Some call it tradition, others think it’s just a snappy-looking color. But the deeper reason is the firm belief that our churches are places of refuge.
As in the case with many churches, Episcopal parishes use red to let the world know what we’re about. Red is the color of Christ’s blood. It is the symbol of the sacrifice of the martyrs. It is the symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit. And it marks the holy ground that lies just within. We like to think that red tells the world we’re a safe place. We’re a peaceful place. We’re a place of refuge. We are a place where God’s presence is made clear.
Historically, churches painted their doors red to signal fleeing suspects that they were places of sanctuary (thank King Ethelbert’s English law, circa 600 CE). Today we know that the world is a scary place, full of people who are looking for places to find peace and forgiveness. While many people look at traditional churches as daunting and inhospitable, we hope that our red doors tell a different story, even if circumstances require they be locked from time to time!
Many people come to the Episcopal Church from other traditions, and some have had bad church experiences that have left them scarred or leery about God and God’s people. We know that churches are not clubs for saints but hospitals for sinners. So just as hospitals display a red cross, we also like to announce that we are a place of healing and restoration. At our best, our parishes help the wounded put their lives back together, provide comfort in time of need, and the doors open wide to welcome people in.