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Posts Tagged ‘stained glass windows’

Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photographs by Dean Hawthorne.

I have always been drawn to the stained glass windows in our sanctuary.  Everything about them intrigues me, from the decorative and colorful Doric Greek designs that surround them to the stories behind their creation and the scriptures chosen to accompany each one. Dr. Theodore F. Adams spearheaded the window project in the late 1940s, his vision inspired by Psalm 90:17, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of thy hands.”

Establish the work of our hands.
For close to seventy years, the stained glass windows on the east and west of our sanctuary have illuminated the story of Christ’s life and of His modern church. The upper windows follow Jesus from the prophecies of His birth to His ascension while the lower panels correlate with the windows above them to reflect how present-day worshipers live out Christ’s example.

Efforts are underway to refurbish these 26 windows. Since their installation, there has never been any regularly scheduled maintenance. The Premises Team has determined the windows have thermal and structural deterioration that needs to be addressed. With the restoration of the sanctuary complete, the need to protect the stained glass windows for generations to come has become paramount.

Given the significance of these windows to our Church, an opportunity has arisen to help offset the expense of this preservation. If the window repairs are funded through the capital expense budget, the project will have to be completed over two to three years. But, if the congregation underwrites the preservation, it can be finished sooner, will cost less, and the capital budget can be used for many other identified capital needs.

A committee has been commissioned by the deacons to encourage the congregation to sponsor the restoration of a window by an individual, family, Sunday school class, or other group. The restoration may be in memory or honor of a loved one, special person or group. The price to refurbish each of the 26 windows is $7,500, a goodly sum to be sure, but contributions of smaller amounts are encouraged and will be gratefully received.

A plaque commemorating and recognizing the donor and honoree of each restored window will be placed beside the original giver’s designation under each window. For those who contribute smaller amounts towards the restoration, a congregational designation will appear on the plaque next to the original. When the windows are rededicated, all donor names will appear in that day’s bulletin.

window detail

Window within a window: This detail cleverly depicts the artisans who crafted The Work of Our Hands window for our sanctuary.

Author’s notes: Detailed information and a submission form are in flyers on the church kiosks. Requests for a particular window will be handled on a first come, first served basis. Checks payable to FBC with “Window Preservation” on the memo line can be put in the offering plate or mailed to FBC, 2709 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23220. To make other payment arrangements or ask questions, contact Becky Wills in the Finance Office, 804-355-8637, ext. 152.

Photographs and brief descriptions of all the sanctuary windows are in the Memorial Windows booklet written by Dr. Adams and available in the church library. Additional information for some of the windows is found in First Things First.

Windows Restoration Committee: Nancy Chewning, Virginia Darnell, Jeannie Dortch, Paul Kreckman, Richard Szucs and Charles Tilley.

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By Jeannie Dortch.

Jim Somerville reminds First Baptist Church members frequently that there are a thousand ways to bring heaven to earth, in Richmond and throughout the world. One of them is giving to FBC’s Endowment Fund. This Fund was established in 1913 with small gifts left by two members who foresaw the potential their generosity held for the future.

Woods and MCV Wood Memorial Building

Dr. Judson Wood and his wife, Mrs. Bettie Davis Wood. An unexpected windfall from FBC member, Judson B. Wood, allowed the Medical College
of Virginia to build their School of Dentistry’s Wood Memorial Building.
The building was dedicated January, 1954.
Photos from http://www.dentistry.vcu.edu/pdfs/winter2008_mag.pdf.

In 1938, the Endowment’s resources increased considerably with Bettie Davis Wood’s bequest of more than $1,000,000. This gift, however, was not initially earmarked for FBC. The story of how it came to the church demonstrates the effect of seemingly unconnected events.

An unpopular professor at Richmond College (now the University of Richmond) was fed up with one particular prank. His students persisted in bringing a small dog to class. One day, strained to his limit, the professor ordered the dog dropped out the window, a distance of about ten feet to the ground. Knowing this to be a possibility, the students had asked a cohort to stand guard under the window. The dog was safely caught, but the incident was reported to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Dr. Judson Wood, husband of Bettie Wood, was a graduate of Richmond College, president of its Alumnae Association, one of the first graduate dentists to practice in Richmond, and also president of the local chapter of the SPCA. Incensed by the dog incident, he felt duty-bound to sue his alma mater. Since the dog was not injured, the court dismissed the case, but Dr. Wood cut off all relations with Richmond College, an intended beneficiary, and changed his will. At his death, over a million dollars was left to the Medical College of Virginia instead of Richmond College.

