The Northbrae Chapel Windows and the “Torchbearer” Legacy

At the construction of the Cross Memorial Chapel in 1957, the congregation selected influential historic, and legendary figures as Torchbearers, and artistically represented them in stained glass. These prophetic voices of the past inform our faith and spirituality. The very spirit of the Torchbearer ideal is one that passes on treasured truths from generation to generation.

At Northbrae we reflect upon the past lives of numerous and diverse personalities, myths, stories, and aphorisms that inform our understandings of wisdom, justice, peace, and compassion. Today’s Northbrae congregants reflect on the social changes since 1957 and the courageous people who led the way.   The Sacred Hoop Garden, dedicated in 2014, is our Torchbearer for Native American Spirituality with the exemplar of the Huchiun people who dwelt long ago on this land. We continue to draw upon the legacy of prophetic voices that make deep impressions on human consciousness. Torchbearers give us hope in our evolving sense of human spirituality, both individually and collectively.

Moses and Noah

Moses, A legendary or mythological figure who is attributed with the authorship of the Torah.  Moses is an iconic name in the story of Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt and the later reception of Ancient Israelite Law from Yahweh. The name Moses represents one who was a great teacher, leader, liberator, and lawgiver. 

Noah, mythological figure found in the early stories of the Torah (Genesis) whose family solely survived in the primordial flood of the earth. Builder of the famed Noah’s Ark and known for his loyalty to God.

Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tse, and Isaiah.

Guatama Buddha  (563-480 BCE) Renowned sage whose writings founded Buddhism, the path to enlightenment or “being awakened.” He advocated the middle or moderate path between indulgence and harsh asceticism. He lived and taught in the regions of modern-day Nepal and India.

Confucius  (551-479 BCE) Founder of Confucianism. An ancient Chinese teacher, writer, philosopher, and politician. He advocated for justice and honesty in government, social and personal relationships. He was the author of much of the “Five Classics” in Chinese literary history. He taught family loyalty, ancestral veneration, respect for elders, and the well-known aphorism: Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. 

Lao Tse (Supposed 5th/6th Century BCE) Legendary figure represented as a great teacher and philosopher in Ancient China who wrote the Tao Te Ching and founded Taoism. Lao Tse teaches libertarian ideals exercised in wise and humble leadership, respect for the weak and meekness in political rule.

Isaiah, the literary work of Isaiah represents multiple persons who contributed to these prophetic texts that spanned two centuries. The earliest writings are said by some historians to have been written by the historical 8th century BCE prophet Isaiah. Venerated in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, “Isaiah” wrote about the people’s return from Exile, advocacy for the poor and oppressed, and holding responsible corrupt rulers and judges. The remedy was in a return to the Oneness of the Abrahamic God. 

Paul, Jesus, Plato, and Socrates

Paul  1st century CE leader, teacher and writer during the formative years of Christianity, yet maintained an anomalous affiliation with Judaism throughout his life. He was a self-professed follower of Jesus, although they never met. Paul is the major literary contributor to the New Testament. 

Jesus 1st century Jewish teacher, reformer, prophet and the “Messiah” to most Christians. Born in Judea, his life and teachings became the foundation for the New Testament writings and traditions of Christianity. 

Plato (427-347 BCE) Founder of the ancient Athenian Academy. Widely held to be the most influential figure in Western Philosophy. He was the student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. ​​

Socrates  (470-399 BCE) Considered one of the founders of Western thought. His teachings became profoundly influential especially upon Plato his student, but no writings of Socrates have survived. He was executed by the government for “impiety” or atheism and forced to drink hemlock as his death sentence. 

Pastor Robinson, Martin Luther, Francis of Assisi, and Mohammed

John Robinson (1576-1625) English Pastor and considered a founder of the Congregational Church. He is known for being a champion of religious dissent himself becoming a Puritan separatist from the Church of England. He helped organize and inspire the sailing of the Mayflower to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Plymouth but died just prior to his intent to do the same.

