Home Chalices – Finding Meaning in a Moment of Stillness
Editor Albany UU | Dec 02, 2020

From Soul Matter’s partner, Teresa Honey Youngblood –

In 2006, the Unitarian Universalist Beacon Press published Thirst, a volume of Mary Oliver’s poetry in which the poem, “The Place I Want to Get Back To,” appeared. The poem tells the story of the day that Oliver sat in perfect stillness in the pine woods, and two deer approached her. Silently sizing her up, one of the deer, in an almost impossibly compelling moment, nuzzles her hand.

While the magic of the wild deer’s soft, warm muzzle is the big surprise, it was made possible because Oliver was practiced–even very skilled–at being still. In the poem, the place Oliver wants to get back to is that perfect oneness found through stillness; stillness is both the path and the destination.

And this is a good way for us UUs to think about stillness, too.

When we light a chalice at the beginning of our services or Sunday school sessions or meetings, we invite stillness. We pause to think of what we are about to do. We carefully articulate what is important. We speak as a community.

When we were together in person, we would often have a child light the chalice at the beginning of the main worship service. We paused to hear something about the child, and then there was that moment when the child ignited the flame of the chalice and the RE lantern. Often this was literally with bated breath. Would the wick catch? Yes! And only then would we take a breath together to say our unison chalice lighting words.

Meeting on Zoom during the pandemic offers us challenges and opportunities. We’re not together on Sunday morning so we don’t experience that collective breath as the chalice is being lit, but we can get to know each other on Zoom in different ways. You may have seen a service in November, in which the chalice lighting was a recording of the Miller-Solot family at home.  They shared a bit about what they like to do individually and as a family; the children lit the chalice and then said the chalice lighting words. It was so lovely to see them. It was like an invitation to their home.

Rev. Sam and I invite other households to record themselves lighting the chalice for one of our upcoming Sunday services. You can be any type of household:  families with or without children, single people, households with roommates, households with pets, people living locally or out of town – all the beautiful configurations of households in our congregation are welcome to give this a try. Perhaps instead of sharing your hobbies and interests, you would rather share what it is that brings you to our Unitarian Universalist services. Or you could share both! And you don’t go out an buy a chalice if you don’t have one. There are lots of ways to create a chalice with objects from your home that have meaning for you. Rev Sam and I can help you to create a chalice and to make a recording.  Email me at dre@albanyuu.org if you’re interested or have questions.

In this unique time of the pandemic you may be experiencing the bustle of the holidays. Or you may be experiencing loneliness and loss. You may be experiencing many things all at once. I hope you consider trying to create a home chalice, reflecting on what has meaning for you, and thinking of welcoming the congregation to your home, whether you chose to create a video of it or not. May this process be a path for you to create a pause, a stillness, and perhaps a momentary sense of perfect oneness.

Yours in faith,

Leah Purcell
Director of Religious Education and Family Ministry