of the Holy Trinity sign to match the one on the lectern and several interior modifications, the congregation re-dedicated the pulpit on Nov. 11 in honor of Rev. A. Preston Van Deursen for his 25 years of faithful and compassionate service to the Masonic Village. He has also served faithfully within the Masonic fraternity.
Having grown up as a child in the Masonic Children’s Home, Pastor Van Deursen has come full circle, returning to serve those who served him so many years ago.
“As Sell Chapel dedicates this pulpit in his honor, may we recognize how blessed we are by the care he offers to all. He is a faithful servant bringing the message of the Gospel, not only in words delivered from this pulpit, but in his actions through his service to God and others past, present and in years to come,” Pastor Deborah Valiton-Carnish said.