Portsmouth, New Castle, and Peabody

May 13, 2007 22:47 – 22:47

The Portsmouth UU church began its one-service-at-10 am thing today. That meant being up and out early from the Comfort Inn. The service was their child dedication service and a flower communion. At the dedication, six or seven children were dedicated. After the dedications, each child was then carried or escorted down the center aisle, with the minister or the DRE saying “I now give you…”. It was really kind of cool—a chance for each dedicated child to be individually presented to the congregation.

At MVUC, I love the child dedication services, but I’m not at all fond of the flower communion. It’s always seemed a bit silly to me, as well as annoying, since I’m so allergic to flowers. Today, however, I heard the origins of the flower communion as a UU tradition, and I must say that I’m now much fonder of it (although, the flowers still annoy me). For the story of how it began, I turned to the First Parish Cambridge UU church (http://www.firstparishcambridge.org/?q=node/33):

During the Austro-Hungarian Empire there was no religious freedom in Czechoslovakia. The whole weight of the government was on the Roman Catholic Church. After WWI a great number of Czechs left the Catholic Church wanting to participate in a different more independent religion.

Before WWI, Norbert Capek, who was born in 1870, was serving as a Baptist minister. He had long been a liberal religious thinker, though, and he left the ministry and became a journalist. He fled to the US after articles, which he wrote on the impending war, angered authorities.

It was during his time in the States that he discovered Unitarianism and upon returning to Czechoslovakia after the war, founded a Unitarian congregation in Prague called the Liberal Religious Fellowship.

Thousands flocked to his new church. It was just the type of religion that so many were looking for. Most had come from the Roman Catholic church and they wanted a religion that looked nothing like it, so the minister wore no robe or vestments, they wanted no elaborate rituals, no singing of hymns, no ornate building, no formal or prescribed prayers.

During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Gestapo broke into the apartment of Capek, confiscated his books and sermons and arrested him and his youngest daughter. He was charged with treason for the crime of listening to the radio and taken eventually to the Dachau concentration camp where he was tortured and eventually executed.

When news of his death reached the US, the American Unitarian Assoc. president, Fredrick May Eliot wrote” Another name is added to the list of heroic Unitarian martyrs, by whose death our freedom has been bought, Ours is now the responsibility to see to it that we stand fast in the celebrity so gloriously won.”

During his ministry, Norbert Capek felt that the Unitarian church in Prague had taken simplicity to the extreme and he wanted to incorporate more religious elements. He gradually introduced the singing of hymns with songs he wrote himself for his congregation.

He also created the flower communion ritual over 80 years ago. He wanted to have symbolic ritual that would help bind people closer together in which former Catholics, Protestants and Jews could all participate without reservations. It was a huge success and became an annual ritual.

After his death, his wife moved to the United States and brought with her the flower communion ritual. It was first celebrated in the US in our very own congregation over 60 years ago.

Fort Constitution

After church, we headed over to New Castle—an island about 2 miles east of Portsmouth—to Fort Constitution. Prior to Paul Revere’s ride in Boston, he rode to New Castle to alert the citizens that the British were about to send troops to strengthen their fort. When news reached them, the colonists stormed the fort—manned only by a handful of British soldiers—took their weapons, and took possession of the fort, renaming it Fort Constitution.

Today, Ft. Constitution is on a USCG station. In what has to be a complete mockery of the freedom won for us in the 1700s, there is a blue line that shows where Fort visitors are allowed to step.

The small sign at the right says:

Fort Constitution Pedestrians.
Follow the blue line.
All other areas are strictly off limits.

Just to make sure, there’s a guard tower. I don’t know if they shoot people who stray beyond the line. I didn’t want to find out.

Kelly’s Roast Beef

Leaving New Castle, it was getting on towards lunch time, so we decided to head to Kelly’s roast beef. The only problem was that we didn’t know where the closest one was. So, we headed back to the Comfort Inn’s parking lot, where we were able to get a wireless connection. We quickly determined from Kelly’s web site that the closest location was Danvers, just a few miles from our next lodging. So, we headed down to Kelly’s and enjoyed a couple of their wonderful roast beef sandwiches.


On the way to Kelly’s, I spotted a Wal-Mart. I’d bought two kettles a while back—one for home, and one for travel. One, however, had developed a problem. It worked only when it was hot. I actually had to heat the base with a hair dryer this morning before it would heat water. I think one of the wires is shot, and heating temporarily restores the conductivity.

In any case, the base had a Wal-Mart sticker on the bottom of it. So, we took it to Wal-Mart—sans receipt—and traded it for a new one. How cool is that?

Springhill Suites

Armed with our new kettle, we headed to Springhill Suites in Peabody. We decided to just hang out and compute for a few hours, being a bit road-weary. We haven’t had enough sitting-still time on this trip.

Lexington House of Pizza

After a few hours of sitting still, we decided to get pizza from LHOP. So, we drove to Lexington. After driving around for a bit and seeing our old house (which is bigger each time we see it), we called LHOP and placed our order. Some 20 minutes later, small pizzas in hand (in boxes, actually), we headed back to Springhill for dinner.

I suspect that LHOP’s formula has changed over the years. Truth be told, the Athens pizza we had last week in Haverhill was much better. LHOP’s crust isn’t as light and crispy as it used to be, their cheese seems different, and the pizza was a bit too salty.

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