A million bucks out the window

Photo by Dean Hawthorne. “The Annunciation to Mary” is one of two windows dedicated “In Grateful remembrance of Dr. and Mrs. Judson Wood” by the First Baptist Church Endowment Fund. It is located on the east side of the main floor of the Sanctuary and is the second window from the Monument Avenue entrance.
Its companion window, “The Gifts of God,”
is in the corresponding position in the balcony.

Efforts by Frederick W. Boatwright, president of Richmond College, to conciliate Mrs. Wood and win back her favor – and money – proved fruitless. Mrs. Wood, a lifelong member of FBC, was married to Dr. Wood for 47 years. With no children of their own, the Woods focused much of their service on their church, which she chose as her beneficiary. When she died in 1938, Mrs. Wood bequeathed more than one million dollars to FBC. It was only after Mrs. Wood’s death that President Boatwright, also an FBC member, shared this story of how the Woods’ fortune was tossed out the window.

Author’s note: Pamphlets related to the history and ministries supported by the Endowment Fund can be found in the church kiosks. 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.

Editor’s note: According to FBC Endowment Board President Carl Johnson, this fund began with small donations and grew with gifts from the Woods and many others. It expressed its appreciation for the Woods’ gift and service with the dedication of two windows in the sanctuary, “The Annunciation to Mary” and its companion, “The Gifts of God” in 1949. The Endowment Fund continues to help First Baptist fulfill its mission, giving away $22,000,000 in just the past 20 years.


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. A retired teacher, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, ringing bells with FBC’s newly formed senior adult Joy Ringers directed by Ruth Szucs, and writing articles for FTF.

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By Jeannie Dortch. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

Ellen Dick and Ford White met in 1979 and were married a short year later. Everyone who knew the couple believed they were a “perfect match.”

calloutEllen had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and though in remission for most of their thirteen year marriage, Ellen and Ford decided against having children. Instead, Ellen began what would define her as a caregiver: She volunteered in FBC’s nursery department on Sunday mornings. Soon Ford found joy in joining her.

A lifelong Christian, “Ellen Dick White was selfless in her commitment to make sure that all the children she taught had an exceptional experience while in her care,” commented Lucy Dorr, Minister of Preschool Education from 1990-1995. “When Ellen died in 1992, those of us who worked with her wanted to remember Ellen in a special way.”

In 1993, FBC embarked on a massive building-wide renovation project that included the construction of a children’s educational wing. What better way to remember Ellen than with a stained glass window dedicated to her memory and representing the fastest growing population in the congregation.

"Jesus and the Children" window

“Jesus and the Children” window

With donations collected from Ellen’s co-workers, Lucy commissioned Shelton Stained Glass in Ashland, Virginia to make “Jesus and the Children.” This newest of FBC’s stained glass windows illustrates a line from a children’s hymn – “Ev’ry color, ev’ry race, all are covered by His grace.” It is located at the entrance of the children’s wing off the first floor corridor and positioned low enough so that children can touch it, per Lucy’s instructions.

Max Cumbia, who worked with Ellen and Ford for eleven years, remembers her as “faithful, loyal, gentle, and soft-spoken. She seemed to have such a heart-to-heart connection with the babies that we just knew that they felt secure and loved in her care. And to see Ford get down on his knees to work with the little ones was magical. Both had a calming influence on each child they embraced.”

Ford and Ellen White

Ford and Ellen White (1990 church directory)

Ellen never knew that her service would be rewarded in such a memorable way. The “Jesus and the Children” window is a tribute to her, Ford, and others who give their time and affection to those whose Christian formation is paramount to the future of FBC and beyond.

Currently, in Sunday school and TLC (extended session) combined, 67 volunteers are needed in the preschool and children’s departments. To give your gift of time and affection, contact Candi Brown, FBC’s Children’s minister. She will help you find a place where another love story may begin.

Author’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.

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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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By Jeannie Dortch. Photo by Dean Hawthorne.

Congregational growth is welcome and healthy to be sure, but when church membership grows, renovation is inevitable. By 1941, First Baptist Church had not only extended the Sanctuary, but had also enlarged the Memorial Chapel in order to seat 160. Used for small weddings and funerals, it was located in what is now the FBC bookstore and library. The original ceiling decoration and art glass windows still remain.

A small but inspirational stained glass window, “Christ in Gethsemane,” was designed by the Willet Studio in Philadelphia to be the Chapel’s focal point. It told the story of Christ beseeching God’s will for Himself, His beloved Jerusalem and His disciples.

Christ in Gethsemane window

"Christ in Gethsemane" window in the Chapel chancel.

