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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Window celebrates God's breath

Swamp Evangelical Lutheran Church, Reinholds, Pa., dedicated this 45-by-12 foot stained-glass window last fall. The window celebrates the church’s 200-year presence in Pennsylvania Dutch country and completes an architectural vision that started in the 1950s.

Local artists Jane Runyeon and Donna Greenwood, in consultation with Swamp Lutheran’s pastor, Dennis Trout, designed the window around the Hebrew word Ruach, meaning “breath of God.”

The window is rich with symbolism, including the sacraments, Luther’s seal and rainbow rays that “plunge God’s grace through time and space to breathe life through the waters and all existence and finally to us,” according to the church’s publicity material.

Swamp Lutheran traces its beginnings to circuit rider Johann Casper Stoever Jr., who is said to have founded a Lutheran congregation at every crossroads in the early 1700s.

“Whenever a few Germans had settled, Stoever held services, baptized children and encouraged them to build a church,” Swamp historian Gladys Eckenroad told the Reading Eagle. In 1806 the church was comprised mainly of farmers, Trout said, but today he’s hard pressed to think of a farmer among the membership. In the last three decades, the congregation has welcomed refugees from Uganda, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Pakistan.

In an August 2002 article on church names in The Lutheran, Trout conceded that the congregation gets plenty of ribbing about their name: “There are two ways of looking at a swamp. It’s the place people can get stuck or it’s a place of symbiotic relationships and the cradle of life. We see our church as the latter: a place of great nourishment, birth, renewal, relationship and continual growth.”


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