God's Test of Faith

DEEP RUMBLING thunder shakes the ancient bed-rock under the new brick building of the United Methodist Church in Hamilton, Illinois. Lightning illuminates the dark evening sky as primal forces rain water and fire down upon the earth. In a sudden flash, bricks fly and timbers burst into flames. This night is to become another one of God's challenges, a test of faith for this young congregation.

Church members and neighbors are instantaneously roused from their homes and without hesitation spring into action. Men and women rush into the burning building, some rescue the new organ from the flames while others recover the pews, setting them safely into the wet grass a safe distance away. A few of the faithful climb upon the over-heated brick walls, rushing trust before personal safety and pull each and every stained glass window from the burning building. Newspaper records of the incident from 1905 reported that "hot molten lead dripped down arms of rescuers, searing their flesh".

This Methodist congregation was first organized in 1853 on the east bank of the mighty Mississippi River just south of Navoo. On this day in 1905 the Methodist faithful are simultaneously devastated and blessed in God's firm hands, symbolized by their newly tempered souls standing before the smoldering embers of the now destroyed 4 year old brick church building. A new challenge has arrived for the forever faithful and like the Phoenix this church shall rise again. It was rebuilt in 1910 on the same foundation of the recently destroyed church and the courageously rescued stained glass windows would be incorporated into the new church building.

Time passes along as surely as the ever-flowing Mississippi. By 1987, old age has beset this once proud building. The practical 1980's...what to do? The cost of utilities, maintenance and repair exceeds the cost of a mortgage on a new building that would better serve the needs of today's congregation.

The decision is made to build a new modern church. Money is raised and plans are set but not before the heritage of their ancestors is taken to heart. Those stained glass windows, saved so many years ago by faithful souls must not be cast aside. Could they be redesigned and incorporated into the new building? With the help of Bovard Studio, their precious heritage now rests in the restored stained glass windows that will easily last another 100 years and beyond.


Left: The entrance lobby at United Methodist Church showing how some of the modified windows were incorporated into the new building.

Left: The entrance lobby at United Methodist Church showing how some of the modified windows were incorporated into the new building.
One unique feature of our old building was that every window was stained glass. Along with the beauty the windows provided, was a heritage that gave the glass even greater value. In the early 1900’s the church burned shortly after the initial construction was completed. - Excerpt of letter from Pastor Paul Smit, Hamilton United Methodist Church.
Members of the church risked their lives to save the glass from the heat of the flames. A newspaper story preserved from that period reports that hot lead ran down the arms of rescuers who retrieved all windows intact. One can easily surmise that of utmost importance in the construction of our new facility was the continued use of the stained glass windows. - Excerpt of letter from Pastor Paul Smit, Hamilton United Methodist Church, Hamilton, Illinois.