Priest makes Hurricane Katrina damage into cross


The Commercial Appeal

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. (AP) - An Olive Branch priest selected

chunks of glass ripped from a church by Hurricane Katrina and

turned what was a mess into a masterpiece.

Rev. Bruce Cheney worked a year to create a stained-glass cross

for Holy Cross Episcopal Church's building. Using pieces from

windows broken at Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis during

the storm, Cheney didn't just place colorful glass into an

eye-catching pattern.

He told a story with the glass.

One section of blue glass symbolizes the surge. Nine red pieces

- three circular, three rectangular and then three more circular

ones - reflect the international Morse code distress signal of dot,

dot, dot; dash, dash, dash; dot, dot, dot.

Silvery-white chunks arranged in a swirl represent the

hurricane. More blue glass represents sky, and at the top, using

yellow-orange pieces, Cheney made a cross.

"When you are 'on the water' the compass is your direction,

helping to guide the mariner to port, to safety," Cheney said.

"The compass guides one to God - to Christ and to safety."

The pieces of faceted glass were set in a bed of epoxy and sand.

After it set, the church of about 130 members framed the cross and

inserted it into the wall of the church facing Miss. Highway 178.

Cheney sympathized with victims when Hurricane Katrina struck

New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 2005.

It had not been long since he'd elected to go into the ministry

after retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard. He had seen firsthand the

destructive power of hurricanes.

"You'd skirt it," he recalled of the Coast Guard's approach to

hurricanes. "The ones I remember the most are the ones that came

when I was in Delaware. We would end up responding to all the oil

spills ... our own facility was flooded."

Not long after the hurricane, Cheney and his wife went to Bay

St. Louis. At the time, an acquaintance was a priest at Christ


Nothing was left standing of the church, built in the late

1890s, except the bell tower.

The hurricane had broken a large stained-glass window behind the

altar and several smaller colorful windows.

Cheney took four to five containers of the "slab glass," thick

chunks, home to Olive Branch. Having done leaded-glass projects

before, he had in mind to work with faceted glass for the first


"They scoured this five-acre site and came up with this

glass," Cheney said. "It's so heavy when it broke, it stayed


Cheney primarily set the pieces as they had been broken. He

didn't re-break them.

Cheney used about 120 chunks to make the cross.

During a recent visit, a bishop noted that pieces of the

Episcopal diocese's southernmost church now are part of the

diocese's northernmost church.

"It brings us closer as a community in Christ throughout the

entire state," said Darlene McGrata, who with fellow Holy Cross

member David Howell assisted Cheney in making the cross.

Cheney still has pieces left over from the buckets of colored

glass taken from the Bay St. Louis church site.

"I would like to make some smaller crosses," he said.


Information from: The Commercial Appeal,

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)