The Flower Festival
Adapted from The Flower Communion: A Service of Celebration for Religious Liberals by Reginald Zottoli with permission from the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, which first published this resource in The Communion Book, edited by Carl Seaburg
The Unitarian Universalist Flower Festival service was created by Dr. Norbert Capek [pronounced Chah-Peck] (1870-1942), founder, along with his wife Maja V. Capek, of the Unitarian Church in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He introduced this festival to the church on June 4, 1923 as a ritual of togetherness and hope. Capek turned to his surroundings—the countryside—and created a simple service using flowers and nature. It is for this reason that this workshop refers to the ritual as the Flower Festival, rather than Flower Communion as it is more commonly known. It was originally called the Flower Festival or the Flower Celebration by Czech Unitarians. According to the daughter of the ritual's creator, her father intentionally called it a Festival or Celebration because he did not want to confuse or alienate his congregants with the term communion, which had many connotations from the Christian tradition. On the last Sunday before the summer recess of the Unitarian church in Prague, all the children and adults participated in this colorful ritual, which gives concrete expression to the humanity-affirming principles of our liberal faith.
When the Nazis took control of Prague in 1940, they found Dr. Capek's gospel of the inherent worth and beauty of every human person to be—as Nazi court records show—"...too dangerous to the Reich [for him] to be allowed to live." Dr. Capek was sent to Dachau, where he was killed the next year during a Nazi "medical experiment." We know from his writings that even in the concentration camp, Capek's hope for the world endured.
In 1940, during a tour of the United States, Maja Capek brought the Flower Festival to the Unitarian church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Maja was unable to return to Prague due to the outbreak of World War II, and it was not until the war was over that she found out about her husband's death. Nevertheless, the message of human hope and decency conveyed in this ritual lives on through the Flower Festival, which is widely celebrated today.