San Antonio Mennonite Church has had a home in the King William neighborhood for nearly three decades, although its building (at 1443 S. St. Mary’s) has been around for much longer. The red tile roof, white stucco walls and intricate windows make it a fine piece of Mediterranean architecture. Mennonites, having Anabaptist roots similar to the Amish, do not ordinarily worship in such fancy church buildings. Simple living is part of the faith tradition; but in the mid-1980s, a group of Mennonites began worshiping in the fellowship hall of the church, which at the time was Westminster Presbyterian. A few years later, the Presbyterian church decided to sell the building to the Mennonites.
Today the congregation is very active. While some members bike to church, others come from as far as Boerne and Seguin. I have been attending SAMC for the past ten years, and currently serve as Congregational Chair. Two years ago, I learned quite a bit about our property while researching a grant for the San Antonio Conservation Society. Cornerstones list the dates of 1899 for a structure that no longer stands, and 1928 for one wing of the current building, and 1948 for the other. The property is designated a San Antonio Historic Landmark. Our Conservation Society grant application was approved and we were able to rebuild one stained glass window, repair others, and rebuild a set of wooden doors with funding paid to a master carpenter specializing in historic preservation.
Keeping up with the physical needs of our church building is a daunting task for a congregation with only one paid staff member, our pastor, Rachel Epp Miller. Several years ago, we hired an architectural firm to do a complete evaluation of our property and suggest renovations. The price tag for our wish list was twenty times our annual budget. We scaled back our plans significantly, but have made major repairs in the past five years: a new tile roof, renovation of our Fellowship Hall, new ceilings and more. We are currently fundraising for additional repairs.
Upkeep of the building is important considering how well it is used. During the week of October 6, the peaceCenter held two meetings; the preschool co-op met two mornings; P.E.A.C.E Initiative held two events; several support groups had sessions; the Center for Formative Action and Reflection held three events (including a free yoga class on Wednesday night); and an author came to speak to a women’s book club. Our building is also used for the DOOR program, which facilitates urban mission trips for young people visiting San Antonio, typically during the summer. On Saturday mornings the garden crew tends the plants inside the picket fence. Of course, Sunday mornings are the busiest.
San Antonio Mennonite Church welcomes all. If you are curious about Mennonites, there is much to be learned on the web, and we meet every Sunday morning at 10:45.
- Mitzi Moore