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Flower Communion & Bridging Ceremony (High School Graduates)

Bridging Ceremony for Graduating Seniors

UU Society of Sacramento        Sunday, June 7, 2009
Family Minister:  Please find the insert for the Graduating Seniors’ Bridging Ceremony in your order of service. Today we recognize three graduating high school seniors:  Leigh, Brendan, and Edek. They are on the cusp of so many changes in their lives.  They embark on new adventures:  perhaps continuing their education–close by or far away—or perhaps looking for work.  (These days looking for work is definitely an adventure.)  Our purpose this morning is to honor the transition—the bridge—from youth to young adulthood.  The elders, middle aged and young adult people of this congregation hold out their hands to our Bridging youth, welcoming them as new adults in this community and in the larger world.  Our children and younger teens watch them cross the bridge that right now may seem so far away.
Lead Minister:  One of the most important things a religious community can do is to help us hold both the joys and sorrows of life, its beauty and its challenges. To symbolize this today, we have a vase of roses. Each flower is lovely and complex, all by itself. Together, flowers make up a bouquet that surpasses the beauty and complexity of its individual parts.  Thorns on these roses remind us that none of us is perfect, none is without our own prickly places.  Also, it is inevitable that you will experience some thorny situations in your lives, if you haven’t already.

Youth Introductions

Family Minister: I invite our Bridgers to come forward, as well as Janet Lopes, Religious

Education Assistant.
It is our hope that this faith community has offered to each of you the space and the support needed to bring you this far on your journey.  I hope we have helped you to lay in store the spiritual tools you need for the challenges that lie ahead.  If you have feedback on how we could do this better, please talk to Doug or me.

Our hope for you is that wherever you are in the next few years, you will continue to discover the ways in which you are called to change the world.  You have already changed our world, by your presence and your growth here among us, by your many gifts, by your openness, and by your willingness over the years to show up sometimes when you’d really prefer to do something else, like sleeping.   If you go far from here, we hope you think of this as one of your homes, and think of us as people who appreciate you and care about you.

Gifts from the Congregation
Now, please come to the microphone, say your name, and tell us what happens next for you, whether you will be near to us or far away.  After you do, we have a card for you and a necklace with our Flaming Chalice image, as a token of our gratitude for you.

Unison Words of Thanks and Blessing

Lead Minister:  Today we mark a transition not only in the lives of these graduates, but in the lives of their families.  You all will be changed in the coming weeks and months.

First we invite those who identify as family of these youth to speak aloud the lines written for them.  [Family members read.]  .

Parents, Grandparents or Families of Bridgers:
We have watched you grow, gaining skills and understanding.
We see you now ready to face new challenges.
As you enter young adulthood, our love goes with you.

Now we invite the younger teenagers and children among us to read.  [Children read.]

Children and Youth in the Congregation:
For your gifts of friendship and joy, we thank you.
For memories we will cherish, we thank you.
As you leave this youth community, we give you our blessing.
Now we invite the adults in the congregation to read, followed by all of us
together. [Adults.]

Adults in Congregation:
For your many gifts, for your vision and your energy,
For your questions and your challenges,
We welcome you.
For the hopes you bring and the worries you share,
We welcome you.
As you join the community of adulthood, we give you our blessing.

All:
Wherever you go, remember that you always have a home here.
And remember that you are beloved upon this earth.  Amen.
[Now let us recognize and honor these youth with a round of applause.]

