July 1, 2020
As one who has always been drawn to the aesthetic, especially to church architecture, the beautiful J.B. Chapman Memorial Chapel at NTS quickly became one of my favorite places on campus when I first became a student. It became a sacred place of encounter. I often think back to a sermon I heard delivered there by Dr. Ed Robinson in which we seminarians were challenged to place ourselves “in the stream of God’s grace.” I’ll never forget how God’s mercy and love washed over me that day as we all responded by receiving from the Lord’s Table.
These days, I enjoy slipping into the chapel when no one else is around. I sit in the silence, breathing quiet prayers of thanks and praise while soaking up the color as it streams through the stained glass windows. The experiences I had at NTS set a trajectory for my ministry. They deepened my heart and life. I was, and continue to be, truly formed by this place and the community that bears its name. I am not alone. I hear frequent stories of alumni who have had similar experiences. I also hear prospective students express a longing for that same kind of deep, lasting formation.
As we prepared to begin our seventy-fifth anniversary, I was again drawn to the chapel. In particular, my attention was fixed on the four-circle rose windows. They are a distinctive architectural feature on our campus and in addition to the chapel windows, the shape can be found in the stairwells and building exterior. The window has been prominent on several past NTS logos and helped shape the vision for our seventy-fifth-anniversary commemorative seal.
As former NTS President Dr. Carla Sunberg wrote several years ago during a rebranding project, the shape of our windows holds significance in church history, often representing “the radiance of the Spirit and an expression of the human desire for wholeness.”
That human desire for wholeness seems more pronounced right now than it has in a long time. Our anxious world is crying out for redemption (Rom. 8:22). But there is reason for hope. God is still calling women and men to the ministry of reconciliation in a variety of creative contexts. NTS continues to be a place of deep formation for students all over the world thanks to our early adoption of distance learning technology. Alumni and friends are being moved to offer generous support.
I can’t imagine a better picture of the work and mission of our seminary and all who study and work here – scattered into the world in all directions like light through a window, joining the Spirit in the hopeful and beautiful work of making broken things whole. May it be so in all of us.