The Sanctuary rises sixty-two feet above 21st Ave. As much as possible the building was made from local material. The exterior stone was quarried from Cedar Park (Random Shellstone), with Cordova cream cut limestone as trim at the base of the building. Below the Great Memorial Window is the name University Christian Church, and on either side of it are stone carvings created by (then) UT Associate Professor of Art Charles Umlauf which depict the writers of the four gospels as the faces of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekial 1:10).
Mathew is given the face of man to represent the human nature of Jesus Christ. Mark is given the face of a lion to convey Jesus Christ’s regal nature. Luke is given the face of an ox to represent the sacrificial nature of Jesus Christ. John is given the face of an eagle to convey the spiritual nature of Jesus Christ. Below the Umlauf carvings are the eight Narthex windows.
The main entrance to the Sanctuary is covered by a stone arch with a carved stone tympanum of symbols of the tenets of the Disciples of Christ faith. The cross is surrounded by the shields of the twelve apostles (with St. Paul’s shield in place of Judas of Iscariat’s). Incorporated in the design are the symbols Chi Rho (an abbreviation of XPISTOS, the Greek word for Christ) and the Alpha-Omega (beginning and end).
The Great Memorial Window
The Willet Stained Glass Co. of Philadelphia, PA designed the Great Memorial Window – and had previously designed a stained glass window for University Methodist Church. Given by Dr. and Mrs. O.B. Douglas and Mr. and Mrs. Roswell G. Miller in memory of the Douglas’ daughter Marjory Nell Douglas Hirsch, the Great Memorial Window measures 16 feet across at the base and 21 feet from the base to the top of the arch. It was created especially to symbolize the church’s ministry to students. Reverend Bash had said, “We want the window to be a campus landmark so that people will identify it with our church.
Christ is the central figure appealing to youth on either side to follow his teachings. The open book at the top of the arch symbolizes the Gospel. The seals of the World Council of Churches and the United Nations at Jesus’ feet indicate that as man increases his love for Christ, he draws nearer to a united church and united world. Interwoven in the image is the message, Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The panels on either side of the figure of Christ contain symbols of worthwhile work to which youth can dedicate their lives. At the top of the left panel, clasped hands over the university seal symbolize the great friendships that grow out of university life. Continuing down the panel, the other symbols represent various aspects of education. The owl atop university doors represents education beyond university. The ship and scepters stand for trade and commerce. The torch and laurel wreath symbolize general and physical education. The lyre is for arts, and the calipers are for science.
The right panel is topped by a lamb carrying St. George’s cross – an emblem of lay and professional religious work. The symbols that follow represent work that serves mankind. The torch and outstretched hands are for social work. The lamp with the tree of life and caduceus (Mercury’s staff) stand for health professions. The sword and scales symbolize justice. The spinning wheel represents homemaking, and the lit lamp stands for culture.
Below the Great Memorial Window and the Umlauf carvings are the eight windows given by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Chastain in honor of the youth of Texas. The windows depict Christ’s commandments to preach the gospel, teach all nations, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, release the captives, befriend the homeless, visit the sick, and comfort the sorrowful.
The two Gospel Windows on the east side of the Narthex were given by the churches of District 12 (in the vicinity of Wichita Falls, now part of the Central Area). The windows interpret the life and ministry of Jesus as seen by the writers of the four gospels and St. Paul. The top portions of the two windows give St. Paul’s words (1 Cor 9:22), “I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” The lower panels convey aspects of Christ’s life through the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – paralleling the Umlauf carvings on the exterior.
With Matthew’s man is scripture that notes Jesus Christ was “Tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Mark’s lion is accompanied by the proclamation “The mighty God, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Luke’s Ox helps recall that Jesus Christ “(… came to seek and to) save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). With John’s eagle is the theme of Eternal Life: “In Him was life (and the life was the light of men).” (John 1:4). The Narthex was dedicated in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Earnest O. Gillam.
The Sanctuary was designed in a modified Gothic style intended to convey the openness that is typical of Disciples of Christ and also the solemnity needed to lift man’s thought above the routine of everyday life. The great wooden arches integral to the design are made of Douglas fir from Oregon and measure 14 by 18 inches thick. The mahogany pews, finished to match the American walnut paneling, provide seating for about 650 people. The floor is cork tile. The balcony was dedicated in honor of the Central Christian Foundation of San Antonio. The pews and several other components of the Sanctuary were also special gifts from key church supporters. The fleur-de-lis pattern is consistent with UT’s Mace of Authority (1956), which uses the pattern to represent the light of learning.
On Dedication Sunday, the side windows of the Sanctuary had clear glass panels, which were replaced the following year with stained glass. On either side of the pews are four small windows with a simple stained glass pattern. Above them, on each side of the Sanctuary are five larger windows, representing ten of the disciples. Judas and James the Lesser are omitted. (See the inset below for a description of each of the windows.)
The chancel is divided with a lectern on the right and a pulpit (given by Judge and Mrs. E.H Yeiser) on the left so that the focus is in the center – on the cross, the baptistry (given in memory of Sam J. Smith) and the Lord’s Table. The Table displays a relief of the Last Supper, which had been previously donated by Mrs. William M. Blanks (Bill Hilger’s grandmother) the year before her own death in 1950. The Chancel furnishings were given in memory of Dr. Floyd Allan Bash (Rev. Bash’s father). Across the back wall are twelve shields repeating those carved in stone above the entrance to the church. The shields are described in the inset (next page).
The new Sanctuary represented about half of the $600,000 construction project. The second part of the project - building the education wing out towards University Avenue and tearing down the Texas Bible Chair building – was expected to occur five to ten years in the future. The bell tower that would join the education building and Sanctuary was also yet to be built.
There were many individuals who worked hard to bring the church this far in its development. Although they are too numerous to mention in full, they included members of the Board of Development (chaired by Dr. Joe W. Bailey), the Construction Committee (chaired by Dr. O.B. Douglas), the Building Plans Committee (chaired by H.F. Nitschke) and the Committee of Forty (more like Sixty-Four) who came from all over the state (chaired by Cecil B. Morgan).
The architects were Robert Leon White (UT supervising architect), Dr. Nolan Barrick (head of Texas Tech’s school of architecture and formerly at UT), and the Austin firm of Jessen, Millhouse, and Greeven. W.D. Anderson Co. was the general contractor.
-- Sue Williams[Editor of the UCC Caller, in the May 2004 edition]
The Apostles’ Shields
- St. Peter – 2 large keys crossed and an inverted cross recall the keys to heaven and that Simon Peter had asked to be crucified in a different position than Jesus because he felt he was not worthy to have the same position
- St. James the Greater – three scallop shells symbolize pilgrimage and St. James (the Elder)’s missionary zeal
- St. John – serpent and sword represent the power of the Sword of the Spirit over sin
- St. Andrew – anchor and Cross saltire recall his journeys and his death on a Greek cross that was on the diagonal
- St. Philip – basket and Tau Cross recall Jesus feeding the multitudes and Philip’s death
- St. Bartholmew – three flaying knives recall that he was flayed and then crucified
- St. Thomas – carpenter’s square and spear recall his trade and his death
- St. Matthew – three purses refer to his original calling as a tax collector
- St. James the Less – saw symbolizes the desecration of his body
- St. Thaddaeus or Lebbacus (St. Jude) – carpenter’s square and boat-hook recall his trade and his missionary journeys
- St. Simon – fish impaled on a boat-hook symbolize his missionary travels with St. Jude and his greatness as a fisher of men through the Gospel
- St. Paul – is represented by an open Bible bearing the words Spiritus Gladius and by the Sword of the Spirit