It’s not unusual to have a calendar on a wall, but the one facing worshipers at St. Barnabas Lutheran Church, Plymouth, Minn., is a colorful array of stained-glass windows outlining the liturgical year.

Two windows flank the altar at St. Barnabas, each with 52 bands representing the weeks of the year and eight circles marking major church festivals and reminders of the sacraments. The bands are the colors of the week or season, and it doesn’t take long for worshipers to recognize the four blue bands for Advent; the white of the Christmas season; the green of the Epiphany season; the purple, scarlet and gold of Holy Week and Easter; and the green bands of the season following Pentecost.

White bands signify the Baptism of Our Lord, Transfiguration, Holy Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day and Christ the King Sunday. Red bands mark Pentecost Day and Reformation Sunday.

In addition to the bands for the weeks of the year, the windows contain eight circular inserts for four festivals in the life of Christ—incarnation, baptism, passion and resurrection—the two sacraments, the Spirit and Martin Luther’s seal.

The windows were designed by John “Mac” MacMillan and his partner, Pam Williams, and were installed at St. Barnabas last summer.

Though wholly modern in design, the stained-glass windows are what church windows were in medieval times—artistic, visual ways to teach people about the faith and worship.

MacMillan has been creating stained-glass works for 40 years. He says he loves the way stained glass uses varieties and shades of color.

Wayne Peterson, pastor of St. Barnabas, frequently refers to the windows as he introduces the liturgical day or season, and members get an orientation to the church year through the “calendar” in front of them every time they worship.

Charles Austin
Charles Austin is a retired ELCA pastor who has served parishes in Iowa, New York and New Jersey. He has also been a reporter for The New York Times and other news organizations.

Read more about: