We light this candle as a symbol of our faith.
By its light may our vision be illumined;
By its warmth may our fellowship be encouraged;
And by its flame may our yearnings for peace, justice and the life of the spirit be en-kindled. Rev David Usher
The Flaming Chalice has become the generally accepted “badge” of Unitarianism over the past fifty years. It was first adopted by the American Unitarian Service Committee during the Second World War.
Since then, Unitarians throughout the world have seen it as a way to express their distinct identity as a liberal religious community.
The man who designed it was a Czech named Hans Deutsch, and his inspiration was the Czech religious reformer, Jan Hus. Hus was burned at the stake in 1415 for the “heresy” of offering the chalice of communion to the laity as well as the clergy.
Recalling this, we Unitarians offer our own “chalice of communion”, symbolising the religious community itself, to all people without condition or reservation. When and where Unitarians actually celebrate communion, the understanding becomes literal as well.
The flame atop the Unitarian chalice represents the spirit of love, truth and liberty. To this spirit the community bears witness and with it, hopefully, the community is filled. For some, at least, this recalls the “tongues of fire” of Pentecost.
The flame also has a more tragic significance. It commemorates the martyrdom, not only of Jan Hus, but of so many who died bravely in the cause of religious liberty.