Unitarian Universalist Congregation East

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5 April 2015 Notes about our Flower Communion

Again this year we celebrate spring with a flower communion.  Betty set it up, but, unfortunately, she remains under a doctor’s care in OSU East hospital (Get well SOON, Betty.)  Madeline lead the service today in her stead.

Rather than try to describe this myself, I’m going to refer to the description given by Reginald Zottoli who’s description I found on the UUA website.  I have Czech ancestry, and I can attest that my grandparents and great-grandparents coming from Bohemia loved flowers. Everyone who transfered flowers had something interesting to say about spring and the resurection of life. -Rick

The Flower communion service was created by Norbert Capek (1870-1942), who founded the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia. He introduced this special service to that church on June 4, 1923. For some time he had felt the need for some symbolic ritual that would bind people more closely together. The format had to be one that would not alienate any who had forsaken other religious traditions. The traditional Christian communion service with bread and wine was unacceptable to the members of his congregation because of their strong reaction against the Catholic faith. So he turned to the native beauty of their countryside for elements of a communion which would be genuine to them. This simple service was the result. It was such a success that it was held yearly just before the summer recess of the church.

The flower communion was brought to the United States in 1940 and introduced to the members of our Cambridge, Massachusetts, church by Dr. Capek’s wife, Maja V. Capek. The Czech-born Maja had met Norbert Capek in New York City while he was studying for his Ph.D., and it was at her urging that Norbert left the Baptist ministry and turned to Unitarianism. The Capeks returned to Czechoslovakia in 1921 and established the dynamic liberal church in Prague; Maja Capek was ordained in 1926. It was during her tour of the United States that Maja introduced the flower communion, which had been developed in the Prague church, at the Unitarian church in Cambridge. Unfortunately, Maja was unable to return to Prague due to the outbreak of World War II, and it was not until the war was over that Norbert Capek’s death in a Nazi concentration camp was revealed. From this beginning the service has spread to many of our Unitarian Universalist congregations and has been adapted along the way.

People were asked to bring a flower of their choice, either from their own gardens. or from the field or roadside. When they arrived at church a large vase stood waiting in the vestibule, attended by two young members of the Church School. Each person was asked to place their own flower in the vase. This signified that it was by their own free will they joined with the others. The vase that contained all the flowers was a symbol of the united church fellowship.

The young attendants helped with the arrangement of the bouquet. Later they carried the vase up to the front of the auditorium and placed it on a table there. Dr. Capek then said a prayer, after which he walked over and consecrated the flowers while the congregation stood. The two attendants then took the vase back out into the vestibule.

After the service, as people left the church, they went to the vase and each took a flower from the vase other than the one that they had brought. The significance of the flower communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike, yet each has a contribution to make. Together the different flowers form a beautiful bouquet. Our common bouquet would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and thus it is with our church community, it would not be the same without each and every one of us. Thus this service is a statement of our community. y exchanging flowers, we show our willingness to walk together in our Search for truth, disregarding all that might divide us. Each person takes home a flower brought by someone else – thus symbolizing our shared celebration in community. This communion of sharing is essential to a free people of a free religion.

-Reginald Zottoli

“These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted 1 week, 6 days ago at 12:06 am.

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29 Mar, 2015 News and Notes about Don Jones

Today we celebrated the life of Don Jones (1923-2015), recognized as one of the pioneers of art therapy and a former minister at our own UUCE in the late 1980’s.

At age 4, Don almost drowned but was saved by his older brother.  He went on to become a gifted artist, and some of his art work was his way of dealing and working through this early trauma.  As a  as a “conscientious objector” during WWII, he was assigned to Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital where he noticed that art on the walls.  He recognized that the people were not drawing random graffiti, but instead were working through trauma much as he had been doing with his own art.  He said that they had no psychotropic drugs then and the patients were entirely without medication.

After the war, he settled in Rossville, Kansas near Topeka, and he came to the notice of Karl Menninger.  In 1951 he joined the staff of the Menninger Clinic, a world famous psychiatric hospital that also included a school of Psychology on the grounds. At that facility, he developed the “Don Jones Assessment” in which he used imagery and structured questions for assessing and treating individuals.  Jones came to Ohio to become the director of the adjunctive therapies department in Harding Hospital in Worthington, OH.  And, for a time, became our minister.

Unfortunately, there are not many in our congregation now who remembered Don Jones.  But Megan led a lively discussion on the value of Art Therapy.  Art Therapy is very new, the founding of the Art Therapy Association was only 55 years ago in 1960.  Art gives us a sense of connectedness.  It is a unique expression of us in our individualit, and yet, it shows us how much we are the same.  Art allows people to express things that are emotional without having to use words.  Doodling is expressive, art is expressive, colors are expressive.  Megan said that a common barrier to working with patients is that they insist that they have to talent for art.  She tells them that you aren’t a singing star, yet you sing along with the music.  You are not a professional dancer yet you dance.  Lots of people fish even if they don’t win fishing tournaments.  Anyone can doodle out some art… and if feels good to express yourself a little bit.  As with last week’s happiness discussion, sometimes you just enjoy the flow.

