The focal point of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse, N.Y., is a window depicting the world's religions.
Courtesy First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse
On Easter Sunday fifty years ago, members of the First Universalist Church of Syracuse, New York, gathered to dedicate the new focal point of their sanctuary—a dramatic stained glass window depicting world religions. Measuring approximately eight feet in diameter, the window bathes the chancel in multicolored light and is an iconic symbol of the church.
“It really represents who we are as a congregation,” said the Rev. Holly Baylies, minister of what is now the Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse. The open book in the window’s center—with characters from Hebrew, Aramaic, and other ancient languages—represents religious scriptures. Above the book is a flaming torch, the light of knowledge and truth.
Images embedded in the window’s circumference depict some of the world’s most prominent religions: a Christian cross; the Mystic Rose, often seen as a symbol of the Virgin Mary; the Wheel of Doctrine of Buddhism; the Lotus Flower of Hinduism; the Jewish Menorah; the Sacred Shield of Islam; the Yin-Yang of Taoism; and the Double Ladder of Joy of Confucianism.
Two years before the window was dedicated, delegates from both the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America gathered at the Syracuse church to discuss a plan to merge the two organizations.
Dedicated on April 2, 1961, the inclusive window anticipated the imminent union of the Unitarian and Universalist movements, which officially joined to form the Unitarian Universalist Association six weeks later on May 15.
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Michelle Bates Deakin, a member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Massachusetts, was a UU World contributing editor from 2006 to 2011 and a UU World senior editor from 2011 to 2014. She is the author of Social Action Heroes: Unitarian Universalists Who Are Changing the World (Skinner House, 2011) and Gay Marriage, Real Life: 10 Stories of Love and Family (Skinner House, 2006).
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