CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 

Note: Some of these sessions involve activities which require advance preparation, such as inviting guests for the final session on hospitality. You will want to read through all of the sessions before the beginning of the month to make sure that you have time for (simple) preparations.

 

April 2019

One of the things that all religions do is to celebrate holidays. Since April is an important month for some of these holidays, we’ll spend this month in celebration. In order make things work with the calendar, we’re celebrating some of these holidays a week or two off from when they really happen.

Week One – April 7th Earth Day

Supplies Needed: Scripts for Lorax play and any costumes you may desire, green Postit notes Chalice Lighting: Earth teach me limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground Earth teach me freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the Spring. --from the Ute Indians of North America

Check in: You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

Centering: Have participants do the yoga “tree” pose. See http://www.wikihow.com/Do-a-Yoga-Tree-Pose for video and instructions on how to do this pose. Very young children may need to omit the balance portion and put their arms out as branches.

Introduction: OK, Earth Day isn’t actually until April 22nd, but since we want to celebrate Easter on the 21st, why not celebrate Earth Day today? Isn’t every day Earth Day, really? Earth Day was created in 1970 to celebrate our relationship with the earth, and to remind us to care for the planet. Earth Day is not a holiday that belongs to a particular religion, but since our UU principles affirm “the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part,” it makes sense that Earth Day would be a religious holiday for Unitarian Universalists.

Story: Our story for today takes the form of a play, based on a story that you may very well be familiar with: The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. (Note: the play has three speaking parts: the Narrator, the Once-ler and the Lorax. However, more participants can be incorporated by having children act out the parts of the Brown Barbaloots, the Swomee Swans, the Humming Fish and the Once-ler relations, and even trees and tractors. The play will work best if you have three copies of the script, each with one part highlighted to make it easy for the actor to see when to come in.)


 

The Lorax 

by Dr. Seuss, adapted

 

Narrator:

At the far end of town
where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow and sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...
is the street of the Lifted Lorax.

 And deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say,
if you look deep enough you can still see, today,
where the Lorax once stood
just as long as it could
before somebody lifted the Lorax away.

 What was the Lorax? And why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere
from the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows?
The old Once-ler still lives here.
Ask him.   He knows.

You won't see the Once-ler. Don't knock at his door.
He stays in his Lerkim on top of his store. He lurks in his Lerkim, cold under the roof,
where he makes his own clothes out of miff-muffered moof.

And on special dank midnights in August, he peeks
out of the shutters
and sometimes he speaks
and tells how the Lorax was lifted away.

He'll tell you, perhaps... if you're willing to pay.

 

On the end of a rope he lets down a tin pail
and you have to toss in fifteen cents and a nail
and the shell of a great-great-great- grandfather snail.

 

Then he pulls up the pail, makes a most careful count
to see if you've paid him the proper amount.
Then he hides what you paid him away in his Snuvv,
his secret strange hole in his gruvvulous glove.

Then he grunts, "I will call you by Whisper-ma-Phone, for the secrets I tell are for your ears alone."

 

SLUPP!

Down slupps the Whisper-ma-Phone to your ear
and the old Once-ler's whispers are not very clear,
since they have to come down through a snergelly hose,
and he sounds as if he had smallish bees up his nose.

 

Once-ler:

"Now I'll tell you,"

 

Narrator: he says, with his teeth sounding gray,

 

Once-ler:

"how the Lorax got lifted and taken away...
It all started way back...
such a long, long time back...

 

Way back in the days
when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space...
one morning, I came to this glorious place.

And I first saw the trees! The Truffula Trees!
The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze. 

And, under the trees,
I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots
frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits
as they played in the shade and ate Truffula fruits.

 From the rippulous pond came the comfortable sound
of the Humming-Fish humming while splashing around. 

But those trees! Those trees! Those Truffula Trees!
All my life I'd been searching for trees such as these.
The touch of their tufts was much softer than silk.
And they had the sweet smell of fresh butterfly milk.

 I felt a great leaping of joy in my heart.
I knew just what I'd do! I unloaded my cart. 

In no time at all, I had built a small shop.
Then I chopped down a Truffula Tree with one chop.
And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed,
I took the soft tuft. And I knitted a Thneed!

The instant I'd finished, I heard a ga-Zump!
I looked.
I saw something pop out of the stump
of the tree I'd chopped down. It was sort of a man.
escribe him?...That's hard. I don't know if I can.

