Beautiful First Moravian Church in York, known for its neat features – Part V
This chancel window greets those entering the sanctuary at York, Pa.’s First Moravian Church. The noted York art studio of J. Horace Rudy designed 31 windows throughout the 100-year-old North Duke Street Church. Also of interest: All First Moravian stained-glass window posts from the start and York native Steve Zirnkilton’s ‘Law & Order’ voice known to the world and Easter in York County, 1919: Sadness, joy, hope.
None of York’s First Moravian’s wonderful architectural features are more beautiful than its 31 stained-glass windows designed by J. Horace Rudy.
And none of the windows at York’s First Moravian Church are more beautiful than the window behind the pulpit.
And none have more stories behind them, as church member Terrence Downs explains in this series on the J. Horace Rudy-designed windows at the church:
Entering the York First Moravian Church sanctuary, you are greeted by the Promise of our Risen Lord, shown in the astounding Horace Rudy creation “Christ on the Road to Emmaus”. This glass is synonymous of Rudy Brothers best work, as well the epitome of the theme at First Moravian Church.
This imposing unit is dedicated In Loving Memory to The Rev. Stephen Morgan Smith, by His Wife, Emma Fahs Smith. It is the centerpiece of the Worship Center.
Many know S. Morgan Smith the great Industrialist, who took the idea of water-driven power and turned this premise into a multi-million dollar dynasty. The S. Morgan Smith Company was precursor of Allis-Chalmers in York, now known as Precision Components Corporation and Voith Hydro. The S. M. Smith Company employed many persons in York and numerous members of York First. His firm’s influence was expansive. The Rev. Mr. Smith was extensively involved with several corporations, boards, banks, committees and enterprises in York and beyond – including the larger Moravian Church. His heirs succeeded him in the administration of his companies well into the mid-latter 20th Century, letting their imprint as well.
What some may – but many others might not know, is that S. Morgan – is Stephen Morgan Smith, born 1839 in North Carolina to a Father whose roots were Methodist, and Mother – who was raised in the Moravian Church. Pursuing the Ministry as his calling, S. M. Smith went north to Moravian Seminary and, upon graduating in 1861, his Pastorate career began at the Moravian Church in York, PA. Much excitement ensued at this time with the recent decision at York Moravian Church to perform English speaking services, departing from the borne German language since York Church’s founding. This too was the swelling period of American Civil War, and both Rev. Smith and the York Moravian Church were pressed for involvement to the conflict, his officiating as Chaplain to the 200th Pennsylvania Regiment, and by close of the Battle of Gettysburg, the York Moravian Church served as a dispensary to wounded soldiers at the nearby proximity of Penn Common’s Military Hospital.
The pastorate of Rev. Smith is rich in many things, including marriage on April 9. 1862 to church organist Miss Emma Fahs of York Moravian Church, the Fahs Family being instrumental in First Church’s advance in the 1800’s. Upon the end of the Civil War, a difficult but conscious decision was to depart the native location of the Church’s original 1755 spot, and reposition upon an orchard site known as Leitner’s Tract. Neighboring stately fine homes affronted East Market Street, the noted York Physician Dr. Blair’s manse & grounds was due north of this property (corner North Duke & Philadelphia Streets). Philip Albright Small resided south of the developing neighborhood – and Afro-American businessman William C. Goodridge’s residence at neighboring 123 East Philadelphia Street, relocating to Michigan to live out his remaining days.
Insight saw the need to move from an increasing manufacturing region as was evolving at the old Church site at Princess & Pershing Avenue. In 1866, this decision was determined near the end of Rev. Smith’s pastorate at York First – and embarking upon a new pastorate in Canal, Ohio.
While serving in Ohio, Rev. Smith suffered from a throat ailment which limited his ability to orate with any thrust, and by this infliction his preaching Ministry was scuttled and done by 1871. It was during this period his innovative mind developed a more substantial water wheel design, (rumored to oblige a washing machine apparatus for his wife & large family’s laundry need – which soon turned out to be a Success) that championed technological innovation years later. The growing Smith Family returned to York in 1874, his vibrant health apparently gone, to observe a slightly larger, growing town of craftsman and materials evident of the rich York Valley. By perseverance, some setbacks, foresight, and faith, and thru slowly attained prosperity, a new vein of Rev. Smith’s Ministry ensued. The S. Morgan Smith Company was established.
As the years continued, the S. M. Smith Company, First Moravian Church, and York each grew and flourished. The early 20th Century saw vast innovation. Health remained a concern for nearly 30 years, and it was thought a more suitable climate may strengthen S. M. Smith, and he soon relocated to Los Angeles, California where he resided with his son, Beauchamp. On Easter Sunday, April 12, 1903, it was there where he came to Christ on the Road to Triumph. The motif was thus determined.
The design of this window as created in 1910 by the Horace Rudy Studios has several facets making it distinctive: The design pattern is one of 2 of this motif known in the United States, the Tiffany Glass blue lapis color integrated into Christ’s tunic is a formula no longer available – the recipe being destroyed in a fire at the New York Studios of Tiffany soon after the window’s creation. Other pieces of Tiffany manufactured glass (opalescent and striated) are comingled in layering techniques within the grand unit. And – a small blue triangular piece set behind the ankle of the man at left (possibly Cleopas) was taken from a ruined Prague Cathedral rose window, under which the pulpit that John Hus, Patriarch of the 1457 Moravian Church was a Catholic Priest prior (being the start of the Reformation) – this glass piece emanating from that era. The Sons of S. M. Smith, aware of this cache returned from Europe with this shard of glass ahead of completion of the window, for integration into the unit.
It is befitting such a tribute provides the focal point of weekly worship at York First Moravian. It was unique by installation methods, with exception of larger cities on the East Coast at that time.
Noteworthy York architect & late member C. William Dize remembered of his youth that Mr. Rudy, in advanced age would visit First Moravian during the week, sitting on the left side, third pew at center aisle, and spend many moments reflecting upon its serene beauty. Mr. Dize stated that Mr. Rudy deemed it one of the best creations he and his studio had created. Mr. Dize used this same pew until his death in 2006. The window shown at left is a composite on our Window, made by Kerble Stained Glass Studio of Dallas, TX in 1954 for the Austin Avenue United Methodist Church in Waco, TX.
This window is a legacy to which we are grateful – to creative artists of the day in their execution of so fine a masterpiece, for the willingness of the Smith Family in providing this tribute to their beloved, and in God’s grace that we, the Family of First Moravian Church are yet the stewards of this finely crafted and incomparable work of art – that stirs the hearts of those who see it. May we be raised with Him each and every time we have the ability to see it.
Also of interest:
– For more on this chancel window, visit: ‘A window into the Christian faith.’