Windows to the Kingdom

The Windows of St. James

The stained glass windows that surround us on Sunday mornings are, for many people, a meaningful part of the experience of this church, during worship and also during times of quiet reflection. This book includes the primary windows, three along each side of the nave, one high above the main entry doors, a large tableau window at each end of the transept, and the three windows over the altar. These all participate, in vivid color and intricate detail, in the telling of stories about the life of Jesus. The language of visual art often expresses truths differently than the language of words. Through patient attention to the images, our understanding of the underlying truths is expanded.

The much-beloved windows over the altar have a different feeling from all the rest. They are of a style called Art Nouveau, which was contemporary with the period when our church was built, in 1895. These three windows were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany of New York, and installed at Easter, 1910. The rest of the windows are designed in the Gothic Revival style, which is also the style of the church architecture of St. James.

The pointed shape of each window is called a lancet, which corresponds to the space left by the pointed arch, for which this style is well known. The pictorial windows of the Gothic era present lifelike images of people, with lots of rich textural detail. The nature of the picturing, however, is highly stylized; they were not meant to copy the familiar world exactly, but instead to present a world full of symbols and messages that reward our attention endlessly. The Tiffany windows are also strongly recognizable images, but have a more fluid, mythical quality. Their garden landscape is even more unfamiliar to us as a place setting, though we feel at home. Its gentle, mysterious light is designed to draw us into the picture.

The Gothic revival windows were designed by the Jacoby Art Glass Company of St. Louis, and installed in 1948 in a church building which had, for its first 50+ years, had windows made of tiny diamond-shaped panes of clear golden glass. For many years, the Tiffany windows were the only pictorial windows in the church. Today we experience the images of all these windows as integral to the experience of St. James.

The Gothic windows were designed together, and they are meant to be seen together. They portray important and revealing moments about Jesus, typically quiet moments, and together they weave a larger portrait. The Tiffany windows use more subdued colors, and use different means of making symbols; and yet they too capture a vision of an excerpt of the Jesus story which harmonizes with the rest. Their tone contributes a quiet, meditative quality to our worship space.

As you visit with each of the windows, consider its relationship to the others, just as each separate story from scriptures contributes its ‘wisdom to a larger sense of Jesus’ earthly mission. These windows capture the spirit of that mission with images of extraordinary beauty and power.

Regarding the Original Publication:

Windows to the Kingdom was originally published in 1995 as an historical coloring book with pen-and-ink drawings of the windows in the nave and chancel of the church. Here is the introduction to that original publication:

Much of what Jesus taught concerned the Kingdom of God: what it is like, where we should search, how we should live in order that the Kingdom be realized. The Kingdom is close at hand, and yet it is elusive. The parables are full of metaphorical images of the Kingdom: mustard seed, wedding feast, vineyard, and many more. Images are powerful places to reflect, and to organize our inner lives. No images could be more appropriate to invoke a sense of what the Kingdom is, and a sense of wonder about what it could be, than images of the life of Jesus. We reflect on them, experience them with our own eyes, and gradually come to a closer understanding of ourselves, and how we, too, are in the picture.

These drawings of the stained glass windows of St. James Church are presented as an unfolding of the story of Jesus, in narrative sequence. Each window is accompanied by a small location map to direct you to it, as well as a brief passage from scriptures concerning the story of that window. Each also has a brief explanatory text. Please feel free to sit quietly in the church and reflect on the windows as you explore this book. Color these drawings with the colors of your own inner experience, and of the special qualities of daylight that enliven the church. Color them with crayons, markers, art pencils, and most especially, with love, as Christ loved us.

