By Rebecca Hall
A few years ago, on one of those “holidays” when the kids are out of school but the parents still have to go to work, I brought one of my son’s classmates to St. David’s with us. Her mom worked downtown and had a meeting she just couldn’t skip. The girl looked around the foyer like she wasn’t quite sure about the place. “We’re in a church,” I said. “I work at a church.” It turns out that was this 8-year-old childs’s first time inside a church. So, we started the grand tour – the coffee shop for a juice, the day school and play-ground, the labyrinth to collect snails in the fountain, up to Sumners Hall for a cookie that Chef Ray was taking out of the oven, and finally to the Historic Sanctuary. It was here that time seemed to stop for this little girl. As we approached the big wooden doors, she was taken with the windows and the arches in the Narthex. We walked into the sanctuary and explored the pews and kneelers, then the organ, the choir loft and the pulpit, and finally all the stained glass windows. We reached the back of the church and lit a candle for her grandfather who had recently died. She didn’t want to leave the space. (Side note: At this point my own two boys, whom I have dragged to church almost every Sunday of their lives, were pretend sword fighting on the back stairs and reenacting that church scene from Zorro when the Law tries to shoot Antonio Banderas inside the confessional. Awesome.) We stayed for a long time in the church. She didn’t have a lot of questions. She just wanted to be there.
I was once an 8-year-old girl who had never been inside a church. And the first church I went into with my neighbors was just beautiful – one of the most photographed churches in New England, they say. These Stories of Transformation are about more than just individual lives or moments. They are, on a deeper level, about our collective vocation as members of St. David’s in downtown Austin. Who are we for each other and the world? Part of our particular role in this corner of the city, with our history, is to just be a beautiful and holy space for people to experience God.
I credit my old neighbors and that New England church as significant to me on my spiritual journey, even though it was a brief moment in time. And St. David’s, even on a quiet Monday morning, is a space of transformation for people who are not expecting it. So, amid all the hustle and bustle that is also very much part of who we are, let us be beautiful, let us be available, and let us just be.