Yesterday was Flower Communion Sunday at the Downtown Unitarian Church in Kolozsvár. The date Unitarians mark this celebration varies, but the practice is the same around the world. Each congregant brings a flower, symbolic of their unique human nature, and places it in a vase, a gesture indicating they participate in the ceremony of their own free will. At the end of the service, each takes a flower from a vase other than the one they brought, a symbol of valuing the human dignity of others.
The first flower communion was celebrated in 1923 in Prague. It was created by Norbert Čapek. Born in 1870, Čapec* fled to the United States in 1914 after attracting negative attention from political authorities for his published articles on various topics, including religious liberalism. He converted to Unitarianism while in the US and returned to Prague in 1921 to found a Unitarian congregation there. This early church felt an aversion to ritualistic religion, but still felt a longing for a simple, non-dogmatic, shared symbolic experience.
And thus, the flower communion.
The flower communion continues to serve its purpose as an accessible, and beautiful, means of creating a sense of bonded community. Is also, however, poignant, in that it is a reminder of the risks inherent in religious practice that is contrary to the mainstream, whether for reasons of liberal thought or otherwise. Norbert Čapec was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941. He died in Dachau in October, 1942.
These photographs, taken from the Koloszvár congregation’s Facebook album, show the beauty of the ceremony as it is practiced by Hungarian Unitarians today.