First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich
About the Crosses
About the Consecration Crosses The crosses used in the headers throughout this web site are the Consecration Crosses you'll find throughout the church building.

The Consecration Service is a loose Christian paraphrase of the Jewish Mezuzah tradition. As you probably know, when our Jewish friends move into a new home, they affix to their doorposts a decorative case containing a small scroll with the words of the Shema Yisrael from Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one.” Like our Jewish friends, we too want to bless our new home with a visual reminder of who and whose we are, so we will adorn eleven of the rooms in the new building with symbolic crosses whose vertical posts and horizontal beams will remind us, every time we enter, of the two-dimensional mission, given to us by both Moses and Jesus, to love God above all (the vertical), and our neighbors as ourselves (the horizontal). We commissioned Woody Shook, a Presbyterian minister from New Hampshire, to design a special cross for each of the eleven rooms. More information about Woody is available on the website:

The top of the cross, carved in the shape of a dove from bird’s-eye maple, reminds us that this worship space will be the site where the Spirit of God descends to meet and inspire God’s people. The bottom portion of the cross is African mahogany, one of the dominant woods in the design of the Chapel itself. The two halves–the divine and the human–meet at a strip of zinc, a true and untarnishing metal, and a conductor of energy.

The medallion with music staff in the cross-piece shows the first phrase and initial notes of an ancient, traditional Gregorian Chant. The words–Credo in Unum Deum (“I believe in one God”)–are the first words of the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creeds and the core idea of the Hebrew Shema Yisrael. It will remind all of us, especially our musicians, of the integral connection between faith and music. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” said the Hebrew Psalmist; ever since, music has been one of the most effective ways to articulate and communicate our most treasured convictions. Carved from purple-heart wood, which is brown when sanded but turns a rich purple in the light, this cross will remind us that music can transform our lives into beautiful songs–especially in the Light.

For our Fellowship Hall, the Reverend Shook tried to image wholeness, union, and reconciliation. Paraphrasing the ancient ying-yang symbol, the medallion at the crosspiece shows hands clasped in friendship, reminding us of our fellowship with each other and with God. The greenish wood is myrtle, a prominent wood in the Hebrew Bible; the reddish wood is Jerusalem olive wood, calling to our minds the branch the dove carried to Noah’s Ark, the oil with which prophets anointed kings; that Gethsemane Garden on the Mount of Olives where Jesus invited his disciples to pray with him. The nimbus around the medallion is holly, standing for prayer and introspection in the Celtic tradition. The cross itself is carved from purple-heart, the wood used, incidentally, to rebuild the keel of the slave ship Amistad, a vessel of brutality re-commissioned now to a mission of education, peace, and reconciliation.

For the Session Room, a cross with the Presbyterian Symbol, of course. The symbol, itself cross-shaped, shows central Christian images like the dove, the fish, an open Bible, a pulpit, a baptismal font, and the Pentecostal flames, in a tripartite rendering suggestive of the Trinity. The cross itself is white oak, the Connecticut state tree; the symbol is curly maple; and the backing of the symbol is yew from — where else? — Scotland.

Would it be fair to say that, for children, Noah’s Ark is the best-known and most beloved Bible story of them all (maybe after the story of Jesus’ birth)? The cross is made of myrtle, which grows only two places on earth–Oregon and Palestine. The hull of the ark is carved from Mediterranean cypress; the Bible tells us that Noah built his ark of gopher wood; no one knows what gopher wood is, or was, but the most common suggestion is Mediterranean cypress. The cabin or roof of the ark is Bald Cypress, the state tree of Louisiana, site of a very recent and dangerous deluge, but also a place of new beginnings and hope and resurrection. The Bible tells us that when the flood subsided, a dove brought back an olive branch to the ark; thus the dove in this rendering is olive wood.

Since the Infant/Toddler Room is often a new Presbyterian’s first stop after receiving the sacrament of baptism, this cross features a scallop shell, an ancient Christian symbol for the sacrament, suggestive of the waters of baptism and reminiscent of God’s blessings showered upon us from above. The shell is surrounded by a yellow-birch nimbus, symbolic of the presence of the Divine.

This cross–carved from white oak, the state tree of Connecticut–is destined for the Narthex, the place of hospitality where we greet old friends with joy and welcome strangers in kindness. The keys–made of a wood called Lignum Vitae (“The Wood or Tree of Life”)–stand for unlocked gates and open doors and warm welcomes, also for Christ, himself the Open Door and the Keystone of our new building. The keys also incorporate the symbols of cross and heart as a reminder of Christ’s command “to love one another as I have loved you.”

This Cross of Discipleship is carved from two woods important to the Celtic tradition: holly, symbolic of winter, quiet, and contemplativeness; and white oak, the tree of summer, productivity, and action. These offices are places of prayer and reflection (the holly); but also action and service (the white oak). The geometric carving at the center has twelve parts, which will remind us of Jesus’ disciples, each one flawed, imperfect and incomplete, but together a symmetrical circle and faithful team.

Since mission-mindedness is a priority of our Youth Program, a hammer, saw, and pry bar – the tools of Carpenter Jesus –comprise this cross, which is carved from six woods from six of the global continents where the Presbyterian Church is doing God’s work: the saw blade is a flame-cut yellow birch from North America; the saw handle is wenge from Africa; the saw’s pins are Asian lilac; the pry bar is Australian myrtle; the hammer head is South American tulipwood; the hammer handle is European beech.

From the Wedding at Cana to the Last Supper, from the Feeding of the Five Thousand to his breakfast with Peter on the beach after the resurrection, giving bread to the hungry and inviting the lonely to his dinner table were two of the central activities in Jesus’ ministry. This cross is comprised of common kitchen tools made of common woods used by people around the world–a spoon of North American poplar, a fork of West African Sapele; a flipper of Central American chakte-vega–and will remind us of our oneness in Christ as we break bread together, and of Christ’s call to bring water to the thirsting and food to the hungering, to turn water into wine and a little lunch into a banquet for thousands.

Since its beginning with Calvin in Geneva and Knox in Edinburgh, the Reformed tradition has treasured two values above all others: the Preached Word and the Educated Mind. Thus an open book has long important to the Calvinist symbol system. This cross–for the fourth-floor library, a place to study, to reflect, appreciate the beauty of books–is made of African Mahogany. The open book at its crosspiece is myrtle, a prominent wood especially in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah 55:12-13: “For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace. Instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich | One West Putnam Avenue | Greenwich, CT 06830 | 203.869.8686

First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich © 2009.
Site by webweavers.