TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The EF4 tornado that swept through Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011, caused damage to many churches in the city.
Covenant Presbyterian Church on Hargrove Road was not spared. The damage the tornado caused has been more difficult to repair than expected.
The church's sanctuary sustained heavy damage that was easily fixable. What has been difficult to repair is the half a million dollars in damage to the church's pipe organ and stained glass windows.
Susan Benke, co-chair of Covenant's building and grounds committee, said the church has to fly in experts from Canada to fix the gigantic pipe organ because few people have the expertise.
Rush Watson, also co-chair of the buildings and grounds committee for the church, said repairing the church's stained glass windows also takes a specialized hand. The stained glass windows were made of faceted glass 1-inch thick that is difficult to procure, he said. The design of the church's stained glass, more than 50 years old, was also unique and hard to replicate.
After interviewing four different companies, church officials found a company in Lubbock, Texas, that could do the job.
"A mission group in Texas told us that Berg Studios could do all kinds of stained glass work," Benke said. "We wanted someone closer by, so we tried local companies, but found out that they didn't have the experience or the expertise doing faceted stained glass.
"So we called Berg, flew them in for a talk and found out that they had the experience and the skills," she said.
Berg started installing faceted stained glass windows in the church on June 23.
Amy Weh, co-owner of Berg Studios, said installing the stained glass windows has been challenging for several reasons.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, the difficulty of this job is about an eight," Weh said.
Some of the more than 20 colors used in the church's original windows can't be duplicated because they don't exist anymore, Weh said, such as a tan streaked with red.
Constructing new windows to resemble the originals has been like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle.
"I only had a picture to go off of," Weh said. "There's about 20 different colors in this design and each piece varies in size.
"I had to take the photos of the old stained glass windows and scale them up. I drew the original stained glass windows on graph paper and had to number each piece and the color of it. Then I laid out all the pieces like a giant puzzle."
Weh was also asked to use pieces of the broken stained glass in the new windows.
"The church members took great care to collect the broken glass and Berg worked with us to re-use it," Watson said. "There's an emotional, sentimental element about using the same glass."
Weh said about 90 percent of the new windows are made of glass recycled from the old windows.
"Recycling it actually saved them a lot of money," she said.
Watson didn't give the exact cost of the project, but said that insurance and donations covered the cost.
The new windows are expected to be completed by Saturday.
Benke said she's very pleased with the project so far.
"It looks fabulous," she said. "It looks wonderful. The technique they use to do it today is better than it used to be."
Watson said more light is filtered through the new stained glass windows than the old. He said the church will begin worshipping in the new sanctuary in August.
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