Sacred Space at Holy Spirit
Knowing that symbols are most effective when they are understood, I invite you to
digest the symbols within this Sacred Space. Some are traditional to our faith and some
are unique to Church of the Holy Spirit. In this Sacred Space, you can be reminded of
creation and transformed by moments of unity with God’s people. Symbols of Sacred
Space are everywhere at Church of the Holy Spirit.
Outside the Walls
The paramount goal of the Sacred Space Team, while working with Overland Partners,
Architect, in developing this property was to create an opportunity to encounter the
Lord in a Sacred Space from the time you enter the property to the time you depart –
and even as you drive past on Bandera Road.
As you enter the Sacred Space you will first notice the trees that cover the land. These
trees are a significant part of the story of Holy Spirit and remind us of the Lord’s
command to all humanity to “fill the earth and subdue it.”3 In other words, the Lord
gave humanity all of creation to maintain, both by building up and tearing down.
As you drive to the end of the driveway, you will notice a bench in the middle of
Mary’s Garden as well as several benches on the front porch. These benches are the
symbols of refreshment that the Lord offers us as we hand our lives over to him. In
Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus turns to thank the Father in heaven, he says,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew11:28‐29
When you look at the building, you will notice a contemporary look. This design came
from many conversations with the architect about achieving a modern expression of a
The roof line of the porch turns upward, reflecting the openness of the Holy Spirit and offering an invitation to gather.
The siding resembles the traditional old clapboard church of previous centuries.
The stone walls pull from the architecture of the Texas Hill Country.
The concrete interacts with the traditional building materials to create a harmonious and modern effect.
Even the blue paint color, found under the soffits, front porch, and in the worship space reflects the Painted Churches of the Texas Hill Country and the “haint blue” found under the porch roofs of many southern homes.5 This color blue carries throughout the Sacred Space, as you stand under the porch, in the worship space, or look up from Mary’s Garden.
If you keep walking past the front porch and around to the far side of the church, you
will encounter the All Saints’ Columbarium, where the ashes of those who have gone
before us go to rest after cremation. This place is a wonderful area to gather for quiet prayer. You might almost envision the opening words to a great hymn written on the concrete beam above the columbarium, “For all the saints, who from their labors rest…”
Inside the Walls
The worship space is filled with symbols and substantive architecture and engineering.
From the poured concrete columns to the floating ceiling structure, this space was a
significant collaboration among members of the Sacred Space Team; Overland
Partners, Architects; Keller-Martin, Contractors; and all the engineers who ensured that
the steel and concrete worked together in unity.
The symbols of the worship space represent the foundations of our faith. You will be
reminded of your Baptism as you walk onto the blue floor and wade symbolically
through the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. As you look up, you will notice
the open spaces in the ceiling as well as the heavenly blue of the painted rectangular
cupola. The blue on the floor and the cupola keeps us rooted into the promises of
our baptism while symbolizing our journey toward a closer relationship with God
and an encounter with the heavenly realm.
The openings in the ceiling panels serve as an acoustical balance but also allow the
sound and air to move freely, like the Holy Spirit. The worship space was intentionally designed for music – sung and instrumental.
So as you pray or sing, you never know where your prayer will be lifted nor on whom your prayer will fall. The rectangular cupola contains metal baffles that open and
close based on levels of heat and moisture, so the louder you sing and the harder you pray, the baffles will open and your prayers and singing will be sent out into the
world! When this detail was shared with one church member, she said, “It is almost as if the church is breathing!” The answer is, “yes,” the church is breathing, but it only breathes when God’s people fill it with their prayers, singing, and worship. So pray boldly and let the Holy Spirit carry your prayers where they need to go!
Symbols are particularly powerful when a community assigns meaning. At the front
of the worship space stands the Jerusalem Cross. Historically, this cross was carried
during the Crusades, which was not a proud moment in the history of Christianity.
However, a red Jerusalem cross stood at the entrance of Church of the Holy Spirit
for many years and was the first and last object seen by church members and anyone
else who passed by. What was once a sign of destruction has been redefined for our
community as a symbol of hope, restoration, and God’s grace.
At the center of the Jerusalem Cross is a circular glass piece (not yet installed). The
circular glass reflects a design tradition that developed possibly during the Dark
Ages. At the time of the Elevation of the Host wafer during Communion, the priest
became a visual part of the building architecture. For us, the circular glass is symbolic
of that Elevated Host wafer, and yet its clarity also allows connection with the
outside world and reminds us that what was once broken has been restored to
On either side of the Jerusalem Cross is the Rood Screen, which emerged as an idea
during conversations between the Sacred Space Team and Overland Partners,
Architects. The Rood Screen redefines a medieval tradition that separated the
congregation in the nave from the liturgical party in the chancel and sanctuary (area
behind the altar rail). The great Rood is a crucifix or a representation of Christ on
the Cross and the screen bore the great Rood. We removed the Crucifix, a symbol
of Good Friday, and replaced it with the empty cross, a symbol of the empty tomb
of Easter. We are resurrection people! With the moving of the Rood Screen, we are
all in the nave (where the congregation sits); or we are all the liturgical party with
the world outside of the Spirit Window (the large window at the front of the church)
being the congregation. Choose your place.
On the Gospel side of the worship space (left side of the church) is a portion of the
Pentecost reading from John’s Gospel (John 14:16-17, 25-26). On the Epistle side
(right side) of the church is a portion of the Pentecost reading from the Acts of the
Apostles (Acts 2:1-4). These passages were chosen because the feast of Pentecost is
when the Holy Spirit descends among God’s people and they are transformed and
sent out into the world, filled with the Holy Spirit.
In 2014, two chairs were commissioned for artist Roberto Celis to produce. Celis
also created the altar, ambo, and baptismal font. These two chairs, the Bishop’s Chair
(which may only be sat in by the Bishop) and Priest’s chair, are designed to be open
to allow light to easily move around and through them and to match the pieces on
the altar platform because of their liturgical significance. Added to these chairs in
2015, thanks to the great work of the St. Clare’s Needlepoint Guild, you will see the
traditional Bishop’s miter and the Breastplate of the Order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek is the priest who blessed Abraham in the book of Genesis (14:18-20).
Melchizedek is also mentioned in Hebrews Chapter 7 and Psalm 110. These traditional
symbols are nested in nontraditional chairs, once again offering a modern expression of
a church tradition.
As you look around the worship space, you can also know that you are surrounded
by the prayers of our congregation. In the midst of construction, and before the
drywall was in place, we had a series of prayer meetings when the entire congregation
and friends were invited to write names of loved ones, favorite prayers, Bible verses,
and the list goes on. These “prayers on the property” are rooted in the Anglican
tradition of the “Beating of the Bounds” when members of a parish would walk and
pray the geographical boundary of the parish, surrounding the whole region with
prayers. Because the Episcopal Church does not function quite so literally with the
concept of parish, we surrounded the whole building with prayers – the worship
space, the offices, the nursery, the sacristy, and even the bathrooms! When you enter
the building built in this Sacred Space, you are always surrounded by prayers!