From Reverend Ruthledge's Good Friday sermon, he always said this one on Good Fridays:
"And so, on this day of days we ... you and I ... have only to remember the Crucifixion to know that in spite of greed and hate, of strife and struggle, of hatred and injustice, the sufferings of life ... the faith of one Man still is the hope of mankind. The truth that He gave to the world ... the truths and the principles which were uttered by His lips centuries ago, can be a Guiding Light to all peoples at all times."
The Rev. Dr. John Ruthledge was a liberal, nonsectarian clergyman in the small Chicago suburb of Five Points. Week after week, parishioners from all faiths came to the Little Church of Five Points to hear Dr. Ruthledge speak out against the insidiousness of racial prejudice, the horror of war and the injustice of poverty. But Dr. Ruthledge's influence on the townspeople extended far beyond his weekly sermons. In the window of his study, his reading lamp -- known fondly as the Friendship Lamp, given to him by an Italian immigrant named Luigi Pasquali who worked in the paint factory at Five Points. Ruthledge's lamp always burned brightly, a signal to those in need who would seek his counsel. This lamp was as constant and comforting a presence as Dr. Ruthledge himself and was known to all in Five Points as "The Guiding Light."
Dr. Ruthledge's wife died early in their marriage, leaving him to raise their daughter, Mary, alone. Shortly thereafter, a troubled young woman, named Frances Holden left her eight-year-old son, Ned Holden, in the minister's care. Frances was on the run after being implicated in a robbery committed by her slick and abusive husband, Paul Holden. Mary and Ned were raised as sister and brother, but as they grew older they realized they were very much in love.
After Ned had become a successful author, he bought a brooch for Mary from a charming but mysterious woman named Fredericka Lang. Little did Ned know that Frederika was actually his estranged mother, Frances Holden! Her on-again, off-again marriage to the errant Paul reached a tragic climax when Paul followed her to Five Points. Paul told Frances of his plan to reveal to Ned that they were his parents, in hopes that they could then live off Ned's substantial book royalties. This bombshell sent Frances completely over the edge, and she shot and killed the contemptible Paul! Dr. Ruthledge saved Frances from the electric chair by convincing the governor to give her a reprieve. Ned was sickened to discover that "Frederika" was the mother who had abandoned him, and he bitterly wrote her off. Shaken to the core, Ned sought solace with a showgirl, from San Francisco, named Torchy Reynolds and impulsively married her. But Torchy soon realized that Ned still loved Mary, and she generously granted him a divorce. Ned forgave his mother and married Mary, with Dr. Ruthledge's proudly officiating the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ruthledge, who had won the affectionate nickname of "The Good Samaritan" over the years, settled union disputes and domestic quarrels and encouraged his flock through a series of powerful sermons to seek a fuller and more beautiful life for themselves and their families. These sermons touched on racial prejudice, man's need to help those less fortunate, and the futility of war.
On April 6, 1944, Dr. Ruthledge left to become a military chaplain in World War II in Europe (stationed with Eisenhower's troops, he was even a part of the D-Day invasion). At this point, the Little Church of Five Points was left in the care of Rev. Dr. Richard Gaylord. In February 1945, Dr. Gaylord was having personal family problems of his own, and left the ministering of the parishioners at the Little Church of Five Points to, Rev. Dr. Frank Tuttle and his young assistant, Rev. Bill Brown. Dr. Ruthledge returned for his parishioners shortly after the European theater of the War ended with the Germans surrendering on May 7, 1945 and would be at the Little Church of Five Points until his death in October 1946. Before his death, he entrusted his son-in-law, Ned Holden, with his final wish: to deliver the lamp to his dearest friend from his years at the seminary, the Rev Dr. Charles Matthews. Dr. Matthews was the pastor of the Church of the Good Samaritan in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood known as Selby Flats, where he lived with his sister, Winifred "Winnie" Hale, and Winnie's daughter, Pamela. Deeply moved upon receiving the lamp, Dr. Matthews addressed the inmates at the nearby state prison, working his sermon around the "Guiding Light" theme. He summarized his homily with the sobering but calming words that had been the Rev. Ruthledge's touchstone:
There is a destiny that makes us brothers
None goes his way alone.
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.