The Gift of Each Other

Please visit our YouTube channel to watch Rev. Ann Marie’s video recording of this reflection.

Years ago, probably in the late seventies, I went to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. It was held in a large open field bordering a wooded area where women came from all over to camp and listen to women’s music in the early summer for a long weekend. It was there that it really began to sink into my consciousness that women came in all shapes and sizes. It was there that what I had held in my mind as the standard of the perfect image of a woman faded into the rear view mirror. The Great Creator had made all those women I saw that summer so long ago. And only a few looked like they were made for a movie studio, yet they all were beautiful. 

Taking another step toward a fuller consciousness, a decade later when I began to realize that my small community of white, educated, lesbian-feminists was too small, I began to embrace—and to be embraced by—a larger group with more variety, and more flavor.

My exposure to trans folk, to people of color, to UUs from all over, to those who became dear friends and every stripe of colleagues and congregants of all colors and shapes, would include hearing the expression “God doesn’t make mistakes.”

Hearing that expression in that wider circle made me remember that when I was a preteen, and one day asked my mother while looking in the mirror to see if my body matched what I thought was acceptable, “Do I look okay?” she so wisely said to me, “You look like Ann Marie.”

Each and every one of us has our creation stories, those experiences that made us who we are, that raised our consciousness about who we ought to be, who we could be. All of our experiences and reflections built upon the experiences and reflections from our elders, from the ancestors still raising our consciousness regarding of who we are to become.

There is a growing hope, a growing sense that we are in a great awakening across this nation, across this world, inside the consciousness of so many. Simply put, it is a great awakening of a very old hope that black and brown people will be valued as human, worthy of respect, of dignity, of life… and love.

We are a gift to each other this flower ceremony day. Just as varied as the flowers that bloom.

Norbert Capek and his wife Maja were Czechoslovakians, famous for growing the Prague Unitarian church to a membership of over 3000 in the 1930s, when there seemed to be an awakening. In order to welcome everyone into their sanctuary, they invented what we know as the flower ceremony. 

The Capeks wanted to bring a ritual to their country that would draw people together, that anyone and everyone could relate to. A ritual about seeing the beauty, dignity, worth, in EVERY person.

The Flower Ceremony has become a UU spring or early summer ritual. It is our way of acknowledging the forces that move in the world, that move in us to see beauty, and to be seen as beautiful. 

During this ongoing pandemic, during this Pride month, during these weeks of protests when we are among the outpouring of people all over the world saying “Enough already,” it is time for the flower ceremony. 

It is time to see, to be reminded of the gift of each other.

People come in great varieties of flavor, of color, of personality.  Let us make room for each other. Let us see beauty in each other, in every person we encounter, in every story we hear. It is easy to sit in fear of each other, to let our instincts for survival take over. Yet we are not here to merely survive. We are here to live and to love. To be someone unique and lovely.

As many of you know, Norbert Capek by was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941, charged with listening to foreign broadcasts (a crime against the State). Within a year, he was killed by the Nazis at the Dachau concentration camp.

Ponder as you will this quote from the Historical Dictionary of Unitarian Universalism:

“It was judged that Capek’s gospel of the inherent worth and dignity of every person made him ‘too dangerous to the Reich to be allowed to live.’

We sometimes take this ritual of exchanging flowers as a playful spring rite, an exchange of beauty for beauty. 

Yet it is it is a statement that we live within the exchange of beauty for beauty, because of lives given for life… so that we might live.

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