The story behind Chalice Art

I am a sculptor and an ardent Unitarian Universalist. I believe that ours is a saving faith and that our message of acceptance and love is one the world desperately needs to hear. I was deeply involved in the growth and development of the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, MN.

During the planning stage of our most recent addition I was chair of our Long Range Planning Committee when I was approached by some members of the congregation and asked if I would create a chalice for the new sanctuary. I was so delighted to be asked. It was an opportunity to use my talents as a sculptor in service to my church. The couple offered to pay the foundry costs if I would donate my time to create the chalice.

I began by researching the origins of the chalice as a symbol of our faith. The chalice and the flame are both ancient symbols used in many faith traditions. They were brought together as a Unitarian symbol during the 1930’s and adopted by the relatively unknown Unitarian Service Committee in 1941 to establish a known and trusted symbol as they worked to help people escape the Nazi’s during WWII. Thus the symbol represented safe passage and freedom from persecution and has slowly been adopted around the World as a symbol in our churches.

When I began thinking about my own interpretation of the chalice as a symbol, I reflected on the work of our church in the world today. We open our services with a statement “Come into this place, where you need not hide nor pretend nor be anything other than who you are and who you are called to be.” In less poetic terms – this is a safe place to be you. Who makes this a safe place? The congregation, the people who share this house, who support the church with money, time and participation: they are responsible for this being a safe place. It is not easy to stay open when the human tendency to categorize, to create stereotypes and prejudices is constantly at work in our minds. We are a faith community deeply committed to the often difficult work of being open and welcoming to the stranger.

It is the congregation, the people of the community that holds the light. The base of my chalice are the arms and hands of individuals which appear to hold the bowl in which the flame is held. Hands holding the light reminds us every Sunday that we are responsible to keep that light burning and to hold it up for all to see. It is the ministry of our faith community to remain a safe place for the stranger to find rest and freedom and hope and to expand our mission to create a world that is safe for all of us to be who we are and who we are called to be.