COMMUNION: the practice of offering

Theme for November

The intention of the themed year is to help Unitarian Universalists build a robust spiritual and ethical vocabulary. The themes are points of departure for religious liberals seeking to think, speak and act theologically, prophetically and prayerfully. The themes reclaim religious language, casting old terms in a new key to deepen spiritual grounding and sharpen moral reasoning. More at: or sign up for a circle at

Download 2019Nov Communion – offering.pdf


  • We do both a water and a flower communion as part of our ritual year, how are they the same or different from a traditional Christian communion?
  • How are this month’s theme of Communion and last month’s theme of Church related? What is the difference?
  • If offering something could have a kind of ripple effect, how could you make waves? How could you get out the way so the effect of someone else’s ripple can move forward?



From OED: communis, Latin, common; the state of sharing or exchanging thoughts and feelings; the feeling of being part of something
From OED: offere, Latin; bestow, present, proposition



Poetry is for me Eucharistic. You take someone else’s suffering into your body, their passion comes into your body, and in doing that you commune, you take communion, you make a community with others. —Mary Karr, American poet

I am a writer. I suppose I think the highest gift is art, and I am audacious enough to think of myself as an artist – that there is both joy and beauty and illumination and communion between people to be achieved through the dissection of personality.
— Lorraine Hansberry, playwright (Raisin in the Sun)

Ministry is the least important thing. You cannot not minister if you are in communion with God and live in community. —Henri Nouwen, Dutch Catholic priest and social justice advocate

All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws. —John Coltrane, saxophonist, free-form jazz innovator

Wisdom is a sacred communion. —Victor Hugo, French writer (Hunchback of Notre Dame; Les Misérables)



Communion at Lunch (All that tends not to charity is figurative.—Pascal)

Eating my sandwich (little but bread these days)

while Anderson or someone was explaining the language of scripture

I heard a tiny cry: of course it was in code.

Oh how far meaning comes today! Across empty fields.

—William Stafford


I Am Offering This Poem

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,
I love you,
I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,
I love you,
Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe
I love you,
It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
I love you.

—Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Immigrants in Our Own Land, 1990



You think I give myself to you?
Not so, my friend, you do not see
My single purpose and intent –
To make you give myself to me
—Nora B. Cunningham


Two Poems from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue:

For Friendship
May you be blessed with good friends,
And learn to be a good friend to yourself,
Journeying to that place in your soul where
There is love, warmth, and feeling.
May this change you.

May it transfigure what is negative, distant,
Or cold within your heart.

May you be brought into real passion, kindness,
And belonging.

May you treasure your friends,
May you be good to them, be there for them
And receive all the challenges, truth, and light you need.

May you never be isolated but know the embrace
Of your anam cara.


Blessing for the Senses
May the touch of your skin

Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you.

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.



Unity refers to living in harmony with other people. It means working for a common cause with those around the globe who know that when one person gains, all gain, and when one fails, all fail. We are crafting unity when we build communities.

The spiritual practice of hospitality helps us learn to respect differences and celebrate diversity in the Creation. Unity is about affirming commonalities. This can be as simple as acknowledging how you are like another person. It can lead to actions demonstrating your solidarity with others.

Without unity, there is little hope for compassion, justice, or peace. Feeling lonely and isolated from other people are symptoms of a lack of unity in your life. Extreme manifestations are alienation and estrangement. Sometimes we deliberately cut ourselves off from others by our tyrannical and arrogant behavior. We may be very protective of our turf and highly individualistic, only interested in having our own way. Often these same tendencies lead us to build or support the walls that separate groups in our societies along economic, racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, or other lines. Gated, insular communities, where people show little interest in the outside world, are sure signs that unity needs to be practiced.


The Water Ceremony/ Communion Service is an excellent opportunity for Unitarian Universalist congregations to express their commitment to our Sixth Principle: We covenant to affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.


The Flower Ceremony, sometimes referred to as Flower Communion or Flower Festival, is an annual ritual that celebrates beauty, human uniqueness, diversity, and community. Originally created in 1923 by Unitarian minister Norbert Capek of Prague, Czechoslovakia, who died in a Nazi concentration camp, the Flower Ceremony was introduced to the United States by Rev. Maya Capek, Norbert’s widow. In this ceremony, everyone in the congregation brings a flower. Each person places a flower on the altar or in a shared vase. The congregation and minister bless the flowers, and they’re redistributed. Each person brings home a different flower than the one they brought. The Taking of an Offering—which some Unitarian Universalist congregations call “Sharing in Stewardship”—is a time to lift up the collective responsibility toward the common good.

To write your own words for gathering the offering, Rev. Erik Wikstrom says, “Many congregations say the same words each time the offering is taken, yet there is an opportunity here to reflect on just what it means to be a self-sustaining and life-giving community. What is the meaning of giving? Of generosity? Of your congregation and its place in your wider community and in the lives of its members? Where does the money go? What does money mean? All of these—and more—are subjects that could be reflected on in the offering.”



O Living Bread from Heaven

from The Sacred Harp 1860
O Living Bread from heaven,
How well you feed your guest!
The gifts that you have given
Have filled my heart with rest.
Oh, wondrous food of blessing,
Oh, cup that heals our woes!
My heart, this gift possessing,
With praises overflows



Cuando el Pobre (When the Poor Ones) #1027
When Our Heart is in a Holy Place #1008
We Are…#1051
This is My Song #159
Gather the Spirit #347
We Would Be One #31