Blessed are the Windows!

First published on: 6th February 2020

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev’d Christopher Chessun, was a special guest at USPG’s chapel on Wednesday 5 February, where he led a service of blessing and dedication for USPG’s stained glass windows.

The windows had been in storage since USPG moved into its new building a year ago. ‘It’s a deep joy to have them back,’ said Rev’d Duncan Dormor, USPG’s General Secretary. ‘This is a chapel space that’s been part of an office building, and they really bring it alive for me – both with the colour the stained glass brings, and the sense of history. They represent where we’ve come from, who we are, and for me they speak to the nature of the Anglican Communion today.’

As he blessed the windows, Bishop Chessun paid tribute to the four bishops commemorated on them: Samuel Adjai Crowther from Nigeria, Vedanayakam Samuel Azariah from India, Tsae Seng Sing from China and Joseph Sakunoshin Motoda from Japan.

‘These four bishops were surely signs of hope in the world,’ Bishop Chessun said. ‘They are signs that for all we may be constrained and confined in our culture, the Gospel we have been given to proclaim does, time and again, shine forth in ways that make profound contact with God’s people in every part of the world.’

A relative of Bishop Azariah’s, the Rev’d Jessie Anand, did a Bible reading in Tamil during the service. ‘I’m so proud of this,’ she said afterwards. ‘I worked here in USPG as a desk officer for Asia, and I was the first USPG missionary in the UK through the ‘come over and help us’ programme. And today I am very proud because VS Azariah, as we call him, comes from the same area as me and we’re related! His daughter was married to my uncle and I was brought up with his spirituality. He gave so much to the Church in India. He would always say that love is the basis for mission.’

‘When I first came to the UK in 1987, I went to the old USPG building, Partnership House in Waterloo,’ said Jessie’s husband, the Very Rev’d Sekar Anand Asir Anand. ‘I saw VS Azariah’s portrait in the stained glass window and I cried. It was as if he was saying to me, “Hey man, we both come from the same place. Welcome!”’

Another relative of Bishop Azariah’s – his great-niece Vasantha Gnanadoss also attended the service. ‘I’m both very proud and very humbled to be here today,’ she said.

The windows were originally commissioned and produced in 1951 to mark the 250th anniversary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) as it was then. The bishops depicted on them were the first four native bishops within the Anglican Communion.