I am occasionally asked when it was that flowers were first made a part of worship. Certainly they adorned the homes of the early Romans who held Christian services in their dining rooms, but that was simple hospitality and not something that was deliberately liturgical. The practice became less common as the Middle Ages progressed, especially during the long European winters. Candles, murals, stained glass and statuary were used as adornments, but not anything as simple or as lovely as a well-placed vase graced with a sprightly arrangement of flora.
I do know that it was in an Episcopal church in New York City in the late 19th century that flowers began to be purposefully used as a part of liturgy. Not only were they varied and numerous, but their acquisition and care was entrusted to a growing guild of tenders. From that point forward, the tradition, like the flowers themselves, grew.
A generation later, flowers became the standard liturgical decoration for the entire Episcopal Church, with parishes even adding floral color to their hangings and frontals. What was once unthinkable had become the norm, which seems to be the theme of Christian experience. One of my fondest professional memories is of the people of my first parish who decided, during their church’s redesign, to include a greenhouse behind the altar so that God’s glory might be visible to all who came forward to receive the sacrament.
Enclosed with a letter that will arrive later this week, you will find an envelope with which to make a donation for flowers to use in our sanctuary on Easter Sunday. I would ask that you consider this a gift to our common worship, as it represents the union of natural and spiritual beauty. It is especially appropriate to make the offering as a memorial gift for loved ones, especially those who taught us to appreciate this holy season. You will also find an envelope for any special offering that you wish to make as part of this season, in recognition and honor of what God has brought to you and yours. The flower donation may be placed in the offering plate, mailed to the parish, or dropped off at the office sometime before Easter Sunday. The special Easter donation may be given at any time during the Easter season.
With my abiding thanks and blessings for the season to come....