“The Welcome Table,” a stained-glass window designed by artist, author, storyteller, poet, and musician Ashley Bryan will be dedicated at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 30 at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 540 Essex St., in Bangor. The church has invited the public to attend the special service and reception following. Bryan, who is 92 and continues to create his art at his home on Little Cranberry Island, will attend.
Among many other honors, Bryan has won the Coretta Scott King Book Award for illustration and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for substantial and lasting contributions to literature for children. In 2012, Bryan received the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association.
The son of immigrants from Antigua in the British West Indies, Bryan grew up in the Bronx and wrote about his connection with St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church there in his book, “Words to My Life’s Song.” He wrote that the church’s glowing stained glass windows drew him, and he and his brothers and sisters convinced their mother to take them to a service. They were welcomed by George Wedemeyer, the church’s Sunday school superintendent, who became Ashley Bryan’s teacher. Wedemeyer’s son Fred, who is a retired Lutheran pastor, will attend the dedication of Bryan’s window.
The window was commissioned as a gift to the church in honor of the work of Michael Hewes of Blue Hill by New York City residents Alan and Jackie Stuart. Hewes built a home for the Stuarts in Brooksville some 25 years ago. The window was built by Rohlf’s Stained & Leaded Glass Inc. in Mount Vernon, N.Y. It is one of only three stained-glass windows designed by Bryan. A church in Ohio has one of Bryan’s windows, and panels he made are displayed at Islesford Congregational Church on Little Cranberry Island.
“We chose the theme, ‘The Welcome Table,’ because it is a visual sign of the way God’s reconciling love in Christ reaches across every divide and welcomes all people to the table of fellowship, peace and mutual respect,” Pastor Elaine Hewes said. “We also see the window as a further sign of our designation as a ‘Reconciling in Christ’ congregation.” Reconciling in Christ (RIC) is a designation given to congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that intentionally and publicly welcome people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions.
Pastor Hewes said she hopes art teachers, students and others who are reading Bryan’s books or are interested in his work will come to see an example of his art.
The window shows people of different colors, ages, and lands bringing food and gathering at a table laden with bounty from land and sea. Symbols of the world’s great religions stand side by side, the vault of sky is represented above, and the waves of the sea below.
Pastor Hewes said music for the dedication service will reflect the theme of “The Welcome Table.” The song, “Shalom Chaverim,” expresses a greeting of peace, and was chosen to honor the Stuarts, who are Jewish. Another song, “This Little Light of Mine,” an African-American spiritual, is included in one of Bryan’s books of illustrated spirituals.
“This is a celebration of art in the life of the community, “Pastor Hewes said, “It’s a beautiful story of the way blessings come around. Jackie and Alan wanted to commission the window because Michael blessed them so when he built their house and they have been immensely blessed by Ashley, and he has been blessed by their patronage of his art, and we have been blessed by all of it.”