 

He was shortish.
And oldish. And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice that was sharpish and bossy.

 

Lorax: "Mister!"

 

Once-ler:

he said with a sawdusty sneeze,

 

Lorax:

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees,
for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs--

I'll ask you once nicely, please explain to me...
What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tree?

 

Once-ler:

"Look, Lorax, " I said, "There's no cause for alarm. I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
I'm being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
A Thneed's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.
But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that.

You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!"

 

Lorax:

You're a lunatic, sir!
Yes, you're crazy with greed.
There is no one on earth
who would buy that food Thneed!"



Once-ler:

But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought that the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three ninety-eight.

 

I laughed at the Lorax, "You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy."

 

Lorax:

"I repeat, you must hear me,
I speak for the trees!"

 

Once-ler:

I'm busy," I told him.
"Shut up, if you please."

 

I rushed 'cross the room, and in no time at all, built a radio-phone.
I put in a quick call.
I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts

and I said, "Listen here!
Here's a wonderful chance for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.
Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch.

 

And, in no time at all, in the factory I built,
the whole Once-ler Family was working full tilt.
We were all knitting Thneeds just as busy as bees,
to the sound of the chopping of Truffula Trees.

 

Then...
Oh! Baby! Oh!
How my business did grow!
Now, chopping one tree at a time was too slow. 

So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker.

We were making Thneeds four times as fast as before!
And that Lorax?...
He didn't show up any more. 

But the next week he knocked
on my new office door

 

Lorax: (knock, knock)

I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.

But I'm also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.

 

NOW...thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go 'round.

And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!

 

They loved living here. But I can't let them stay. They'll have to find food.
And I hope that they may.
I'm sorry, but I'll have to send you away.

 

Once-ler:

I, the Once-ler, felt sad as I watched them all go. BUT...business is business! And business must grow regardless of crummies in tummies, you know. 

I meant them no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.

I biggered my factory.  I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. 
I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out.
I was shipping them forth to the South! 
To the East!  To the West!  To the North!
I went right on biggering...selling more Thneeds.

And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.

Then again he came back! I was fixing some pipes
when that old-nuisance Lorax came back with more gripes.

 

Lorax: I am the Lorax

 

Once-ler: He coughed and he whiffed. He sneezed and he snuffled.

He snarggled. He sniffed.

 

Lorax: Once-ler!

 

Once-ler: He cried with a cruffulous croak.

  

Lorax: Once-ler! You're making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans...
why, they can't sing a note!

No one can sing who has smog in his throat.
And so, I regret --please pardon my cough --
They cannot live here. So I'm sending them off. Where will they go?
I don't hopefully know.
They may have to fly for a month...or a year..

To escape from the smog you've smogged-up around here.

 

What's more, now you listen -- my dander is up --
Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.
Your machinery chugs on, day and night
without stop making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.
And what do you do with this leftover goo?

I'll show you. You dirty old Oncer-ler man, you!

 

You're glumping the pond where the Humming-fish hummed!
No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.
So I'm sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.

They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn't so smeary. 

 

Once-ler: And then I got mad.  I got terribly mad. I yelled at the Lorax.
"Now, listen here, Dad!"
All you do is yap-yap and say, 'Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!'
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I'm telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!

And, for your information, you Lorax,
I'm figgering on biggering

and Biggering
and Biggering
and BIGGERING,

turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!"

 

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack of an axe on a tree.
Then we heard the tree fall.

The Very last Truffula Tree of them all!

 

No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done.
So, in no time, my Uncles and Aunts, every one,
all waved me good-bye.

They jumped into my cars and drove away under the smoke-smuggered stars.
Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky was my big empty factory...
the Lorax...and I. 

The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance...
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance...
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.

And I'll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.

 And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with the one word... "UNLESS..."
Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn't guess.

 

That was long, long ago.
But each day since that day I've sat here
and worried and worried away.

Through the years, while my buildings have fallen apart,
I've worried about it with all of my heart.

 

But now, I am thinking, yes, now that you're here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not.

 

So Catch, my good friend, as I let something fall.
It's a Truffula Seed. It's the last one of all!
You're in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.

Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.

 

Narrator:

My friends, will you help? I can't do it alone.
But if you, and if all of the people we've known
could pitch in, plant a seed, lend an ear, lend a hand,
then between us I think we could rescue our land.

