Art Glass at First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church is going to be closed to the public for the next two years (2021-ca2023) as it undergoes substantial renovation, seismic upgrading and development. It seems to me appropriate, therefore, to offer a stained glass ‘tour’ of First Baptist here.

If you are interested in seeing all of my posts pertaining to FBC (to date), go to this link.

An excellent ‘farewell tour’ of the current church structure (at Nelson and Burrard), hosted by FBC member Kurtis Findlay, was held on April 30, 2021. If you are interested in seeing the recording of this, go here.

The (I am the Good Shepherd) Nesbit Memorial Window: Sanctuary

Nesbit memorial (I am the Good Shepherd) window. MDM photo.

This window was dedicated to the memory of John and Bessie Nesbit by their son and daughter on June 1, 1947. It was constructed in Toronto and installed by the Royal City Glass Company.

Mr. Nesbit came from Berwick-on Tweed, England, in 1888. Mrs. Nesbit came from St. Mawgan, Cornwall, England, in 1890. John died in 1936; Bessie in 1943.

The (He Restores My Soul) Joiner Memorial Window: Sanctuary,

Joiner memorial (He Restores My Soul) window in FBC’s sanctuary. Greg Burke photo.

This window was installed in memory of William Joiner and Lottie (1894-1988) & Maynard (1894-1990) Joiner, all longtime members of FBC. There is a mini-bio on Maynard and Lottie here. William (1865-1964) was Maynard’s dad. He worked as a printer in Scotland, Boston and Calgary before retiring to Vancouver. He served as FBC’s treasurer in his 80s.

The Joiner window was dedicated in the 1990s by the Joiner family. Mark Laughlin, FBC’s caretaker at the time the Joiner window was installed, had an interesting anecdote. He said that one of the donors was a dentist and when the window arrived at FBC, the dentist was offended by what looked like an overbite on the image of Jesus. So the window was returned to the manufacturer (who is unknown, today) for a re-do of Jesus’ mouth. The amusing thing, to me, is that the revised Jesus still seems to have an overbite!

It is mildly surprising to me that both of the windows on the east wall of the Sanctuary are related to the ‘good shepherd’ theme, and it’s unfortunate that no attempt was made to be consistent in the use of pronouns (“I am the Good Shepherd” and “He restores my soul”).

Cross and Crowns: Vestry

The Cross and Crowns (in the “Vestry”, aka, the “Prayer Room”). MDM photo.

This is among my favourite FBC art glass. It was designed by Sharon Wiebe, a member at First. It shows Christ’s cross as the central feature of the image and His crown of thorns appears beneath the cross and the crown of glory above it. Those three features are connected visually with an artful ribbon.

The window is located in the room at the front of the sanctuary on the west side. That room has been traditionally been referred to as the Vestry (probably inappropriately these days, because Baptist ministers do not wear anything like vestments and they probably never used the Vestry room as somewhere for donning vestments). Today it is, perhaps more accurately, referred to as the “Prayer Room”, the room where the pastor and platform people gather before worship services.

Worship Windows: Pinder Hall

Worship Windows (on the east wall of Pinder Hall). Alf Wiebe photo.

This pair of stained glass windows were dedicated in 2008 and were the result of the vision and collaboration of folks at FBC involved in the Choir and other music and worship ministries. The design for the windows was by Mae Runions. Alf Wiebe, who is an FBC member, was the stained glass artist who constructed the windows.

The project was prompted by the death of a Choir member, Stan Grenz, in 2005, who was a singer, guitar and trumpet player and whose ‘day job’ was Professor at Carey Theological College and Regent College. The windows were not intended to be a memorial or tribute to any individual, however. As the brochure published at the dedication of the windows said:

The two windows remind us that worship is a core value of our congregation. The left panel (Inspiration) suggests downward motion and mimics the ‘organ pipes’ in the sanctuary; the dove at the top is symbolic of God’s Spirit . . . . In the second panel on the right (Response), there is the reverse upward motion of believers lifting up their praises to God. The two birds down below suggest community. . . .This window mimics the brass instruments. Creating a horizontal line from left to right are the stylized square music notes proliferating [at] the bottom of both windows.

From “The Worship Windows Project” Dedication Brochure, 2008

Chapel Windows: Memorial Chapel

The First Baptist Church Memorial Chapel was dedicated as such on January 8, 1958 in a service led by FBC’s minister of the time, Rev. J. Gordon Jones. It has served as a gathering space for tiny services — most often for small weddings and memorial services. The space occupied by the Chapel has been part of the church structure at the northwest corner of Burrard and Nelson since it was built in 1911 and was used for various purposes — as a study for the senior minister, a utility room, a Sunday School classroom, and as a denominational administrative office.

Christ the Carpenter (aka “Christ in the House of His Parents”)

Retired FBC Caretaker, Mark Laughlin, standing adjacent to “Christ the Carpenter” window in the Memorial Chapel. MDM Photo.

The window shown above, “Christ the Carpenter” or “Christ in the House of His Parents”, is in memory of Wayman Kenneth Roberts (1904-1955), the Senior Minister of FBC at the time of his passing in 1955. This window, quoting from the Memorial Chapel dedication brochure symbolizes “our emphasis upon the Lordship of Christ”.

