Our Windows & Symbols

The Tombaugh window

Our church is graced with ten beautiful stained glass windows. Nine of them, the Windows of Faith, were designed and created by a former  minister, the late Reverend John Trantham. The magnificent Tombaugh Window was a commissioned piece dedicated to the memory of one of the church’s founding members, Clyde W. Tombaugh. See a delightful NOVA film about Clyde and his amazing telescopes and his dedication to learning and discovery.

The Flaming Chalice


Used by permission: Laurie Bieze, UU Congregation, Eau Claire, WI

Many Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships start their worship service on Sunday morning by lighting a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice is a symbol for Unitarian Universalists just as the cross and the Star of David are symbols for other religious groups. The story of how the flaming chalice became our symbol is an interesting one and it begins during the Second World War.

During that war, a lot of people living in Eastern Europe—Unitarians, Jews, and others—were in danger of being put in prison or killed by Nazi soldiers. A group of Unitarians came together in Boston, Massachusetts, to form the Unitarian Service Committee and their plan was to help the people in danger from the Nazis. The director of the Service Committee was the Unitarian minister Charles Joy. Rev. Joy had an office in Portugal so he would be near the people he wanted to help. He was in charge of a whole secret group of agents and messengers who worked hard trying to find safe routes for people to escape.

Often, people who were escaping and people who wanted to help didn’t speak the same language. Rev. Joy decided it would be much better if the Service Committee had an official symbol, or picture, to help identify its members. With a picture or symbol, it wouldn’t matter if people couldn’t read the language. It looked like Rev. Joy would need to find an artist. He went to a very talented man named Hans Deutsch for help. Deutsch had escaped from the Nazis in Paris, France, where he was in danger because he drew cartoons showing people how evil the Nazis were. Rev. Joy asked Deutsch to create a symbol to print on Service Committee papers to make them look important. He wanted the symbol to impress governments and police who had the power to help move people to safety.

For his drawing, Deutsch borrowed an old symbol of strength and freedom from Czechoslovakia—a chalice with a flame. Rev. Joy wrote to his friends in Boston that the new symbol seemed to show the real spirit of the Unitarian religion. It showed a chalice, or cup, that was used for giving a healing drink to others. And it showed a flame on top of the chalice because a flame was often used to represent a spirit of helpfulness and sacrifice. And so the flaming chalice became the official symbol of the Unitarian Service Committee.

What does it mean to have a symbol like this? Well, one thing it means is that wherever you see a flaming chalice, you know that there are Unitarian Universalists nearby. Having a symbol also can remind you of what’s most important to you—and sometimes a reminder can make a very big difference.

One very old woman told how the flaming chalice of her homeland, Czechoslovakia, helped her while she was in a Nazi prison camp. Printed under the picture of the Czech flaming chalice was the motto “pravda vitezi,” which means, in English, “truth overcomes,” or “truth prevails.” Every single morning in that terrible camp, the old woman said, she traced a picture of a flaming chalice in the sand with her finger. Then she wrote the motto underneath it. “It gave me the strength to live each day,” she said. Whenever she drew the chalice in the dirt she was reminded that some day the world would remember the important truth that every single person is important and should be free to think and believe as he or she chooses.

Icon-Zia1The ZIA

At the front of our sanctuary we display a Native American ZIA. The four-rayed sun, or ZIA, was a symbol first used by Native Americans of the Zia Pueblos in north central New Mexico. The four rays stand for: (top) the four winds, (left) the four seasons, (right) the four parts of each day by which we order our daily life (morning, afternoon, evening and night), (bottom_ the four stages of human life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age).

In the center of the Zia is the Unitarian Universalist Flaming Chalice. A bright flame stands for the individual life, and for our passionate, fiery quest for knowledge and justice. The chalice stands for community. A nurturing community is the cradle of fulfilled individuals. Concepts that are holy to Unitarian Universalists are freedom and responsibility, reason and feeling, tolerance and discernment.

The Stained Glass Windows

The Tombaugh Window

The Tombaugh Window memorializes astronomer, church founder

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces honors a founding member’s scientific achievements.
By Sonja L. Cohen, Fall 2005 8.15.05, for UUWorld

Window-Tombaugh1At age 24, when other young adults were trying to find their way in this world, Clyde W. Tombaugh was discovering a new one. Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and went on to become a distinguished astronomer, is honored with a stained-glass window at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He and his wife, Patsy, helped found the congregation in 1955, and he was an active member of the church until his death in 1997.

Created by Arthur J. Tatkoski and dedicated in 2001, the five-paneled window is eight feet tall and eighteen feet wide and is located on the east side of the church, where it catches the morning light. Its theme is the universe and our solar system, interspersed with depictions of Tombaugh’s childhood in Kansas, his passion for teaching, and his work with rockets, telescopes, NASA, and the White Sands missile base. A banner stretching across the panels quotes from the church affirmation: “That all souls shall grow into harmony with creation.”

Friends and colleagues of the Tombaughs raised funds to commission the window as a gift to the 175-member congregation.

Index of Windows


Windows of Faith

In our sanctuary are a variety of stained glass windows depicting sacred symbols of people from many lands and faiths. At their dedication on May 1, 1993, Reverend Marjorie Montgomery said of the windows:

I call these beautiful windows, made by the Rev. John Trantham, “Windows of Faith.” They reveal what men and women of many lands and many times
have decided is holy. And they call us to think for ourselves about what WE shall decide is most holy, about what we shall have faith in, and about how we
shall order our lives.

Index of Windows

Cross of Christianity

The Cross of Christianity

The Cross represents eternal life and the love of God for the people of the Earth, as shown in the sacrifice and suffering of God’s son, Jesus the Christ.

Christianity began about 2000 years ago with the followers of Jesus. Its wisdom is contained in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life in New Testament
of the Bible.

For Christians, God is revealed as both a suffering God and a loving God through the Christ. God, Jesus as the Christ, the quest for salvation from sin, and service to God through serving others are holy to the Christian.

The Christian Golden Rule is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Index of Windows


The Six Pointed Star of Judaism

The six-pointed Star of David represents Judaism as a complex entity; a whole, divisible into sections, all of which converge on and emerge from a common center.

Judaism began over 3500 years ago with the patriarch Abraham. Its wisdom is contained in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible, especially the first five books, or the Torah.

For Jews, Yahweh is the only God, and a holy life is one of obedience to God’s laws, especially the Ten Commandments. Judaism was the first religion to evolve into ethical monotheism. God, God’s Law, close families and the religious community are holy to Jews.

The Jewish version of the Golden Rule is: What is hurtful to yourself do not do to your fellow men.

Index of Windows


Crescent Moon and Star of Islam

The Crescent Moon, a waxing, growing moon, represents paradise in the Islamic faith. Islam began in the Middle East about 1500 years ago with the prophet Muhammad. Its wisdom is contained in the Koran and the Old Testament of the Chrsitian Bible.

Islamics, or Muslims, believe in one true God, Allah. Islam means to accept, to surrender. A good Muslim submits to the will of Allah, prays five times a day, and makes at least one lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Islamic version of the Golden Rule is: No one is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.

Index of Windows


The Om of Hinduism

The Om, written in Sanskrit, represents Brahman or the eternal God and eternal life. Hinduism began over 3500 years ago in India. Its wisdom is contained in the Vedas, the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita.

The word OM is used in meditation to help focus on spiritual and mental reality. The aim of Hinduism is recognition a non-dualistic unity between self and creation. The idea that this physical world is an illusion and the spiritual world is reality is holy to the Hindu.

The Hindu version of the Golden Rule is: Do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain.

Index of Windows


The Eight-spoked Wheel of Buddhism

The eight-spoked wheel represents the eight-fold path to Enlightenment. Buddhism began in India about 2500 years ago with the prophet Siddartha, or Gautama Buddha, and was originally an offshoot from Hinduism. Its wisdom is contained in sutras, vinayas, and abhidharmas.

Buddhists believe that a life lived in ignorance and attachment to things is painful. They seek enlightenment, which is detachment from desire. The eight paths to enlightenment include right belief, right purpose, right speech, right conduct, right means of livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditations. The quest for enlightenment, personal discipline, and victory over self is holy to the Buddhists.

The Buddhist version of the Golden Rule is: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.

Index of Windows

The Yin/Yang of Taoism

The Yin Yang symbol describes all of reality as one integrated whole, composed of complementary entities. The light side is Yang, masculine, strong like the sun. The dark side is Yin, feminine, and fertile like the ground.

The age of Taoism is uncertain. It emerged in China more than 2500 years ago. Its wisdom is contained in the Tao Te Ching, attributed to the great teacher, Lao Tzu.

Where Westerners see opposites,Taoists see complements, two entities which taken together make a whole. The aim of Taoism is to liberate people from heedless immersion in mundane activities, reorienting them toward life’s deeper, abiding realities.

The Taoist version of the Golden Rule is: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own and your neighbor’s loss as your own.

Index of Windows


The Gateway of Shintoism

A Torii, or gateway, represents the way of the gods, and marks the approach to every Shinto shrine.

