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“Dreaming Into The Future”
Stained Glass Project

 

the project

The Normal Heights United Methodist Church building was begun in 1924 and completed in 1926. And so, for our building’s 100-year anniversary and in keeping with our commitment to antiracist work we are undertaking a project to remove and replace the central stained glass window that unfaithfully depicts Jesus as a white man. We are claiming the 100-year anniversary as a moment to both then undo a piece of racist art and to replace it with something both theologically and historically accurate. Our new window will reflect the diversity and unity of our NHUnited family, embody our commitment to inclusivity and our collective hopes for the next century of spiritual growth and the pursuit of justice.

the artist

The artist is Abi Salami, a Nigerian-American artist whose works resonates with us because of her rethinking and reclaiming of faith in conversation with race, sexuality and mental health. Examples of Abi’s work can be found on her website HERE.

how to contribute

If you are interested in contributing to the stained glass project, you can easily do so by visiting the link below and selecting “Dreaming into the future” from the dropdown menu. Our aim is to collectively envision a world that is fair, just and beautiful, and to reflect on our spirituality and values through art. We appreciate your support and participation.

 

FAQ

What is the project?

Our project has two phases and the first phase has two parts. The first phase is to remove and replace the large round stained glass window at the “front” of the sanctuary. The first part will remove the existing stained glass and the second part will replace it with another piece of stained glass.

The second phase is to rework the large blank wall where the stained glass is located and to paint a mural that reflects our theology, community, and the acknowledgment that we are located in Normal Heights on unceded Kumeyaay land.

 

Why are we doing the project right now?

First, we feel that the time is right to remove the stained glass because of the anti-racist work that we are committed to as a community. Each and every week we have a prominent and fixed image that is a work of white supremacy in our worship space and we can’t commit ourselves to anti-racist work while allowing it to remain. Our commitment to anti-racist work and to be an anti-racist community must be comprehensive, and so “history” or cost can not be a defense that allows such prominent imagery to remain. Nor is this work that we can choose to leave for future generations or communities. The window and its white supremacist message is not our fault, but it is our responsibility.

Secondly, we feel that the time is also right for us to lift up our own art and beauty for the future. Our building is 100 years old and we have the opportunity to not only remove what is unfaithful, but also to give to the future worshippers in this space a gift from us. Just as a hundred years ago the original church gave this beautiful space to us, it is a fitting time for us to give for the future as well. Our work is not only to remove, but also to replace.

 

Why does it cost so much?

The cost is primarily due to the window’s height and the building’s historicity which necessitates a careful approach. Simply put, the window was installed to be permanent and so to undo that work will take a concerted and careful effort.

Additionally, the cost for a new stained glass window is actually quite modest for design, creation and installation. It will likely be less expensive than their original design and installation cost.

 

Is this merely a performative action?

Our anti-racist work must be comprehensive. This means a critical examination of our images, lyrics, communication styles, sermon examples, theologies, hiring practices, descriptions of our community, budget decisions, leadership structures, contracts awarded to external organizations and base assumptions. We are committed to a critical examination of all these aspects of our shared community life.

However, while many of the changes we have made are able to be examined and addressed with relative ease because they are in our control (i.e. lyrics sung in worship, examples of God shared by the pastors, etc..), others are more entrenched in our building and structures. For these, more effort is needed. We are currently interviewing a short-list of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion consultants to work with our church leadership and committees on a long-term basis to help address our internal organizational structures and hiring practices to root out any hidden practices which may delay our anti-racist work, and we are in active discussion with the larger United Methodist denomination about our denominational work in anti-racism as a larger church. The window replacement is not in place of these other important steps, but is one of them that is “entrenched” and therefore will take greater effort to remove and replace.

 

4650 Mansfield Street
San Diego, California 92116

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Land Acknowledgement

We, at NHUnited Church, recognize that the land our building occupies is unceded Kumeyaay land. The Kumeyaay, also known as Diegueño in Spanish, have lived on the land for over 10,000 years, in the mountains, valleys, and coastal regions. We commit ourselves to caring for this land and its inhabitants in honor of the Kumeyaay people, and always in a spirit of stewardship, openness, and care of land and neighbor.

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