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Reflections

 

The Flower Communion service which we celebrate today has been a tradition for over a century, and is celebrated primarily in Unitarian settings.

It was originated in 1923 by Dr. Norbert Capek [Chah-Peck], who founded the modern Unitarian movement in Czechoslovakia.

Here’s a brief history of how things unfolded in Norbert’s life…When he was in New York City studying for his Ph.D., he met fellow Czechoslovakian Maja whom he married.  It was at her urging that Norbert left the Baptist ministry and turned to Unitarianism.

The Capeks returned to Czechoslovakia in 1921 and established a dynamic liberal church in Prague.  It was there that he developed the idea of a Flower Communion.

He had been feeling the need for a symbolic ritual that would connect his congregation more closely.

He knew that the format had to be one that would not alienate any who had been disenfranchised with other religious traditions, as many of his parishioners had had strong reactions against the Catholic faith, which was the dominant tradition.

So, he turned to the native beauty of their countryside for elements of a communion which would be meaningful to them. The simple Flower Communion service was the result.

 During a tour of the United States that began in 1940 Maja introduced the flower communion to American UU churches. She was unable to return to Prague due to the outbreak of World War II.

Back in Czechoslovakia, in 1941, Norbert and his daughter were arrested by the Gestapo, who confiscated his books and liberal sermons. He was charged with listening to foreign broadcasts (a capital crime).  But he was suspect because of his publicly-held liberal beliefs.

After being held temporarily in a prison, in 1942 he was taken to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was imprisoned in the “Priesterblock”  and later died.

___

Norbert’s legacy is centered mostly in his creation of the Flower Communion that we are about to experience.  If he’d have been Catholic he likely would’ve been canonized and would be the patron saint of flowers.

By now, over 100 years later, his form of a nature-based communion experience is celebrated in thousands of progressive churches throughout the world.  And one more is being added to the list today, as we endeavor to celebrate it as well!

And so let us begin.

Some minutes ago, each of you came up to the table, and placed your flower in the vase.

In these moments, please consider the sacred uniqueness of your flower, symbolizing your own individual personhood, and how your spirit and beauty contributes to the beauty of our Community.

Think about your history with NCC, however lengthy or brief, and all of the energies and inspirations that you’ve received, and given, here.

Behold you, in the midst of the other NCC beauties.

We add one more flower to complete our bouquet . . . . the flower of Memory, for all who have gone before us in our New Covenant Community, who like Rev. Capek, built for us the foundation of our spiritual family.

The consecration of the flowers   We will now consecrate our flowers with a prayer based on Dr. Čapek’s prayer at the first Flower Communion service.

In the name of Providence which implants in the seed the future of the tree,                                                                                                  And in our hearts the longing for people living in brotherly and sisterly love,

 In the name of Holiness, in which we move and in which we are made to be who we are;                                                                                                                       In the name of sages and great religious leaders, who sacrificed their lives and in doing so gave us our ancestory…

Let us renew our resolution–sincerely to be real brothers and sisters regardless of any kind of bar which estranges us.  

In this holy resolution may we be strengthened knowing that we are part of a sacred family; that one spirit – the spirit of love – unites us;

We bless these flowers, and in doing so endeavor

for a more perfect and more joyful life to lead us on.   Amen.”

Four years ago I was in my ministry with the Louisville UU church. Brianna Taylor had been murdered three months prior, and there were almost daily protests and marches in the streets.

That June I did the annual Flower Communion.

During that service I created a little story, which I will share it with you now.  Not only does it fit for our Flower Communion today, but it also allows me to share a bit of my history with you.

Once upon a time there was a flower named Dan.  His full name was Dan D. Lyon.  But mostly he went by Dan. 

 

Dan lived in the yard of the most beautiful church in all of Kentucky.

 

One day there a protest march on 4th  Street, right in front of Dan’s church.  Many people marched by holding signs that had the letters BLM, and he wasn’t sure what those letters stood for.  

 

After some thought he decided that maybe BLM stood for: BLOOMING LEADS to MAGNIFICENCE, based on his all-time favorite motto Bloom Where You’re Planted.

 

All of this thinking had tired Dan out.  As the afternoon sun was high in the sky that day, Dan drifted off into a nap.

 

 And as he slept he had a dream that he visited all his flower friends around town. 