William Carey: Cobbler, Missionary and Scholar

William Carey: Cobbler, Missionary and Scholar window in the Memorial Chapel. MDM Photo.

The William Carey window is in memory of Ester Odella Duncan (1906-1957) and is meant to stress “the authority of the Word of God” for Baptists.

John Bunyan: Tinker, Writer, Preacher

John Bunyan: Tinker, Writer, Preacher window in the Memorial Chapel. MDM Photo.

The John Bunyan window is in memory of Esli Powers Miller (1872-1949) and stands for “soul liberty and spiritual freedom” in Baptist belief.

The Armour of God

The Armour of God window in the Memorial Chapel. MDM photo.

The west wall of the Memorial Chapel, when the Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1958, was empty of any art glass. But in the 1958 dedication brochure, it was stated that:

It is hoped that, eventually, in the west wall of the Chapel, three windows will be installed portraying Roger Williams, the Statesman, Charles Haaddon Spurgeon, the Preacher, and Ann Hasseltine Judson, the Missionary.

Memorial Chapel dedication brochure.

But, as of 2021, at least, this dream for the west wall of the Chapel of some of those living in 1958 has not been realized.

There has been a single window installed on the west wall, “The Armour of God” in memory of Padre James Willox Duncan (1906-2002). The symbols are taken from Ephesians 6:10-18. The stained glass artisan of this window was Jeanette Blackwell.

Other Art Glass at First Baptist

There is other art glass at FBC that isn’t perhaps as noticeable, but is every bit as representative of the care and skill of the makers.

Burrard Street Tower Entry

Burrard Street Tower Entry. Alf Weibe photo. This work was done by Alf Wiebe in 2005 to replicate the windows at this location prior to the 1931 fire which gutted the sanctuary.

Nelson Street Balcony Windows

South-facing Nelson Street (Balcony) Windows. MDM photo. The cross was installed by Alf Wiebe in 2004.

A Window in the Balcony

A Window (with vintage light fixtures silhouetted) from the Balcony of the Sanctuary. MDM photo.

Tower Windows

Tower windows near sanctuary’s balcony. Alf Wiebe photo.
Tower window. Alf Wiebe photo.
Tower window. Alf Wiebe photo.
Tower windows and rosette window near the top of the tower. There are four rosettes in the tower — one on each side. Sharon Wiebe designed and Alf Wiebe installed the rosettes in 2004. Alf Wiebe photo.

The tower windows shown above received extensive repairs at the skillful hand of Alf Weibe. Alf had this to say in email messages regarding these windows:

In 2005 I repaired all of the windows in the tower, and replicated the windows above the door facing Burrard St to be like the windows prior to the [1931] fire. The windows in the tower were all original windows and were falling apart, so. . . I spent the entire summer rebuilding those windows. Finding matching glass was not possible in Vancouver at the time, but I found a distributor of stained glass in Seattle that worked with samples I had and found matching glass. Mark [Laughlin, FBC’s caretaker at that time] found a picture of the church prior to the fire and, based on those pictures, I also designed windows to replace some that had been replaced by plain glass sometime in the past.

[The tower windows] get smaller with each floor of the tower as you go up. Only people familiar with the tower entrance in the balcony would ever have seen these, and only those who were adventurous enough to climb the very steep set of stairs [from the FBC Archives room up past the chimes to the very top of the tower] will ever have seen them. The smallest upper ones are reproductions because all that was left [of the original windows] were fragments of lead and glass.

Alf Wiebe in email messages to the author.

Burrard Street’s “Rose of Sharon” Window

Before: The site of the 1990s-installed ‘Rose of Sharon’ window (near the roofline of FBC’s Burrard Street facing wall). Crop of CVA 790-1657. 1985?
After: The Rose of Sharon Window. Greg Burke photo.

This window is high above Pinder Hall and the Gym facing onto Burrard Street and is known by those ‘in the know’ as the “Rose of Sharon” window. It is round, like the roses in the tower, but this window was installed in the early 1990s, is much larger, and has a quite distinctive appearance. Before the 1990s, the place where the window is now was filled in with granite stonework. By the ’90s, the space was allowing moisture inside and instead of simply plugging it, the church leaders (at Mark Laughlin’s suggestion) decided to fill the round space with art glass. It isn’t known today who the artist was who created the Rose of Sharon window.


*I’m grateful to each of the following for enduring with patience and good grace my questions and requests in connection with the research and writing of this post: Greg Burke, Edna Grenz, Mark Laughlin, Evelyn Loewen, and Alf & Sharon Wiebe.

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6 Responses to Art Glass at First Baptist Church

  1. mguibord says:

    Great job in representing these windows. They are rich in history, colour and design. I love the Art Deco pair, and the Cobbler Missionary window leaves me wanting more info on the man. Thanks! Maurice


    • mdm says:

      Thanks, Maurice. Sorry for the delay in replying. I did try to reply earlier, but there was some sort of WordPress issue…

  2. jmv says:

    Nice! I once did a similar review of Knox Presbyterian Church, Toronto, which got me interested in McCausland’s, and then the Blomfield’s in Vancouver.

  3. John Tsang says:

    Thank you so much for this write up !! Really enjoyed reading the stories of each window. We stand on the shoulders of so many faithful saints who have gone before us.

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