March 08, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Discussions in Shiner, Texas at the United Lutheran Church leadership meeting took an interesting turn as we presented the entryways for the new gathering space. A social hall attached to the side of the traditional church will soon be expanded to also function as the main gathering space or narthex. Since most people will enter the church through the new narthex, we found ourselves talking about the traditional red front door. And, of course, we had to ask about the significance of the color red.

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It is common for many churches of a certain era, especially Episcopal and Lutheran, to have brightly painted red front doors. I had done a bit of research on this topic in graduate school, so I knew there was no single origin to account for the tradition. Various sources suggest the crimson color is associated with the blood of Christ, a reminder of His sacrifice for our salvation. Others note that in times of unrest, red was a sign of safety and protection to those in trouble or fleeing persecution. Still others suggest the red door is a sign that the mortgage has been paid off! I also find it interesting that the same crimson red color for a door or a portal is a sign of luck and prosperity in many Chinese and Japanese building traditions.

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Our conversations in Shiner eventually led us to decide we will explore several options for the old front door. We’ll consider using red on the new narthex door, and perhaps tone down the red color on the old door. Someone suggested leaving the old door alone, but that was quickly rejected. And the reason why? One of the members responsible for maintenance had the definitive reason: “It's so old, we have to do something.  I keep rebuilding that door and it still sticks. Pretty soon, no one will be able to open the front door!” Whatever the color, all agreed that the front doors, old and new do have to open.

Shiner United Lutheran Church, 1103 N. Avenue B
PO Box 26
Shiner, TX 77984

Sacred Architecture/ Historic Preservation