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Looking through the glass

CROOKSTON - St. Paul's Lutheran Church here is proud to have gotten some of David Hetland's last creations, 10 circles of stained glass showing the Bible story from alpha to omega.

CROOKSTON - St. Paul's Lutheran Church here is proud to have gotten some of David Hetland's last creations, 10 circles of stained glass showing the Bible story from alpha to omega.

Hetland was the artist whose work was recognized nationally, seen in churches all over, usually in stained glass or mosaics, and especially in the huge painted backdrops to Concordia College's choral Christmas concerts each year in Moorhead.

He grew up in Grand Forks, attending United Lutheran downtown, which has a huge mosaic he designed, one of many area congregations with some of his work.

Hetland also designed the logo for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, seen in many ways in the denomination's 10,500 congregations across the United States. In 1994, three mosaic panels of the Jerusalem Cross designed by Hetland were presented to Pope John Paul II in Rome, the Anglican Church's Archbishop of Canterbury in London and the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul.

Hetland died on Easter Sunday, April 16, a year ago, after battling heart disease and cancer for years. He was 58.

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That makes the Rev. Bill Reck get emotional about it all, in a Lutheran, easy-to-miss, way. A year ago, on the way into church on Easter Sunday, Reck picked up the mail for St. Paul's. In it was a letter from Hetland about his work for the congregation, written April 12.

"Bill: Just in time for Easter comes this symbol of the resurrection. Hope you like the changes."

Hetland was referring to the colors he finally chose for the butterfly in the ninth window, which represented faith, hope and love, the abiding virtues.

"Best wishes for a blessed Easter," Hetland wrote Reck.

That afternoon, after having attended Easter worship services, Hetland died in his Fargo home, Reck said.

That makes St. Paul's part of Hetland's work so precious as one of the last pieces of art he designed, Reck said. "He called them visual parables," Reck said, giving visitors a rundown on all that is behind each of the 10.

The narrow, A-frame church doesn't have a lot of room for windows, but Hetland's art "transforms the sanctuary," Reck said.

It didn't take the congregation long to get behind the idea first voiced by Alvern Wentzel, like Hetland a Concordia grad, to ask him to design stained-glass windows for St. Paul's.

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The first window is inspired by the first verses in the Bible, all about creation and includes two very local references: a sugar beet for the farm nature of Crookston and a soaring bald eagle, an allusion to the mascot of the local University of Minnesota campus.

The last window shows the Lamb of God written about in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of St. John. In between is enough gospel in artform to give Reck sermons for a year, he says.

Hetland designed the windows, which were installed by Classic Glass of Fargo, which worked closely with Hetland over the years.

The project cost $70,000, including upgrading the plain windows to double-paned ones around the stained glass. "We never ask for donations, but they just come in," Reck said of his 550 members' giving.

The congregation will dedicate the windows during a special worship service at 10 a.m. Sunday. Bishop Rolf Wangberg, head of the ELCA's Northwestern Minnesota Synod based in Moorhead, will speak. Mary Hetland, David's widow, will be on hand. And the church choir and Sunday school students will sing. An open house will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday with music from the Presbyterian church's bell choir, St. Paul's women's octet, the community men's chorus and the high school strings group. The Rev. Reck will give guided tours of the row of 10 windows.

Everyone is welcome to the day at St. Paul's, Reck said.

For more information, call the church at (218) 281-3638, or go online at www.hetland.com .

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237, or 740-9891 or slee@gfherald.com .

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