Seven Mile Times

Endless Summer 2019

Salvation & The Sea: Methodist Church’s New Stained Glass Window a Sight to Behold

By Marybeth Hagan

A look at the new window from the outside of the First United Methodist Church.

The First United Methodist Church of Avalon has long offered light in the darkness with its handsomely illuminated white steeple. Now a new, backlit stained glass window – front and center in the red brick church complex – showcases colorful symbols of salvation and the sea.


This lovely new stained glass window is dedicated to the memory of the late Lolly Ferguson and in honor of Dot and Bill Tozour. Before her passing in 2016, Ferguson wanted to do something commemorative to recognize her friend Dot’s efforts on behalf of the church, according to its pastor, Rev. Dr. David Montanye, also known as Pastor Dave.


The church’s lay leader, Lynn Schwartz, who is the Tozours’ daughter, remembers Ferguson’s aspiration, too. “Lolly was a kind, thoughtful and wonderful person,” Schwartz says.


When Ferguson died in 2016, Pastor Dave thought that the time might be right for a commemorative stained glass window “to visually welcome people to the church,” he says.  Plus, Schwartz and the Tozour family liked the idea of fulfilling Ferguson’s wish by honoring Lolly and Dot together, along with Bill, via the new window. So, members of the Ferguson and Tozour families joined financial forces to bring those good intentions to fruition.


In helping to provide for the new window, Tozour family members maintained tradition. The stained glass window in the foyer to the left of the church’s sanctuary was installed there in honor of Dot Tozour’s parents, Phoebe G. and Lewis Conover, and Bill Tozour’s parents, Dorothy C. and William H. Tozour, as well as another couple, Joe and Laura Reese in 2001.


Lolly Ferguson, who inspired the commemorative window.


First United Methodist’s Memorial Committee members and its pastor determined that the new window should be designed in harmony with the existing stained glass window. So, they commissioned Bruce Hippel Stained Glass in Villas, N.J., to craft a second window. Hippel created the first window for the church 18 years ago.


Hippel has been creating stained glass windows for churches, residences and public buildings for 40 years. “Everything is site specific and client specific,” he says.


For First United Methodist Church of Avalon, “I took the general gist of the original window and adapted it to the new one,” Hippel notes. Keeping the dimensions of the other church windows in mind, he designed the church’s first and second stained glass windows on direct angles. “Both stained glass windows are visually separate from the church windows in the sanctuary, but there is a relationship between them,” the artist explains.


There’s also some color and symbolic correlation in both stained glass windows.


The first window is dominated by a bright red cross with a white scallop shell dripping with three drops of water at the joints of the cross. Behind the cross are triangular white clouds above a brightly colored wavy sea in shades of blue, green, white and red. The stationary clouds and the sea that seems to move are set against a predominately pastel pinkish background.


“I wanted color to have a range from dark to light for contrast and movement” in creating each of the stained glass windows for the church, Hippel says. “Since the cross is intense in color, I wanted strength in water color.”


Hippel’s handiwork is packed with powerful symbolism, as noted in church literature dating back to the first window’s dedication ceremony in 2001:


The primary colors of the window are blue and red representing the water and the blood of Christ.


The pillar of cloud symbolized the presence of God leading the people out of Egypt (Exodus 12:21).


The window is dedicated in honor of Dot and Bill Tozour, and in memory of Lolly Ferguson.


The red cross represents Jesus Christ who died for our salvation. The blue, white and green waters streaming from the pillar of cloud represent the river of the water which flows from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1). The red streaming from the cross through the water represents the blood and water which streamed from the pierced side of Christ at the crucifixion (John 19:34).


The scallop shell has long been a Christian symbol of baptism.  The three drops of water coming from the shell stand for the Trinitarian nature of Christianity in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This represents that in baptism we are born of water and the Spirit.


Like its predecessor, First United Methodist Church’s new stained glass window features a dominant red cross, white clouds in a different formation and another variation of wavy water in blue, white, green and red. While the first window within the church is rectangular, the new window on the church’s exterior is arched. A khaki green anchor adorns the top of the cross within that window’s arch. The rim of the arch is adorned with the seven colors of the rainbow.


Pastor Dave and Memorial Committee members chose the cross and the flowing waters, along with their symbolism, in keeping with the church’s first window. This new window’s anchor symbolizes the church’s historic relationship to the community. First United Methodist Church of Avalon has been a stabilizing force on Seven Mile Beach for 127 years. The new window’s rainbow is “symbolic of the covenant that God made with Moses,” says Pastor Dave.  “The rainbow also indicates that we [as a church community] welcome all.”


The preacher notes the power of art, like backlit stained glass windows, to move people.  Pastor Dave first saw such a window while working as a youth minister at the New City (N.Y.) United Methodist Church in the late 1970s. Later, during his time at Branchville (N.J.) United Methodist Church, Pastor Dave and church members restored a stained glass window that was damaged by a rock thrower. Then they returned it to its proper place in the center of the church’s steeple. “That one had an anchor in it!” he recalls.


Both Pastor Dave and Hippel recommend viewing First United Methodist Church of Avalon’s new stained glass window on Dune Drive between 33rd and 34th streets after sunset, for this colorful stained glass window illuminates the night.

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