Our Stained Glass
Rededication of Stained Glass Windows
Thanksgiving Sunday, 11/20/94
Rev. Dr. Kenneth R. Downes
This scripture reading from Colossians talks about being encouraged in our faith as we hear stories of courage and perseverance of the saints of the church who have come before us. Unlike our Roman Catholic friends, Baptists don’t have patron saints. Yet, whether we like it or not, we have all drawn hope and encouragement from the faithful brothers and sisters who have given witness to Jesus Christ over the 173 year history of this congregation. This morning we are going to give thanks for some of those long departed saints as we rededicate our newly renovated stained glass windows. Before I begin I need to say a hearty thank you to all the members of the congregation who have supported our capital fund campaign that made the restoration of these windows possible. Also, I want to say thank you to Lynda Fisher who spent hours and hours doing the historical research for me on all the people in these windows that I am going to tell you about. Thank you Lynda for a job well done!
Refrain: The _______Window, a piece of our history: “May we be strengthened and encouraged by the witness of these saints”.
Let me start giving you some information about the construction of the windows in general. Although I will mention our Good Shepherd Window later, all of my remarks this morning will be limited to 6 windows on the North and South sides of the church. These windows are Victorian/Edwardian designs typical of the turn of the century. The stained glass is primarily opalescent, an American invention of LaFarge and Tiffany. The studio that constructed the windows is unknown (they are not signed, nor do our church records report the artist). These windows were installed in 1887 at a total cost o the church of $250. An insurance review in 1992 revealed that the current replacement value of all our stained glass windows would be approximately $100,000. (Trust me, we have them properly insured.)
To Your left, next to the piano is the Star Window. The Star lighting the darkness of the heavens at night; it is the symbol of divine guidance or favor. The Star of the East, often seen in pictures of the Magi, was the star that guided the wise men to Bethlehem and stood in the sky over the manger where Christ was born.
DEACON ABLE FLAGG was a very important man in the life of this church. In fact, he is immortalized in this picture give to the church in 1902. (A rather stoic and severe looking man). He was the son of the founders of the church. In fact, he married Eliza Lapham, the daughter of William Lapham, who is over on that first window. I guess romance blossomed even in the youth groups way back then. Deacon Flagg’s name appears quite frequently when it came time to do repair or painting at the church or the parsonage. He also appears to have been of the church diplomats in that he was often sent out to resolve grievances, to carry out internal discipline, or to be the bearer of bad news. In January of 1861 the clerk’s minutes report that he was chosen to confer with the pastor on the matter of his resignation. The records show that Rev. Lamson did conclude his ministry just three months later in April. Abel died in March of 1904 at the age of 90.
DEACON SOLOMON STILLMAN FLAGG—Nephew of Abel Flagg. Solomon is the person who built the current house on old Dell Dale Farm. Solomon, like this uncle, was very active in this church serving as Moderator, Trustee, Treasurer, Collector, and Deacon. He died one year before his Uncle at age 72 and is buried here in Littleton.
THE STAR WINDOW, A PIECE OF OUR HISTORY: “MAY WE BE STRENGHTENED AND ENCOURAGED BY THE WITNESS OF THESE SAINTS.”
The “CE” icon in the middle window does not stand for Christian Education, but rather, “Christian Endeavor,” – a society begun by a pastor’s wife in Portland Maine in 1881. It was a nondenominational structure which flourished to lover ½ million world wide. As late as 1989 it was still a “major force” in India. Christian Endeavor began to fade away during the middle third of this century with the rise of denominationalism. In this church, the YPSCE was replaced with BYF or “Baptist Youth Fellowship”.
THE CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOR WINDOW, A PIECE OF OUR HISTORY: “MAY WE BE STRENGHTNED AND ENCOURAGED BY THE WITNESS OF THESE SAINTS”.
