Norbert and Maja Čapek guided a faith community to support one another, in ritual and in mission, during a time when the world needed something entirely different from liberal faith than it ever had before, a time when people needed something from their faith to help sustain them in new ways, a time when people of faith were called to look evil in the face and to respond. We, too, are in such a time. The world needs Unitarian Universalism — and Unitarian Universalists need something from our faith — that helps to sustain life, justice, and love in an age when evil is not even trying to be subtle about its ambitions.
So we create and we conserve. We look back into our history for hints about how to keep going, how to resist and repair and revolutionize. We reach back into our living tradition for spiritual practices, rituals, stories, and sacred text that can inspire us and keep us connected with our ancestors and each other. Simultaneously, we need our artists and musicians and creators and lovers of life to bring new things into the world, to bear witness to the ways that this moment is like no other.
Bridgers, this is the movement into which we commission you today. You have a spiritual home and a religious heritage. The work of adding on to that community and that legacy is now yours in a new way, yours alongside the work of UU’s all over the world. Each one of you has a unique set of gifts, your own way of weaving into this tapestry of resilience and mutual liberation. You don’t have to do it alone; indeed, you should not. This is a time to connect. Bring your creativity to that connection.
The movement into which you are now fully invested will always be in dynamic tension between the gifts of the past and the invention and re-imagining that is required in the future. Both are needed. But I want to dwell for a moment first on the legacy we inherit.
Norber Čapek wrote multiple prayers for the ceremony we observe today. We’ll use one near the end of the service. In another one, he began:
In the name of Providence, which implants in the seed the future of the flower and in our hearts the longing for people to live in harmony …
In the name of sages and great religious leaders, who sacrificed their lives to hasten the coming of the age of mutual respect–let us renew our resolution–sincerely to be real [siblings] regardless of any kind of bar which estranges us from each other.
We, too, long for people to live in harmony. And we have come to understand that harmony is easier said than done. Wishing does not make it so. There are skills to learn and there is work to do in order to get closer to that harmony. And there are obstacles to overcome that have been deliberately set there by those who think some groups of people are superior to others, those who don’t believe in human rights and human dignity for all. Norbert Čapek was not arrested for being a pastor, he was arrested for his radio show, his consistent public witness for liberation and respect for all people. That the ideas of liberation continue to be controversial may be disturbing, but we cannot allow the length of the path before us to deter us from moving forward. We and the faith that sustains us are called to respond, have ever been called to respond, in resistance to the forces of dehumanization. The world needs Unitarian Universalism. The world needs you, us, to sustain Unitarian Universalism. And we need Unitarian Universalism to help sustain us through the times in which we live.
In the name of sages, past and present, may we be the flowers and the seeds, the storytellers and the story creators, the weavers together of past, present, and future. The world needs us to be one, a new community.
With our hearts full of gratitude for the legacies that have been entrusted to us, and with an understanding of the responsibilities that are before us, the morning offering will now be given by the congregation and received by the congregation.
In the Consecration of the Flowers prayer written by Norbert Čapek, which we’ll share in a few moments, we’re invited to think of the flowers we’ve gathered as “messengers of fellowship and love.” The beauty here is a message to us about what we have received from tradition, what we have done so far, and what is yet possible to achieve in our beloved community.
When we take the flowers with us after the service, we are carrying messages about fellowship and love out into the world, wherever we go. We might forget a flower, or it might fade, so let’s also make this message part of us. May we become the messengers of fellowship and love, the messengers of the good news that working and worshipping together across differences is possible, that liberation is possible, that beauty and love abound. That we come together to sustain this message and create new ways of living it out is important, and so are the ways we bring this message into our individual lives. So how are we going to do that?
Who here is going to look out for other people in your home or school or work? Who is going to be a friend? Who is going to care for someone who needs you? Who is going to help your schools and neighborhoods and teams to be supportive and kind to everyone who might be in them?
Who is going to help take care of our planet? Who will be careful about the resources we use? Who will help build places and tools and systems for cooperation so that we can reduce waste? Who will talk to neighbors and politicians about working together to help the earth?
Who is going to welcome newcomers to our communities? Who will support refugees who are arriving or who need to come here for safety? Who will speak up about justice and kindness, and about immigration policies that reflect human rights?
Who is going to support racial justice? Who is going to work to make things fair in all of our schools and neighborhoods and workplaces, and in our congregation? Who is going to speak up about getting rid of systems and rules that are racist?
Who here is going to create beautiful things? Who will make art or music or games that help people to think, or to feel their feelings, or to find some joy?
There are lots of ways to be messengers of fellowship and love. No one person has to do all of them. We can cooperate in community to create a complete circle, a whole vase where this beauty and love can be held, watered, and gathered in diverse community. We are the flowers. We are the vessel. We are the seeds. Let us be messengers in all of these things. So be it. Blessed be. Amen.