In June of 1923, worshippers at the Unitarian Church in Prague, in the then-Czechoslovak Republic, were introduced to a new ritual by their minister, Rev. Norbert Fabian Čapek (pronounced "CHOP-eck”). That ritual has endured and is treasured by Unitarian Universalists around the world who are now eager to celebrate its centennial. The meaning of the Flower Ceremony, or Flower Communion–in Czech the name translates as Flower Celebration–is rooted in its powerful simplicity: each person brings a flower to church, where they’re mingled in a single vase. After being blessed–often using Čapek’s own words–the flowers are redistributed so that everyone takes home a flower different from the one they brought. There’s more to the flower ceremony, though–more to understand about its origins, practice, and expressions–and so it’s been a delight to curate an online treasure-box of centennial resources for UU congregations.
At UUA.org/flower, you’ll find worship-ready videos of flower dedications–in both English and Czech–delivered by the Rev. Dr. Petr Samojský (pronounced “Peter Sah-MOY-skee”), who serves as minister of the Prague Unitarian Congregation. You’ll also discover videos of in-depth conversations between Rev. Petr and me as we explore questions like: How do we bring creativity to a century-old tradition? Why is receiving a flower more authentic to Čapek’s intentions than choosing your flower? What form does the flower celebration take in Prague today? How did the flower ceremony make its way to the United States? And my favorite question: Why does Rev. Petr bring stinging nettles to the flower celebration? These conversation videos provide context and insight for worship leaders, but they would also make fitting material for faith formation gatherings, or even for lay-led congregations who want to center their worship service around a “learning together” vibe. The final resource that worship leaders will appreciate at UUA.org/flower is the score for “Beauty Calls Us Together,” a cantata (or song cycle) composed by Kathryn Canan, Rev. Suzelle Lynch, and Ruben Piirainen. The musical pieces–which can be used individually or as a whole–are accompanied by readings and other rich historical material that create new bridges between this beloved ritual and the minister who founded it. (The composers have presented a sliding scale for use of their cantata.)
All of us hope that these materials inspire you to make your celebration of the one-hundredth flower ceremony as meaningful and unique as possible. May you feel both grounded in our Unitarian history and enlivened to send forth new shoots for the generations to come. In faith, Erika
Rev. Erika Hewitt (she/her/hers) is the UUA's Minister of Worship Arts, and Editor of the Braver/Wiser weekly spirituality series. Erika lives in Maine, where she also serves as a wedding officiant.