The dove has a significant place on the logo of the Uniting Church in Australia as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
The image of the dove is frequently linked with the story of Noah’s ark in the Old Testament. According to Genesis (8:11), Noah sent a dove from the ark to determine whether the flood had abated and land had re-appeared. When the dove returned with an olive leaf, it signified to Noah not only that land had once again appeared, but that the order of creation had been restored and the chaos created by the flood had come to an end.
In that sense, the dove with the olive leaf in its beak represents order, calm and peace in the midst of chaos and disorder.
While this sets something of the background to the significance of the dove, the use of the dove in the Uniting Church logo is directly connected with the gospel story of Jesus’ baptism. According to the accounts given by each of Matthew (3:16) and Luke (3:22), at the time of his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus ‘as a dove’. This appearance of the dove set the seal on the significance of this human person, Jesus of Nazareth as the one in whom God is uniquely and fully present.
Even if this symbolism of the dove as the presence of the Holy Spirit is not prominent in other writings of the New Testament, this connection became strong in the tradition of the Church.
Thus, in the Uniting Church logo, the Holy Spirit is represented as a dove. Notably, the colour of its wings is red, a colour normally linked with the Holy Spirit; the shape of the wings is representative of the flames of fire (as in Acts 2:1-11 where the Holy Spirit descends as flames of fire upon the apostles).
It is also notable that the wings of the dove overlap the shape of the cross which suggests that the work of the Holy Spirit is directly connected with the message of the cross. The beak of the dove is white (the colour used to represent the Easter resurrection) and touches the outer half-circle at the base of the logo which itself represents the ongoing ministry of reconciliation and peace which is the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.
Information provided by the Rev Dr D’Arcy Wood indicates that the decision to have a Uniting Church logo was made by a group called together by the Joint Constitution Commission (JCC). The JCC was established with the task of creating a constitution for the Uniting Church, following the content of the Basis of Union which had been put together by the Joint Commission on Church Union.
After preparing a draft of the Constitution, the JCC called together a larger body of 75 people representing equally the three denominations which came into the Uniting Church. One of the early agenda items that the 75 considered was a ‘logo’. Rev Prof Ian Gillman was a Presbyterian teacher in Theology and Church History at Emmanual Theological Hall in Queensland and one of the founding fathers of Church Union. He offered to have a firm in Brisbane, with which he had contact, work on a logo and several versions came back to the group. All of the versions were similar and the decision was made pretty easily.
The interpretation of the logo was prepared by Professor Gillman in consultation with the logo designer. It is available on the UCA Assembly website.