Anne Constable The Star of David in a stained-glass window over the entrance to the Church of the Holy Faith is a tribute to the Jewish community that helped raise money for the new Episcopal church on Palace Avenue. Fundraising for the church began around 1879 and the first building was dedicated in 1882. Holy Faith is one of more than 100 sacred spaces in eight cities opening their doors to the public next weekend in conjunction with the national PBS broadcast of God in America from Oct. 11-13.
The six-hour series is a co-production of American Experience and Frontline. It explores the 400-year history of the intersection of religion and public life in America from the first European settlements to the 2008 presidential election, according to a news release. Besides Santa Fe, the other cities participating include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. The national outreach campaign is designed to encourage conversations about religion and contemporary spirituality. In each city, Sacred Space International selected sites for their architectural significance, their impact on the city's history or contemporary culture and their willingness to engage in interfaith dialogue.
The spaces represent a mix of churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and nondenominational spaces. During a tour of Holy Faith last week, sexton Bill Adrian pointed out the reredos carved by Gustave Baumann. The noted Santa Fe artist was hired by the Holy Faith Guild and worked on the altar screen from 1943 to 1945. Christ is pictured in the middle with St. John on one side and St. Paul on the other. Two figures on each side of the saints depict the four races — white, black, Native and Asian. C.J. Kinsolving, the rector at the time, posed for some of the figures in Baumann's studio, said Adrian, whose job includes caring for the property, burying the dead in the columbarium and ringing the bells. The bronze bas relief of the Lamb of God with the cross on the front of the altar — dedicated in 1982 — was designed by parishioner Schatzie Hubbell, he said, and cast at Shidoni foundry. Hubbell also painted the artwork in Palen Hall, the John Gaw Meem-designed building that was added in the early 1900s and which at one time was used for school dances.
The church was originally named Mission of the Good Shepherd, then St. Thomas — until 1880, when Bradford Prince, a governor of New Mexico and one of the famous parishioners, declared that Santa Fe was the city of Holy Faith and this should be the Church of the Holy Faith. Prince's pew was right next to a stained glass window he commissioned in memory of his first wife, who died of pneumonia after a train trip in Northern New Mexico. He also donated the lectern and a baptismal font. And when the rector was absent, he stepped in to deliver the homily at Sunday services, Adrian said.
The mid-20th century Conkey House includes a well-equipped library — now with wireless Internet — and the Chapel of the Good Shepherd adorned with stained glass windows features an animal in each panel, including a dog belonging to the donor. The first marriage performed in the church, Adrian said, was between a defrocked priest from the cathedral, who went on to become a territorial senator, and his housekeeper. And the archway between two of the buildings is said to be made from stones salvaged from a downtown brothel. Adrian said he was expecting visitors as well as locals for next weekend's open house. "There seems to be a hunger for sacred spaces," he said. Visitors come to Santa Fe for the food, art and history, but "they also want to see our sacred spaces," Adrian said. Those might be mountaintops or gorges, cathedrals or churches like Holy Faith, he added.
Sacred Space International was founded in 2002 by Suzanne Morgan to promote interfaith education and dialogue through the understanding of religious architecture. The retired architect, who has expertise in liturgical design, started the organization in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath of fear and cultural misunderstanding.