In the church today, when getting church supplies is as simple and transactional as visiting a website and entering your credit card information, it is easy to lose the connection to the objects we use in our worship, from candles and chalices to kneeling pads and vestments. It is easy to forget that, at one time, everything used in the communal act of praising God, was a gift crafted and donated by members of the community. In a very real way, the religious hardware we use was the physical embodiment of thanksgiving from the same people who gathered together for worship.
One Saturday morning, early in March, three Episcopal Churches in Connecticut came together at St. Peter’s in Hebron to rediscover that connection. Around cups of coffee and breakfast snacks, 15-20 youth and adults from St. Peter’s, Hebron; St. James, Glastonbury; and St. Stephen’s, East Haddam; received instructions on how they were going to make a Paschal Candle for their own church. Then, with a prayer and armed with a three-foot length of 2” PVC pipe, lots of silicon lubricant, piles of old candle bits donated by parishioners, and the remnants of old Paschal Candles dug out of sacristy closets, they got to work.
While creating a Paschal Candle is certainly cheaper than buying a new one every year—something that anyone who has ever ordered one from a church supply company can attest—the real impetus for the project comes out of a desire to help build a connection for youth in the congregation with the act of worship on Sunday morning. That connection is real and is visible in the excitement of youth dragging their parents and grandparents to see the candle up close and personal on Easter Sunday, after the last notes of the organ postlude have faded away. For a moment, the allure of Easter candy at coffee hour and the promise of family gatherings and celebrations took backseat to the pride they felt in seeing their candle prominently displayed in worship. As family members admired their work, the youth posed for pictures together next to their candle, the work of their own hands.
As the participants organized the many colored candle bits, they began chopping the wax and melting it down over pots of simmering water on the stove. Layer by layer, they poured alternating bands of color, arranged at various angles, all according to a design each group had devised, until at last, the PVC pipe was filled with hot wax.
Then the hard work of waiting began.
It takes hours for a freshly poured Paschal Candle to cool enough that it is safe to move without risk of the wax spilling. It takes many days before the wax has hardened completely and un-molded. On a Friday morning, two of the PVC pipes, heavy with the candle inside, were secreted away in the back of a car, on their way to being cut open and the colorful candle inside revealed. After a quick inspection by the youth group, the candles will be stored away to await their debut on Easter morning, reminding all that the light of Christ burns brightly in our midst.