Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jesse Halsey Stained Glass Windows at McCormick

Mr. President:

On behalf of the family of our colleague and friend, Norman E. Richardson*, I have the privilege of presenting to the Seminary a window that has been installed in the West Transom. It completes the series showing characters from Pilgrim’s Progress and manifesting the major points of our insistence here at McCormick: Bible exegesis, the pastoral function, missionary and evangelistic enthusiasm, and in this new window, religious education; in which field Dr. Richardson was a pioneer and master.

In completing his series on “The Teaching Evangelist” on the very day before he left us, Dr. Richardson said to the speaker: “I think we liberals have under-emphasized the powers of evil and ignorance.” In this window, Mr. Greatheart is shown contending with Giant Grim, the embodiment of such evil forces. In the background are thumbnail sketches of Comenius, a contemporary of John Bunyan, who influenced the educational systems of half a dozen countries; of Pestalozzi, who came a century later, and Horace Bushnell, the New England Puritan in the last century who gave the initial impulsion to what he called “Christian Nurture.” These great educators whose ideals Dr. Richardson harmonized and followed, emboy the spirit of the Christ-centered type of religious education that the Seminary seeks to emphasize.

During the five years that I was privileged to know Dr. Richardson, he labored under a severe physical handicap when “every breath was a prayer for the next,” yet in spite of this, his enthusiasms never abated. He was working and planning up to the last, and within an hour of his passing completed his “Teaching Evangelist,” saying, “That is finished. Tomorrow we will tackle something else.”
So, I think of him as going on with all his splendid equipment, uninhibited by the limitations of the flesh, in some Other Room of our Father’s House where Christ’s servants serve Him.

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
            Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
            Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
                        Sleep to wake.
                                                --Robert Browning

“I worked on the staff of McCormick Theological Seminary for three years following graduation, before I was ordained to the ministry in 1981. Every morning as I walked up the stairs to my office, I passed a stained glass window made by Jesse Halsey, who had taught at McCormick a generation earlier. The window depicted Bunyan’s Pilgrim, from Pilgrim’s Progress. Seeing the window every morning as I mounted the staircase became a fleeting act of prayer focused on vocation, a pilgrimage I was conscious of delaying. The isolation of the academic community was becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me. I think there is something in the human spirit that seeks to be put on trial, to be tested, to break away into the insecurity of the unfamiliar.

“The song, Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, popularly known as Bread of Heaven here in Wales, is a Welsh favorite. They even sing it at rugby matches. Everyone knows it, loves it, and can sing it by heart, Christian or not. Guide me, a pilgrim through this barren land, it sings. The hymn speaks of life as a pilgrimage, being carried safe to Canaan’s side, singing songs of praise against the ever-present reality of death. Singing it brings me back to those early morning glances at Halsey’s stained glass window, and what that window came to mean for me.”

* A Meth­od­ist min­is­ter, Norman E. Ri­chard­son was born on Oc­to­ber 15, 1878, in Beth­a­ny, On­tar­io, Ca­na­da. He was ed­u­cat­ed at Law­rence Col­lege, Bos­ton Un­i­ver­si­ty School of The­ol­o­gy, and Bos­ton Un­i­ver­si­ty. He pas­tored in Wis­consin and Mass­a­chu­setts, taught at Bos­ton Un­i­ver­si­ty School of The­ol­o­gy (1911-19), and was dean of the North­field Sum­mer School of Re­li­gious Ed­u­ca­tion (1919-24). He lat­er served on the fa­cul­ty at North­west­ern Un­i­ver­si­ty and Mc­Cor­mick The­o­lo­gic­al Sem­in­a­ry. He died on Oc­to­ber 25, 1945, in Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois.

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