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.