Reverend Ian Higgins suggested in 2013 that a story be written for ‘In the Light’ about the beautiful stained glass windows at St Andrew’s by the Sea, Black Rock. Twenty years ago, an article about the windows and their creator, Alan Sumner, appeared in ‘In the Light’, written by a former St Andrew’s organist, Jim Richardson. He acknowledges assistance from Beaumaris/Black Rock Uniting Church Minister at the time, Reverend David Lewis, his wife Kitty Lewis, and parishioners Ruth Ewart, Ray Norton, Jill Gillingham and David Radford.
With Jim’s kind permission, extracts from his article are now combined with additional information from Sally Hobbs for this story about the St Andrew’s stained glass windows – their history, design, and the people they commemorate. Firstly, two stained glass windows from the former Black Rock Congregational Church, presented c.1990, can be seen when entering the small foyer from the car park. The first is dedicated to Harold Hale ‘Bart’ Hughes, who gave his life in the Java Sea Battle in 1942, aged 25 years. The second is in loving memory of Violet A. M. Clarkson. The craftsmen of these two windows are unknown.
Stained glass craftsman Alan Sumner (1911 – 1994), shown in the photograph is regarded as the ‘most prolific of post-war stained glass artists’, with the windows of the Blessed Oliver Plunkett’s Church, Pascoe Vale among his largest works (Geoffrey Down, The University of Melbourne, 2008). His work is represented in the Australian National Gallery, state and regional galleries and the Chapel of Queen’s College, University of Melbourne. Sally says among many others, Alan also created the windows in St Brigid’s Catholic Church, Mordialloc, and Trinity Church, East Melbourne.
St Andrew’s, Black Rock has nine of Alan’s works, including one on the north side and four on both the east and west sides of the sanctuary. Three main windows on the east side each have two distinct themes. In his original article, Jim describes these three windows: “Taken together, the lower portions of the panels symbolise the Holy Trinity with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The upper portions symbolize three main proclamations of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Light. “Jesus as the Way shows Him with staff in one hand and the other hand blessing a sheep. God the Father is depicted in the creative hand sending forth life as rays of light.”
This window was dedicated in 1959 to founding church member Laura Watkins, mother of Nancy and Mavis, and grandmother to Nancy and Ray Norton’s sons Brian, David and Andrew, and Mavis and Tom Durham’s sons, Richard and Ted, who all attended Sunday School and Bible Class. Both Mavis and Nancy and their husbands were very committed and active members of the Church and its committees.
Jesus as the Truth shows Him holding a Communion Cup in both hands while in deep contemplation. “God the Son is depicted as the Paschal Lamb, whose sacrifice was made for our salvation,” writes Jim. This middle stained glass window was donated to St Andrew’s by Mrs Joyce Hobbs and daughters Gail and Sally, in memory of their beloved husband and father, Thomas.
The Hobbs family moved to Beaumaris from Douglas in Western Victoria in 1959. Active involvement in St Andrew’s (then Black Rock Methodist Church) included Tom serving on committees, and using his magnificent tenor voice as choir soloist. Joyce served on the flower arranging and cleaning rosters, and she and Tom hosted musical evenings and fund-raising dinners for the Church at their home. Gail and Sally attended Sunday School and Bible Class. As a teenager, Sally became a support organist and was an Elder and Secretary of the Council of Elders for about 16 years.
Joyce, Gail and Sally Hobbs met Alan Sumner when he worked on their family window in his Collingwood studio. He attended the dedication of their window on June 28, 1987 and visited their home after the service for a luncheon. Jim describes the window depicting Jesus as the Light as showing Him holding a lantern in His outstretched hand, shedding light on a global world. “God the Holy Spirit is depicted as the Dove in up-ward flight.”
This panel commemorates Elsie and Harold Jones, who lived in Second Street, Black Rock. Devoted to each other, their Church, cat Monty and superb garden, Elsie delighted local children annually, dressed as Santa’s helper and visiting with a sack filled with small gifts. After Harold’s passing, Elsie lived in ‘Girrawheen’.
The remaining panel on the east side shows a set of organ pipes, musical notes and The Australian Hymn Book. This window is dedicated to Mavis Durham, organist at St Andrew’s for 73 years. Sally says Mavis stepped in to play the organ aged 11 years, when the regular organist was ill, and continued until 84 years of age.
Sally remembers Mavis Durham as “a fine Christian lady, who had great compassion and a beautiful, gentle nature … and a very skilled piano teacher, organist and pianist who played for the Sandringham Choral Society, and led the large Choir at St Andrew’s for a very long time.”
The stained glass window on the north side is in two parts, featuring the Star of David and a boat above a large fish. Dedication is unknown. Jim says the four works on the west side depict various Biblical themes. “The panel on the far left features sheaves of wheat and bunches of grapes, clearly a communion theme pertaining to the sources of bread and wine.” Dedication is unknown.
“The panel on the near left features a cross with a crown of thorns and an anemone flower (also known as the pasque flower) with its paschal (Passover) associations.” This window is dedicated to Len and Hazel Baud, parents of Lyn and son-in-law Richard Durham. Len, a builder, was a church trustee for many years, and gave much of his time making small alterations to help make the church more comfortable.
“The large panel on the near right features a dove holding a sprig of leaves in its beak, and a white flag with a red cross, and is dedicated to Hilda Thompson by Betty Wilson. This dove probably represents the dove which returned to the Ark, indicating to Noah he was near land.
“The panel on the far right features the well-known letter combination HIS. This is often thought to abbreviate ‘In His Service’, but actually represents the first letters of the three words ‘Jesus Christ Saviour’ in the Greek language. There are also Christmas lilies and leaves, and a dedication to William Tredinnick.” Enid and Hugh Bell donated this window in 1959.
Sincere thanks to Jim Richardson and Sally Hobbs for contributing to this story.
It must be especially inspirational for Sally, as a regular organist at St Andrew’s, to play near her family’s splendid stained glass window. Sally says, “I give thanks for being born into a wonderful, happy family.” Jim believes the stained glass windows at St Andrews actively depict the living faith of an artist who sought to share his visions with others over a long and distinguished career as a craftsman.
“We are all fortunate in having so much of his (Alan Sumner’s) work, truly a ‘treasure trove’, in our Bayside sanctuary.” With their commemoration of special individuals, Biblical symbolism and fine craftsmanship, the beautiful stained glass windows at St Andrew’s by the Sea are indeed precious.
(Photos Malcolm Threadgold & Ian Ferguson)
Origins and History of the Black Rock Parish of the Uniting Church in Australia
1890 – 1990
Compiled by Dawn Odgers, Black Rock
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