Praise for the craftsmen and women who have rebuilt one of Canterbury Cathedral’s finest stained glass windows was central to a special service on Saturday (1 October 2016).
The service of dedication, which was attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby (who is pictured right blessing the window), also provided the opportunity to thank those who had contributed to the £2.5 million cost of restoring the Great South Window.
More than 100 people had been invited to join the service, including civic representatives and the families of the Cathedral staff who had worked on the window since a fall of stone in 2009 identified major structural problems.
Rain during the morning initially forced the service, planned to take place outside in front of the window, into the Nave and it began with the hymn favoured by stonemasons, Christ is made the sure foundation.
During the service the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis highlighted the “immense creativity” of the staff who carefully removed some of the Cathedral’s finest stained glass, known as the Ancestors of Christ, from the window and then took down the structure stone by stone.
The pieces which could not be re-used and were auctioned recently were copied and new French limestone carved in the shape of the original stones. The new structure has just been revealed and the stained glass is being returned to the window – work which is due to be completed by mid-November.
During his address Dr Willis said: “It seems a very long time ago since several of us stood in the Receiver General’s office and held in our hands and considered a sliver of stone which had fallen unexpectedly from the Great South Window. We did not know quite what a journey lay in front of us.”
He later concluded: “We give thanks, we have committed ourselves to that Canterbury journey which we would call our pilgrimage of discipleship. We thank you for accompanying us on that journey and for everything you have given to Canterbury and for what Canterbury means to you.”
The rain stopped and the service moved back outside and as those attending gazed at the window the Archbishop gave the blessing:
you have shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of your son Jesus Christ;
bless this restored window
that through it, your grace may illuminate our worship and our lives;
for once were in darkness,
but now in you we are light.
Bless all those whose skill and care has restored its beauty,
and all who look at and through it,
seeking to glimpse your glory,
and grant that we may be restored in your love
and, though now we see dimly,
we may see you face to face:
through Jesus Christ our Lord.