All scriptural passages are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the bible. This project reflects the contributions of:

  • photography: Fred Frey
  • text: Lynn Schlossberger
  • graphic renderings: Jo Craddock
  • inspiration: Holy Spirit

We dedicate this book to Stacey Gerhart, in recognition of her great gifts and boundless energy, and in gratitude for her ministry as Director of Christian Education at St. James Church. We will miss her, and wish her Godspeed. —Lent, 1995


Memorial Index

The windows in the church are dedicated to the Glory of God, and in loving memory of the following:

  • The Nativity - the deceased children of the church
  • Teaching in the Synagogue - Warren Russell Lobdell, Selser Robert Harmanson III
  • Baptism in the Jordan River -Annie Fuqua Boyd, Thomas Duckett Boyd
  • Healing the Sick - William Preston Barnes III
  • The Good Shepherd - Lelia Taylor Laycock, Susie Hamilton Bienvenu
  • The Transfiguration - Maria Louisa Beavin Wall
  • Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem - members of the church who lost their lives in World War II: William Preston Barnes III • John Cameron Miller Jr. • William Bryan Growson III • James Leonard Powell • Harry Peck Dugas • Henry Wallace Stopher Jr. • Albert Phillips Dyer • Joseph Thomas Howell Laycock • John Morton Henderson • Ernest George Venner • Compton Rust Hummell Jr.
  • Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane - Thomas Wilson Atkinson
  • Angel of the Resurrection - Eleanor Garig Connell, Elvira D. Garig
  • The Ascension - Dr. & Mrs. Lester Williams


Windows to the Kingdom Photos & Descriptions

The Nativity

The NativityThe scene surrounding the newborn Jesus at the manger is an unlikely one: peeking into the rustic farm structure we see learned travellers from foreign places, dressed in brightly colored robes and exotic ornament, bringing gifts of fragrant and rare resins, precious symbols of their home lands. They are standing side by side with local shepherds dressed in rough homespun tunics, crowding in, along with their sheep and donkeys. It is a scene of gentleness and wonder, shared without words by people who are strangers to each other, and will soon go separate ways. The faces of father and baby son, together with the small flame in the lantern, form a triangle, the sacred geometry of the Trinity.

This window was purchased with funds contributed by children of the Sunday School during the second world war, in memory of children who lost their lives during that war.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said, ‘’Do not be afraid, for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” When the angel had left them, and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this they made known what had been told them about: this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

—Luke 2:8-11, 15-18

Teaching in the Synagogue

Teaching in the SynagogueThis scene is a rare glimpse of Jesus in his youth. He is engrossed in discussion with the scholars in the Temple at Jerusalem, having wandered away from his family, who, noticing he was nowhere to be found among their travelling party, were undoubtedly frantic. Though only twelve, his body language suggests unusual confidence and authority. The faces of the elderly scholars suggest both intensity and interest, showing no difficulty in taking their young companion’s remarks seriously. A scribe appears to be taking his words down, an unusual gesture. Note that the furnishings and attire of the people are typical not of the time and geographic home of Jesus, but of Europe, and the medieval period; this is typical of Gothic art. The images are created in response to a deep feeling that the teachings are themselves timeless, always contemporary.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, ‘’Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

—Luke 2 : 46-49

Baptism in the Jordan River

Baptism in the Jordan RiverHere Jesus is pictured standing ankle-deep in the Jordan River, at the moment that John baptizes him with water. Note the sensitivity of this portrayal to elements of the physical environment. We are given numerous indications, for instance, that the water of the Jordan is cold. Jesus is wrapped in his cloak, but appears to be shivering and huddling down; and his feet, seen through the water, are very blue. In Gothic style, this use of color is clearly abstracted from observation: shallow water is clear, not blue; and the body does not really turn that color. We get the idea, however, quite vividly, that this was a powerful visceral event.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

—Matthew 3 : 13-17

Healing the Sick

Healing the SickThis is one of those moments of extreme vulnerability and trust when parents of a sick child, desperate for help, bring her to Jesus. His open gaze expresses vulnerability as well. It is a terribly important moment for the people involved, but in a sense a very indistinctive one. Scriptures are full of stories of healing; we do not necessarily know who these particular people are. The setting offers us few cues as to our location; and it really does not matter. Jesus behaves as if the request for healing were a very normal sort of social encounter; me expressions of the family members are full of concern. Faith is not portrayed as inconsistent with other familiar human emotions associated with a crisis.

