The Windows of St. John's

Article Index

The Church History Window

POWELL MILLS DAWLEY in Chapters in Church History says,

The immediate challenge presented to the Church in each generation is to bring the redemptive power of the Christian Gospel into the historical situation in which men live ... Church history, then, is the story of God's redemptive activity among men.

This window is not only to remind us of God's redemptive activity in the past, but to help us realize its relevance for us today.

The history of the Church is replete with dramatic events. Men fought, bled and died in upholding great moral principles and in witnessing to their Christian faith.

The central medallion shows the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles on the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.

And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind . . . And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit...(Acts 2:1-4)

They went forth to preach the Good News of a new life for all believers and the Church began to grow and spread throughout the world.

The bottom left panel is a meeting of the Council of the Church about 48 A.D. in Jerusalem, presided over by James. Two great issues were before the Council: (1) Should Gentile converts be made to pass through the Jewish ritual before being admitted into the Christian fellowship; (2) Should Jewish Christians eat with Gentile Christians. The Council said "No" to the former and "Yes" to the latter. If the answer had been "No" to the second issue it would have divided the Church into two separate groups and rendered futile the vision of one universal Church. In the Christian fellowship all races and nationalities are one in Christ Jesus.

The panel at the bottom right carries us to the Council of Nicea, 325 A.D. It met in the presence of the Roman Emperor Constantine who had embraced Christianity. The great issue centered around the nature of Jesus. Who was he? The issue was settled with the adoption of the Nicene Creed:

"He is God of God; Light of Light; Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; .... "

The panel above the Council of Jerusalem shows St. Augustine (354-430) writing The City of God.

Opposite this panel on the right is a historical scene in the 13th century. St. Francis of Assisi is shown kneeling before Pope Innocent III. Under him the papacy reached its highest actual worldly power. By contrast we have in St. Francis the humility and devotion of a true disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ who came not to wield secular authority, but to rule men's hearts by love and through them to bring justice and peace to all mankind.

The upper left panel shows Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the village church in Wittenberg in 1517 and setting the fires of the Reformation which was to light the way for those great communions of Lutherans, Anglicans and Presbyterians.

Across the window on the right we have Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, author of The Book of Common Prayer, first issued in 1549. Under Henry VIII and Edward VI Cranmer was very active in the Protestant movement in England. When Mary came to the throne in 1553 Protestantism was banned; Cranmer was thrown in prison; many Protestants were put to death; others fled the country; the Prayer Book was banned. Cranmer was excommunicated and pressured into signing a recantation denying Protestantism. But on the day of his execution by burning, March 21, 1556, his courage returned and as the flames leaped upon him he put into them first the hand by which he had signed the recantation.

At the bottom of the window is shown the Rt. Rev. Charles H. Brent speaking before the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910. This marked the beginning of the Ecumenical Movement, an outstanding characteristic of the Church in the 20th century.

There are many symbols in the border and background associated with the seasons of the Church year. Also there are shown the flags of those countries where the Anglican Communion has established (by 1960) independent national churches.

At the apex is shown the serene victorious Christ with arms outstretched in blessing his Church. Beneath is the dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church and in the heart of each member; for all are members of his Body, the Church, and individually members one of another.

This window was Given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of George William Sharpe by his wife and daughter. Dedicated December 18, 1960.