The church itself is a work of art. Though St. Paul’s is rich is symbolism, it is rather more subtle and subdued than a Gothic church in the Middle Ages would have been. The stained glass is more abstract; however, Biblical scenes do form the central panels of the high nave windows. They range from scenes that depict events in the Hebrew Bible to incidents in the life of Jesus. The stained glass in St. Paul’s is somewhat unusual because of its antiqued appearance, created by spreading a charcoal film over the colored glass and then baking it. The predominant color in the windows is a cobalt blue.
Spirituality and art are also represented in the carving of the Cross and the group of carvings symbolic of the Passion incised on the reredos (area behind the altar). Many worshipers do not even realize these carvings are there. The symbols are on shields, and each has a specific association with the crucifixion – an olive branch and club, the crown of thorns and three nails, a ladder, a reed and a sponge, and a pincer and mallet.
Two recurring themes in the wood carvings in the St. Paul’s Sanctuary are the vine and branch and the rose. The vine and branch motif is a visual expression of Jesus’ promise in the Gospel of John, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). It is used on the ends of pews in the nave, on most of the chancel furniture and accoutrements, and, most appropriately, on the altar and table where the Eucharist is celebrated. The rose motif carried throughout the building symbolizes a variety of concepts, including purity and the Virgin Mary. Indeed, one of the features seen in most of the great Gothic churches of Europe is the Lady Chapel, a small worship space dedicated to Mary, the Mother of our Lord. In St. Paul’s the rose is seen as a symbol of God’s redemptive promises and as a symbol of the divine love expressed in Jesus Christ.
Outside, the statue of Christ that stands on the south lawn of the church was given by the Henderson family. The statue has drawn people to it for four decades, and it is not unusual to see individuals sitting on benches near it gazing up into the face of Jesus. The statue is a replica of one carved by Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1819; the original stands at the altar of the Cathedral Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, the national church of Denmark.
A centerpiece of the Jones Plaza is the Sunshine Fountain. Sculptor Jesus Moroles, whose work is displayed in cities throughout the United States, designed the fountain. It is a round sculpture and since it is in the open, people can walk around it. The water flowing over it points to the necessity of water for life and growth, which is appropriate since baptisms are sometimes held there. The overall shape of the fountain is that of the sun, hence the name Sunshine Fountain, and it is a memorial to Anne Jones Brice. A plaque on it concludes with the words, “Life is short; service endures,” a beautiful testimony of Anne’s life, work, and influence.