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The Flower Ceremony, A Plain and Simple Beauty

Adapted from a story by Janeen K. Grohsmeyer in her book Lamp in Every Corner: Our UU Storybook (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2004). Used with permission.

In the city of Prague, in the land of Czechoslovakia, in the year nineteen hundred and twenty three, there was a church. But the building did not look much like a church. It had no bells, no spires, no stained glass windows. It had no organ to make beautiful music. It didn't even have a piano. It had no carvings of wood or statues of stone. It had no candles or chalices. It had no flowers.

The church did have some things. It had four walls and a ceiling and a floor. It had a door and a few windows. It had some wooden chairs. But that was all, plain and simple.

Except... the church also had people who came to it every Sunday. It had a minister, and his name was Norbert Capek (pronounced CHAH-peck). He had been the minister at the plain and simple church for two years. Every Sunday, Minister Capek went to church, and he spoke to the people while they listened, sitting quietly and still in those hard wooden chairs. When he was done speaking, the people talked a little bit among themselves, and then they went home. And that was all—no music, no candles, no food. Not even coffee or doughnuts.

Springtime came to the city of Prague and Norbert Capek went out for a stroll. The rains had come, the birds were singing, and flowers were blooming all over the land. The world was beautiful.

Then an idea came to him, simple and clear, plain as day. The next Sunday, he asked all the people in the church to bring a flower or a budding branch, or even a twig. Each person was to bring one.

"What kind?" they asked. "What color? What size?"

"You choose," he said. "Each of you choose what you like."

And so, on the next Sunday, which was the first day of summer, the people came with flowers of all different colors and sizes and kinds. There were yellow daisies and red roses. There were white lilies and blue asters, dark-eyed pansies and light green leaves. Pink and purple, orange and gold—there were all those colors and more. Flowers filled all the vases, and the church wasn't so plain and simple anymore.

Minister Capek spoke to the people while they listened, sitting quiet and still in those hard wooden chairs. "These flowers are like ourselves," he said. "Different colors and different shapes, and different sizes, each needing different kinds of care—but each beautiful, each important and special, in its own way."

When he was done speaking, the people talked a little bit among themselves, and then they each chose a different flower from the vases before they went home. And that was all—and it was beautiful, plain and simple as the day.

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Last updated on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

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