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Posts Tagged ‘stained glass window’

Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Dean Hawthorne and Janet Chase.

God sent his messenger, a man named John, who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe. He himself was not the light; he came to tell about the light. This was the real light – the light that comes into the world and shines on all people (John 1:6-9, GNT).

Art has always been a beautiful means of storytelling, and stained glass windows remain a relevant way to engage and relate church history and faith’s meaning to those who view them. In the late 1940s First Baptist Church installed correlating stained glass windows around the sanctuary above and below the balcony. The upper windows depict the life of Christ; the lower windows tell stories of the life and work of the church as they relate to the panels directly above them.

One upper panel depicts John the Baptist, a nomadic Jewish preacher and a major religious figure in Christianity, Islam, Baha’i Faith, and Mandaeism. He is called a prophet by all of these traditions, and a saint by many Christians. Baptists remember him as Jesus’ cousin whose wilderness mission was to make followers ready for the coming of the Messiah through repentance of sins. At the end of his life, John was imprisoned for his beliefs.

Light the Way
The lower panel portrays the earliest Virginia Baptist preachers who were jailed for preaching the gospel without a license from the Church of England, a requirement unchanged until 1786. While incarcerated, pastors continued to spread the Good News to anyone who would gather around the jail windows to listen. Disgruntled jailers built high fences to keep the curious away, but one prisoner waved a handkerchief on a stick to draw crowds closer as he preached even louder to be heard. Many who disagreed with them cut and maimed the hands of pastors who held their hands or Bibles through the bars. Yet these men of God persisted fearlessly to instill Jesus’ words written on this window, “Know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Light the Way
The imprisoned pastors in the stained glass portrait never stopped reaching out to change hearts. These pastors and John the Baptist suffered to make earth a little more heavenly. For me, catching their vision and risking loss to help others find this freedom is part of our mandate as Christians. Ann Carter reflected on her recent experience as a volunteer in Croatia, “We live in a world where religion is a source of conflict, division and hatred. The Croatian police and NGOs we worked with were surprised to learn that we were abroad without an agenda other than to love people. Baptists do not have a corner on this loving-people market. All people of faith need to stand up and shine a light of compassion, justice and generosity in our world.”

Editor’s note: These two windows are located on the Mulberry Street side of the Sanctuary, the first 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.

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.

Light of the World window

The Light of the World window. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

In 1943, many of FBC’s membership served in World War II. The congregation sent them packages and letters, a calendar of church activities and events, and “prayed without ceasing” for these brave volunteers. But the congregation wanted to thank them in a more concrete and visible way. The Payne Spiers Studio of Paterson, New Jersey was hired to design and install a Tiffany-style stained glass window to honor them. Known as “Christ at the Door” or “The Light of the World,” and based on the 1854 painting by English artist Holman Hunt, it hung in the balcony facing the pulpit but could also be seen from the street on the Monument Avenue side of the building. The contours of the glass actually mimicked the folds of Christ’s garments and the inscription under the picture read:

“To those who served and sacrificed
That mankind might be free
To live and worship in His light.”

In 1943, after the installation of the window, a color copy of it was sent to each of the men and women who were serving at the time. There is a plaque in the narthex listing the names of all 521. As a frame of reference, the average number of FBC members in the armed services whose names appear presently on the prayer list each day is about 10.

WWII memorial plaque

Richmond's First Baptist Church WWII memorial plaque. Photos by David Powers.

During a remodeling of the sanctuary in January 1965, painters working in the balcony laid drop cloths over the flood lights that illuminated “Christ at the Door.” Finished for the day and not realizing that the lights came on automatically at dusk, the workmen left their drop cloths in place. The heat from the lamps during the late afternoon ignited a fire; by the time the fire was put out, the window was severely damaged. By June, the window had been restored using the finest craftsmanship available at the time, but without the contouring technique that had made the original glass so exceptional. The new window was given by his family in memory of T. Justin Moore, a life deacon and deacon chair from 1935-1955.

Sacrifice window

Sacrifice window. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

The significance of World War II in the lives of FBC’s members continued to be profound. In the series of windows on the lower west side of the sanctuary is “Sacrifice,” installed in 1947. Designed by Katharine Tait Lamb of the Lamb Studios in Tenafly, New Jersey (currently in Wyckoff, NJ), and based on input from Pastor Theodore F. Adams, it is a dramatic rendering of men on the battlefield. It was meant to compliment the “Crucifixion” window in the balcony above and commemorate the gift of life given in the spirit of Him who “Loved us and gave Himself for us.”

