By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
DELAND - World Communion Sunday is Oct. 7. While folks at area several churches will join in the annual ecumenical celebration of the Lord's Supper, the First Christian Church of DeLand (Disciples of Christ) will do it with unusual style. They'll take communion from the Antioch Chalice.
OK, a replica of the Antioch Chalice. The real one's still safe and sound at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"I saw (a replica) on display and I got it," Dr. David Felty, pastor, said. "That was a couple years ago."
Participants won't drink from the cup either; they'll dip bread into it.
The replica Antioch Chalice joined a growing collection of holy grails the minister keeps, including one of the props used in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades. In that movie, Indiana Jones and his antagonist, Walter Donovan, had to pick the right chalice to drink from, the true Holy Grail. If either or both failed to pick the right chalice from among dozens, horrible death awaited.
One of their choices was the Genoa Chalice, another past contender for the honor of being the Holy Grail. That movie prop is in Rev. Felty's collection. On World Communion Sunday, Rev. Felty will display 10 to 15 cups in his replica-grails collection and talk about them. Many are simple cups of different materials and designs similar to those used in the first century.
"Most of the others are not replicas of the pretenders to the throne," he said.
The real Antioch Chalice was unearthed near Antioch in 1910. It's a doubled vessel with an ornately decorated exterior sheath, and plain silver interior cup. Many Holy Grail hunters believed the plain interior cup was the big find of biblical archeology - the very cup Jesus Christ held and drank from in Luke 22:17. The exterior sheath, they conjectured, was a later Christian attempt at protecting the Holy Grail from damage.
It was only the latest of many Holy Grail claims.
"For the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ, it was kind of important," Rev. Felty said. "It was at a time that our ministers were first getting their advance degrees and becoming archeologists."
Like other Holy Grail claims, the Antioch Chalice fell apart under scrutiny. As archeologists kept finding old things from around the Holy Land, it became clear that it was probably not even a cup. It was most likely a lamp.
"The Antioch Cup was my denomination's favorite horse in that race for awhile," Rev. Felton said.
Debunked claims have never persuaded hardcore Holy Grail hunters to give up the quest for the relic. Rev. Felty said if people ever did find the actual cup Jesus drank from, they'd likely be at least a little disappointed.
"It either would have been a small piece of wood that would have served as a cup, a bowl and a spoon, or it could have been a hand-carved chalk block. It could have looked a little bit like a coffee cup. In 10 years, scholarly opinion will shift again."
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) practice open communion, meaning all Christians are welcome to partake regardless of their denominational affiliation.
The DeLand church is at 1401 W. New York Ave. Sunday services are at 8:15 and 10:45 a.m., and at 6 p.m. Communion is observed at all three.