Cibolo Creek Conference

Spirit of Joy:

Building A Community Haven in Seguin 

Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Seguin, TX is a relatively new congregation on a mission. Formed in 2011, the congregation had been bopping around meeting places until purchasing the former Juan Seguin Elementary School campus just before the pandemic.  

The campus was empty for 10 years, and Spirit of Joy was the only bidder in a recent city auction. Now the congregation of about 200 members is turning the five school buildings into a true community campus. They remodeled the main cafeteria building to serve as the Worship space, kitchen, and offices. The other four buildings will be slowly remodeled for neighbors and community organizations.

The remodeled sanctuary at Spirit of Joy’s new campus. 

The school was originally for Mexican-American students when Seguin was racially segregated, and later served as an early childhood center and elementary school. 

Pastor Megan Elliott explained the church’s hopes to be community-driven stewards while acknowledging the fraught history of the place, including plans to build a small museum of the school and the history of segregation. 

“We needed to step into that history with care and thoughtfulness,” Megan said. “The neighborhood we’re in, the history, that existed well before us. In forming the way we did, it's wanting to say all are welcome and really mean that.”

To start turning Spirit of Joy’s new campus into a community hub, the church reached out to alumni to host an annual reunion at the former school. 80 guests showed up at the first celebration which included alumni speakers, music from local folklórico group Teatro De Artes de Juan Seguin, and an annual community scholarship. Now alumni are leading the reunions, with Spirit of Joy just hosting, a model for how they hope to use the space with other community partners. 

Part of the church’s enthusiasm for hospitality likely comes from wandering in the proverbial desert without a permanent home for so long. “But it made us flexible, it made us more agile, it made us more grateful for the space,” Megan said. “I think we use the space in a richer way than if we already had a church building. We don’t have the line of ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”

“One of the first things we learned through the community listening process is that there are folks without homes nearby and among their greatest needs are laundry facilities and a shower,” Megan said. The church is renovating the smaller building next to the Sanctuary and named it La Casita de Alegria (the Little House of Joy), to include showers and laundry machines. 

Since Seguin’s hike and bike trail runs through the campus, congregants also started Community Cycles on site, a program to teach bike repair and get bicycles to neighbors who might need one.

Spirit of Joy member Kathy Yandell serves a

Texas Lutheran University student during a community cleanup day. 

Spirit of Joy formed after the ELCA’s 2009 decision to allow ordination for LGBTQ folks. A congregation in Seguin started planning to leave the ELCA, so a group from that church stepped away from the argument to form an inclusive church, Spirit of Joy.

“A lot of times congregations birthed out of conflict have conflict built in their DNA,” Pastor Megan said. “With Spirit of Joy, it was conflict but also defending the marginalized and wanting to be a welcoming space for all people. That’s what got written into the DNA of the congregation.”


Megan’s first church call was in her native Ohio, before being called to Spirit of Joy in 2016.

“I was in the call process for over a year,” Megan said. “My changing of calls was also my coming out. I was trying to find a place that would embrace the whole of who I was. Never in a million years did I think that would be in Seguin, Texas,” she said with a laugh. 

Spirit of Joy is trying to be a safe haven, an island, in a world with plenty of exclusion. “There’s this sense in the LGBTQ community that you need to be in a big city to be safe,” Megan said. “I hope we can create safe spaces everywhere for everyone. I hope that Spirit of Joy can be a little part of that.” 

“I think we always have to be asking the question, ‘who is on the margins, who is being oppressed, how can we reach those people, how can we work for justice for those folks?’” Megan added. “All of the queer clergy I know are such gifts to the church. If you are cutting yourself off from those leaders and church members coming in, you are missing out on so much richness in this world. And what a sad existence."

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