Tom Peason

Tom Pearson

The oldest of the survivors who served at the time the foyer plaque was made, and one of four remaining FBC members whose names appear on it, is Tom Pearson. A native of South Carolina, Tom had been in the food business before joining the Army. His skills were utilized in food procurement for base cooks in South Carolina, but he also taught soldiers the art of battlefield camouflage in Georgia before his three year stint ended. “Doing something for the country made me feel very good, but leaving my family for that long was hard.”

Linwood Broach

Linwood Broach

Linwood Broach, a friend and contemporary of Tom Pearson, is the only one of the four who actually served overseas during the war. He fought with the 3rd Army’s 328th Tanker Division under General George S. Patton Jr. In 1944 Linwood was shot in the head while fighting on the German-French border and received the Purple Heart for his bravery under fire. Dr. Theodore Adams, FBC pastor from 1936 to 1968, worked with the Red Cross to find him in a Swiss hospital. After his recovery, Linwood returned to the field and continued to serve until the end of the war.

Dickie Hamilton

Dickie Hamilton

“The patriotic intensity was inspirational to every soldier, sailor and pilot,” said Dickie Hamilton, whose name also appears on the plaque. President Roosevelt had established a civilian aviation program that was open to college students. In the summer of 1941, while a student at Washington and Lee University, Dickie took a course at Byrd Field to become an aviator. Highly motivated to participate, he dropped out of college in 1943, joined the Navy, and graduated from the Pensacola, Florida naval installation as a Navy pilot in five months. He was a member of a squadron that was being trained to fly on and off the SS Roosevelt, being built at the time. His group trained and patrolled off three different carriers in the Atlantic Ocean guarding the US coast while waiting for their chance to go overseas. The war ended before the SS Roosevelt was commissioned.

Don Fergusson

Don Fergusson

“I’m not a hero,” commented Don Fergusson when asked about his service in WW II. “I was drafted into the army eleven days after I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, and because I had played in the band, I was not given the choice to go overseas. I played my trumpet and performed in parades throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. I was glad to serve because of the significance of the war to everyone in the United States.” Maintaining patriotic fervor and attention to the war effort was paramount at the time. A noteworthy part of Don’s job was to play at train depots as soldiers were leaving for and returning from combat.

These WW II memorial windows continue to be apt tributes to all who fight for freedom around the world.

Editor’s note: 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.


Jeannie Dortch

Jeannie 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 attends the Journey class presently. 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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By Jeannie Dortch.

University Baptist Church, Charlottesville, VA

University Baptist Church. Photo from UBC website.

In 2010, Peter James Flamming, pastor of First Baptist Church from 1983-2006, was asked to speak at University Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Never having been there before, Dr. Flamming was taken aback upon entering the sanctuary. He was inside a smaller version of the Richmond sanctuary, from the balcony to the stained glass portrait of Jesus’ baptism above the baptistery. He later learned that the same Virginia architects designed both buildings and that the Payne Spiers Studio of Paterson, New Jersey had been commissioned to make the same stained glass window to hang behind the pulpit. FBC was built in 1928 and UBC, in 1929. This unexpected surprise made Dr. Flamming feel right at home!

The Baptism of Jesus window

The Baptism of Jesus. Photo by David Powers.

But feeling at home in the FBC pulpit on Monument was destined to be only a dream for George White McDaniel, pastor of FBC from 1905-1927. Dr. McDaniel had invested much of his time and energy overseeing the plans for the new church building, but died just four months before the first worship service on December 10, 1928.

In Dr. McDaniel’s honor and memory, his family commissioned the Payne Spiers Studio to design and make The Baptism of Jesus, the Tiffany style stained glass window behind the pulpit. As a beautiful symbol, the window promised a new life – whether buried with Christ as was Dr. McDaniel or raised to serve Christ as FBC members would continue to do from their new location at Monument Avenue and The Boulevard. The Baptism of Jesus is the oldest and probably most familiar window of the twenty-five portraiture windows that hang in the church.

Editor’s note: 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.


Jeannie Dortch

Jeannie 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 attends the Journey class presently. 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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