Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ecumenical Flowers

With a flower embrace, two English cathedrals reach past theology.

imageCarved medallion

Norwich Cathedral

Photo: About Britain

Ecumenicism is bee-bop-a-lou-ah for “unity.” About 50 years ago, it was a much more popular idea—that people of all faiths might come together and get busy working on something more significant than how right they individually were.

So we were encouraged to see this trace of ecumenicism in today’s news, undertaken via —yes—flowers.  The Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals in Norwich, England, are working together to “Embrace the World”  in a joint flower festival.

imageA B24 Liberator (front) and a B17 fly above the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Norwich.

Illustration:  Paul Osborne

Parishioners have stencilled the streets of Norwich with a mile of yellow flowers, making a trail between the two grand churches. Inside, there will be scores of arrangements by local designers. The Norwich flowers will “focus on famous people of the world, in traditional style, while those at St John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral… will portray countries of the world in modern flower arrangements”—175 floral exhibits in all. The event, running through Monday, is expected to draw 30,000 visitors, and their donations (7 GBP apiece) will support improvements at both cathedrals and the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

We have special interest in Norwich and its air as our dear father was based here during World War II, flying bombing missions over Germany, Norway, and France. We discovered this amazing image on the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist site.  “During World War II” the beautiful Catholic cathedral “was used as a turning beacon for planes returning to Norfolk after bombing missions in Europe, especially by members of the USAF 7th Air Force. Many of them were married here, as testified in parish registers of the 1940s.”

Norwich Cathedral, more than 900 years old, has been called “one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe.” Flowers in wood, “nave bosses,” are a permanent part of the cathedral—“a unique and world renowned collection of medieval carvings.”

imageCarved medallion, Norwich Cathedral

Photo: Julia Hedgecoe

The deans of Norwich Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist began meeting over a year ago “to explore ways in which they could improve their links as they wanted to show all faiths the benefits of working together towards a common goal.”  The Very Rev. Graham Smith, Norwich Cathedral, said, “The Festival was born out of the desire of our two Cathedrals to work together to the glory of God and in the service of the wider community”

Why does flower theology seem an invitation to ecumenicism? Our friend John Stokes of Mary Gardens has many informed and illuminating things to say on this subject. In our own view, flowers evidence a beautiful and living power that, without trampling on a violet,  presides over all.

Posted by Julie on 05/31 at 10:42 AM
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