My walk this morning, almost a week after this year’s late Easter Sunday, made me aware of how the spring here in Georgia is already leaving. The dogwoods are almost fully leafed, the blossoms nearly gone, leaving white and pink remnants on the sidewalk. Their turn toward summer is graceful, while the azaleas are brown edged, almost ugly as they end their show.
Six days earlier, I traditionally would have been searching around our front yard for a few cuttings to bring to the flower communion we celebrate in my home UU congregation: mostly on Easter, sometimes later. It is fashioned after the service created by a Hungarian minister who wanted to bring some reminder of natural beauty and goodness to his despairing parishioners in the midst of continental unrest in Europe: unrest that led to war that led to his death at the hand of the Nazis.
From his model and in his memory, we exchange flowers; symbols of renewal, even resurrection.
Congregationally homeless for now, instead of participating in this familiar and beloved ritual, I chose to attend a Sunday Assembly meet-up, part of the new “Godless church” movement that began in London a little more than a year ago. I had been to a couple of the other monthly “services,” held mainly in the meeting room of a medical software company. I knew what to expect: Beatles songs and electronic guitars, short aspirational messages and ice breakers. A brief meditation time. Lots of announcements. A collection basket.
I had come to expect, and was sadly not disappointed by the lack of women or people over 40 up on the narrow stage. I had come to expect and also was not disappointed by the technical glitches, the sound crashes, and the sense of radically laid back disorganization.
If I was going to be there, I was going to wear a bonnet of some sort: a tapestry cloche with a felt flower pinned on, guaranteed to stand out and label me as a Boomer interloper in the sea of jeans and leggings. It was not as if Easter was completely bypassed — the getting to know each other moment involved plastic eggs filled with hard candies and humanist sayings. We were to find the one that matched ours. It turned out that my partner was the Church of God mother of one of the young couples, who had agreed to give up her holiday in the name of family peace and harmony.
But the hymns were missing, the simple prayer of dedication, the parables, and most of all the huge display of garden and grocery store flowers. For this humanist, this a-theist, it was not about the death and rising of Jesus, the beginnings of Christianity, but the shared, embodied recognition of this season that I found myself missing, mourning.
The inspirational speaker at the Assembly was an IT professional who spends his spare time constructing huts for homeless people, tiny dwellings that provide these often shelter phobic men and women with a place to feel safe, to take a break from fear, to store their few things.
It was also, for one mentally challenged woman he told us about, a source of literally planting roots in a patch of public land, perhaps under a freeway overpass. She found a way to make a porch, he said, and then to grow some flowers. Flowers that came up with the same outrageous optimistic glory as the ones in my side bed. That were, for even a brief time, harbingers of hope.
This was my one Easter moment.