Hear these words that I offered you at our Water Ingathering back in September–the first worship service of the church year: “The thing about wells is that they are dug in community, they are tended to in community, and they are drawn from in community. When one thirsts, we pull up more water. When one is quenched and thriving, we tend to the well–because we can…Why do we do this? We do this to co-create a visible well. One that holds us, exactly as we are today. One that holds the memory of places we love, this our beautiful Earth, one that holds the longing for places we couldn’t get to. One that holds the joys, the sorrows, the gifts and the needs of this our community. One that holds story–the story of our lives, and history and the dreams for the days ahead. One that holds the pain of oppression and the hope of reconciliation. One that holds the thriving, the utter grief, and parched-ness that is this moment in time. This visible well we are creating today holds it all. That is what it symbolizes: you and we in all our wild audacity.”
And today we close out this our first year together essentially doing the same thing–and we will continue to do and expand on these important rituals because we need to be reminded about the you and we in all our wild audacity being held and bound together in an alive, ever-evolving community. Except this time, we look to flowers. And we consider the water that has brought these flowers into being, as well as the air and soil and pollinators. And we consider the loving hands of those among us and beyond us who have mulched and weeded; planted and pruned. Those who have moved among gardens or wild places, overgrown patches of earth and despite the tilted-ness that are these days and times, noticed what was blooming, what was growing, what was beautiful.
And here they all sit now. A mixed up, hodge podge of color and species–maybe they would never normally grow next to each other. Some might not be from around these parts. Some are delicate and fussy; others are hardy and flexible. Some are wilted and tired, some are energized and standing tall. Some are flashy, many are quiet beauties. The visible little garden today is like our September well of ingathered water in that it symbolizes you and we in all our wild audacity.
And this ritual, this Flower Communion, is honored and practiced in thousands of UU churches around this time of year. Conceived of by Czechoslovakian Unitarian Norbert Čapek in 1923 to capture a communion service that spoke to the hearts of his people, who, like us, were richly varied in what and how they believed. To do this well, Čapek turned to the beauty of flowers, the blessed Mystery that is the cycle of nature that mirrors our own natures, and the sacred act of giving and receiving–reciprocity and shared blessing. And to mark this–to re-vision communion–he asked his congregants to bring a flower to church. From their gardens, the field, or the roadside. He invited each person to place their flower in a vase, and then each person could take a flower from the vase—a different one than they had brought.
Čapek was a visionary minister serving a church ahead of its time, a bold church, a re-visioning church thinking beyond its doors, stretching itself towards greater wholeness and welcome and hope. It was a church that was willing to take risks; to make tough decisions; and to build a new way. Seriously. This was his hope and his people’s hope–all 3000 of them.
That was Čapek’s church. This is our church!
For this, he was arrested by the gestapo in 1942, these were horrible and frightening times, and ultimately was sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
And even there, in that concentration camp, he held a flower ceremony with his fellow prisoners, finding whatever flowers they could among the weeds of the camp. They testified to a beauty larger than themselves, and a love and hope that would outlive them. They blessed each other and the space between them through this ritual, not to blot out the ugliness and evil of the world, but to celebrate the blessing of beauty and hope and resilience and wonder. The wild audacity of this thing called life and love, that is so much greater, so much more powerful than is horror and despair.
He died in that camp. But his wife Maja brought the flower ceremony to the Unitarian Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts–our neighbor church.
So, what we are about to do, in the words of my colleague Rev. Teresa Schwartz, “isn’t a diversion from ugly reality, but a gentle fierceness which proclaims that in the midst of sinister days there is always the light of beauty.” There is always a blessing to be had and found where one or more are gathered in the name of love. And this exchange of flowers is an outward symbol of our saying YES to one another, in each of our own wild audacities. Wilted or energized. The Asters and the Goldenrod–made more beautiful, more powerful, more life-giving by being together. It’s a ritual of expansion and opening. A finding our way home to one another and also a promise to be cracked open and changed by one another here in this blessed holding place for it all.
I will now, with great humility, bless these flowers, blessed representatives of you–wonderful you just as you are–and will look to some of Capek’s words, words he used for his flower communions. We pray:
“Infinite Spirit of Life, we ask for Your blessing on these flowers, messengers of fellowship and love. May they remind us, amid diversities of knowledge and of gifts, to be one…May they also remind us of the value of comradeship, of doing and sharing alike. May we cherish friendship as one of the Spirit’s most precious gifts. May we not let awareness of another’s talents discourage us, or sully our relationship, but may we realize that whatever we can do, great or small, the efforts of all of us are needed to do Your Holy work in this world. Out of many, one. May it be so. AMEN.”
It is time now for us to share in the Flower Communion. To those who will be distributing the flowers, can you come up and get ready? Before we start, as the flowers come around, select a flower with some reverence – different from the one you brought – and let it speak to you. As you take your chosen flower – note its shape and beauty – consider where it came from, who it came here with, and handle it carefully. It is a gift that someone else has brought to you. It represents that person’s unique humanity, and therefore deserves your kindest touch. To those of you at home, we invite you to stop by church in the coming weeks and clip a flower from our memorial garden, take it with you. Or bring a flower to these grounds and place it somewhere. This is not a stand-alone moment friends–never stop showering one another with flowers. Let us all commit to that this summer, shall we?
Let us now bless this space between us and share in this ritual of oneness, reciprocity and love.
The flower communion has begun.
Reverend Sophia Lyons
Rev. Sophia is committed to radical welcome and spreading the good news that is our bold Unitarian Universalist faith. Some of her areas of interest include interfaith partnerships, addictions ministry, spiritual direction, and working towards collective liberation for all. Rev. Sophia aspires to live her life and fulfill her ministry guided by spiritual seeking, big love, and the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism.