RELIGION CENTER! These two words are filled with warmth and affection on the campus of Columbia Union College located in the city of our world headquarters in Takoma Park, Maryland. The H. M. S. Richards Religion Center derives a deeper sentimentality for the patrons, faculty, and students of the school because it is named to honor one of its most illustrious graduates, H. M. S. Richards, speaker and director of the famed Voice of Prophecy international radio broadcasts.
Columbia Union College stands unique among sister colleges in North America as the only one possessing such a Religion Center on its campus. This is not only a building where "religion" is objectively taught but where Christ is subjectively sought as the Author and Finisher of the true faith.
In addition to modern, well-equipped, newly furnished classrooms, the Religion Center offers to the student a beautiful chapel. This chapel is furnished with native walnut wood-paneled walls and matching walnut pews. Wall-to-wall carpeting and a most meaningful and significant decor of various Christian symbolisms make this chapel sought after by students and faculty alike for worship, personal devotions, and appropriate meetings.
The symbolisms of the H. M. S. Richards chapel express the great centralities of the gospel that have witnessed to God's truth through the centuries.
On the north wall are boat symbolisms of the first-century Christians. They represent pictorially the victorious traversing of the sea of life, and by the sail of faith one is reminded of the simple faith of the early believer in Jesus Christ as the one safe guide of their lives.
The central panel is composed of the Greek letter symbolisms of Alpha and Omega, so fitting to depict Him who is the "first" and the "last." Seen also is the XP (Chi-Rho), which stands for Christ as the first Greek letters of the name "Christos."
The fish symbolism likewise was chosen by the early second- and third-century Christians to identify their faith and one another during persecution. The letters of the Greek word ichthus, meaning fish, were also uniquely the first letters of the Greek words meaning "Jesus Christ, God, Son, Saviour."
On the south wall of the chapel may be seen Biblical symbolisms characterizing the "remnant" Christians, namely, the Bible, the law of God, and the three angels heralding their mighty message of final entreaty to judgment-bound mankind.
Behind the pulpit, attention is focused upon a world map with our Lord's commission, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel," inscribed above it.
Finally, the glorious cross is depicted as foundational to the successful preaching pulpit from whence flows the enabling grace of a triumphant, living Saviour.
In an adjacent room to the chapel may be found an additional feature unique to the H. M. S. Richards Religion Center. This is the beautiful Museum of Biblical Antiquities. Exact copies of the imposing seven-foot shaft known as the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, the three-foot head of Thutmose III, and the Rosetta and Moabite stones are there and one is intrigued by this on-campus museum, which makes the Bible more than an abstract book of history; it is a living record of the mighty acts of the God of history.
Included in the collection of artifacts are not only duplicate copies from the world's greatest museums but also originals either on loan or gifts of those who have visited the Bible lands, such as the personal collection of Neal C. Wilson, B. G. Wilkinson, the writer, and others.
The idea for the development of a Museum of Biblical Antiquities and church artifacts began with the late M. E. Kern from whose day onward various mementos of overseas travel and church growth were deposited and stored in the college library.
Later, during the years when Leslie Hardinge served as chairman of the department of religion the idea of such a museum matured. For several years the humble beginnings of this collection were displayed in the lower level of Columbia Hall. Encouragement for the expansion of this project was given by the college board during the administration of Charles B. Hirsch. The careful gathering of copies of historic archeological discoveries continued. During the past year final phases of the museum have been under the direction of the writer.
Coincident with the establishment of the H. M. S. Richards Religion Center, space was allotted for the first time to house permanently a college Museum of Biblical Antiquities. The present administration of Columbia Union College—Neal C. Wilson, chairman of the board, and Winton Beaven, president of the college—has given valuable support to the department of religion for future development of this project. As funds are available important additions will be made to the museum.
As one enters this beautifully housed and arranged museum he is attracted to the arresting three-dimensional ten-foot painting of the Mount Sinai complex with a model of the wilderness tabernacle on the plain at its base. The tabernacle is unique in that a series of electric lights automatically flashes during a five-minute recorded description of the sanctuary, its furniture and its services.
The story of this college campus spiritual center would not be complete without reference to the remaining project now being developed. A new impetus to the project was recently given with the generous gift to the Religion Center of the B. G. Wilkinson Memorial Library. This library, consisting of the fine personal theological library of this distinguished scholar, teacher, and administrator, given by his son Dr. Rowland Wilkinson, marks the beginning of a rapidly developing theological research library that promises to be unique to the campus of Columbia Union College.
Thus once again the prophetic utterances of the messenger of God as she stood on the very spot where this headquarters college now stands are confirmed as the light of truth continues to shine forth from this school of divine planting. Early in 1904 in her first Sabbath sermon in Takoma Park she said: "I am thankful to God for the privilege of seeing the land that has been purchased for our institutional work in this place. The securing of this land was in the Lord's providence."—Life Sketches, p. 397. A few days later she wrote: "The location that has been secured for our school and sanitarium is all that could be desired. The land resembles representations that have been shown me by the Lord. . . . It seems as if Takoma Park has been specially prepared for us, and that it has been waiting to be occupied by our institutions and their workers. My hopes for this place are high. . . . Were Christ here upon the ground, He would say, 'Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.' John 4:35." —Ibid.
Indeed, they are "white already to harvest" and our hopes are high for those who enter the doors of the Religion Center for the study of God's Word.