Touchstones (Special Services)
During the church year, we offer several special services:
- Water Communion
- Christmas Eve by Candlelight
- Flower Communion
- New Member Ceremony
- Child Dedications
Christmas Eve by Candlelight
The Christmas Eve service is a bit of a departure from our standard order of service. It is a variation on a tradition “Lessons and Carols” service celebrated in many traditions on Christmas Eve around the world. While we as Unitarian Universalists do not necessarily believe in an incarnate God, we can and do view Christmas as the celebration of the potential rebirth of peace, hope, and love into our world that takes place with the birth of every child — a rebirth so perfectly represented in the stories of Christmas. We celebrate Christmas because we want the birth of peace, hope, and love in our world to be real and true. And so, in this service we focus on themes of darkness, promise, and light as they are spoken of in the Christian gospels, and in the words of others who have been inspired by the spirit of the season.
Our music during this service is mostly traditional. In several instances, we choose to use the composer’s original lyrics, rather than the modified words in our hymnal. Again, we do this not because we agree with the language, but in celebration of the joy and hope that has inspired so many gifted composers to write such beautiful music.
The Flower Communion, introduced by Czech minister Norbert Capek, is one of Unitarian Universalism’s most beloved rituals. Usually held in the spring, and in many congregations as the last service of the “regular” church year before either recessing for the summer or paring down Sunday services, the Flower Communion holds rich symbolism for our faith communities.
The Rev. Susan Manker-Seale, serving the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northwest Tucson, Arizona, preached this sermon about the Rev. Norbert Capek’s life and gifts to our modern Unitarian Universalist faith for their own celebration of this ritual on June 11, 2000. It is a powerful story of a life lived truly, “out loud.”
Capek’s Gift: The Flower Communion
by the Rev. Susan Manker-Seale
We don’t have a lot of Unitarian martyrs. There is Michael Servetus, a Unitarian Spaniard burned at the stake in the midst of the reformation of the sixteenth century for writing his book On the Errors of the Trinity. There is Francis David, Unitarian Bishop of Transylvania, who perished in prison after the Unitarian King John Sigismund died and orthodox views regained power, this also in the sixteenth century. Then, though there has been much persecution toward Unitarians, we don’t hold any more martyrs in popular Unitarian history until we come to the twentieth century and the Czechoslovakian Unitarian, the Rev. Norbert Fabian Capek. Capek was imprisoned by the Nazis for listening to foreign radio broadcasts and preaching freedom. He eventually was sent to Dachau and was gassed at Hartheim Castle in 1942.
Seven of his letters from prison survived. Ten of his eleven children, I believe, survived. He is remembered by his grandchildren, and by the Unitarian congregation he founded, The Prague Congregation of Liberal Religious Fellowship, which numbered in the thousands of members. He is also remembered here in the United States, because every year Unitarian Universalists celebrate the Flower Communion Service, a service Capek created and which, like the flaming chalice symbol of the Unitarian Service Committee, has taken hold in the hearts of our congregations.