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Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Windows’

By Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Dean Hawthorne.

Every morning, lean thine arms awhile
Upon the windowsill of heaven,
And gaze upon thy Lord.
Then, with the vision in thy heart,
Turn strong to meet thy day.

                                                               Author unknown

In the early days of his ministry, Dr. Theodore F. Adams vacationed in Wisconsin where he attended an outdoor vesper service led by an Episcopal rector who recited the verse above. Dr. Adams never forgot those words. He committed them to memory.

calloutFrom 1936-1968 Dr. Adams served as senior pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. During that time he referred to this verse countless times as one of his favorites. He even had desktop placards made and sent to every member of the church.

Many readers are aware that the beautiful stained glass windows surrounding the FBC Sanctuary were part of a renovation project initiated by Dr. Adams in the late 1940s, but they may be unaware of the message he left in one of the windows by which we remember him today.

In the commission of the windows’ refurbishment, Dr. Adams’ goal was twofold. The larger windows that surround the balcony were to portray the significant events in the life of Jesus, while those below were to demonstrate how followers could live out Jesus’ lessons in modern times. Each upper window correlates to the one below it and is interpreted there for modern understanding. Each window is also accompanied by a scripture passage – except one.

There are two windows in the church picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, one in the Chapel and one in the Sanctuary. The Chapel window’s focus is on prayer, but the story in the Sanctuary’s window shows Jesus, having been strengthened by prayer, telling Peter, James, and John, “Behold, the hour is at hand—Rise, let us be going.” The light shining on Jesus comes from heaven and affirms Jesus’ declaration that, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

Bathed in sunlight in the corollary window below kneels a lone figure, praying the very poem that begins, “Every morning, lean thine arms upon the windowsill of heaven.” These verses are not found in the Bible, but send the message that made such a marked impression on Dr. Adams’ life that he was determined it be memorialized in this window.

Windowsill of Heaven

The Windowsill of Heaven

Could he have guessed that with each reading, those who remembered him would also see him reciting it before a congregation of First Baptist Church members, even today?

In writing about Dr. Adams, Dr. W. Randall Lolley, former pastor of FBC Greensboro, NC, says that Dr. Adams was a man, “who truly perceived the earth as the ‘windowsill of heaven.’ Every person he met, every event he enjoyed, every experience he knew worked ‘inside/out’ rather than ‘outside/in.’”

As we continue our mission to bring KOH2RVA, may we put into practice these words so dear to Dr. Adams.

Editor’s note: These windows are located on The Boulevard side of the Sanctuary, the fourth set from the front.

Copies of the fully illustrated Memorial Windows written by Theodore F. Adams and The Open Door, the church’s history from 1780-2005, are available for checkout or purchase in the church library.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Dean Hawthorne.

Certainly, you are familiar with the beautiful representations of Christ’s life featured in the windows that surround the sanctuary above and below. But you may not realize that unlike the stained glass windows in other areas of the church, these panels were commissioned, crafted and installed as a group.

When Dr. Theodore Adams (pastor from 1936 to 1968) initiated the project, the windows were coated in lampblack, a bluish-black, opaque pigment that blocks light. Buddy Hamilton theorized, “When WWII started in December 1941, there was a drive to restrict light because of the fear of air raids. All kinds of things were done for this purpose and lampblack would have been a cost-effective means of dealing with a large expanse of clear glass.”

The Carpenter's Son window

The Carpenter's Son

The Labor of our Hands window

The Labor of Our Hands

In keeping with the Doric Greek architectural design of the church, this new project was to install a frieze, or story, told in a stained glass series of 14 panels placed at the top of the existing mini-panes on the east and west sides of the sanctuary balcony. The new window borders would also incorporate Greek designs, with alternating windows using the same patterns. Complementing these upper windows would be another series of 12 stained glass panels on the bottom of the windows beneath the balcony that told stories of the life and work of the church as they related to the panels pictured above them. In this way, the viewer would be reminded that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that His message is timely and pertinent no matter the century.

An interesting example of the correlation between the upper and lower windows is found in “The Carpenter’s Son,” emphasizing Christ’s humanity, and the window below it entitled “The Labor of Our Hands.” In the lower window the viewer is reminded that using our hands and working together honors our Maker and brings glory to Him in any venue.

The artist who designed the sanctuary windows, Katharine Lamb Tait of the Lamb Studios in Tenafly, New Jersey, is seen working on the window in which she is pictured. There is a drawing of it to the left of her head. The men working with pieces of colored glass to her right are the men who actually made all the windows in the sanctuary. And finally, the viewer is looking at the finished product that has been produced for this particular window motif. This is also the only window that has been initialed by the artist. On the hem of her smock are painted her initials KLT. Mrs. Tait worked very closely with Dr. Adams to decide which modern scene to be represented below would best illustrate the period of Christ’s life pictured above. Dr. Adams thought this window particularly suitable.

Concerned about the rising cost of this project, Dr. Adams was gratified when one window after another was given as a gift or a memorial by church members. In 1965 he wrote a booklet about them published with black and white drawings. With the help of photographer Deane Hawthorne, Joyce Clemmons spearheaded an effort to update and republish the book in color in 1995.

To read more, visit the church library to purchase or check out a copy of Memorial Windows.


Jeannie DortchJeannie Dortch joined FBC in 1974 after being lovingly mentored by the members of Buddy Hamilton’s Sunday school class. A grandmother of four, Jeannie has served as a deacon, taught in our children’s, youth, international, and adult Sunday school departments, but is presently a member of the WebClass. Recently retired from 16 years of teaching at Rudlin Torah Academy, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, tutoring New American students at Maybeury Elementary, and writing articles for FTF.

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