Monday, April 18, 2016

Flower Communion, A Right of Spring—Murfin Verse

Flowers surround the Chalice ready for distribution.  Tree of Life Religious Education Director Sam Jones is at the pulpit.

Yesterday we held our annual Flower Communion at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry.  It is a Unitarian Universalist tradition, one of the few original one that we didn’t inherit from our more conventional Christian roots or simply rip off from somebody else’s tradition. 
The Unitarian Universalist Association explains it thusly:
The Flower Ceremony, sometimes referred to as Flower Communion or Flower Festival, is an annual ritual that celebrates beauty, human uniqueness, diversity, and community.
Originally created in 1923 by Unitarian minister Norbert Capek of Prague, Czechoslovakia, the Flower Ceremony was introduced to the United States by Rev. Maya Capek, Norbert’s widow.  [Capek died in a Nazi concentration camp.]
In this ceremony, everyone in the congregation brings a flower. Each person places a flower on the altar or in a shared vase. The congregation and minister bless the flowers, and they’re redistributed. Each person brings home a different flower than the one they brought.
The Rev. Norbert Capek of the Prague Unitarian Church invented the Flower Service for his diverse congregation of former Catholics and Protestants, Jews, and humanist agnostics.  After his  death at the hands of the Nazis his widow Maja introduced it to American Unitarians.  It is now, other than than the lighting of the Chalice, the most widely observed Unitarian Universalist ritual.

I have been participating in this tradition now for more than 25 years with this congregation through four name changes, five ministers called or interim, three intern ministers, and two buildings.  It is a highlight of the church year.

Yesterday as I watched it unfold again, I began to scratch note in my Order of Service.
Flower Communion
Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation
April 17, 2016

Those Unitarians have a thing,
            a ritual if you will—
                        yeah, I know, hard to imagine.

They call it Flower Communion
            or if that gives the congregation hives
            for sounding damned
            you know, churchy and Christian,
            the Flower Service—
like FTD delivery

But don’t worry,
you know the details are fuzzy
and it will be different everywhere
you know—
            no Pope or Book of Common Prayer
            to set the rules just so.

They can’t even agree on a date
            though most of ‘em do it in the Spring
            sometime around when,
            if your lucky,
            it has been warm long enough
            to pluck some blossom
            from your yard—
                        If you have one.

Where I have parked my ass
            on Sunday mornings
            these last several years,
            Spring cheated us
            unless you planted daffodils
            or are unashamed
            by a handful of dandelions.

The supermarket flower wagons
            got a work out this year
            I’m guessing
            by the bright look
            of the vases and baskets
            on the table by the Chalice.
In some churches they try
            For proper liturgy—
            prayers or meditations
if they are queasy,
songs and blessings.

Folks file orderly 
            to lay their blooms in baskets
            or fill lovely vases
            and then some tidy system
            is employed to deal they out again.

But at our place we defy order
            and occasional attempts
            to impose it—
                        the poseys are supposed
                        to go in the baskets
                        before the bell is rung.

But a lot of us are late
            or left the bouquets in the car,
            wander in
and add their nosegays
to haphazard piles
after things a have started.

The timid and confused
            have to be called up
            for last moment deposits.

Then the Children and the Youth
            are beckoned from their seats
toddlers and teens
grab fistfuls and  plunge randomly
among the seats offering flowers
and bouncing off each other
like bumper cars
until ever one has a flower—
or  three or four
and the kids can’t find
anymore takers.

Ah, the happy chaos.

—Patrick Murfin
Happy chaos....

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely tradition!
    My parents attended the UU in Marin County for years. Don't recall any mention of this; am sure I would have if it happened as my mom was an avid gardener. Maybe they didn't know of this. Too bad