Our sanctuary centerpiece is a lovely stained glass flaming chalice mounted within a New Mexico Zia.

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. A flaming chalice is a symbol for Unitarian Universalist churches.

The story of how the flaming chalice became our symbol is an interesting one that begins during WWII. Austrian artist Hans Deutsch joined the chalice and flame as a Unitarian symbol in 1941.  Deutsch created the symbol to make it easy for WWII underground organizations to recognize that members of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC) were friends and allies. The story of Hans Deutsch reminds us that, in the beginning, the symbol of a flaming chalice stood for a life of service. When Deutsch designed the flaming chalice, he had never seen a Unitarian or Universalist church or heard a sermon. What he had seen was the USC’s faith in action—people who were willing to risk all for others in a time of urgent need.

zia and flaming chaliceThe 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.