The symbol in the sixth window is the Bible. The Bible represents God’s Word, God’s communication with humanity and the source of our faith and practice. It is significant that the Bible is open, signifying the availability of God’s Word to anyone who seeks to know God. Four names are listed on this window:
JOSEPH EDWARDS—We know very little about Joseph. He was born in 1812, served as collector and treasurer, and died in 1882 at the ages of 70 leaving the church a legacy of $1,500, a very sizable gift for that time.
DANIEL FLAGG – Born in 1775, one year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Daniel was one of the orginial members of the church. Father of Abel Flagg and Grandfather of Solomon Stillman Flagg. For most of his life he lived in North Littleton, near Spectacle Pond, then at the Dell Dale farm. He died in Littleton in 1858 at the age of 83.
MARY GILSON HAGER – Born in Lowell in 1842, Died in Littleton in December of 1899 at age 57. The church clerk wrote this brief sentence following her funeral service. “She had led a deep consecrated life which had an influence on those around her.”
BETSY CRAGIN TENNEY—Born in NH in 1812, married Oliver Tenney of Littleton, lived and worshipped here until her death in 1889.
We don’t know much about Betsy, Mary, Daniel or Joseph, but we must assume that they were a significant part of this faith community during the middle and late 1800’s, a time of great turmoil and uncertainty in this country—Civil War period.
THE BIBLE WINDOW, A PIECE OF OUR HISTORY: “MAY WE BE STRENGTHENED AND ENCOURAGED BY THE WITNESS OF THESE SAINTS.”
Finally, although this window was not a part of our capital fund renovation, I fell that I should complete the cycle of our windows by mentioning The Good Shepherd window behind me. Of course, we all know that the basis for this window is the Gospel teaching of Jesus found in the 10th chapter of John where he uses the image of the kindly shepherd to explain to the disciples and the crowds this relationship to the world.
This window was added to our church in 1968 when the entire chancel of the church was renovated. One major difference between this window and the others is that it is a fully painted portrait set in antique glass. Foster Kimball and Bob Smiley were the co-chairs of this project which dramatically altered the front of the church.
The window was given to the church by the Hollingworth family to the honor and glory of God. Yet, it was also very much a gift to the loving memory of David and Orville Hollingworth who had both died several years earlier in 1962.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD WINDOW, A PIECE OF OUR HISTORY: “MAY WE BE STRENGHTNED AND ENCOURAGED BY THE WITNESS OF THESE SAINTS”.
I have asked Sean Bendigo to lead us I prayer as we give thanks for the lives of the saints of our church and rededicate these windows to the honor and praise of God.
The crown of Jesus Christ the King is the symbol in this window. From the very early days this has been the mark of victory and royalty symbolizing God’s kingdom and the universal church. The crown of eternal life is the reward that comet to all those who have been faithful in this life.
Two members of the Shaw family are remembered on this window. From what we can discern, Mary Maria Shaw was the mother of Hebert Flagg Shaw. Sadly, Mary outlived her son who died at ages 36. Mary lived into her 70’s and died in 1915.
THE CROWN WINDOW, A PIECE OF OUR HISTORY: “MAY WE BE STRENGTHENED AND ENCOURAGED BY THE WITNESS OF THESE SAINTS.”
In this middle window we see the icon SS, which stands for Sunday School. As the wording in the window vent makes it perfectly clear, these two women were an important part of the Christian Education of this congregations during the mid and late 1800’s.
HANNAH PERKINS DODGE—Hannah Dodge was a school teacher by trade, teaching several terms right here in Littleton. Later on, she became principal of schools in Townsend, Worcester and Dorchester. When she returned to Littleton in later life, she was superintendent of Schools for 4 years. We can only gather that a woman with these kinds of leadership and teaching skills must have played a vital role here in the education of adults and children in the ways of the Lord. Hannah is of great interest to me this morning, because it was she who was the coordinator of raising all the money to buy these stained glass windows. The church clerk writes on February 4th, 1887: “During the past four months through the interest and faithful efforts of sister Hannah
Dodge, a sum of money amounting to about $250 has been raised by private subscription for new windows in the church, made of stained glass. The windows now are secured and in place, and nearly all the work completed to their proper adjustment. The change is one which adds greatly to the internal beauty our sanctuary.” (If you do the math, these windows are 108 years old this winter.)
