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Friday, October 30, 2015

Fellowship of Saints in a Chalice and Paten

Historic Custom Crafted Chalice and Paten at Trinity Episcopal Church Baytown - Photo by Grady Hicks

By Eileen Brightwell Hicks, Head Verger, Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown TX

As we all do, I ask questions about our church and the components of our liturgy. I recently heard this story from Trinity's 85+ year history concerning the gold chalice and paten we use almost every Sunday.

The story comes from the late Rev. P. Walter Henckell, rector of Trinity for 33 years (1939-1972) and was transcribed in 1976 by Gary Garner who is active in the altar guild at Trinity. I am so glad to have this story to add to my own verger library. The actual dates of these events have not been documented but many key points have been verified by contemporary members of Trinity.

“One of the most interesting and rewarding projects, and one in which so many participated, was the acquisition of the gold chalice and paten. At an Altar Guild meeting, I made the suggestion that we collect gold and have it made into a chalice and paten. I recalled how in the Diocese of Alabama, when the Rev. William G. McDowell was elected as Bishop in the early 1920’s, that the diocese collected gold for his pectoral cross and chain. I remember that my father contributed his mother’s wedding ring. As a youth I was not certain that I would have given it. Thinking back, however, what use would the ring have been to any of my family?

“So when we made our appeal to the congregation of Trinity for gifts of gold we asked not only for scrap gold but for meaningful items. We wanted the chalice and paten to have meaning. In the “News Letter” each week we ran the names of those who made gifts of gold. We received all sorts of scrap items-gold dental inlays, spectacles, fountain pen points, pieces of chains, rings without sets, an umbrella handle, etc.

“On the other hand we received so many lovely and meaningful things. One lady sent her beautiful locket which still had her picture as a young lady and that of her husband (deceased). There were exquisite wedding bands. One man took his wedding ring from his finger and put it in the collection. There was one heavy and unusual gold chain which was an heirloom. There were several fine watches, both ladies' and men’s. I hesitated to mail the lovely antique and valuable items, lest they escape the melting pot, so I beat up items with a hammer.

“One lady wrote letters to some of my friends. I recall that one lady in Midland, Texas, collected gold from the members of Trinity Mission, where I served while rector of Big Spring. She had her jeweler melt down the gold and sent us a small bar of gold.

“In addition to the gold we asked for stones to be inset. I recall a beautiful ruby which was used in the center of the cross on the base of the chalice. We received opals and several diamonds. In addition one gentleman was most generous in giving a good many amethysts.

“We wanted to be sure that our gold was actually used. Several firms wanted to give us credit for the gold but not use it. Finally we located a firm in Patterson, New Jersey, the George Payne Company, which assured us that our gold would go into the chalice. The chalice and paten would be manufactured in England.

“Finally we had enough gold and in time the chalice and paten arrived. They were indeed things of beauty and a joy forever. A great deal of love, and meaningful gifts, and happy memories went into the project. Whenever I celebrated Holy Communion with the chalice and paten I felt a special blessing realizing how many had made them possible, and the love and memories in them. The words “the fellowship of saints” took on an added meaning.”

As we celebrate All Saints Day this week, let us recall those who now live with the heavenly company and remain anchored in our hearts, much as the love and dedication of those at Trinity Episcopal Church who put a part of their lives into making the cup and plate we use to celebrate our Lord's life.

Abstract: This week's celebration of All Saints reinforces the anchors of our hearts by commemorating those in our families, our congregations and our communities who have died to human life and are re-born to eternal life with our Lord. Along each of those life paths lies a story. In the spirit of All Saints, we learn about a very special chalice and paten which, after 50+ years, continue to be treasured in weekly use by the parish family of Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown, TX

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