Stained glass making began life as a Christian art form a very long time ago. The instructions that the monk Theophilus wrote in 1100 AD had changed little over the previous 900 years. Most of the glass in St Clement owes its origin to the Gothic Revival that swept Britain in the nineteenth century, and although the history of the windows is interesting, the purpose of this guide is more "to illumine men's minds so they may travel through it to an apprehension of God's light", as one medieval French abbot put it.
Stained glass were originally intended to convey Bible stories and messages to the illiterate, and although we now live in a time when most people can read, it has lost none of its power to inspire, as we hope you will soon discover. Go to the east end where the altar is situated to begin our tour of the windows.
The Great East Window - The great window behind the altar was installed as part of the extensive renovations of 1880. It is in three parts, and, going from left to right, shows the birth of Jesus, his ascension and his resurrection (the empty tomb on Easter Day). Here set out for us is the beginning and the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, and we are reminded that Jesus himself is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 21:6). It should not be surprising to see these themes in the sanctuary, dominating the altar, for they lie at the very heart of the Christian faith.
In the middle section Jesus gestures towards heaven and towards earth with his pierced hands; he is going to his Father and yet he will be with us always. And so, even though we see him no more, yet may we still meet with him in the bread broken and the wine poured out. These three miraculous events present not only a great proclamation of the Christian faith but also n challenge. As St Paul says, "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The Benest Window - is situated to the south of the altar. Although there are two sections to the window, it shows a single scene - the miraculous catch of fish in Lake Galilee following Jesus' resurrection (John 21:5-7).
This is an appropriate theme for a sanctuary window as the Lord's Table is not only a place where Christians gather together, but also a place from where they are sent out to proclaim God's love and to be "fishers of men".
This window was given in 1926 in memory of Jurat Benest, who lived at Rocqueberg, Samares. Charles Jean Benest had been blessed in many ways - he was a respected member of the community, having served as Connetable for 21 years from 1885. He had three daughters and owned a good number of properties around St Helier. But it was perhaps his ownership of the Jersey Oyster Company that prompted the theme of this window, for the sea had been a source of great abundance for his family. This window is n measure of the Benest family's thankfulness to God, and perhaps a reminder to us to count our own blessings.
The Le Maistre Window - The window to the right of the Benest Window, facing the organ, was given by Miss Marie Le Maistre in 1881 in memory of her parents. It is a "nurturing" window. The left¬hand panel shows children being fed with bread (we cannot escape the reference to Jesus being the Bread of Life, as we are still in the sanctuary). The children have no shoes, reminding Christians of their obligation to give to the poor (Luke 12:33). The right-hand panel also shows children being fed, but this time with the word of God - the Holy Bible.
In these two scenes we have the feeding of body, mind and spirit with Jesus who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and the Word made Flesh (John 1:14). Here, too, is a reminder that the Church's mission is both practical and spiritual. It also provides a delightful contrast to the Benest window - if the latter is male, the Le Maistre window is female! So we may give thanks for Mother Church. The lilies at the top of the two panels, much loved by the Victorians, are a symbol of purity, which we may take as a reminder of Jesus' words: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Luke 18:16)