Trinity Methodist Church angel's tear remains a Salisbury mystery

By Susan Parker
Posted 3/14/23

Why would an angel cry?

A potential answer to that question can be found in the seventh children’s book written by T.J. Mumford of Hebron. The story takes place at Trinity United Methodist …

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Trinity Methodist Church angel's tear remains a Salisbury mystery


Why would an angel cry?

A potential answer to that question can be found in the seventh children’s book written by T.J. Mumford of Hebron. The story takes place at Trinity United Methodist Church in Salisbury after Mumford’s main character, a fictional little girl who sees something very unusual as she is leaving church after attending Easter morning services at Trinity Church.

Salisbury-area resident Pyda Sterling and her granddaughter appear in photo illustrations in the book.

“It’s so sweet in the book,” said Sterling, “a child asking why an angel is crying.”

“It’s a tear of joy,” said Mumford. “That’s how the question is answered.”

Trinity is a familiar Salisbury landmark located on a small triangular bit of land framed by Route 50, High Street and Division Street. Its distinctive asymmetrical contours enclose a beautiful sanctuary.

Constructed in 1904-05 and dedicated in 1905, the church’s towering stained glass windows, once believed to have been crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany, were actually created by Flora MacDonald of the MacDonald Studios in Boston. 

Surrounded by lots of dark wood, those windows, all original to the church, present a striking appearance. But one of the windows has a secret, an unsolved mystery. The east wall of the sanctuary features three windows that together depict the Ascension of Jesus to heaven, flanked by angels, one on each side with several cherubim above each of them.

The window on the left (at Christ’s right hand) matches the angel image on the other side, most of the time. But occasionally, a stream of tears can be seen rolling from the corner of that angel’s eye down the cheek. It has been spotted from inside the sanctuary by members of the congregation for more than six decades and before that, there’s no record either way.

Mumford said people who have not seen the tear cannot believe it’s anything but a scratch in the glass.

“It’s a miracle,” said Sterling. “Many longtime members have never seen the tear. But on a sunny Sunday morning, you can hear whispers travel around the room as people see it.”

Skeptics will say there must be a scratch in the glass that lets in a brighter light when it hits the window from a certain angle. But some members of the church have never seen the tears at all, while others report repeated sightings.

In 2017, the church hired J&R Lamb Studios, the oldest continuously operating stained glass window company in the United States, to restore the windows. The studio owner and president, Don Samick, happened to see the tear and asked about it. He and his artisans reported that they had never seen such a phenomenon before; after a close examination of the window, they were unable to offer any explanation for the tear’s periodic presence in the stained glass. They confirmed it is not a scratch, and said they did not know of any way such a phenomenon could be engineered into stained glass.

Thus, it remains an unsolved memory or, if you prefer, a miracle. That’s how many church members see it – a miracle.

“It’s inspiring,” said Mumford. “Most would say exciting, but we don’t really promote it or do anything about it.”

Mumford wrote this book with its Easter-themed story to let the world know about the phenomenon, which even in the local community is not widely known, and all proceeds will go to the Rev. George R. Patterson Scholarship Fund, which benefits United Methodist ministers who are pursuing a master’s degree in Ministry.

Patterson was a longtime pastor at Trinity who retired in 2018. Patterson had personally experienced the challenge of pursuing an advanced degree while raising a family, serving his congregation and finding the funds needed to pay tuition and related costs. The scholarship was established to honor him at his retirement. The scholarship is administered through the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore.

The brightly colored book is available for $10 per copy and may be purchased at the church before and after the 9 a.m. Sunday services on March 19, 26 and April 2, or at the Trinity Family Life Center on Mount Hermon Road on the same dates between 11:30 a.m. and noon. Checks should be made payable to The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore with “Patterson Scholarship” on the memo line.

Copies will also be available during an open house on Saturday, March 18, 9-11 a.m. at the church, 112 High Street. And it’s entirely possible that the tear might make an appearance during the open house event; it’s not predictable. The book can also be purchased by calling Mumford at 410-713-9670.

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