Long before Andrew Carnegie arrived and made Pittsburgh the Steel City, another immigrant, Albert Gallatin, had a hand in making western Pennsylvania the glass center of the United States.

That lesser known bit of Pittsburgh history is the impetus behind the creation of a special Communion set designed specifically for Pittsburgh Presbytery that will be used at opening worship of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“The design for the Communion set is the result of collaboration between Brent Craig, the artist, and three representatives of Pittsburgh Presbytery: Craig Dobbins, (director of music ministries at the Presbyterian Church of Sewickley), Jean Henderson (a ruling elder from East Liberty Presbyterian Church), and Cathy Nelson (executive assistant to Pittsburgh Presbytery’s executive presbyter),” said Susan Callahan, the projector coordinator of the Pittsburgh Glass Center. “The members had pre-determined the sets should be made of glass in Pittsburgh to symbolize the city’s history as a glass mecca.”

Design meetings started in February 2011 at the Pittsburgh Glass Center with a discussion of this year’s Assembly theme: “Walking, Running, Soaring into Hope” (Isa. 40:31).  

“Over the next few months, Brent created several prototypes that the team used to finalize the exact dimensions, colors and shape of the set,” said Callahan.

Including the theme, the final design was determined based on several factors: reflection of Presbyterian symbols and colors, ease of use during the Assembly as members pass the cup and plate, compatibility of the paten and chalice as a set, and visual appeal of the cup when filled and plate with bread

“Each set was made by hand, one by one, using a variety of art glass-making techniques,” said Callahan.

The chalice is made of clear blown glass with an added blue glass wrap around the hollow stem. The stem and cup were blown separately then attached while still hot.  The blue wrap provides handling stability as well as represents the Presbyterian colors and the Assembly theme as it spirals upward from the base to the open cup.

The paten is also made of clear glass. Fusing and slumping techniques were used to create the curved shape and the PC(USA) seal was etched individually in the corner of each plate to symbolically tie the set together.

Pittsburgh Presbytery has been pre-selling Communion ware sets.  Additional sets will be available for sale after the opening worship session at the GA bookstore for $70/set. 

Pittsburgh Glass Center (pittsburghglasscenter.org) is a public-access school, gallery and state-of-the-art glass studio dedicated to teaching, creating and promoting glass art.