Friday, November 16, 2018

The Meaning of the Campanile Windows

The Meaning of the Campanile Windows

The Campanile Windows serve as an artistic interpretation of the central symbols in the Seal of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Celtic Cross – The cross is our reminder of the unmerited love and grace of Jesus Christ, as his life was given for us upon the cross.  Because it is empty, it also reminds us that death could not hold Jesus, that he vanquished death and sin and in him, we are promised life eternal.  The circle around the cross helps us remember that the Lord our God is One God – the Celtic cross has long been a symbol treasured by Presbyterians.

            The Descending Dove – We think of the Holy Spirit wherever we read of a dove in Scripture.  The olive branch points us to the salvation of Noah and his family at the time of the flood.  When John baptized Jesus in the River Jordan, Jesus saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove—and a voice from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” – Mark 1:10 & 11

            The Open Bible – is central to our worship and the Christian life.  We look to God’s written word, believing all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.  – 2 Timothy 3:16

            The Chalice of Communion – Points us toward the Upper Room, where Jesus took the cup, and after giving thanks, gave it to his disciples.  As we share the cup, we remember Christ, are blessed by His self-oblation, and look to the heavenly banquet He promises.

            The Burning Bush with Tongues of Fire – When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, he commissioned Moses to go and act according to God’s Word.  Throughout the history of the church, the burning bush has come to represent the ardor of the faithful, as they commit themselves to doing the Lord’s ministry and mission.

The Campanile Windows are an original design by Piercey Studios, Orlando, Florida

Thursday, November 15, 2018

“The Living Water Window”

“The Living Water Window”

-        An appreciation –

By Dr. John A. Dalles

In the Gospel of John, Chapter Four, we find the encounter between the woman of Samaria and Jesus Christ which is depicted in our new Sanctuary stained glass window.  It is to this Samaritan woman that Jesus speaks of giving “living water.”  He does not share this message with His disciples or with the women of his inner circle of followers, but only to one who was for all intents and purposes outside the covenant, on the fringe of acceptability.  This is why the two central figures of the window are shown in colorful detail.  This is how Christ meets each of us—individually—at the place of our deepest need.  All of the many other figures in the window are shown indistinctly and at a distance.  They are busy or distracted, going about their lives, moving in and out of the picture.  One figure, closer at hand, appears to be listening as the conversation unfolds.  That figure reminds us that an eyewitness overheard and then repeated the story to John the Evangelist, who recorded it forever in his Gospel. 

Jesus wears His seamless white robe—even on the darkest day, His presence is the brightness of any scene.  The Lord’s hand is outstretched, open, showing His willingness to give.  The woman is beautiful and well-dressed.  But notice she is garbed in somber tones, a visual metaphor of her solemn frame of mind.  She holds her empty water jar tightly, clasping it close to her with both of her hands.  The empty jar symbolizes the deep thirst of the woman’s soul. Even the ground around them is parched and dusty; it can support only the heartiest of scrub-like plants and weeds.  Beside the well are other jars—representing other souls—longing to be filled.

When Jesus talks about giving “living water” the expression connotes running water, or a spring of water.  This is shown in the woman’s reply.  It is as if she says to Jesus, “You cannot even draw well water—so how can you offer me spring water?”  But we who are privileged to listen and learn from their conversation understand that more is meant when Jesus speaks of giving “living water.”  The “more” that is meant is Jesus, Himself.  Living water comes from Christ alone.  Jesus is the only one who can give it.  In John 4:14 Jesus says,  “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up eternal life.”  And to Christ, the Samaritan woman answers: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”  This is the central moment in the longer conversation, as Jesus reaches out to someone on the margins of society and reveals to her the secret of the ages.  Jesus knows that within the human heart is a great spiritual thirst for God.  Jesus also understands that the only way we can quench that great spiritual thirst is by turning away from materialism and pleasure-seeking.              

The woman of Sychar had to go to the well every day.  She went, in the heat of the day.  She went alone—unwelcome among others. The woman of Sychar’s special needs may not have been the same as ours.  But like the Samaritan woman, we also long for:

“A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat
And the burdens of the day.”
-        Elizabeth C. Celphane, 1872

Just as water is indispensable for human life, so too Jesus is indispensable for salvation.  Christ’s life giving power is based on His purity and His holiness.  Jesus is the source of all that we need and Jesus can quench all that we are thirsting for.  Jesus brings life.  Jesus gives life.  Jesus is life.  By trusting Him, parched souls are refreshed in ways no ordinary water can accomplish.  There is a natural end to our search for a deeper and more meaningful life, and we find it as we enter into relationship with the Living God.  To be “in Christ” is for our souls to never be thirsty.  To be “in Christ” is to no longer have to keep coming to the well to draw water.

“Beside Still Waters” An Appreciation of our Old Testament Window

“Beside Still Waters”

An Appreciation of our Old Testament Window

by Dr. John A. Dalles

We are on safe ground when we say that the most beloved passage in the entire Old Testament is Psalm 23.  It is the Psalm to which we turn at every point in our faith journey, whenever we long for a reminder of God’s matchless love.

