The Story of the Methodist Episcopal Church (4):
The Discipleship Ministries headquarters of the United Methodist Church in USA, located in Nashville, Tennessee, houses the offices of the Upper Room ministry, a museum, and a small chapel. In the previous issue we were introduced to the wood carving of the “Last Supper”. In this issue we will visit the “World Christian Fellowship” stained glass window, which covers the back of the stairs from the ground floor to the second floor.
This 8-by-20-foot window is created from 9000 pieces of colorful glass and leaves an indelible impression. It was made by D’Ascenzo Studios of Philadelphia to commemorate the Holy Spirit descending 2000 years ago in the Upper Room, also known as the Pentecost. After the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit worked through 24 Christian servants of the early church and other eras to carry out God’s work. This special stained glass was dedicated on 17 May 1959, which was also Pentecost Day.
The stained glass window can be separated into three columns. Let us begin in the middle column. At the top, figure 1 is the symbol for the Trinity. Figure 2 is the Holy Spirit as a dove. Figure 3 depicts the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire on the disciples in the Upper Room. Figure 4 is the Prophet Joel circa 400 BC. On Pentecost, Peter quoted his prophecy on the coming of the Holy Spirit: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29).
Figure 5 below it depicts Peter preaching during Pentecost, as described in Acts 2:14-42. In his sermon, Peter mentioned the Prophet Joel and also King David, thus the next figure 6 is King David playing a lyre. He is playing for King Saul; then God leads him to defeat Goliath, and later David becomes king. The Bible prophesied that the Messiah is a descendant of David, thus Peter in his sermon connected David and Jesus.
Figure 7 shows Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-10), curing the lame through the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Figure 8 is the original Upper Room in Jerusalem, figure 9 represents preaching the gospel (Acts 8:4 – “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”). Beneath their feet is the Earth, symbolizing that the gospel must be preached throughout the world. On one side is the Holy Communion, on the other is God’s word, symbolizing the power of the gospel and Jesus’ disciples becoming witnesses to the world through the Holy Spirit. Lastly, figure 10 shows a member of the Methodist Church, also an important leader of the YMCA, John R. Mott (1865-1955). He founded the World Student Christian Fellowship (WSCF) and in 1910 organized a world missions convention. In 1946 he received a Nobel prize, and in 1948 joined the founding of the World Council of Churches.
The columns on both sides depict the life and growth of the early church. On one end, figure 29 is Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the pioneer of modern nursing known as the “lady with the lamp”. Figure 30 is George Washington Carver (1964-1943). He was an American educator, agriculturalist, and botanist, and also the first black student at Iowa State University where he obtained a master’s degree. From the picture we can see a bag holding peanuts, because he invented over 300 peanut-based products, from ink to soap. His steadfast faith helped him to overcome all kinds of difficulties and he contributed to society as a scientist.
column stained glass
On the left side, the curved picture at the top shows Barnabas (Fig 11). “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). He was also Paul’s fellow compatriot. Figure 12 is St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in France and an important mystic of the Middle Ages. He was also a leader of the movements for asceticism and personal spiritual devotion.
Figure 13: the founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox (1624-1691). Living in a rapidly changing world, he held firm to his Christian beliefs and stood against the force of public opinions on religion and politics.
Figure 14: Isaac Watts (1674-1748). He was a 17th century prolific hymnist, Congregational Church pastor, and theologian. He wrote around 750 hymns and is called the “Godfather of English Hymnody”. His hymns such as “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” and “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” are still sung today.
Figure 15: John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of our denomination. He was a pastor, evangelist, missionary, and reformist. He saw himself as promoting the “Methodist Movement” within the Anglican Church. Spreading from England to the USA, Methodism became one of the largest denominations of the 18th century in these two countries. Methodism continues to uphold Wesley’s words, “the world is my parish”, promoting the gospel and works of mercy.
Figure 16: Charles Wesley (1757-1834), one of the founders of a small group at Oxford University, which would be called the root of Methodism. He wrote over 5500 hymns, including “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”, and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” among many other famous hymns.
Figure 17: Samuel Davies (1723-1761), religious leader and educator in the US. He was also a great preacher and one of the earliest writers of American hymns.
Figure 18: William McKendree (1757-1835). The first American-born bishop of the Methodist Church appointed in 1808. He “kept his home in a bag”, and besides founding the United Methodist Church, he also helped with administrative activities. He died in 1835 and was later reinterred in Vanderbilt University.
At the very bottom, figure 19 is Alexander Campbell (1786-1866), Irish-born Presbyterian pastor. He followed the model of the early church to become one of the greatest disciple makers.
column stained glass
At the top of the right column is figure 20, St Augustine (354-430), the bishop of Hippo. He was greatly influenced by Paul and is one of the greatest Christian thinkers in history.
Figure 21: St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), founder of the Franciscan movement in the Catholic Church, a famous priest and environmentalist. In the picture, he is surrounded by birds and flowers.
Figure 22: Martin Luther (1483-1546). This German reformist “overturned” the Catholic Church. He continually emphasized “Scripture alone” and “faith alone” as the focus of belief.
Figure 23: Roger Williams (1603-1683), English Reformatist and theologian, an early supporter of religious freedom and separation of church and state. In 1636, he founded Rhode Island in North America, and it became a haven for minority religious groups. He also founded the first Baptist church in the Americas. He learned the Native American language and supported peaceful trade with the Native Americans. Williams was one of the earliest abolitionists in America, attempting to start abolitionist movements in the 13 American colonies.
Figure 24: John Bunyan (1628-1688), a self-taught Baptist preacher who wrote his famous book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” while in prison. The book describes the 42 challenges of a Christian’s journey.
Figure 25: Jonathon Edwards (1703-1758), described as America’s greatest theologian. As a pastor he emphasized the power of rebirth and played a pivotal role in America’s Great Awakening.
Figure 26: George Whitefield (1714-1770), one of the earliest open-air evangelists. He was heavily influenced by John Wesley and went to America 7 times for evangelism. He went for the last time in 1769, and the next year he was laid to rest in Boston.
Figure 27: Francis Asbury (1745-1816), “Father of American Methodism”. He was raised in England and was baptized and discipled by John Wesley. In 1771 he was sent to America, and in 1784 the “Methodist Episcopal Church” was officially founded in Baltimore. He was appointed as bishop.
Figure 28: Phillips Brooks (1835-1893). He pastored at Boston Trinity Church and was a gifted preacher. He was also a bishop of the Anglican Church in Massachusetts. He authored the popular Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. (Please see back cover for the referred stained glass figures. In the next issue we will introduce the Christian Art Museum at the Upper Room)