Martin Luther  (1483-1546) German theologian, priest, monk, and leader of the Protestant Reformation. He rejected certain teachings of the Catholic Church and as a result was excommunicated by the Pope. His writings became foundational for Protestantism and later Christian thought in the West

Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) Catholic Priest and Founder of the Franciscan Orders. Known for his concerns for the poor, taking on a life of poverty himself and requiring it as the way of life for members of the Order, Francis is also celebrated for his deep reverence for the earth and nature

Muhammad  Founder of Islam, which has over a billion adherents today. He was said to have received all the words of the Quran from God (Arabic, Allah), and though said to be acting only as Allah’s scribe, the actual human author of the Sacred Quran is said to be unknown. Muhammad is however attributed with the writings of the Hadiths, a collection of writings also revered by Muslims worldwide. He was the founder of the first Muslim community in Medina and Mecca, in modern Saudi Arabia. 

Florence Nightingale, R.W. Emerson, Thomas Paine, and Bishop Berkeley

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) – English social reformer, statistician and founder of modern nursing at the St, Thomas Hospital in London. Her writings go beyond nursing to religion and mysticism. Her work impacted hunger relief in Nepal and India. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson  (1803-1882) A profoundly Influential lecturer, writer, poet, and proponent of modern individualism in the US. He wrote persuasively about intellectual freedom and became a founder of the Transcendentalist movement, espousing pantheistic beliefs. His seminal works include NatureThe Over-Soul, and Self Reliance, among many others. 

Thomas Paine  (1737-1809) Author of Common Sense a highly popular essay about society that helped galvanize support for the American revolution. 

George Berkeley (1685-1753), English Irish philosopher known for his theories in Epistemology, putting forward his theses of “immaterialism,” considering the relationship between the senses and truth, or what is real.  

Walter Rauschenbusch, Jane Addams, George Washington Carver, and Abraham Lincoln

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) Theologian and Baptist Pastor attributed with the founding of the “Social Gospel” movement which began to highlight institutional injustices later influencing Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Jane Addams (1860-1935) One of the most prominent reformers during the Progressive Era in the U.S. She was a social worker, activist, philosopher, writer, and leader in women’s suffrage movement and ardent supporter for poor immigrants in the establishment of the Hull House in Chicago, IL. 

George Washington Carver  (1864-1943), Born into slavery, later as an emancipated adult became a renowned chemist, botanist, scientist, and inventor, leading the way for successful farming for the rural poor. The first African American student to enroll at Iowa State University.

Abraham Lincoln  (1809-1865) 16th President of the United States. He was a key political figure in the abolition of U.S. Slavery and the preservation of the Union. He led the United States into its Civil War in 1861. His Emancipation Proclamation declared slaves free in 1863, and the war concluded in 1865. Lincoln was assassinated the same year. 

W.F. Meyer, Frank Brush, Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi

W.F. Meyer   Renowned astronomer and professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Meyer was prominent in the work of Northbrae for over twenty years. In speaking of him, Rev. Cross was quoted: If one person were to be named the ‘pillar’ of our church, it would, by unanimous consent, be Dr. Meyer.  His saintliness of character, his self-sacrificing service, and his simple faith, which he never felt was out of keeping with his work as a scientist, are an inspiration to all of us.   

Frank Brush, Presbyterian minister who founded Northbrae Community Church.  Under his ministry, Northbrae Community Church grew in one decade from a handful of people meeting in a private home to a church of 500 and a Sunday School numbering 1,500.  Frank Brush guided Northbrae with the idea that all the great historic creeds of Christianity could be represented in our congregation.

Albert Einstein  (1879-1955) A world renowned scientist of the 20th Century. German born of Jewish descent he left Nazi Germany in the 1930s and became a US citizen in 1940, after Hitler barred Jews from university positions. He is credited with numerous physics breakthroughs most notably the Theory of Relativity. He won the Nobel Prize for physics. Einstein was known as an outspoken critic of war, and espoused pacifism. 

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Teacher, lawyer, and leader of India’s independence movement. He is one of the most important figures in the modern era for achieving social justice by non-violent civil disobedience.

Northbrae Community Church