Shared from the 11/25/2018 San Antonio Express eEdition

Coloring book helps young see the light

St. Mark’s celebrates 160th anniversary with project on stained-glass windows

Photos by Ronald Cortes / Contributor

Dina Aboul Saad, left, director of development, and the Rev. Elizabeth Knowlton discuss St. Mark’s Episcopal Church historic stained-glass windows. Saad holds the coloring book that was inspired by the windows.


The coloring book “Where the Light Shines Through” honors 13 of the church’s 30 windows.


Light streams into St. Mark’s Episcopal Church through its 30 stained-glass windows. The images depict biblical stories, commemorate some members of the congregation and help tell the church’s history.


The stained-glass windows are the oldest in the city, says historian Lewis F. Fisher, shown with Meredith Rogers, director of youth ministries, from left, Knowlton and Saad.

To celebrate its 160th anniversary, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church tasked two staff members to get creative in conveying church history to its youngest parishioners.

Meredith Rogers, director of youth ministries, and Abby Richards, director of children’s ministry, considered staging a historical skit, then thought about producing coloring pages illustrating the lectionary, or readings used at Sunday services.

“It would have been helpful,” Rogers said, though not church-specific.

The idea of coloring as a learning tool stuck, however. It led them to a project that celebrates the most colorful thing about the historic church on Pecan Street — its stained-glass windows.

They’re the oldest in the city, said church historian Lewis F. Fisher, who authored a book in 2008 for the downtown landmark’s 150th anniversary.

The two youth ministers went into action. One month — and dozens of photos and spreadsheets — later, they had produced a 28-page coloring book titled “Where the Light Shines Through.”

“Light” contains 13 of the church’s 30 windows in images re-created by a Florida company called By His Grace. Smaller images from the windows offer details, such as a lion from the Four Evangelists Window that commemorates the church’s patron, St. Mark.

The images depict biblical stories, such as those in the Thanksgiving Window showing Pharaoh’s daughter rescuing Moses. It also commemorates some specific members of the congregation, including Hugh Hampton Young, a child saved from drowning in the San Antonio River in 1874. And it includes biblical verses, such as one from the second chapter of Exodus, “She named him Moses, because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’ ”

Some of its most prized windows date to 1874 and 1875. Taken together, the windows tell bits of church history.

Founded in 1858 just 22 years after the Battle of the Alamo, the congregation may be best-known for one of its earliest members, U.S. Army Col. Robert E. Lee, who was stationed in San Antonio before the Civil War elevated him to fame as a Confederate general — and suspended the church’s construction for several years.

In 1934, St. Mark’s was the scene of wedding vows exchanged by Lyndon B. Johnson and his bride, Claudia, known as Lady Bird, when the future president was a congressional aide.

The coloring book has received rave reviews, church leaders said.

“People have been thrilled by it” — adults and children alike — said the Rev. Elizabeth Knowlton, who has served as rector of the 1,300-member congregation for four years.

Parents have said the book has led to quiet moments with their children, and adults have rediscovered coloring as a creative, meditative pastime, she said.

Fisher said the windows were produced in Boston and Brooklyn, and were shipped, disassembled, to the Gulf Coast.

Dina Aboul Saad, the church’s director of development, said the project has helped the congregation see their windows as a wonder, even in their arrival. From the coast, they traveled by oxen, she said.

That also points to the church’s “audacious beginning,” Knowlton said. “Forty people founded a church with 500 seats. It’s kind of amazing that even in its earliest days they saw a vision,” especially given that San Antonio was considered an outpost.

Knowlton’s message on the inside cover page notes the church’s hope that the book gets parishioners and visitors to engage more deeply with the sacred images in the church and on the page.

“These moments of encounter are holy,” her message says. “They are invitations to allow the light of Christ to nurture you, to inspire you, and to call you to serve in the places of greatest need in our world.”

The church produced the coloring book in time for the church’s founders’ day in mid-October, but fresh ones are set out in pews every Sunday. They’re free.

Knowlton said the project also fulfills St. Mark’s core vocation to feed the hungry, by responding to people’s hunger for knowledge, meaning, beauty and creativity.

This morning, before the 10 a.m. service, families have another opportunity to create together, by making Advent wreaths. The project starts at 9 a.m. in Gosnell Hall next to the church.

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