When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age.) At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

—Mark 5:38-43

The Good Shepherd

The Good ShepherdThe image of Jesus as a good shepherd is a powerful symbolic expression of his ministry as a caregiver. Providing care for these sheep is clearly much more than a matter of watching out for their physical safety. The embrace of the tiny lamb is a truly poignant gesture, and a reciprocal one. The flock is portrayed as capable of sensing that they are cared for, and responding, in turn, with affection. The adult sheep cluster closely around the shepherd, and look outward together at the larger world.

Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think: If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of [he one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

—Matthew 18:10-14

The Transfiguration

The TransfigurationThis image uses a different vocabulary of color and style in representing Jesus than does any other window in the church. He is portrayed not robed in red, with familiarly human gestures and facial expressions, but rather glowing with strange light of no familiar color. His face shows powerful emotion, but it is cryptic to us, and his gaze is not with us. To either side of him, and subordinate, are the two legendary figures who appeared with him on the mountaintop at this extraordinary moment: Moses, to the left, who carries a carved stone tablet under his arm, and Elijah, the prophet, to the right, who carries a scroll. Three of the apostles, in the foreground, respond to a moment of unexpected intimacy with God, with all sorts of confusing emotion; one looks away, overwhelmed. In this window, the images of the three great mythic leaders are neither comforting nor frightening; the Transfiguration is portrayed as beyond human comprehension.

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with them. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

—Matthew 17:1-5

Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem

Triumphant Entry into JerusalemMost of the windows portray moments which are either solitary and powerful, or shared by only a few people. The arrival of Jesus at Jerusalem, riding a donkey along roads which his followers have covered with palm leaves, is different. Crowds are shown pressing dose to him, and even those who are in the distance are shown waving, expressing recognition. Energy is running high, and it is not an ordinary week in Jerusalem when a person of such celebrity rides into town. The city wall is given great visual prominence. Note how radical is the break between city and surrounding wilderness, and how dose they come to touching.

Just as this window portrays the community that surrounded Jesus, it was donated in memory of a group of parishioners caught up in the sweep of larger events: those who lost their lives in military service during the second world war.

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching me path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power they had seen, saying: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

—Luke 19:28,36-38

Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane

Praying in the Garden of GethsemaneA garden is an ambiguous place, neither wholly natural nor wholly invented. The natural landscape has been transformed by people, and yet it grows according to its own internal principles. A garden can be designed, but a wise gardener respects nature’s ways. The garden is shown here as a safe place of contemplation, a place where Jesus can allow the inner ambiguity, the tension between human desires and divine will, to work itself out. The energy of the storm cloud radiates toward him, and we understand that as symbolic of the charged experience of choosing to be present to God.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death: remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.”

—Mark 14:32-36

Angel of the Resurrection

Angel of the ResurrectionThis is a single composition which includes three windows, unusual in that each is separately framed in the faceted wall behind the altar. The central angel figure is symbolically connected to Resurrection by the prominent placement of white lilies in the naturalistic surroundings. The meaning of the angel’s gesture, arms apart, palms open, is supported by the upward glance: acceptance, and gentle sadness. As in the two garden images in the side windows, the setting is no familiar place. Both garden windows draw our attention deep into the landscape, through different kinds of pathways that are, in various ways, obscure to us, shadowy and winding, but inviting. The angel seems to be experiencing something powerful, requiring inner exploration. The gardens seem to invite us, symbolically, to some sort of exploration as well. Color is subdued; mostly earth tones are used. When a bold spot of color occurs, as in the white lilies or the deep purple of the far landscape, it is made very dramatic by contrast. The Resurrection itself is made present to us not directly, by picturing it, but by its imprint.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

—Luke 24:5

The Ascension

The AscensionThe placement of this window, high above the church entry doors, invites us to direct our eyes upward, much like the crowd of people portrayed in the lower part of the window on the left. Jesus is ascending, surrounded with clouds and light, in the upper right. Hands are extended, expressing discomfort with the parting, but helpless to prevent it. Here two windows side by side present one continuous picture. Were the window on the right to appear alone, Jesus would be symmetrically placed; but when supported with the window on the left, crowded with images of followers reaching for Jesus, creates a different and energetic kind of balance. We sense that in a moment, Jesus will have ascended above the picture, and the world will be suddenly out of balance.

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them nor to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘’This,’’ he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

—Acts 1:3-9