 

He visited a black flower,

 

and a white flower,

 

and one that was mixed.

 

He visited flowers with different shapes.

 

One that he visited was hard to be around

 

and another just seemed to spread sunshine.

 

He saw shady characters

 

and even some behind bars.

 

There were sick ones and healthy ones. 

 

Some flowers he visited were young…

 

some were coupled…

 

and some were same-sect flowers.

 

There were flower families, sometimes with the young and the old living together.

 

Dan saw flower communities where they all looked the same

 

and others that were more diverse.

 

He visited flowers that were wild and pushed the limits  

 

and others that were more traditional. 

 

There were flowers that lived in simple settings 

 

and other that lived in fancier places.

 

Dan went all around town visiting his flower friends with whom he stayed connected through the magic of wind and his older flower relatives. 

 

Each flower, regardless of their size… or color…

 

or where they lived happily greeted him. 

 

They all knew that, despite their differences, they were flowers and their mission, together, was to bring beauty and joy to the world.   Each of them honored the others’ unique way of adding to the beauty. 

 

When Dan awoke from his nap in the sun he thought to himself as he watched the last of the marchers turn the corner, “Blooming definitely leads to magnificence.”

 

This story captures importance of community at different levels.  It was written at a time when there was a significant amount of division in the wider community over racial issues.

Protest marches happened nightly because a black woman had been senselessly killed by white police officers.

So, the story of Dan’s connection to others around town, regardless of color and living conditions, was relevant on a macro/community-wide level, especially in those days of such overt conflict.

Our flower communion can have similar meaning if applied to the wider community, but for today’s purposes I more like what it holds for us, within our New Covenant Community.

I like that it celebrates our diversity…the beauty that each and every one of us bring to our group.

Do you remember about a year ago when we were beginning the formation of our Action Groups, and we had a service about that in which this image was shared.

At that time it was a message that we needed each of us to make us whole, that we needed the engagement of all of us in order to be complete, and that it’s not the same without you (and you, and you…).

The same message is at the core of our celebration today, except with a different bent.

Yes, we wouldn’t be the same without each of our stems, without your stem in the beautiful bouquet known as NCC.

Each of the gifts that we bring that add to our sweetness, our loveliness…gifts of laughter, of wittiness, of generosity, of insight and wisdom and fortitude.

Thomas Rhodes speaks to this from a flowery perspective, in a piece he entitled “All of Us Are Beautiful.”

We come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Some of us grow in bunches.
Some of us grow alone.
Some of us are cupped inward,
And some of us spread ourselves out wide.
Some of us are old and dried and tougher than we appear.
Some of us are still in bud.
Some of us grow low to the ground,
And some of us stretch toward the sun.
Some of us feel like weeds, sometimes.
Some of us carry seeds, sometimes.

Some of us are prickly, sometimes.
Some of us smell.
And all of us are beautiful.
What a bouquet of people we are!

Without this diversity and the sharing of our gifts, I’m not so sure we…you…would have endured.  As you know, it wasn’t always crystal clear that there would be a future for us, especially as you weathered a pandemic and being without a minister.

I actually thought about this the other morning, Wednesday morning.   Do you remember the wind and rain storm that we had Tuesday night?

We have numerous pots of flowers outside, so the first thing I did Wednesday morning after that storm was to check the condition of the flowers.

Yes, they had been beat around and looked a bit battered.

But they were still intact, even the most delicate ones.

And it made me think of you…weathering your own storms and coming out so beautiful and strong on the other side

Today’s celebration is about the delight of being a part of this beautiful and resilient bouquet that hopefully brings grounding and joy to each of your lives.

I certainly know that it does to mine!

And in the words of Lynn Unger…

This is what community looks like—
this vibrant jostle, stem by stem declaring the marvelous joining.
This is the face of communion, the incarnation once more gracefully resurrected from winter  (or the storms of circumstance).

Hold these things together in your sight—purple, crimson, magenta, blue.

[The beautiful collection of variations that make us us].

You will be feasting on this long after the flowers are gone.

It’s time to hear now from you, you beautiful collection of varied questioning, loving, seeking souls.

For our responses today, please consider speaking to what it means to you to be a part of the bouquet known as our beloved New Covenant Community.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                   

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