Activity 2: The Ritual of Communion
Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- A copy of Singing the Living Tradition, the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook
- Optional: Photos of ceremony rituals at your congregation
- Optional: Stoles, including extras for visitors
Preparation for Activity
- Familiarize yourself with "From You I Receive," Hymn 402 in Singing the Living Tradition. Prepare to teach it to the group and lead them in singing. Or, invite a volunteer to come to this session and teach the song.
- Write "Flower ceremony," "Water communion," and "Bread communion" as headings on three sheets of newsprint. Draw flowers, water, and bread under the headings. If you have congregational photos of previous ceremonies, add these to the newsprint. Leave room for a co-leader to write important words while you describe each ceremony to the children.
- Read the descriptions below of UU ceremonies. Adapt the descriptions to fit the practices of your congregation. Consult congregational worship leaders to learn more about your congregation's practices and (optional) to obtain photos to display.
Description of Activity
Participants learn a hymn and learn about UU rituals of sharing.
Teach Hymn 402, "From You I Receive."
Say, in your own words:
Why do people share? Because the world works better when we do. It would be very hard for every person to make and grow everything they need in life. Someone grows onions and carrots, and someone else makes bowls and spoons, and a third person works at the electrical plant that brings energy to your house to heat up your stove. Together, they can make a bowl of hot soup.
Another example of sharing happens at our congregational potlucks. Someone brings dessert, someone else brings vegetables, and another person might set up the tables and chairs. Have you ever been to a shared meal at our congregation? Did your family share by bringing a dish or setting up or eating?
There is another kind of sharing which is harder to see. Did you ever teach someone how to do something, or have someone else teach you? Have you ever told someone one of your special wishes, or one of your fears? Have you listened when someone else told you about something special to them? That is a kind of sharing too, when you share of yourself. In our families and at our congregation, we share more than just material things like food and furniture. We also share our hopes and dreams, our fears, our laughter, and our tears. We share what we have learned in school and what we have learned just from living. We share stories about ourselves, about people we know, and stories from all around the world. When we gather together in worship, we might share our joys or concerns, or feelings and ideas we think are important.
Today we will talk about rituals Unitarian Universalists can do in our worship services to symbolize sharing and how important it is to us. These are called rituals of communion.
Some Christian religions have a Holy Communion ritual. In Holy Communion, each person receives a wafer and either wine or juice, with a blessing from a worship leader, as a symbol for the connection they share with Jesus. UU congregations do not have a Holy Communion, but many celebrate other types of communions. The most common ones are flower ceremony, water communion, and bread communion. Like the Christian Holy Communion, UU ceremonies are about sharing connections.
Share these descriptions of flower ceremony, water communion, and bread communion with the group. Ask your co-leader to write important words on the appropriate newsprint sheets as you talk.
For flower ceremony, everyone brings a flower. Some people bring extra. All the flowers are gathered together and blessed. The flowers are a symbol for the congregation: Each one is unique, and all have a place in one big beautiful bouquet.
The flowers are different, but also have things in common. Some might come from a garden, some from a store. But every flower is a sign that the person who brought it loves their congregation and the people in it. They think the people of the congregation are as special and beautiful as flowers.
In the Flower Ceremony, everyone takes home a different flower than the one they brought. This action is a symbol for how we share with each other our beauty, our uniqueness, our very lives.
Flower ceremony was started in 1923 by Norbert Capek, a Unitarian minister from Czechoslovakia and has been celebrated in this country since the 1940s.
- What kind of flower would you bring?
- The flowers may be very pretty, but should you take all the flowers when it is your turn? [No, because we share during flower ceremony.]
- What if someone is new and didn't know to bring a flower? What if they forgot or their flower was damaged on the way to worship? Should they still take a flower? [Yes. Other people always bring extra flowers for just such situations, so there will be enough.]
- What would you say to a visitor who was unsure about taking a flower? [Please take a flower! We are happy to share! Today, you are part of the congregation. Please let us share the beauty of this flower with you. UUs like to share.]
For water communion, people bring small amounts of water they have collected. One at a time, everyone pours their water into one huge bowl which is placed in the front of the sanctuary. Sometimes waters are poured in silently; sometimes people tell where their water came from. Many congregations hold water communion at an Ingathering service after the summer, when it is the start of a new church year. Some people have traveled over the summer and they bring water from someplace far away. Other people bring rainwater from outside their home, or water from their kitchen faucet. Sharing our waters is a symbol that even though we are all different, unique people who have been all sorts of places doing many different activities, we come back together to share who we are and where we have been. Sharing our waters is a sign that we plan to nourish and refresh one another, as water has nourished and refreshed each of us. After a water communion, some congregations water the gardens with the water, or boil it and use it in another ritual to bless new babies.
- What water would you bring? What container would you bring it in?
- You might have water from five different places and five stories to tell about collecting all that water. But should you spend minutes and minutes telling the congregation about your stories? [No, because we also share time at our congregation. Sharing time and taking fair turns is another way we are UU every day.]
In bread communion, people bring different kinds of bread to share. Some bring breads that are part of their cultural heritage, like pita bread from the Middle East, or Irish soda bread. Sometimes people share stories about the bread during the worship service. People volunteer in the kitchen before the service, cutting and tearing the loaves into bite-sized pieces. The kitchen volunteers are lucky because they get to see all the different yummy breads brought in. The bread is blessed and baskets are passed around for everyone to take a piece. Breads around the world are very different, but, every civilization that has ever lived on the earth has made some type of bread. This communion reminds us that we all need food to live, that we must share our one earth which feeds us all. It also reminds us to share our unique gifts with one another, so all can be fed.
- If you could bring any bread to a bread communion, what would you bring?