New chalice honors the life of Bob Merkle

Please click here for photographs of the dedication

During the second half of the church year, the Religious Services Committee discussed the idea of getting new chalice for the church. The chalice has long been a symbol of Unitarian Universalism and is part of every service around the world. We felt it was time to replace the small, humble aluminum chalice we were currently using. We decided to do some research and find “that special chalice” for NSUU.

As luck would have it, there is a website called UniUniques that specializes in varied types of UU-related art, from jewelry to chalices. We all took a look at what they had to offer, all of which were handmade and done by different artists. It did not take us long to find that “special one.”

The artist is Mordecai Roth. The UniUniques site says this about the artist:

A retired dentist in Arizona, Mordecai is thrilled with the chance to follow his heart as a sculptor. His first chalice, the “Classic Chalice,” came about when a member of his congregation asked him to make a memorial to her daughter who died of cancer. The pain of the loss inspired him to create something that would be worthy of her. Making the chalice has been one of his most rewarding pieces. A request from another congregation inspired the “Tree of Life” chalice.

He reaps pleasure every Sunday on two counts: first, when the flame is lit in memory of a loved one; and also, the knowledge that congregations around the country enrich their worship experience by using one of his chalices.

Having decided on which chalice we wanted, we then had to explore which size and how we would we pay for it. We addressed the size issue by asking local churches that had the same chalice if we might borrow one long enough to evaluate its size for our meeting room. I picked up the large chalice from the Unitarian church in Salem one afternoon and brought it with me to the Religious Services Committee meeting that night. As part of our meeting we positioned the chalice every which way in the meeting room, and very soon found we all had goose bumps when it was in just the right spot. The next afternoon I returned the chalice to the Salem church, thanking them for their generosity.

Our next challenge was, how were we going to get the funds to pay for this? We brainstormed and had a variety of ideas, but we all felt a bit skeptical about asking members for money when finances were so tight for everyone. And then, one of those serendipitous and bittersweet moments happened one day after church. Audrey Merkle asked Frieda what she and her family could do for NSUU that would be in memory of her husband, Bob, who had passed away recently. It was a fortuitous mix of circumstances. Frieda explained to Audrey that we, the Religious Services Committee, were hoping to buy a new chalice but had not yet come up with a fundraising plan. I asked Audrey if she and her family would like to give a donation to the purchase of the chalice, and after consulting with her children, they decided to purchase the entire thing. They all agreed it would be a lasting memorial to their dad, and at the same time represent an important part of his life at NSUU.

Our next step was to purchase the chalice and store it over the late spring until this fall for its unveiling. I happily arranged for the purchase and had it safely stored at my home till the time came to present it to the congregation on our second Sunday of the church year, on September 12, 2010. Audrey Merkle was there at the unveiling, and we all joined in celebrating Bob’s life and sharing our gratitude for such a wonderful gift.

It was and is a happy day to see that flame shine from our new chalice. The tree of life sculpture on the base, the flame in the genie-like pot, and the surrounding two large intertwining brass rings stand clearly visible to all. Thank you Audrey Merkle and family on giving such a wonderful gift celebrating Bob’s life and providing all who come to NSUU with a marvelous and inspirational symbol of our liberal faith.

Marty Langlois
Religious Services Committee