Scott Parsons | Gloria Dei

Gloria Dei

Gloria Dei Awards:
2014 Design Award in Religious Art: Visual Arts
| Faith & Form Magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture (IFRAA)
2012 AIA South Dakota Honor Award | Koch Hazard Architects

Gloria Dei is an unprecedented ecclesial stained-glass design for the new Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This project consists of 24 separate architectural glass panels for the chancel façade: 750 sq. ft. in size and rising over 36 ft. in height. Each panel was created using a number of traditional and contemporary glass treatments, including silver stain, acid-etching, sandblasting, and enameling.

Gloria Dei, the Glory to God, is expressed here through movement, color and light. Reflecting the Trinity and the floorplan of the Church, the 24 panels cycle in thirds through the Creation story beginning with Genesis on the left, the life of Christ in the center, and life of the Church on the right. The generally abstract emphasis evokes the contemporary setting for this new-construction 21st-century worship space. The artwork progresses with an internal rhythm, panel by panel, repeating motifs and colors to evoke the emotions of joy, appreciation, awe and wonder of God’s work in our lives. Symbolic imagery, specific to the sacraments are represented by egg, water, and shell, and communion with stalks of corn (since this is Midwest corn country). Other panels include stars, seeds, candles and branches which evoke numerous Biblical narratives such as the promise made to Abraham, the psalmist’s exclamation of wonder in gazing at the heavens, the prophecies of Isaiah, and the many parables of vineyards and gardens.

The transcendent qualities of glass, illuminate spiritual themes which allow worshipers to experience the liturgy in distinct ways each time the congregation gathers for worship. For example, a vertical yellow band extends from above in the center and reaches downward to literally touch the earth below. This abstract gesture shows how God can touch us in the midst of our lives. Each row of glass becomes progressively more translucent in elevation, allowing for fleeting changes in the sky and clouds to increasingly register in the shapes and colors seen in the windows.

This intentional openness in the design allows for numerous readings and invites each congregant to actively participate in the shaping of his or her own meanings and references from what is observed in the design. It is my hope that this design will resonate with each viewer as a celebratory offering of thanksgiving for all that God has given to us, and to recognize our individual role in the body of Christ to bring peace and healing to the world.

Artist and Pastor Linda Henke states, “There are places, for example, where I see the suggestion of stars, which for me conjure up the stars in the Genesis creation story … connections with God’s promise to Abraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens … the psalmist’s exclamation of wonder in gazing at the heavens (who are human beings that you should be mindful of us?) … the star that marked God’s coming to take on human flesh and become one with us… the star that led the sages to the Christ and then to carry news of his coming to all the world … the morning star that gives way to the rising sun … the night sky that we can see so much more clearly here in Indiana, where we live somewhat away from the city lights … the incredible Hubble telescope images that explode the boundaries of our perceptions of the universe.”

Artist: Scott Parsons
Architects: Koch Hazard Architects, Sioux Falls, SD
Fabrication: Derix Glasstudios, Taunusstein, Germany; Olaf Hanweg, painter
General Contractor: Fiegen Construction, Sioux Falls, SD
Installation: City Glass, Sioux Falls, SD and Tim O’Neil, Magdalena, NM