And we are never disappointed.  For, in the lines of Psalm 23 we find a profoundly moving hymn of praise, about the presence and loving-kindness of God, expressed in a word picture about a Good Shepherd and the sheep.  The psalmist understands our human condition, knowing that we are as fragile and in need of care as a small lamb.  So, we read immortal lines about the truth that God provides all the strength, protection and love that we need: 

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters.”
-        Psalm 23:1 & 2

Just think of it!—the blessedness and joy of being led by Almighty God.  What could be better than to be brought by God into hidden places of refreshment and renewal, safety and security, peace and promise—for this day, and forevermore.  No wonder the overwhelming sense of this window—as in the Psalm—is one of trust.  Notice how the rosy hues of early morning cast their glow across the skies.  See how the sheep gather close beside their Shepherd.  How lovingly they look at Him.  How thankfully they bend to find a cooling drink, or a tender blade of grass, or a moment of respite.

And look at the little lamb the Good Shepherd holds so tenderly in His arms.  The lamb represents all who depend upon Jesus—so put yourself there, in His encircling love.  The lamb recognizes and trusts the Good Shepherd.  And so do we.  We know Him to be Jesus.  Even though this is a window based upon the most beloved passage in the Old Testament, it also points us to the assurance of the New Testament.  For, throughout the New Testament we find Jesus telling His followers that His relationship to us is that of a Good Shepherd to his flock.  As the old hymn says:

“The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine for ever.”
  So, bask in the presence of the Good Shepherd.  Christ’s life-giving grace is with us, to lead us and guide us in all our paths.

            The window’s theme, “Beside Still Waters,” is a fitting reference to the name of our congregation. Twenty-five years ago, when this new congregation was just being formed, there was a question about what to call it.  The ultimate choice was “Wekiva Presbyterian Church.”  Those of us who live in this area have learned that “Wekiva” is a Native American term used to describe the “still waters” of our local river.  (And that if the one letter is changed from “v” to “w” it means “sweet” or “living” water).  The installation of our Old Testament window completes the Biblical allusions to dearly loved passages that are now represented in glorious lines and colors, to inspire all who worship or seek God’s presence in our Sanctuary.  How grateful we are for all who have made this lasting witness possible.

The Bovey Memorial and Honor Windows in the Chancel of Wekiva Presbyterian Church

The Bovey Memorial and Honor Windows

 The two matching windows came to us as a gift of Wekiva Presbyterian Church members, Mr. and Mrs. Myron “Mike” (Betty) Rosenberger.  Mike’s home church was being razed and they purchased the windows for Wekiva.  The windows are late Victorian in style, as befits the much older church building they formerly graced.

On the viewer’s left is the “Cross and Crown Window”.  These two symbols, when viewed together are indicative of Christ triumphant—the Empty Cross showing His victory over death and the Crown indicating His Kingdom which shall have no end.

On the viewer’s right is the “These Three Abide Window”.  The Bible stands open, presumably to I Corinthians Chapter 13, the Apostle Paul’s great hymn to love, in which we learn that the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity abide—and the greatest of these is Charity (or Love).  Also in the window can be seen an anchor, which was an early secret Christian symbol for the cross, and is always a symbol of salvation, hope and constancy.

Both windows bear inscriptions indicating their origins, the left “In Memory of Mrs. Mary E. Bovey” and the right “In Honor of Rev. H. A. Bovey”.  Research by Dr. Dalles indicates that The Rev. Henry A Bovey was born October 19, 1831 in Washington, Maryland, the son of Elizabeth Reinhart and Adam I. Bovey.  His wife Mary E. Stein Bovey was born in 1837 in Pennsylvania.  The Rev. Bovey had served a congregation in Virginia (where all six of their children were born) but by 1880 was serving a congregation in Blendon (near Columbus), Franklin County, Ohio, where he died in 1910.  They were the parents of three sons and three daughters.  The pair of windows was probably created after Mary’s death but before 1910.

It seems fitting that on every Sunday, Wekiva Presbyterian Church worshipers concentrate on the Cross flanked by these two windows, which together remind us of the cross and crown of our Lord, and the central virtues of Christian living.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Worship and World Communion Sunday - Origins of World Communion Sunday

Worship and World Communion Sunday
By John A. Dalles


It gleams like a polished jewel in the center of a compass, in the ivory-marble floor of the church’s Chancel.  It is a part of the history of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, a brass tablet which quietly reminds all who pause to read it:

World Wide Communion Sunday
Was originated in
Shadyside Presbyterian Church
By Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr
In 1933

               Each year on the first Sunday in October, faithful Christians in every land gather to unite at Christ’s table.  How fitting it is to note that we celebrate what began 64 years ago in “The Great Lantern” (the name the congregation has given t heir imposing Richardsonian Romanesque Sanctuary).  In the Depression days of 1933, with the storm clouds of Nazism and fascism hovering over Europe, it was a startling notion that sisters and brothers in Christ might transcend geographic, political, and theological barriers at the Lord’s Table.  Even today, the concept may seem like a distant, idealistic dream.  Yet the quest to eliminate walls separating Christ’s flock was not new to the people of what was and remains a benchmark Presbyterian congregation.  Their Senior Pastor, Dr. Kerr, was a pioneer in expanding tht Gospel in every sense of the word.

