Benny's World

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Flower Communion

This thread was inspired by being at Taylor Marsh's blog today, in which she has a really nice piece about the framing of faith by our Founding Fathers and yet in this century thus far, our onward Christian/PNAC soldiers, Bush Co, continues to put us into debt and make us pay a very heavy price for a war 71% of Americans wish we would get out of sooner, than later.

This is what my comment was on her blog:

The separation of church and state, albeit not explicit in our Constitution, is one of the more important aspects of the Founders' framework to keep sacred. Last year and the year before, when I watched the confirmation hearings of Roberts and Alito, I was concerned that their faith might color their judgment and not uphold this separation of church and state. So far, we have been fortunate that not much has appeared before the court that has tested them in this regard.

I'm from the same group of Jefferson and Adams, both who were Unitarians, whereas that group merged with Universalists in 1961, thus the term UU for Unitarian Universalist. Most of us are for peace, support community actvism for the good, and seek out ways that even Jesus told us: to comfort the poor. For us, that is a moral imperative.

Today I am reminded of a UU tradition which is the Flower Communion, often held on Easter Sunday. To borrow from Pastor Margo McKenna, here is the story of the tradition of it:

The first part of how we arrived at the ritual we celebrate today begins with Rev. Norbert Capek (1870-1942), who founded the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia. He introduced this ritual to his congregation on June 4, 1923. He had felt the need for symbolic ritual to bind Unitarians together, and chose to use the “communion service,” as it was familiar to many Unitarians who had left Roman Catholicism. He also felt strongly that Unitarians should not allow Christians to claim the word “communion” solely for christological purposes, rather, wanting to return to the original use of the word which is defined as: drawing together.

Rev. Capek chose flowers as the symbol of this ritual. It was his way of honoring the native spring blossoming of Czechoslovakia, drawing Unitarians closer to the earth, a nod to the agrarian life of most members, and a ritual to draw Unitarians together. To him, the significance of the Flower Communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike. Each flower contributes its own unique scent and color to the larger bouquet, and thus has a unique contribution to its overall beauty. The flowers, joined together, form a spectacular splash of color and scent that transforms a room. So, each person sitting here is unique and colorful and brings a contribution to our whole bouquet - our congregation! Our common bouquet would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and so it is with each UU congregation. Flower communion is a statement of this community.

By exchanging flowers, we show our willingness to walk together in our search for truth, setting aside attitudes and actions that work to divide, rather than unite us. Each person takes home a flower brought by someone else, thus symbolizing our shared celebration in community.

The second part of our story today, is the larger history of Unitarians and Universalists. Before the UU merge in 1961, there was a rather large divide on the issue of celebrating Easter. Universalists, who had largely remained liberal Christians, and who believed that Jesus died and was raised again to save all humanity, loved to honor Easter Sunday. Unitarians, who had largely become humanist and/or atheist through the years, usually did not celebrate Easter, due to its connotation of a need for blood sacrifice to a deity, in order to save humanity. This difference was a large one for these two groups as they were discussing merging in the 1950’s. So, when the Unitarians and Universalists decided to merge in 1961, discussions about how to handle Easter were long and heated.

This brings us back to Flower Communion…As I mentioned at the beginning, Flower Communion was first celebrated in Czechoslovakia on June 4, 1923, not on Easter Sunday. Rev. Capek seems to have done this for two reasons: First, the spring blossoming did not arrive in Czechoslovakia until June, and second, Unitarians did not honor Easter.

Though Rev. Capek died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942, Unitarians were already celebrating his Flower Communion service here in the U.S. by 1940. It was being held yearly in many Unitarian congregations just before the summer recess, and continued to be honored for the reasons Rev. Capek had first dreamed of, and in his memory after WWII was over.

The long and heated debate about Easter was resolved when someone suggested a recommendation to congregations: that they honor the Unitarian ritual of Flower Communion and celebrate it on Easter Sunday for Universalists. Thus, in the Flower Communion, the symbol of “drawing together” as envisioned by Rev. Capek is still honored, and when celebrated on Easter, continues to honor those who come out of the Christian tradition.

Given our poor situation in Iraq and the thousands of not only Americans, but Iraqis, Brits, Italians, Koreans etc have died and the violence continues to surge as we are embroiled in Iraq's civil war, I'd like to take a moment to give thanks to all of them who risk their lives each day. I also want to commend those on the ground boots here, serving a meal to the elderly, the homeless, or perhaps inviting a single person to a seder.

At the Flower Communion service, each person brings flowers, either from their yard or elsewhere, and puts them in a community basket. Then at the end of the service, each person goes by the basket (or if a smaller congregation, the basket is passed around) and takes one as a symbol of love, peace, and remembrance.

Here are some baskets from Second Parish's Flower Communion (I'm sure they will share), and I am passing it to BW and Taylor's readers to take a symbolic flower.


Labels: , , , , , , ,


  • That was a very lovely piece. I will think of it when we practice flower communion at my UU congregation this weekend. :)

    By Blogger Hathery, at 8:12 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home