Sunday, September 14, 2014

Community Holy Water and George Downey's Chalice Story

As per our annual UUC Groton tradition at the beginning of the Fall season… this week we had our "Gathering of Community Water" ritual during our first "big church" service of the Fall. As always, there was a huge turnout as everyone proudly told their story — I loved it. Moreover, this year that was especially great for me because it rained on The Day I took my US Citizenship Oath and I had gathered that rain water specifically for this ritual. So I proudly said “Dual Citizen” as my "word" that goes with the water and that was very meaningful for me.
On the right you see a picture of the huge "card" that everyone got to sign for George Downey's 90th birthday along with a recent picture of him. Below is the text from his story about his most generous gift to the UUC community sometime after the year 2000.
The Chalice Story ” — by George Downey
     Several years ago Jean and I arrived, joining with others in the congregation for Sunday worship at First Parish Church of Groton. Our Chalice then was a pewter vessel showing some dents, with a somewhat distorted rim, and sitting slightly askew on its base.
     Some place in Elea's sermon that morning my mind strayed to imagining a new Chalice vessel: what shape, how big, how wide, how high, what wood, what artistic presence? Well, my mind got back to Elea's sermon, but I took all of those fleeting thoughts home with me.
     First, it was to the drafting board: rough sketches, finally a satisfying idea, scale drawings, full-scale drawings, templates cut to the shape of the finished design. The wood should be mahogany, like the molding trim around the top of the box pews.
     It was time to go to my woodworking shop. I had a supply of leftover mahogany pieces. The pedestal is a stack of disks of diminishing diameters. These are glued and clamped. While the glue hardened for seven days it allowed time for me to re-sharpen all the lathe chisels to razor-sharp edges.
     The lathe will turn the pieces slowly at first. The pedestal and the bowl are shaped separately on the lathe. The speed is increased as the pieces are rounded, and increased more for shaping. The pieces are sanded on the rotating lathe. The pedestal and bowl must fit together precisely for the final assembly and gluing. The last step is a finish applied to bring out the beauty of the mahogany wood. To this point this is just a created object in my workshop.
     When the wooden vessel made its way from my workbench to our sanctuary and was placed on its stand, with a flaming candle, it was infused with new meaning as Our Chalice, truly a metamorphosis in wood!
     The flaming Chalice is the symbol of Unitarian Universalism, and it is a centering symbol of our gathered community.
     Our Chalice flame embraces all who come! - Sept 2014

George tells me the "he's not on-line", so I guess he won't likely see this. But I wanted to post it nevertheless because I very much value our heritage and believe firmly in doing whatever I can to help preserve it. As you can read in my blog articles about my UUC participation, I've been going to this Church for many years yet I had no idea of the story behind our beloved mahogany wooden chalice. Thank you so much, George !

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