The church I attend, Fox Island United Church of Christ, is a wonderful place. We have an inclusive, creative pastor, Janet Matthews, and a congregation that is always ready to try something new. One of our members, Karen Craven, is a professional potter who decided to offer her skills for a project she named Circling Hands.
She modeled Circling Hands after a project called Patra Passage that was created by Lynda Lowe, another professional potter. Lowe made 108 bowls, and sent them to special people in her life. She asked that, after a period of time, people send them along to others. Eventually, the bowls were returned to the Museum of Glass, where they were exhibited, then sold for charity. You can learn more about it at the website www.patrapassage.com.
In the beginning of our project we each thought about a person we appreciated, who had made a difference in our life. Then we made a bowl, shaped it, and glazed it. Next, we decorated a box to serve as a home for our vessel. Finally, we were ready to give the bowl to our chosen recipient, along with a little diary that explains the purpose of the gift and the rationale for keeping it for a brief period, then passing it along to another deserving person. We planned for the bowls to be returned to the church next January.
I’m grateful for many people in my life, so choosing one person was a challenge. After Pastor Janet led us in a guided meditation, I realized that I wanted to give my bowl to a dear woman I’d known since junior high school. We had recently reconnected.
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To have known Georgene during those awkward adolescent years was truly a gift. Back then she was always friendly and full of laughter. Kind to everyone, she had an inner strength that drew people to her. All of these years later, she hasn’t changed — always the ready smile, the kind word, the honesty.
The Circling Hands project was an enriching experience of self-discovery. For several weeks, church members gathered in the Fireside room after the service. Karen’s husband, Phil, and Christian Education leaders Andy and Sara assisted with the project. They gently guided us, both young and old. There was abundant laughter, some groans as the clay failed to cooperate, and much encouraging of each other.
As we worked together, we shared why we had chosen our recipient. We asked how these gifts would impact the people who received them. We wondered who that person might give the bowl to next, then realized that this was a process of giving and letting go at the same time, trusting the bowl’s unknown path.
In my mind’s eye I could see how I wanted my bowl to be: perfect, of course. But perfection eluded me. My hands weren’t as steady — or skilled — as I would have liked. Maybe perfection isn’t necessary in the process of giving, because any human endeavor is at best imperfect. Still, I felt like I was engaged in something meaningful. As a community, we were all reaching for a kind of loving perfection, no matter how elusive. I think that’s what really counts.
After completion, our pastor led us in a blessing in preparation for sending our bowls to their first home.
I looked forward to giving my bowl to Georgene. When she opened the box, she was delighted and touched, and it pleased me to have made her happy. I’d written a notation in the little notebook that read, “This bowl was made by amateur hands, but with a giving spirit, I hope it will convey the light that I intended.”
Reach Mary Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org.