NACOGDOCHES, TX (KLTV) - A form of art synonymous with church sanctuaries has had a profound impact on one East Texas couple. Stained glass has become more than hobby for David and Teresa Darby. It's guiding their faith.
They opened Glass Castles Stained Glass Studio in downtown Nacogdoches after getting married 38 years ago.
Crafting custom projects for religious and secular clients has been a labor of love.
"It's kept us together. We've been through a lot of thick and a lot of thin," Teresa said.
Working side by side for decades, even their friends joke about the amount of time they spend together.
"(We) live together, drive to work together, eat together, work together, and go home together. We've actually been married four times that long."
Teresa estimates they've produced windows for more than 250 churches in the East Texas region.
"We have found that there's a lot of small country churches without big budgets. And we are able to fill a niche for them that those big studios just really can't."
Stained glass windows are more than aesthetics, David says. They help shape a spiritual environment.
"They come into a church like this and they feel a sense of holiness that's that's not in just a normal building."
He says their approach is narrative -- scenes, often from the New Testament, that tell a story.
"They've heard that Bible story before. And it means something much more to them because they've got a picture in their brain now that makes them want to lead a holier life and to change what they're doing."
Common depictions include the Nativity, the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion of Christ.
"I would definitely say that being here in the 'buckle' of the Bible Belt is the fact that we do the narrative story of Christ almost all the time," Teresa said.
She says this centuries-old art form finds its roots in teaching.
"Stained glass was put in church windows long before people were literate and long before the Bible was printed."
She says these scenes can also inspire self-reflection.
"Sometimes in trying to see who we are spiritually and where we are spiritually, using these focus points in the life of Christ or in a picture of a saint or an icon really helps us to know ourselves better as we try to know our maker better."
Teresa says she's felt a deeper connection to her faith through working on projects, including a window at First Christian Church on Mound Street in Nacogdoches.
She recalled experiencing a 'God moment' while painting a Crucifixion scene.
"(I) was trying to figure how does blood flow from the nail through the toes and realized that (it) was Good Friday. Now that wasn't like we started in February and said, 'On Good Friday, I'm going to paint this part.' It was just kind of like, "Oh!' just a moment."
Those moments motivate the Darbys to share their passion outside the studio.
David was ordained as a deacon 16 years ago and has been ministering to others at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and at St. Mary's at Stephen F. Austin State University. Teresa also teaches religion classes.
"I really do feel like sometimes we're just we're really doing what God wants us to do here instead of really making a plan," Teresa said.
Their studio and gift shop is located at 323 East Main Street in Nacogdoches. It's open Tuesday through Saturday.
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