Stained Glass and the end of an Era

As I sat in a church in Kitchener yesterday, watching my cousin get married, I don’t think I was the only one finding some poignancy in the moment. The wedding was wonderful and we’re thrilled to have Jamie’s bride Rachel join the family, but at the same time seeing the last member of my cohort, the generation of grandchildren descendent from Denis and Isobel Donnelly of Pinkerton, brought a little sadness. We’re getting old!

The house in Pinkerton has housed Donnellys for five generations, and was the hub of family activities. Christmas, birthdays, Easter – there was usually a gathering of we eleven cousins (with only 14 years between our ages), our parents, and quite often friends. The door to the Pinkernoids’ place has always been open to all comers. That tradition continued even after the death of my grandparents, as my aunt and uncle took over the premises and the heritage of the red brick house.

For the past 15 years or so, winter has still brought with it the ‘Donnelly Christmas’, although the location has changed because of the ever-expanding numbers of descendants. Summers have usually meant a wedding. With Jamie’s passage into the bonds of matrimony, he passed the torch on to the next generation. Ryan Donnelly is the oldest, at age 19, so we may not have to wait too long for another occasion to bring the family together in the summer, but it won’t quite be the same. For starters, Ryan’s mother will be in the role of mother-of-the-groom instead of bridesmaid or maid-of-honour! At the moment, we are fortunate enough to have all of our aunts and uncles with us, able to attend our weddings. But a recent illness in the family brings to light the fact that we may meet next for a more sombre occasion.

So what does this have to do with stained glass? As my husband and I patiently waited on the recessional line to leave the church, we noticed the oddest stained glass window to ever inhabit a house of God. An astronaut, in full space regalia, peered down at us from the last window on the bride’s side of the building. In the background, a rocket reminiscent of Sputnik flew across the sky. Quick questions posed at the reception had people insisting we were crazy, that there was no way a church housed a stained glass astronaut. One other family member (Thanks ‘Aunt’ Bonnie!) corroborated our story, but we still faced denial from the other revelers. Finally, I worked up the nerve to ask the pastor about the window. It was installed around the time of the first walk on the moon, as a symbol of hope for the future and recognition of the changing times. Forty-one years ago, the person responsible for that church (St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 825 King Street, Kitchener, ON, Canada), recognized the advent of space travel as a new, exciting future rather than the end of an era. And so, I guess I should look at the next generation as our new era. I can only hope that we keep them as closely knit as our generation was, and maintain the family traditions which make the Donnelly clan such a pleasure to be part of.

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