New windows give regal radiance to Paine chapel

New stained glass windows from Schweitzer Glass Studio are installed in Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel at Paine College. The old windows were in disrepair and are being replaced as part of a renovation of the chapel.

It was sad to come into Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel and find massive panes of glass were in danger of falling from the windows.


That's why Paine College has commissioned 16 new stained glass windows in an update to the chapel, built in 1968, said Helene Carter, assistant vice president of institutional development at Paine.

"Some of them were literally falling out. The wood was rotting away. It was time," she said. "We've now got an opportunity to beautify and enhance the chapel."

Paine has been raising the funds for the alumni-supported project over the last year and a half, she said.

For $12,000 a window, supporters have been given the opportunity to name a window in honor of someone they'd like to recognize. Paine hasn't released the total cost of the project, which also includes updates to the pews and sanctuary interior. A $135,000 pipe organ restoration is also planned.

Eight of the 16 windows have been replaced over the past six months.

The original two-tone windows aren't going to waste, however. Strips of the old glass are being incorporated into the new windows, which feature "Paine College Purple" with touches of red and honey opal.

Each window features a central medallion with a different theme, said stained glass artist Robin Schweitzer, the owner of Schweitzer Art Glass Studio in Augusta, who was commissioned to make the new windows.

Schweitzer says she was inspired by the architecture of the building.

The windows will be on view to the public at some of the Westobou Festival events coming up this fall, Carter said.

"Our chapel is really utilized by the whole community," Carter said. "There are weddings and Westobou events. It's where we hold services on Wednesdays through the school year. It's our fine arts facility."

It's a spectacular one at that, she added.

"It's beautiful, with high ceilings and windows big enough to drive a car through," she said with a laugh.

Working with their massive size was part of the challenge and fun of this particular project, Schweitzer said.

The 12-foot-tall windows have to be installed in three sections. Each takes seven weeks to create.

"We want people to say 'wow' from the inside and the outside," Schweitzer said. "They really turned out well, for as simple as they are."

About the chapel

The Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel was built in 1968. The space, which seats 1,200, is used for student services, weddings, fine arts events and funerals.

It also contains classrooms, practice rooms, a music library, studios and an auditorium for 200.

It was named in honor of two pioneers: John Wesley Gilbert, the first Paine student and graduate, who later became the first black member of the faculty, and Bishop Walter Russell Lambuth, a physician and theologian and a trustee of the college. Together, the ministers worked as missionaries in the Congo.

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