For we all have been given a great sacred trust.
Together we'll keep it. We can -- for we must.

 

Discussion

What can we do to care for the earth and protect it?

 

Activity

Do an ecology audit of your home or congregation’s home. Walk through and check as many places as you can for energy efficiency, water efficiency and minimal waste. For instance, are doors and windows draught-free? (Older children can hold a lit candle by potential draft sites – if the flame flickers, air is coming in, and heating energy is being lost.) Are steps taken to minimize water use in bathrooms and kitchens? (Low flow shower heads, using a bucket to collect water that runs until it is warm, etc. Children can be interviewed about ways to save water like turning off faucets while brushing teeth or washing face.) Does your home or congregation recycle? Do you use disposable items such as cups and paper towels when washable cups or towels would work? Are light bulbs incandescent or fluorescent? Is there a programmable thermostat for heating and/or cooling? If so,

what is it set to? Is the heat off when the building is unoccupied? As you go through the building(s) put a green PostIt note next to anything you find that needs improvement. If you are doing this activity in a congregation, make plans to share your findings in a walkthrough with a member of your buildings and grounds committee or board of trustees. If you are doing this at home, you may wish to leave the notes up as reminders of needed improvements either to your home or to your family’s habits.

 

Closing

From Chief Seattle:

 

This we know.

The earth does not belong to us; We belong to the earth.

This we know.

All things are connected

Like the blood which unites a family. All things are connected.

 

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life;

We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, We do to ourselves.


Week Two – April 14th Passover

 

Introduction for Leaders: The most fun and informative way to learn about Passover is to actually celebrate the Passover Seder. While the Seder is traditionally held in the evening, and includes a big meal, if you’re wanting to stick with the Sunday morning schedule (or don’t want to worry about a lot of cooking) you can still go through the ritual, but skip the meal part or have something light to eat (but no bread, please!). Depending on the time you have available and the age of the children you’re working with, you may want to just select some of the elements, or even just have a project of making charoset, and then eating it with matzah and maror (horseradish) while the Passover story is told. This is a great time to bring in extra adults from your congregation or friends and family.

Celebrating the Passover Seder will probably take more forethought and preparation than is required for most CLiF Notes sessions, but the effort is well worth it. Note that this year the first night of Passover is Friday, April 19.

 

Supplies Needed: See the (linked) haggadah. What exactly you need will depend on whether you decide to do a full Seder or just portions. You will probably want to make copies of the haggadah so that participants can read aloud appropriate sections.

You can recipes for three different kinds of charoset here.

For recipes, information on preparing the seder plate and a whole huge amount of Passover stuff see http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/default.asp

 

Seder: The haggadah is basically your guidebook through the Passover Seder, containing prayers, ritual, the story and interpretations. There are many haggadahs, each with its own particular perspective. Two that work well for UU families are http://www.uuja.org/holidays/lit/OrangesandOlivesHaggadah.pdf and https://velveteenrabbi.com/2015/02/03/velveteen-rabbis-haggadah-for-pesach/

You will want to look through the haggadah you choose well before your celebration, both to figure out what parts you want to include or omit and to figure out what you will need to do to prepare.

 

Note: If you are doing a canned food hunt with a congregational group on April 21st, make sure that on the week of April 14th you send a letter or email or make a phone call asking participants to bring in canned food for the hunt. If you are doing the session with your own kids at home, plan for a family shopping trip during which you can purchase some non-perishable food items for donation.



Week Three—April 21st Easter

 

Supplies Needed: Depending on activity chosen: eggs, dye, cups, tongs, egg cartons and additional decorating needs such as rubber bands or stickers; or copies of the “Colors of Easter template, crayons and paperclips; or paper grocery bags and crayons, markers or other items for decorating. Also, paper, plastic or canvass bags for children to use for canned food hunt as well as canned food donations. 

Note to Leaders: This session will require at least two adult leaders, or an adult leader and one or more teen assistants, so that someone can hide canned goods while the other leads the art activity.

 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

 

Out of the earth Rises light,

Rises life,

Rises spring.

May we join with the miracle that is springtime, and enter into life with lightness and joy. Out of the spirit

Rises faith,

Rises hope,

Rises love.

 

May we join with the miracle that is Easter time, and enter into life with hope and love….

