A Flower Inside Us All
By Reverend Rebecca Bryan
It appeared seemingly out of nowhere. We were hiking in what is known as the Alpine Desert, 5,000 meters above sea level on an inactive volcano in Tanzania. Yes, I’m sharing another story about Mount Kilimanjaro. It is, after all, one of the homes of my heart.
The nine of us had been hiking for five days, ascending, slowly and circuitously, placing our safety over our speed. We were mid-mountain and in various states of wellbeing. I spotted the flower out of the corner of my left eye, as we crested another ledge. It was lodged in between two boulders, appearing to grow out of stone. Its delicate purple blossom was bright against the haze of the morning.
I couldn’t stop to kneel down in wonder, as I wanted to, and offer my thanks and praise. Though we weren’t moving fast, we also had an agreement that we wouldn’t stop out of turn, unless it was medically necessary.
What was it doing there? How did a blossoming flower get sown in such rugged terrain? I’ve since learned that only fifty-five species of flora live in the Alpine Desert. This blossom seemed to have been placed there, a reminder of beauty, resilience, and love that can grow, in fact does grow, even in the most adverse conditions. Kind of like the human spirit.
Normally, this opening service of the church year is filled with joy, celebration, and happiness. It is good to return and to be together and see each other, good to feel the warmth of friendship, smiles, and even embraces.
Knowing that this year is unique, it would have been wrong of me to try to replicate that rather than live into what is our present reality. This is not to be grim or paint a picture of despair. For these times are not calling for a mindset of despair, any more than they are calling for a mindset of denial. These times are calling for resilience, community, and remembering and upholding the dignity of each and every person, including ourselves.
In its inception, flower communion was about the ritual, binding people to one another, each flower symbolizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Norbert Čapek, initiator of the flower communion, was put to death in a concentration camp in 1942, largely because of his belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, a mindset that according to the Nazi court records was “too dangerous…” for him “…to live.” Sadly, there are still far too many people who disagree with our faith’s belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, regardless of age, race, or creed.
Čapek’s outlook and approach to life were similar to Victor Frankle’s logotherapy, in which people make meaning of their lives by finding purpose. And so logotherapy implies that our mindset is largely our choice. Čhapek believed that within us all is a “hidden cry for harmony with the Infinite,” a cry for harmony with the divine. It is the divine within us, or the inherent worth and dignity within us, that longs for peace, harmony, and oneness.
Relationship and community are essential aspects of experiencing that harmony. Through our genuine connection to others and ourselves, we experience that harmony. Jewish philosopher Martin Buber called that the “I-Thou” connection. This same thing is expressed in Hinduism when people greet one another, saying Namaste: “The Divine in me honors the Divine in you.” Many of us experience that harmony with the infinite through nature, by walking in the woods, hearing and feeling the power of the ocean’s waves, glimpsing the flower growing through the rock. Oneness, harmony with the Infinite.
I know it’s hard to come to church remotely or meet one another outdoors, masked, and distanced. It’s even harder, however, to be disconnected and live in the pain of separation from ourselves and each other. We can help each other. In fact, we must help one another. What is community for?
The staff and I, along with parishioners, are trying our best to create ways for all of us to connect. That includes those unable to get out of their homes or living situations for one reason or another. We are streaming online; thirty-six of your fellow parishioners will be calling every member to see how each is doing. There are activities planned outside like having the flower arch outside yesterday for people to add their flowers. And the arch will be there again this afternoon after service for you to come and take pictures.
We are having animal blessings outside by registration in advance of our animal blessing worship service on the 27th of this month. There will be outdoor services in October and November, and once a month, starting again in March, including the Easter service. We have found a way to stream those services on Sunday morning so that a safe number of you can join in person (by registration) and an infinite number of you can watch online.
I ask only one thing of you: read the email communications we send out, including the weekly Steeple. That’s where you will see what’s going on and how to stay connected and involved.
And we need to stay connected. We all need that.
As Unitarian Universalists, we believe in the interconnected web of life. We employ science and reason alongside faith and love. We know that we are connected to one another biologically and in our hearts.
In each of us, there is a spark of the divine, a longing for the infinite, a flower that blooms, even in the harshest of conditions. I honor that flower in you. I love that flower.
May we honor the flower in each other and in ourselves.
May we love, in whatever way can and in every way we can, so long as our days go on.
Amen and blessed be.