               Dr. Kerr’s illustrious Shadyside pastorate began in 1913 and lasted until 1945.  He was frequently the orator at academic and public functions.  When Lindbergh came to Pittsburgh, it was Dr. Kerr whose address welcomed him at a great banquet held by the city.  Any congregation with a radio or television ministry owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Kerr, who rightly understood that the world’s first radio station, KDKA Pittsburgh, could be the vehicle to utilize the achievements of technology for the glory of God.  The church’s worship services were the first anywhere to be broadcast by radio.  The first radio message broadcast to the Arctic was from Shadyside on Christmas Sunday evening 1922, as was the first church service broadcast to Little America, on Easter Sunday morning, 1929.  Dr. Kerr wrote 20 books, including A God Centered Faith, The Christian Sacraments, and Preaching int eh Early Church, as well as material for A Year with the Bible, a daily Bible guide which circulated for 50 years.  Dr. Kerr was also the author of the noble hymn text “God of Our Life, Through All the Circling Years”, written for the Fiftieth Anniversary of Shadyside in 1916.

               What happened that first World Wide Communion Sunday?  What hymns were sung?  What scripture was heard?  The Rev. Dr. F. Moran Roberts, immediate past Senior Pastor of Shadyside, recalls that on three occasions he searched the vast church archives for an original bulletin that might answer these questions.  All three times, it managed to elude him.  “Yet.” Says, “Davitt S. Bell (the late Clerk of Session and church historian who in1930 accompanies Dr. Kerr in his travels as Moderator of the General Assembly) was a credible witness who said that Dr. Kerr conceived this notion during his moderatorial year.”  Dr. Kerr’s younger son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Craig Kerr, pastor emeritus of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD, who was 16 in 1933, recalls that World Wide Communion Sunday grew out of the Division of Stewardship of the church, in an attempt to bring churches together in a service of unity where everyone would receive both inspiration and information and, above all, know how important the church was, and how each church was tied to the other.  When asked how the idea spread from that first service to the world acceptance of today, he said, “The concept spread very slowly at the start.  People did not give it a whole lot of thought.  It was perhaps during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together.  World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together in a spiritual sense.  It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

               The compass design in the Chancel in which the commemorative plaque rests (crated during extensive renovations in 1937), is an unusual ecclesiastical symbol which speaks of the growing significance of World Communion in that ear.  The Hymnal of 1933 was new that first World Wide Communion Sunday, and offered worship planners a fine selection of hymns as: “In Christ There is No East or West,” “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life,” “Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun”, “Christ for the World We Sing,” “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains”, “From Ocean Unto Ocean”, as well as these words of Christian unity in John W. Chadwick’s hymn, penned in 1864, but as stirring today:
“Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round
Of circling planets singing on their way,
Guide of the nations form the night profound
Into the glory of the perfect day:
Rule in our hearts, that we may ever be
Guided and strengthened and upheld by Thee.

We are of Thee the children of Thy love
Our brother is Thy well-beloved Son;
Descend, O Holy Spirit, like a dove
Into our hearts, that we may be as one;
As one with Thee, to whom we ever tend;
As one with Him, our Savior and our Friend.

We would be one in hatred of all wrong,
One in our love of all things sweet and fair,
One with the joy that breaketh into song,
One with the grief that trembles into prayer,
One in power that makes thy children free,
To follow truth and thus to follow Thee” (alt. JAD)

(The article, reprinted by permission, continues with mention of innovations regarding World Communion Sunday at the time of its writing, 1997)

Afterword: Today at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, on World Communion Sunday, the pastors wear pectoral discs that repeat the words of the brass tablet in the Chancel floor.   In 2018, Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s associate pastor John Magnuson again searched the church archives in hope of finding early records of the observation of World Wide Communion there.  He was rewarded with a bulletin from World Wide Communion Sunday on October 1 1939.  The sermon was titled "The Amazing Significance of a World Wide Communion Service."  Rev. Kerr's hymn “God of Our Life” was the opening hymn.

Please note, there had been a link that is now broken, to this article.  I am citing the link here, in the hope that people will find this post when they search for the article:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

World Communion Sunday Origins - Written in 1997

The practice of celebrating World Communion Sunday on the first Sunday in October began as part of a stewardship emphasis in a local Presbyterian Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the Great Depression.

This article presents information I researched in 1997 about the origins of World Communion at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in 1933, as printed in the wonderful but no longer in publication journal called "Church Worship".

Simply click on each photo, and you will be able to read each page easily.

Please note, there had been a link that is now broken, to this article.  I am citing the link here, in the hope that people will find this post when they search for the article:

World Communion Sunday Sermon 2018
By the Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles
Pastor of Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida

For this year’s World Communion Sunday “Peace and Global Witness” offering, Dr. John A. Dalles, pastor of Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida, was asked by the PC(USA) Presbyterian Mission Agency to write a s sermon to go with the 2018 theme: “Peace at all Times”

This is also the sermon that Dr. Dalles will be preaching at his congregation on World Communion Sunday, October 7, 2018.