 

--by Elizabeth M. Strong

 

Food Collection: Collect contributions of canned or non-perishable foods. Before this point you may go as a family on a special shopping trip or collect from your own pantry, or congregations can invite church members (in the RE program or not) to donate food that will be hidden for your Easter can hunt.

 

Check-in:

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person

remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering:

Sing “Morning Has Come”

 

“Morning has come, Night is away,

Rise with the sun and welcome the day.” See here for tune.


Story

 Adapted from the story “Jesus in Jerusalem” by Rev. Dan Harper. See the original here.

 After a year of preaching and teaching in the countryside, Jesus and his followers went into the great city of Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. On that first day in Jerusalem, Jesus did little more than look around in the great Temple of Jerusalem — the Temple that was the holiest place for Jesus and for all other Jews. Jesus noticed that there were a number of people selling things in the Temple (for example, there were people selling pigeons), and besides that there were all kinds of comings and goings through the Temple, people carrying all kinds of gear, taking shortcuts by going through the Temple. 

The next day, Jesus returned to the Temple. He walked in, chased out the people selling things, and upset the tables of the moneychangers. Needless to say, he created quite a commotion! The way I picture it, a crowd gathered around to see what this stranger, this traveling rabbi, was up to. Then Jesus turned to the gathered crowd, and quoted from the Hebrew scriptures, the book of Isaiah where God says, “My Temple shall be known as a place of prayer for all nations.” Jesus said it was time that the Temple went back to being a place of prayer — how could you pray when there were people buying and selling things right next to you? How could you pray with all those pigeons cooing? 

Imagine what it would be like if people were selling pigeons in church while we were trying to have a worship service. Very distracting… Jesus did the right thing in chasing the pigeon-dealers, the moneylenders, and the other salespeople out of the Temple. But the way he did managed to annoy the powerful people who ran the Temple. It made them look bad. They didn’t like that. 

Over the next three days, Jesus taught and preached all through Jerusalem. We know he quoted the book of Leviticus, where it says, “You are to love your neighbor as yourself.” He encouraged people to be genuinely religious, to help the weak and the poor. Jesus also got into fairly heated discussions with some of Jerusalem’s religious leaders, and he was so good at arguing that he made those powerful people look bad. They didn’t like that. 

Meanwhile, other things were brewing in Jerusalem. The Romans governed Jerusalem at that time. The Romans were also concerned about Jesus. When Jesus rode into the city, he was welcomed by a crowd of people who treated him as if he were one of the long-lost kings of Israel. The Romans did not want the people of Jerusalem to get any rebellious ideas. 

Jesus continued his teaching and preaching from Sunday until Thursday evening, when Passover began. Since Jesus and his disciples were all good observant Jews, after sundown on Thursday they celebrated a Passover Seder together. They had the wine, the matzoh, the bitter herbs, all the standard things you have at a Seder. 

After the Seder, Jesus was restless and depressed. He was pretty sure that the Romans were going to try to arrest him for stirring up trouble, for agitating the people of Jerusalem. As it happened, Jesus was arrested just a few hours after the Seder. He was given a trial the same night he was arrested, and he was executed the next day. The Romans put him to death using a common but very unpleasant type of execution known as crucifixion. 

Because the Jewish Sabbath started right at sundown, and Jewish law of the time did not allow you to bury anyone on the Sabbath day, Jesus’ friends couldn’t bury him right away. There were no funeral homes back in those days, so his friend Joseph of Arimathea put Jesus’ body in a tomb, which was a sort of cave cut into the side of a hill. There the body would be safe until they could bury it, after the Sabbath was over. 

First thing Sunday morning, Jesus’ friends Mary, Mary, and Salome went to the tomb to get the body ready for burial. But to their great surprise, the body was gone, and there was a young man whom they didn’t recognize, but who seemed to know what was going on. 

Nobody knows for sure what happened to Jesus’ body. There must have been a fair amount of confusion that first Easter morning. Jesus’ friends were not only upset that he was dead, they were worried that one or more of them might be arrested, too, or even executed. Because of the confusion, probably not everybody got the word about when and where the burial was. Maybe by the time Mary, Mary, and Salome had gotten to the tomb, others had already buried his body — and they left quickly, worried that they might get in trouble if they stayed around. 

But the traditional Christian understanding what happened is different. Some of Jesus’ followers began saying that Jesus had risen from the dead, and even to report that they had spoken with him.

Maybe it’s just that his friends were so sad, and missed him so much, that they wanted to believe that he was alive again.