Doodle some art this week.  Put it on your refrigerator.



Posted 2 weeks, 6 days ago at 11:20 pm.

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March 22, 2015, News and Notes about Happiness (part II)

In Today’s service, Lisa reintroduces Happiness.  We saw the second half of the Documentary film “Happy” by Roku Belic.  And then,  we had a discussion of happiness in the congregation.  One of the key features is to switch from a focus on what I don’t have to a focus on what I do have.  But people are natural cooperators… we like each other as a general rule and connecting with other people is important to happiness.  Often, when we connect with people really closely, we consider our closest friends as family members.

The movie talked about the people of Okinawa.  They are some of the longest living people on earth.  Often these people gather together and consider themselves family.  What did we do before video games?

The Bushmen of the Kalahari still choose to live in a way similar to their ancient ancestors lived.  They believe that they are responsible for each other’s health and well being.  No one is left out.  Babies, it seems, learn compassion from their mothers.  They learn it long before anyone teaches them anything about religion.

If you seek to make yourself happy, you will see yourself as a part of the world and you make the world happy.  Look for new experiences with family and friends.  Play.  Play music.

We in America are very good at economic life.  We have conflated economic success with happiness.  That thought bears examination.



Posted 3 weeks, 1 day ago at 11:23 pm.

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Feb 22, 2015 News of The Chalice

Today Madeline spoke to us about the symbolism of the Chalice.  Every UU Church lights some equivalent of a chalice at the beginning of services.  This is not surprising.  The symbolism of light is deeply embedded in Western cultural tradition. It lights our way.  It is warmth, protection, illumination, cooking, and even creation.  A flame within a chalice, represents the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith.

Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol during his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II. The Unitarians were smuggling refugees out of Europe and they needed some official seal to give their religion more gravitas. Deutsch designed a seal with a flame and chalice.  To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love. Unitarian Universalists adopted the Deutsch’s chalice as the sysmbol of the religion.  Today there are many different interpretations of the flaming chalice, including the light of reason, the warmth of community, and the flame of hope.



Posted 3 weeks, 6 days ago at 10:10 pm.

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March 15, 2015 News about Happiness

in Today’s service, Lisa introduced us to Happiness.  OK, it was a little more focused than that.  What she actually did was show the first half of the Documentary film “Happy” by Roku Belic.  And then, as is the custom of our congregation, we had a discussion of happiness in the congregation.

Yes, this is a movie about happiness.  Here is what they say about their own movie: “Does money make you HAPPY? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution?”

The director takes on all of this, but to start off, he claims that 60% of your happiness is attributed to genetics.  You are a basically happy person or not a happy person depending on how you were born.  The other 40% is largely up to you and your environment.

We have learned through biology that a lot of a person’s dose of happiness depends on their dose of a hormone called dopamine.  Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter which is a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain has several dopamine systems which play a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of rewards increase the level of dopamine in the brain.  What biology cannot tell us is how we go about getting our dopamine ( our rewards.)

One good way of getting dopamine is through exercise… especially if you get your exercise in a fun and novel way (the movie illustrated examples of marching in wacky parades or running in races that are themed… like gorilla runs.

Related to exercise is “flow. ”  Flow is the idea that you can reach happiness through simple repetitive mundane tasks.  You can do this through an exercise like running where you just think about one foot coming down in front of the other.  Runners call this being in the zone.  But any simple repetitive task can get you to flow.  It is the mental state where a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

They then talked about “Hedontic adaptation.”  This, they say,  is the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.  This means that no matter how much improvement you have in your life, you get used to it and then you aren’t any happier than you were before the improvement took place.  So stuff outside your life has little influence over you.

The authors do suggest, however, that internal goals (intrinsic goals) are on the opposite side of the value system from the hedonic adaptation of extrinsic goals.  In other words, you find happiness within your self, or with your relationships with close friends/relatives

There is a lay understanding that adversity in life is a negative thing, but there is no evidence to back this up.  There is lots of evidence that overcoming adversity brings happiness.  There is a Buddhist teaching that says that life is painful, but suffering is optional.  Suffering, they say, is a result of a loss of control.  If that is true, then there are two approaches… gain even more control than you currently have, or give up on the idea that you have to have control over everything around you.  As Sylvia Boorstein’s grandmother said:  “Where is it written that you are supposed to be happy all the time?”

Do nations have national value systems?  Find out next week when we continue our look into happiness.







Posted 4 weeks ago at 11:15 pm.

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