The History of First Presbyterian's Stained Glass Windows
During the Middle Ages stained glass windows served as an educational tool to teach Bible Stories to the illiterate masses. At First Presbyterian Church the stained glass windows are commemorative rather than educational. They honor some of our most zealous and consecrated members. The stained glass windows in the sanctuary date back to when it was built in 1895.
When the late Mr. Horace Hull was a boy in 1895, he recalled the Sunday School class raising $90.00 to buy the circular stained glass window on the east side of the sanctuary. Ms. Louise Crawford recalled how the children were asked to collect pennies at their homes and bring them to the church to pay for the window. When the window was finally paid for and installed, the morning sun rose over the east side and literally lit-up the beautiful glass assemblage. After the 1929 two story annex was built, flood lighting was used but with much less effect.
The Ladies Aid Society also raised money through bake sales and socials to help pay for the windows. When they had raised enough money, they would have another window made.
The memorial window on the west side is dedicated to Reverend Hiram Chamberlain who was pastor from 1846-1850. He moved to Texas where his daughter married Mr. King who founded the famous King Ranch. Mrs. King placed the stained glass window in memory of her father.
The windows on the south side are in memory of Judge and Mrs. Calvin Jones. Judge Jones was one of the first chancery judges in West Tennessee.
The window in the choir loft is in Memory of Lieutenant Matthew Rhea and his wife. When the Civil War commenced, Matt Rhea was a young attorney and an active member of First Presbyterian Church. He was put in command of one of the first Confederate companies raised in Fayette County. In November of 1861 the Confederates were attempting to prevent the Federals from going down the Mississippi River. This battle was known as the Battle of Belmont. While his troops were being driven back, Lt. Rhea refused to retreat and was killed. His remains were returned to Somerville and interred in the local cemetery. His descendants are members of the congregation today.
As part of the 2008 renovation, the stained glass windows were professionally cleaned and refurbished. The blue medallions were replaced with newly fired ones. The old medallions were individually framed and now hang in the south narthex.
Dr. Sam McFadden points out that the four blue medallions in Lt. Rhea’s stained glass window represent Reformation by depicting just the two Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Dr. Sam also mentions that we have four types of stars in our windows:
- Five pointed star - signifies our sun and appears at the bottom of several windows
- Six pointed star - the Star of David appears five times and represents the foundation of everything directly above it.
- Eight pointed star - signifies renewal. This window is in the old prayer room which is now the furnace room and no longer visible from inside the church.
- Multi pointed star - represents our sun. Another window which has a cross represents our Son.
Dr. Sam also said that the windows are Italian made because of the concave and convex glass.