Austin church embraces graffiti to raise 'spiritual awareness'

Posted Dec 7, 2011

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin is taking a new approach to entering the Christmas season. Church leaders have commissioned a high school parishioner to “tag” the outside of the Church with graffiti each of the four Advent weeks leading to Christmas. What started on the retaining wall in front of the church, will wrap around the side making the on-going message visible to all in the downtown area during this season.

“The first day it was up, the Rangers came to ask us if we were vandalized,” said the Rev. David Boyd, Rector. “We told them that we weren’t, but the fact they noticed is exactly what we want. Everyone from our coffee shop customers to the mailman want to know what this is all about.”

The first message read “Light is home in you,” and it was painted by parishioner Thu Ley Wah, a senior in high school. Wah was born in Mae la refugee camp in 1993, and now attends Garza High School in Austin after transferring from International High School.

St. David’s is participating in a program that is aimed at heightening spiritual awareness this time of year. The theme, “Light Interrupts”, is intended to interrupt everyday life and is being supported with a daily blog called Light Interrupts, which is authored by another parishioner, Janet Davis.

The first entry explained the vision to followers:

When light first enters darkness, we often respond with blinks and squints. We can’t quite see clearly. So, if you are a bit uncomfortable, blinking and squinting, questioning and wondering what in the world might be next, congratulations! You have now entered a holy space of transformation also known as the season of Advent, a moment in time when God interrupts ordinary time with extraordinary Light and hope.

Davis is the author of two books on spirituality, along with a third book soon to be released in Spring 2012, My Own Worst Enemy: How to Stop Holding Yourself Back.

Within days of the site being launched, it was viewed 1,500 times with hundreds of those viewers connecting through Facebook users who re-posted the link.

“Not everyone was comfortable with the idea of us spray painting the wall around the Church,” said the Rev. Billy Tweedie. “But not everyone is comfortable with talking about God or Jesus, and that’s the point: To start the conversation.”

To learn more, visit the blog here.


Comments (4)

  1. Lyn Krause says:

    Congratulations. You have now invited every tagger and graffiti “artist” to visit St. David’s wall as soon as the official Christmas season is over. I would think that you would find more responsible ways to get your message across for your new members to join. I was a member of St. David’s decades ago, until the bishop gave, as I recall, $250,000 to the Black Panthers organization of that day. Too bad for the parishioners who prefer the “old way” of worshiping, showing respect and dignity. Besides, isn’t that beautiful old building a historical structure? I don’t think adding graffiti is in keeping with a historical landmark designation. Pity.

  2. Chase Gilzow says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  3. John D. Andrews says:

    Wonderful idea. Hope to see a followup story.

  4. Elizabeth Moses says:

    Hmmm….what is the significance beyond the initial shock factor… other than garnering cheap attention? Think the mailman is attracted to this congregation because it does graffitti…? I’d rather know what this church does to care for the poor, disadvantaged, excluded, homeless.

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