May 18, 2013
LIMA — Mary Buckley’s first visit to the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Lima was at last year’s flower communion.
Having heard about the fellowship from a friend, she checked it out on the internet and decided she wanted to attend.
At the annual flower communion, attendees are asked to bring a flower of their choice. “We ask people to bring a flower that has particular significance to them,” said Louise Daniels, who has attended the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Lima since 1960.
When people arrive, they place their flower in a vase, along with everyone else’s flowers.
“This symbolizes that everyone has their own uniqueness,” said Anne Edwards, a member since 1997. “The beauty of the bouquet is made up of the various individual flowers. This symbolizes our first principle of the six that we try to live by — the inherent worth and dignity of every individual.”
The flowers are then blessed and each participant is invited back up to choose a flower, different than the one they brought, to take home with them.
“That being the first service I attended, I read about the flower communion on the internet,” she said. “There was something so charming about the instructions to look at the bouquet and find the flower that speaks to you before taking one.”
The flower communion originated in the Unitarian church in Prague, Czechoslovakia, under Norbert Capek. He and his wife Maja Capek, also an ordained minister, founded the Unitarian church in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s. In an effort to unite and not alienate the diverse members of his new congregation who came from varying Protestant, Jewish and Catholic backgrounds, Norbert Capek decided to honor the universal beauty of nature in a flower communion instead of having a traditional communion.
The first flower communion was held on June 4, 1923. It was brought to the United States in 1940 by Maja V. Capek when she was touring there.
Although the flower communion started out in with the Unitarians, it continued when the Unitarians and Universalists merged in 1961 when the two groups realized their philosophies were very similar.
According to their website, Unitarian-Universalists describe themselves as, “a liberal religion that does not demand a particular answer to the religious questions people have struggled with through the ages. With its historical roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves, Unitarian Universalism has always taught that deeds matter more than creeds; that the quality of our lives counts for more than the conformity of our beliefs. We believe personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion and that in the end, religious truth lies not in a book or person or institution but in ourselves.”
Currently, there are around 1,100 Unitarian-Universalist fellowships in the United States. The Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Lima formed in 1954 and had 18 original members, not including children. They currently have 24 official members, but Daniels said those numbers fluctuate.
“We have a lot of people who come that are not official members,” she explained. “We have members who aren’t very active, and we have guests who take a very active role in the fellowship.”
Unlike most religious denominations, the Unitarian-Universalists not only allow but welcome attendees who are also members of other religious groups. Many of those that come to the Lima fellowship belong to other area congregations, as well.
The fellowship’s current minister is the Rev. Chuck Thomas. He conducts a meeting once a month and also travels down from Dayton for special ceremonies or events. During the other Sundays of the month, various participants will act as the leader of the service.
The weekly hour-long meeting includes a variety of speakers who introduce a variety of topics which include not just religious philosophy but also history, current politics, local social concerns, education, ethical development, comparative religions and other subjects that the speaker finds interesting or important.
Once a month, the group will have Saturday Night Live, which is potluck held at different peoples’ homes.
The Lima fellowship meets from the Sunday after Labor Day through the last Sunday in May, but during the summer, the group gets together for porch musicals where attendees gather for singing and poetry readings on Saturday evenings once a month.
Although Unitarian-Universalists have been around for a long time and their numbers are still small nationwide, the denomination has become a place for those who believe in organized religion but have become skeptical of various doctrines.
For Matthew Buckley, who was raised in the Catholic faith, the fellowship offers a more inclusive, less dogmatic approach to religion.
“I’ve felt this fits my personal beliefs better and it’s more compatible,” he said. “Here, I feel comfortable with the inclusiveness.”
IF YOU GO
Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Lima, 875 W. Market St., Lima
Flower Communion: 11 a.m. to noon Sunday
For details, visit www.uufl.com.