 

Unlike traditional Christians, most Unitarian Universalists don’t believe that Jesus actually came back to life and went walking around in his body that had been dead. However, the idea that something that feels dead and gone can come back to life in a new way is important to people everywhere. When you remember the words of someone you loved who has died, and you keep learning from what they taught you, then, in a way, they are still alive within you. When a task, like a hard math problem or learning to ride a skateboard, seems too hard and you give up, then it can feel like something has died inside of you. But then, when something clicks and all of a sudden you get it, it feels like that part of you has come alive again. During the winter, in most parts of the world, the trees lose their leaves and flowers die back to the ground. Then, come spring, the plants that looked dead come back to life again. 

 

Activity One

Dye Easter eggs (see http://www.wikihow.com/Dye-Eggs-for-Easter for suggestions of creative ways to dye) 

Or do the “Colors of Easter” coloring project described at on Between Sundays at http://www.questformeaning.org/oldsite/clf.uua.org/betweensundays/earlychildhood/ColorsEaster.h   tml , using the drawing template at http://www.questformeaning.org/oldsite/clf.uua.org/betweensundays/images/chalice.gif

Or have children decorate large paper grocery bags which they will use for the food hunt.

  

Discussion

Have you ever felt like something inside you has died? Have you ever felt like something inside you was springing to life? What choices can we make to bring more abundant life to ourselves and the people around us?

  

Activity Two

While the art project is taking place have someone (or, preferably, multiple people) hide canned food. When the art project is complete, and the food is hidden, give children paper, plastic or canvass grocery bags and invite them to search for the food which will be donated to your local food pantry. You may wish to give each child who returns their bag of found food a prize such as Easter candy, stickers, etc.

 

Closing

Gather around the collected food. Say “We dedicate these gifts to the cause of life. May we bring hope to those who are downhearted and caring to those who feel alone.”


 

Week Four—April 28th

Ridvan and Flower Communion

 

Supplies Needed: fragrant flower, tissue paper in various colors, green pipe cleaners, scissors, vase

 

Chalice Lighting:

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart) This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out) Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth and the love of justice We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love, We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

Or

Sing “Rise Up O Flame” (find the music here)

Check in:
You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

Centering:
Have participants sit in a circle. Pass a fragrant flower around the circle, inviting each person to take time to breathe in the scent of the flower when it comes to them. You may wish to pass the flower around the circle more than once.

 

Introduction

Today we celebrate the Baha’i holiday of Ridvan, and the UU tradition of the flower ceremony. The theme of flowers connects them both, but they also both involve stories of men who wanted to bring people together and celebrate differences in times and places where the people in charge wanted just the opposite.

 

Story

 

THE STORY OF RIDVÁN (pronounced Rizvan)

The people of Baghdad loved Bahá’u’lláh. He was very kind to them and also very wise. He could explain things that they didn’t understand and helped them with problems and difficulties. There were also some people who didn’t like this and wanted Bahá’u’lláh to leave the city. When Bahá’u’lláh’s followers and friends heard this, they were very sad and came to say good-bye. As the house was very small, one of the friends who owned a large beautiful garden near the city, suggested that Bahá’u’lláh should go and stay there, where there would be plenty of room for all the friends to visit.

 

So Bahá’u’lláh went to this special garden. It was called the Garden of Ridván, which means paradise, a place that is very beautiful. It was right beside a wide river called the Tigris and to get to it you had to row across by boat. In the garden there were paths where people could walk and all along these paths there grew roses – hundreds and hundreds of roses. Very early each morning before the sun got too hot, the gardeners used to pick the roses and lay them on the ground near the tent where Bahá’u’lláh was staying. Sometimes the pile was so high that the visitors could not see over it. Then Bahá’u’lláh would give each follower a bunch of roses to give to their friends.

 

Bahá’u’lláh stayed in this garden for twelve days from April 21st to May 2nd in

1863 and during this time a very special thing happened. Everyone was very happy, and many people came to visit. On the ninth day in the garden, Bahá’u’lláh told everyone that He was a special Messenger from God and that God had given him the mission of bringing together all the peoples of the world, from every religion, race and nation into one family, just as all the different flowers are gathered together in one garden, and that everyone in the world would learn to live in peace. This was the beginning of the Baha’i religion.