It was widely believed that these architectural advances would be sufficient to maintain congregational growth throughout the next quarter century. By 1953, however, overflow crowds in the newly renovated Sanctuary had to be ushered into the Chapel for the 11:00 a.m. service, and parking was creating problems for the city. In 1964, the Sanctuary was extended again to seat 1,100 and an addition was added to the Mulberry Street side of the building that would house a new chapel capable of seating 340.

Unable to enlarge “Christ in Gethsemane,” but needing to install the window on a much larger wall behind the new chapel pulpit, the Willet Studio designed a stained glass border replete with symbolism related to prayer. The broad frame was rendered using a technique that incorporated 23 karat gold on lead to divide the figures, producing a brilliant effect, be it night or day. Along the top and the bottom of the border are Old Testament giants of prayer: Moses, Samuel, David, and Isaiah. The side panels are reserved for various symbols of the words and images from the Lord’s Prayer.

Today, the Chapel is used for the deaf ministry, for prayer and healing services, and remains a popular venue for intimate weddings and small funeral services.

Editor’s note:  To learn more about the stained glass windows in the Sanctuary and the Chapel, visit the FBC library to check out a copy of Memorial Windows by Theodore F. Adams.


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 attends the WebClass 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. Family photo by Paul Bickford.

“Suddenly an angel appeared among them, and the landscape shone bright with the glory of the Lord” Luke 2:9 (The Living Bible).

Tilley Christmas card - 2010 edition

Tilley Christmas card - 2010 edition

Every year before December, Charles Tilley gets out his pencils and watercolors and begins working on his annual gift to relatives and friends—a hand-painted Christmas card. Since his college days at Clemson University in the early 1990s, Charles has been sending religiously themed Christmas cards as a way of keeping in touch and sharing the love of God in Christ.

“I started with simple line drawings of a Christmas theme,” Charles explained. “Angels mainly, but gradually I looked for nativity type scenes and made black and white line drawings of them. In 1997, I started adding color to the drawings, and then, when our daughter Emma started preschool at First Baptist Church, I began a series of paintings based on the stained glass nativity scenes in the sanctuary windows. There is so much depth and symbolism in our windows, and I have learned a lot from studying them.”

Tilley Christmas card - 2000 edition

Tilley Christmas card - 2000 edition

Over the years, Charles, an architect with BCWH Architects, has painted many windows in churches around the city, including the chapel at the University of Richmond and Grace and Holy Trinity, Saint Stephens and All Saints Episcopal Churches. “Richmond has a lot of great religious art if you look for it,” he says.

After taking a photograph of the window he likes, he makes a line drawing of it, and then paints with watercolors. “I am still developing as a painter since I only do this once a year, and trying to capture the light that brings these windows alive is the hardest part.”

Tilley Christmas card - 2001 edition

Tilley Christmas card - 2001 edition

“This is a wonderful way for Charles to express his faith in a way that he enjoys,” commented Charles’ wife, Gwen, during an interview. Charles added, “It wasn’t intentional, but it turned out to be a way I could celebrate the talents that God has given me in a way that feels really comfortable.”

Charles and Gwen work together to match each card’s painting with an appropriate scripture greeting that appears inside the card each year. And in 2000, Emma, Virginia, and Mae, the Tilley’s three daughters, added their own artistic flair to the annual family gift by each painting a picture of a Christmas angel on the back of the cards. “It has been interesting to witness the girls’ artistic progression, as well as my own,” remarked Charles. “They have become better than I am at mixing and blending color.” Thinking about the hallway gallery at home that displays all the cards they have painted together, Emma said, “It wouldn’t be Christmas without this family project. I would have it no other way.”

Tilley Christmas card - 2004 edition

Tilley Christmas card - 2004 edition

Charles continued, “Stained glass is a beautiful art form, but it’s art that is activated by a natural source that changes and moves throughout the day. As the intensity of light changes, the colors adjust and reveal details that may not be apparent otherwise. It reminds me of how the Holy Spirit enlivens us as Christians. When we let the full light of Christ shine through us, we reveal the beauty of who we are, the craftsmanship of our creator, and the impact that we can have on the world.”

Charles’ impact on those he loves has been profound. And he trusts that God will continue to use his talent as he strives to grow artistically and spiritually each year.

Tilley family

Tilley family

Author’s note: It is unusual to find families in which multiple generations have consistently attended the same church. Charles and his wife, Gwen, members of FBC since 2003, are among the few. Gwen is the daughter of Carolyn Land and the granddaughter of Mae Martin. And the Tilley’s three daughters, Emma, Virginia, and Mae, make up the fourth generation of this family that calls FBC home. But, Gwen can trace her FBC heritage all the way back to Joshua Morris, pastor from 1780-1786. Charles and Gwen attend the Disciples Sunday School Class.


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 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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