Shinto has extremely ancient roots evolving perhaps 10,000 years ago in Japan as a vast, informal complex of beliefs, customs, and practices. This informal religion was later codified to distinguish it from religions emigrating from China.

The belief that the Emperor is a God is central to Shintoism, which holds these things holy: nature, land, and leaders, and especially ancestors.

Index of Windows

The Goddess Astarte

The star represents the Goddess Astarte, an ancient middle-eastern goddess of fertility and growth. Astarte was both creator and destroyer. Her power was expressed in the creation of earth and all living things. The miracle of life and growth, and the changing seasons and nature, which sustain human life are holy to followers of the Goddess.

The Star of Astarte is symbolic of the re-emergence of ancient, earth-based, religions in the modern world. These religions often time their significant observances and celebrations with solstice, equinox and changes in the moon’s phases.

Index of Windows


The Planet Earth

This view of the planet Earth represents the oceans, land, and atmosphere as first seen from space by 20th Century astronauts. It does not represent any specific religion, but reminds us of how small and fragile our spaceship ome is. It is symbolic of the human spirit as manifested in the discipline of scientific inquiry.

Wisdom concerning our planet may be found in many sources. This depiction of the planet Earth reminds many Unitarian Universalists of the Seventh Principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association which some understand as our version of the Golden Rule.

We affirm respect for the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Index of Windows

Who Was Clyde Tombaugh?

He found a planet and founded a church

At 24, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. He later helped found a Unitarian Universalist church

By Kimberly French, for UU World.org, Fall 2005 8.15.05


At just 24 years old, a sharp-eyed observatory assistant made astronomical news 75 years ago at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered what some astronomers had declared impossible, and others had been searching for, for a quarter century-a ninth planet in our solar system, later named Pluto.

Two decades earlier the observatory’s founding director, Percival Lowell, had predicted a planet beyond Neptune, but his search was cut short by his death in 1916. When Tombaugh arrived at the observatory in January 1929, his job was to lead tours, throw giant logs in the furnace, clear the frequent heavy snows from the observatory’s canvas dome-and renew the search for Lowell’s “Planet X.”

Tombaugh’s dream as a farm boy in Burdett, Kansas, had been to go to college and become a professor. From age 12, he had spent every clear night scanning the skies with a borrowed telescope and had read every astronomy book he could find. When his passion required a more powerful telescope, he built his own, grinding the mirrors himself.

Three years after high school graduation, discouraged by crop failures, Tombaugh decided to look for a job, maybe on the railroad. At the same time, he sent meticulous drawings he had made of Jupiter and Mars to the Lowell Observatory for an opinion. Impressed, the director offered him a trial assistantship. Tombaugh bought a one-way train ticket to Arizona.

The astronomy work was tedious. Tombaugh worked alone through each night in the unheated, high-altitude dome, taking long-exposure photographs of the outer solar system. Once he had two clear photos within a few days of each other, he used a machine called a blink comparator that rapidly alternated them. Stars would appear stationary. But anything that orbited-asteroids, comets, planets-would seem to jump, or blink. Each photo could have between 50,000 and 400,000 dots of light, and every inch had to be scrutinized. He rested his eyes every twenty minutes and switched to other tasks after an hour. Tombaugh dreaded the Milky Way, writing in his book Out of the Darkness, “It was like plunging into a jungle.”

His diligence and young, sharp eyes paid off. On February 18, 1930, he found a tiny dot, orbiting very close to Lowell’s prediction, on a pair of photos he had taken in January. After just thirteen months of work, Tombaugh’s discovery rocked the astronomical and academic world. A year later Tombaugh entered the University of Kansas on a four-year scholarship-genuinely surprised when professors there refused to let the planet discoverer enroll in introductory astronomy.clyde2

This year also marks the fiftieth year since Clyde and his wife, Patsy, helped found the Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico. While at university, the couple had visited Unitarian churches in Kansas. When Clyde joined New Mexico State University in 1955 to found its now-renowned astronomy program, they joined students interested in starting a church.

Patsy, the only living charter member still at the church-Clyde died in 1997-says her husband was known for his puns: When the clock at the back of the church stopped working one Sunday morning, he quipped, “I’m so sorry that clock had such an untimely death.” She still has the telescope he made as a boy and a two-story-high one he constructed in their back yard.

Tombaugh will always be best known for the earthshaking discovery he made before his illustrious career had even begun. He went on to develop innovations in telescopic instruments and to photograph two-thirds of the sky-discovering six star clusters, two comets, hundreds of asteroids, several dozen clusters of galaxies, one supercluster, and a rare exploding nova.

Few astronomers have seen the sky in such detail. As Tombaugh liked to say, “I’ve really had a tour of the heavens.”
Index of Windows