Request for Stories

In your order of service you can find a piece of paper with the words, Request for a Story.  I’m happy to say that our congregation is launching a new model or  method in Religious Education for elementary-age children.  It’s a story-based program called Spirit Play.  There are a number of ways you can help us get ready to offer Spirit Play. As we begin Spirit Play, we are starting to build a treasury of stories, and we will ask for volunteers to create small props for each story set.  But for today, we invite you to think of a story that you believe every child who grows up in this UU congregation should be sure to hear and have a chance to learn, and suggest it to us. Think of a story that you believe every child who grows up in this UU congregation should be sure to hear and have a chance to learn.
Your suggestion could be a famous fable or legend, wisdom tale, story from the Bible or another sacred book or any religious tradition.  It could be a story from our Unitarian Universalist heritage, or about the history of this congregation.  Or it could be a story from your own life that you would like our children to learn.  If you would, please include your name. In the foyer behind the sanctuary there is a basket where you may leave your suggestion after the service. There’s no rush, however.  You can always send it to the office or hand it to one of the ministers or staff members.  Thank you.

Offering
We have one more invitation for you, and it’s the weekly Sunday offering.  Every week our offering is shared equally with one of our community partners, which is what we call organizations doing good work beyond these walls, in the larger community.  This month our community partner is Sacramento Self-Help Housing.  It provides counseling, help and referral every year to thousands of local residents who are desperate to find low-cost housing alternatives.  Our offering will now be given and received.  Thank you for your support

Invitation to Flower Communion
The Unitarian Flower Communion, also known as the Flower Celebration, has taken place in the United States for almost 70 years. It was created by the Rev. Norbert Capek [CHA-peck], from  Prague, Czechoslovakia and introduced to America by his widow, Maja [MAYA] Capek,.  I’d like to tell you a bit about Norbert Capek’s life.  As a child, he had an agnostic father and a Catholic mother, and he grew up as a Roman Catholic.  He became disillusioned with the church and its clergy, and he resigned when he was 18!  He had himself baptized as a Baptist and became a minister.  He wrote articles calling for Czech independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and published criticism of the dominant (Catholic) church.  When the imperial Catholic authorities threatened to punish Capek, the family fled across the Atlantic, to New York. This was 1914.  Norbert served as a Baptist minister in New York and New Jersey, but in a few years he resigned for theological reasons.  Then he and Maja attended the Unitarian Church in Orange—and joined it–because of its children’s Religious Education program.  The family returned home in 1921, to a newly independent Czechoslovakia.  They, their daughter and son-in-law started and built a Unitarian church in Prague.  It grew to have over 3,000 members–the largest Unitarian congregation in the world at that time.  He supported the growth of liberal churches in other Czech cities, leading to at least 8,000 self-proclaimed Unitarians nationwide.  Because Capek had many former Catholics, Protestants and Jews in this liberal movement, he wanted to create a ritual in which all members could participate without any reservations, in order to bind the members closer together in spirit and fellowship.  The flower communion became a popular annual ritual.
Capek said that the task of the liberal church “must be to place truth above any tradition, spirit above any scripture, freedom above authority, and progress above all reaction.”  In World War II Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and established a so-called “Protectorate” over it.   Under this oppression, Capek did not shrink from speaking the truth in his pulpit and giving courage to his fellow Czechs around the country.  In 1941 the Gestapo arrested Capek and his 29-year-old daughter, Zora.  They accused them of listening to foreign radio broadcasts—the BBC—and spreading some of the content.  This was a capital offense!  They accused Norbert of high treason and used some of his sermons as evidence.  The  Nazis sent daughter Zora to a forced labor camp in Germany and sent the father to the concentration camp in Dachau.  He was executed in 1942.
After his death and after the war, his wife Maja moved to the United States.  She brought with her the flower communion ritual.  It was first celebrated in the US in the Unitarian congregation in Cambridge, Massachsetts.
Its traditional day is the first Sunday in June, which is this day.  We have an abundance of flowers here, tended by many hands in many gardens and brought from all over the area to be shared in community.  In this ritual you are invited to take a flower, which is an offering from someone else.  If you didn’t bring a flower, I think we have many extras contributed by other people.

Now, let’s read some words by Capek.
Flower Communion Prayer
See
Singing the Living Tradition (Unitarian Universalist Association, 1993), No. 723.

The source for most of this information is Capek’s biographer, the Rev. Richard Henry.  See his article at the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography: http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/norbertcapek.html.

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