No one knows for sure the age of the old cross that sat atop the sanctuary at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, but when it was examined during recent roof work, the icon was deemed to be deteriorated way beyond the point of refurbishing.
“It may have been the original cross,” parishioner John S. Harrington said, “And the church was built in 1899.”
St. John’s initially sought a quote to build a new cross from a local woodworking and mill shop, and that is when Mr. Harrington stepped in.
“I spent 25 years teaching woodworking and drafting; I had the ability and the skills to build a new cross and I said ‘no one else is going to build it.’“
Mr. Harrington taught industrial arts and applied technology at Chatham Junior/Senior High School; at Barnstable High School; and lastly at Mashpee High School.
Before retiring, he created his own curriculum for K-12 by combining “the best of industrial arts and the best of applied technology,” he said.
In March of this year, Mr. Harrington took to his wood shop to duplicate the old cross, which he created in a laminate mix of three parts mahogany, and two parts plywood.
The three points at the top of the cross are weak points, Mr. Harrington said. He constructed those areas so that the grain of wood was going in different directions to reinforce them. The plywood added thickness and strength, he said.
The finished product was coated in gold leaf.
“He gold-leafed it himself,” said Alan R. Carlson, church sexton and close friend of Mr. Harrington’s. “A good amount of time was spent on the gold leaf; the primer has to set, and it is driven by the humidity in the air.”
“I have never done that much gold leaf,” Mr. Harrington said. “I’m happy with the way it came out. It looks good.”
The new cross of St. John’s Church was blessed during a service on June 23, which is the Feast of St. John Day.
Mr. Harrington posed for photos in the sanctuary with the completed cross and his family standing with him. After the service, he took the cross home to touch up a few spots on the gold leafing, which he said were not quite right, though no one else would have noticed once it was set atop the church, he said.
“This cross was made with loving hands,” Mr. Carlson said of Mr. Harrington’s effort. No one knows the cost of the new cross, as it was Mr. Harrington’s donation. “I don’t know if he would tell you if you asked,” Mr. Carlson said of his friend. “He is a very modest, humble man.”
Mr. Harrington’s middle name is “Sexton,” after his Irish mother’s maiden name, a name which means “a church officer or employee who takes care of church property,” he said.
He considers it an honor that he carries the name and also works as one of the sextons at St. John’s Church and an honor and a pleasure to have built the church’s new cross.
Rick Sullivan of All Star Renovations put the new cross in place on the roof on Tuesday, July 9.
The day after the new cross was installed on the church, a new stained glass window was installed in the columbarium area of St. John’s, where cremated remains are interred.
Mr. Carlson and his wife, Mary E. Carlson, commissioned the window, made by Lyn Hovey Company with stained glass from a Guatemalan artist.
They chose the verse from Matthew 11:28—“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest”—to be included in the window. “To have someone bring the verse to life [in the stained glass window] was amazing,” Ms. Carlson said.
The new window was installed near where the Carlsons, too, plan to have their ashes interred, “so they will be able to see it” after they are gone, Mr. Carlson said.
“It is a wonderful confluence that these two things happened at the same time,” the Reverend Thomas Ferguson said of the new cross and the new stained glass window.
“If you look around the church, none of this would be here at all without the dedication and commitment of so many wonderful people.”