There are 21 stained glass windows at The Commons. It’s one of the perks of working here. Walking along corridors, up stairwells, into and out of the old sanctuary – Just about everywhere I go there are stained glass windows.
Sometimes in the late afternoon the light comes through the largest window in the sanctuary and leaves a cascade of soft red and gold and green along the floor and walls. I’ve tried several times to catch this on camera, but the pictures don’t quite do it justice.
And now that daylight savings time has passed, it’s dark when I leave, so I’ve begun to notice just how vibrant our stained glass windows are from the outside. Staff and volunteers at the Refugee Empowerment Program teach ESL classes well into the night, and the stained glass windows in their third floor classrooms shine brightly in greens and reds and purples over Binghampton.
To most people, stained glass windows are associated with church. And of course that’s why we have so many at The Commons. The building we call “The Commons on Merton” was once Everett Memorial United Methodist Church, an anchor of the Binghampton community for almost 100 years.
But, as their membership dwindled and the neighborhood around them changed, the leaders of Everett Memorial made a very courageous decision which resulted in a reimagining of what it means to be “church.” In the early 2000s, they gave up their church building to become The Commons, a shared space community that currently houses 5 nonprofits, 3 churches of various denominations, a food pantry, a local artist’s studio, and a handful of study groups and neighborhood organizations.
In the 6 months that I’ve been with the Center for Transforming Communities, I’ve gotten to know each of these groups – learned about their histories, personalities, and goals. Each one is different, distinct, but each one is also part of a whole, part of The Commons.
In that sense, each group at The Commons is like a pane in a stained glass window. Each is unique, with its own shape and color and texture, but when assembled together they form a pattern that is
infinitely more beautiful than they could hope to be on their own.