More than half a century after Unitarian Universalist minister Norbert Capek was executed in the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, a local church will keep his message alive June 5 by celebrating the Flower Communion service Capek first invented to promote tolerance and celebrate diversity.
That "local church" is my own First Parish of Stow and Acton.
"It is a lovely tradition," said Rev. Tom Rosiello, the minister of the Unitarian Universalist First Parish Church of Stow and Acton. "Everyone brings a cut flower or two to the service, and they're put in baskets or bouquets. We talk about the flowers as symbols of our diversity. Just as the flowers are all different and beautiful, people also all have different talents and attributes. After we have brought all of this diverse beauty together for the service, everybody leaves with a flower - but not the same flower they came with. It's a way of appreciating the beauty of something different."
The tradition dates back more than 80 years to when Capek was the minister of the Unitarian Universalist church in Prague. While Capek's Flower Communion is celebrated at the end of the church year in many Unitarian Universalist congregations in this country today, Rosiello said Acton has the strongest direct link to Capek himself.
The Rev. Hvezdon Kafka, who served as minister to the First Parish Church from 1970 to 1986, grew up in Prague and attended Capek's church. It was Capek's services, in fact, that inspired Kafka to become a minister himself.
The June 5 ceremony will include a dramatic presentation about Capek performing the Flower Festival with prisoners at Dachau, a choral performance in Czech, and responsive readings written by Kafka during his own ministry.
We rehearsed the Czech hymn again last night. It's a beautiful piece of music, despite the challenge of getting through the thickets of consecutive consonants.
And, just in case anyone is interested, the service is this Sunday at 10:00AM at the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton, 353 Great Road, Stow, Massachusetts.