Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Sunday, June 05, 2005

In Lieu of Body and Blood

The “Flower Communion,” a June ritual in many Unitarian congregations, replaces bread and wine with blossoms.

Could brotherly and sisterly love be redemptive? Is diversity sacred? Are flowers more transformative than the body and blood of a god?

Norbert Capekimage

A Czech minister thought so. Norbert Capek, who with his wife Maja founded the Prague Congregation of Liberal Religious Fellowship, first celebrated Flower Communion in June 1923. (Read in Czech about the service here.) Many of the church’s members were former Catholics “wary of any ritual reminiscent of the mass”—but bereft without some form of ritual. 

With local flowers at their most beautiful, Capek asked everyone to bring one blossom to the service June 24 and place them in a vase at the center of the meeting hall.  In his sermon, Capek said the flowers symbolized the church members,  “each unique and free,” joined together in fellowship.

At the end of the service, each member was to take one flower “just as it comes without making any distinction where it came from and whom it represents, to confess that we accept each other as brothers and sisters without regard to class, race, or other distinction, acknowledging everybody as our friend who is human and wants to be good.”

Nobert Capek was arrested when the Nazis took control of Prague. He was killed in the concentration camp at Dachau in October 1942.

Maja Capek introduced the flower communion in the United States, “at the First Parish Church in Cambridge,” Massachusetts. We’ve found announcements of Flower Communions this year in Maryland and Massachusetts, but don’t know how widespread the custom is among Unitarians. 

This article by Reginald Zottoli provides both history of the Flower Communion and suggestions for conducting one. This church, where the Capeks first affiliated with the Unitarian faith, is collecting information on the Flower Communion tradition.

Devout Roman Catholic and writer Flannery O’Connor once said of the Eucharist, “If it’s only a symbol, then to hell with it!”  I get her point. There’s a difference between artistry and sacrament, a distinction that artists—honest ones—may sense most keenly. Still, between the mundane and the Holy lies an awful lot of open space. Flowers, whether in “communion” or less formal human affairs, flourish in this expanse called “culture,” where religions crop up, too.

Posted by Julie on 06/05 at 11:38 AM
Religious RitualsPermalink