 

However, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire – the part of the world that we now call the Middle East—didn’t like that Bahá’u’lláh was getting a religious following. He was sent out from Baghdad, and forced to live far from his home, including spending many years as a prisoner. Many of his followers were sent to prison as well, but they held on to their belief in the one human family and in Bahá’u’lláh as the messenger of this religion, and today there are some 5 million Baha’is in the world.

 

This story of Bahá’u’lláh and the garden of Ridvan sounds just a bit like a story from our own Unitarian Universalist history. Have you heard the story of Norbert Capek and the flower ceremony? Norbert Capek was from a country called Czechoslovakia, which is in Eastern Europe. Unlike Bahá’u’lláh, Capek didn’t think of himself as a special messenger of God, but he was a man with a religious mission. Capek was a Unitarian minister. He didn't even find out about the Unitarians until he was almost forty years old and already a Baptist minister, but when he did, he knew that was where he belonged. You see, Norbert Capek had a great ideal of freedom for all people, and in the Unitarian church he finally found a group of people who shared his passion for freedom.

 

When Capek became a Unitarian minister he started a new church in Czechoslovakia, and he decided that this special church needed a special symbol. And so he came up with what he called the "Festival of Flowers," in which every person, children and adults alike, brought a flower to church. All those flowers were gathered together in big vases and blessed, and later in the service each person took a different flower than the one they came with. Capek said that we all are like flowers, with many different shapes and sizes and colors, but like the flowers we are all beautiful. And, he said, although the flowers are all different, in some ways they are all the same. All of them have stalks, and all of them have petals, and we as people also all have some things that are the same the whole world around. The Festival of Flowers, or Flower Communion, was for him a symbol of freedom, a symbol of how we come together with all our differences and our special gifts to make one beautiful whole. And, he said, the church is like the vase that holds the flowers. It is the place where we all fit in, the vase that holds us together in our freedom and our differences.

 

Unfortunately, this story has a tragic ending. Norbert Capek was preaching about freedom and appreciating differences at a time when Hitler and the Nazis were coming to power in Europe. The Nazis were people who were scared by differences and didn't believe in freedom. They thought that there was only one good kind of people, and that people should be as much the same as possible. Capek knew that it was very dangerous to go on preaching freedom and sharing in Flower Communion, but he also knew that what he had to say was so important that he couldn't stop. And so the Nazis came, and they took Capek to the Dachau concentration camp, and they killed him, for fear that people would listen to Capek's message of love instead of their demand for sameness.

 

Baha’i and Unitarian Universalism are not the same religion, but we share some important things in common. And both Bahá’u’lláh and Norbert Capek were abused by the people in power for their belief that our differences are beautiful, and don’t stand in the way of our coming together as one human family – not to mention both of them using flowers as a symbol of their beliefs. So perhaps we can honor the holiday of Ridvan as we celebrate our UU flower ceremony.

 

Activity Make paper flowers. See http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/flowers/tissueflower/ and/or http://home.howstuffworks.com/paper-flowers1.htm for instructions

 

Ritual

In his Festival of Flowers, Norbert Capek invited every member of his Unitarian church to bring a flower with them. Then he asked everyone to put their flowers together in a vase. (Have children place the paper flowers they’ve made into a vase.) Then Capek blessed the flowers with these words: “Infinite Spirit of Life, we ask your blessing on these messengers of fellowship and love. May they remind us, amid diversities of knowledge and of gifts, to be one in desire and affection, and devotion to your holy will. May they also remind us of the value of friendship, of doing and sharing alike. May we cherish friendship as one of your most precious gifts. May we not let awareness of another's talents discourage us, or spoil our relationships, but may we realize that whatever we can do, great or small, the efforts of all of us are needed to do your work in this world.” Finally, he invited each person to take a different flower from the vase than the one they put it. That way each person would take away from the ceremony a reminder of the beauty that comes from sharing and learning from our differences. (Invite each child to select a flower from the vase.)

 

Closing

From the prayer that Norbert Capek gave at the first Festival of Flowers: “In name of the highest, in whom we move, and who makes the mother, the brother and sister what they are; in the name of sages and great religious leaders, who sacrificed their lives to bring about the coming of the kingdom of brotherhood--let us renew our resolution--sincerely to be real brothers and sisters regardless of any kind of bar which makes us strangers. In this holy resolution may we be strengthened knowing that we are God's family; that one spirit, the spirit of love, unites us; and striving for a more perfect and more joyful life leads us on.”