History & Grounds
Church of the Holy Spirit, the only Episcopal church on Vashon Island, has been serving the community for over 100 years. We are proud of the accomplishments of this parish, and grateful to be walking in the footsteps of the many people who have made possible this community of faith.
Today, the Church of the Holy Spirit is located in a beautiful forested area. The building is an architectural award-winning facility built 50 years ago on five acres of woodland north of Vashon town. The heavy timber structure with a soaring nave features a significant amount of glass to bring in natural light as well as provide views of the surrounding landscaping and forests.
Our building is in the process of being upgraded to conform to higher standards of sustainability, including new lighting, energy efficient glazing and eventually, an improved heating system. Our member volunteers share in duties such as replacing structure as needed, cleaning roofs and gutters, maintaining the lighting, replacing floor covering, interior painting and much more.
Our stained glass window over the front entrance depicts the first Pentecost, when the apostles were gathered together and “there appeared to them tongues as of fire…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:3-5).
The Day of Pentecost is the feast day of the Church of the Holy Spirit and the window was dedicated on that day, May 23, 1999, by the Rev. John K. Thompson, Rector.
The window was created by Vashon glass artist K. B. Jones, assisted by Sylvija Paza who etched the faces, hands, and feet of the figures. It is based on a design by Gertrude Mueller Nelson. The window is in memory of Carol Dodge Miller, a parishioner who died from cancer, and is a gift from her husband, John, other family members and friends.
Altar Memorial Window
The large window behind the altar, which was originally a solid wall, was installed in memory of islander Donald Steven Holke, who was killed in action in 1967 during the Vietnam War.
Our organ—one of only a few of its type in Northern Washington state—was built by Augustus Barnard Felgemaker of Erie, Pennsylvania for the Bethel Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was dedicated on September 13th, 1896 and provided music for that congregation for exactly 85 years.
The organ was purchased by the Church of the Holy Spirit in 1981 through the Organ Clearing House—an organization which exists to facilitate “organ transplants” of the musical variety. Moved to Vashon by several members of our congregation, it was repaired, restored, and reconstructed by Prof. Randall J. McCarty of Pacific Lutheran University, assisted by our organist at that time—James Brumbaugh. He and Jane Edge performed at its inaugural concert on September 12, 1982.
Felgemaker’s Opus 630 has wooden tracker rods and a total of 601 pipes—many of them square wooden sounding pipes. The organ's metal display pipes have been repainted and stenciled in their original designs. In 2017, thanks to help from a generous donor, the organ underwent restoration to bring it into concert pitch by Tim Drewes, organist and brother of one of our parishioners.
We are blessed with a beautiful location surrounded by greenery and tall trees. The serenity of the setting contributes to our worship, and reminds us of our obligation to be good stewards of God’s bounty. There are several inviting locations on our grounds for all to enjoy; including a Labyrinth, a medication trail and the Church of the Holy Spirit Memorial Garden.”
Located on the lawn just north of the Church is a replica of the Chartres Labyrinth, which is open to all members of the community. We have special walks at various times, or you may use it on your own. Many find walking the labyrinth a particularly powerful and satisfying form of meditation.
The labyrinth is one of the oldest spiritual tools known to humankind. It is found in various forms in most religious traditions around the world. The labyrinth at the Church of the Holy Spirit is patterned after the permanent stone labyrinth set into the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France during the thirteenth century. Its exact history in Christianity is unknown, however many scholars believe that it represented a symbolic pilgrimage path to the Holy Land. Today, the labyrinth is used in many different ways. Some see it as walking meditation or prayer. Others use it as an aid to mindful decision making. For many, walking the labyrinth can be a healing experience. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth; it is an individual journey.
The turf labyrinth at the Church of the Holy Spirit was laid out in 2001 by Bob and Betty Hawkins with the Pennsylvania bluestone mosaic center rosette added later. It is located just north of the church building with signs clearly marking the path.
Begun in the 70’s as a jogging path by and for the rector, the Meditation Trail has evolved into a short, quiet walk through the woods on the church’s property. Filled with birdsong, native vegetation, and the occasional forest animal, you may also find bits of prayer, wind chimes, wishing stones, or even icons placed there over the years by the Sunday school or other users of the trail. Feel free to leave your own memory stones or prayers as you travel.
The Meditation Trail is open for use any time, running between the northwest end of the Memorial Garden and our lower parking lot. Look for trail-head signs; the path may be muddy in the wettest parts of the year, so dress accordingly.
The “Churchyard” is maintained by parishioners and is a final resting place for the ashes of members of the Church, or those closely associated with them. The garden is a loving patchwork in memory of those who have been with us and gone on to be with God.
It is a beautiful setting, at one end of the meditation trail, curving around the labyrinth. It is backed by a drystone wall, built by an Eagle Scout as a project in warm remembrance of the scout’s grandmother, both Church members. Inquiries about plots may be made to the church office.