MARY A. NYE—We know very little about Mary Nye except that our church had two Mary Nyes, one who died in 1865 and another who was the maiden aunt of Caroline Nye, who married Deacon Edwin Robinson—for that window. We are not sure whom this window remembers.
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL WINDOW, A PIECE OF OUR HISTORY: “MAY WE BE STRENGTHENED AND ENCOURAGED BY THE WITNESS OF THESE SAINTS.”
I want to begin by calling your attention to the rear window on your right. Each of these six windows has an icon medallion in the center of the Roman Arch. In this window, we see an anchor, the Christian symbol for hope and steadfastness. This was a symbol frequently used in the catacombs of ancient Rome when it was illegal to be a Christian. Wearing a cross could get you killed in those days so the often used the anchor, a disguised cross, to show their hope in Jesus Christ.
It is highly appropriate that the anchor is the symbol of this window because several of the names of the men who are list on the vent below are founding members. They are people who took great personal risk, sometimes meeting in secret in order to express their Baptist beliefs.
DEACON SAMUEL WHITE – was one of the small group who met at the home of William Lapham to form the Baptist society and sign our constitution in march of 1821. He was an active member of this church for 44 years before he moved to Leominster. He ad his wife, Susanna, both died on the same day in April of 1865.
DEACON WILLIAM LAPHAM – was the first Clerk of this church. He was also one of the first persons in town to develop Baptist sentiments and was Baptized by immersion in 1819, two years prior to the founding of the Baptist historical society. It was in those years leading up to 1821 that Baptists met secretly on top of Nashoba Hill – the present ski area.
DEACON EDWIN ROBINSON—Joined this church in September of 1859. He served faithfully for 33 years as a member of the home mission society and as a Deacon.
When Deacon Robinson died at age 60, the following words were said about him at his funeral which took place in this sanctuary: “Our Church has sustained in Deacon Robinson’s death no ordinary loss. He loved the Bible, the church and his Savior. He was a man of integrity and conviction, cautious and conservative. He discouraged personal praise. There was no desire on his part to be known for other than what he was. He was willing to share as far as he deemed wise, in helping forward every good cause. He found a joy in working for the welfare of our church. He died as he had lived in the full comfort and assurance of the Christian faith.”
DEACON JAMES A. PARKER - - Our records show two James Parker who were members of this church. It is quite possible that they were father and son, but we are not sure. What we do know is that they were active in the life of the town, receiving payment for surveying town boundaries, serving as selectman, overseer, and auditor. In 1868 they were part of a construction crew for the Newton Schoolhouse and in 1861 were paid $5 for woo. Deacon Parker died in a store in Chelmsford Center and was buried in 1897.
DEACON JONATHAN PIERCE—Again, one of our founding members. Jonathan was on the committee that went to the Baptist Church of Christ in Harvard in Mark of 1822 to request that they release some of their members so that a Baptist Church could be formed in Littleton. In the early days of this church, the Baptist Society was just a small and despised group—they needed numbers before there would be enough to support a building or a pastor. He was a member of this church for 44 years, serving as a Deacon for 33. At his death, he was the last original resident member of the church and the following words were said at his funeral: “Deacon Pierce was emphatically a Bible Christian. He was decided in his views of the leading doctrines and ordinances of the gospel. He was uniform and prompt in his attendance upon all the means of grace….he was always ready to perform his part of the labor, and bear his part of the expense in the support of the gospel at home and aboard. In his removal his family, the church, and the community have sustained a loss that will be deeply felt. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.”
THE ANCHOR WINDOW, A PIECE OF OUR HISTORY: “MAY WE BE STRENGTHENED AND ENCOURAGED BY THE WITNESS OF THESE SAINTS.”