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The Gospel in Stained Glass at United Reformed Church

Every Sunday, members of our congregation can’t help but to glance up at our beautiful and intricate stained glass windows especially as the morning sunlight glistens through to reveal sparkling jewel-like colors. Passersby on Main Street often stop and take photographs and those who enter the church for their very first time are in awe. This is the history and Biblical meaning of our windows, which are among the most photographed sites in downtown Somerville.

The Talmage Memorial Window - “The Easter Window”

The Talmage Memorial Window was given in honor of Major and Mrs. Thomas Talmage, founding members and supporters of the Second Reformed Church, by Dr. John Frelinghuysen Talmage of Brooklyn and his children. This window, gracing the east side of the sanctuary, depicts the women who approached the empty tomb on the first Easter morning, hearing the good news of the angel: “He is not here; he is risen!” (Matthew 28:6) In the Gothic arch, there are five words in Latin in-scribed in a circle surrounding the cross/crown motif: King (Rex), Law (Lex), Peace (Pax), Light (Lux), and In His Service (IHS). Comprised of over 10,000 pieces of glass, the Easter window measures 13 x 28 feet. It is the work of Otto Heinigke of Heinigke and Bowen of New York and was first placed in the sanctuary for its dedication in December 1894.

The Whitenack Memorial Window - “The Epiphany Window”
window2The Whitenack Memorial Window was given in honor of John H. and Elizabeth McBride Whitenack, by the bequest of Elizabeth Whitenack. This window, situated on the west side of the sanctuary, shows the visitation of the wise men from the east who had come to “worship the child who was born a king of the Jews.” (Matthew 2:2) Above the scene of the Epiphany, the window shows a dove (symbol of the Holy Spirit) descending upon a Bible on which are written the first words of the Lord’s Prayer. The upper portion of this window is the work of Otto Heinigke. The glass in the Whitenack window is partly domestic and partly imported from England. The artisan of the Whitenack window is H.L. Wise of Belleville, New Jersey. The dimensions are identical to the Talmage window. The Whitenack Memorial Window was installed in 1951.

The Inspiration for Our Logo
window3Just below the Whitenack window is a decorative section which includes two colorful crosses on either side of the dedication. This style of cross happens to be a symbol that is repeated through-out our church. The symbol itself, combined with the array of many colors, was the inspiration of our new logo, launched in January 2015.

The Christian Endeavor Window - “The Good Shepherd Window”
window5The Good Shepherd Window, above the balcony on the southern façade of the church building, facing Main Street, was given to the church by the Christian Endeavor Society, also in 1894, but was not quite ready to be installed at the time of the church’s dedication services. This window, in the American Opalescent style, traces a direct line to the Tiffany Company of New York, as its maker served as an apprentice to a former artisan from Tiffany. The window is a study of Hoffman’s painting by the same name, and offers a portrayal of Christ clad in purple with a lamb resting on his right arm. The window and the painting on which it was based, draws from John 10:14, in which Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd”, for its inspiration. The window itself is 12 feet high and six feet wide.

The Decorative Windows
window6Throughout the sanctuary are several decorative windows, including two on either side of the Talmage Memorial Window and the Whitenack Window. These windows were crafted and installed around the same time as the Talmage window. All of the decorative windows were restored in 2014 and 2015 by Ray Clagnan Stained Glass Studio in Wall Township, New Jersey. The process included taking the windows out in sections. They were then brought into the Mr. Clagnan’s studio. The windows were cleaned, new glass put in where needed, and the lead replaced.

While it is true that “faith comes by hearing”, the people of God are also blessed by the skills of visual artists whose craftsmanship
blesses the places where we gather. United Reformed Church has been uniquely gifted by the work of Otto Heinigke and H.L. Wise. Both the Talmage Memorial Window and the Whitenack Memorial Window are reminders of the events that the church celebrates in its “high seasons”: Christmas and Easter. The Good Shepherd Window reminds us of Christ’s constant compassion for us. Thus, we hear the good news of Christ’s birth and his victory over death, and his abiding presences with us and within us, drawing us ever nearer to the heart of God.