19th C. flower festivals

When did Unitarian Unviersalist churches start doing flower services? We usually associate our contemporary “flower communions” with Norbert Capek, even though he was quite explicit in not calling them “communion” services. But it turns out that Untiarian churches here in the Midwest were doing flower services long before Capek. Here’s an excerpt from the “Records of the Unitarian Sunday School of Geneva, Ills.” describing what was possibly the very first flower service in our Geneva congregation:

Flower Service was held in the church Sunday morning June 13, 1875. The church was tastefully decorated with flowers, the children gave good recitiations appropriate to the season, Rev. R. L. Herbert delivered a short sermon to the children and the choir sand some good selections of music. As the close of the meeting reports of Treasurer and Librarian were read by the Supt of the S. School, Mr Sherwin….

At this point in our history, the Flower Service looked pretty much like the Children’s Sunday it replaced, even down to the annual reports of Sunday school officers, and the recitations by the children. But by 1879, things were starting to change:

June 8, 1879 being the second Sunday of the month the annual Flower Service was held. The church was decorated in much the usual manner and well filled with spectators. The exercise conducted in a very happy manner by the Rev. R. L. Herbert, consisted of responsive reading, singing and recitation….

There were still recitiations by children, but the whole service seemed to be taking a different form. By 1880, there were still recitations by the children, but there was also a “prayer and chant,” a pageant by the children called “Ladder of Life,” and “Passing of the baskets of flowers by four little girls. While they were being passed Miss Ella Howell assisted by the choir sang ‘Consider the Lilies.'”

And by 1891, we read:

The Flower Service of 1891 was held the last Sunday in June. The Service was from Unity Festivals. The speaking was by the younger children of the school….

Unity Festivals, was a publications of the Western Unitarian Conference. This year, Lindsay, Craig, and I are planning to revive this worship service (with a few updates).

More on Unity Festivals later….