Flowers bring their own particular beauty to our churches and we are fortunate to have many volunteers in Dedham and Ardleigh who help to make arrangements through the year and especially for particular festivals. If you would like to get involved please contact the office.
Flowers have always been an integral part of the church’s ceremonies and rites of passage writes Helen Sims, who leads Dedham Church’s flower team. After working as a primary school teacher she returned to the University of Surrey to do a master’s degree in environmental psychology. There she devised a brutal experiment to discover whether office plants really do reduce stress levels. Her victims had to solve difficult problems while intrusive music blared out. Those in rooms decked with plants did significantly better than the others.
How is this relevant to the church? “Flowers show that a church is thriving and cared for,” she says. “There is also a spiritual connection. For me it is a form of worship - seeing flowers as examples of creation and beauty.” The group’s widely famed displays also have direct symbolism, for example the Easter flower display, which will last for several weeks, has a dominant white theme based on Arum lilies. For Remembrance Sunday, the tableau included fallen poppies in a wheat field against a black background and photographs of some of Dedham’s war dead. Even so, Helen gives the 22 volunteers in her team a free hand to “express their own creativity”. An arranger may take one to two hours to prepare a “pedestal” display and Helen will only step in if asked. The volunteers are all women, aged from 35 upwards, “but men would be welcome”, Helen adds. It is a formidable operation. The volunteers work in five groups, some specialising, for example on altar displays, while Helen marshalls forces of 10 to 15 for the main festivals.
Weddings are co-ordinated by Wendy Sarton who is supported by members of the group. The whole group meets three times a year to share ideas. Flower arrangers can claim expenses from a special church fund towards the cost of each project, but some provide their own flowers. Helen, who runs her own floristry business from her house in Monk’s Lane, helps by obtaining flowers at wholesale prices. Helen’s unlikely journey from teaching and management consultancy to floristry has nevertheless had a certain inevitability. At five she removed flowers from her mother’s garden and tried unsuccessfully to sell them. First inspired by her parents’ garden, she has always been surrounded by plants and in 2010 she embarked on her floristry training which included a career course with the designer Michael Pooley.
On the terrace above her garden in the valley that falls down to Black Brook, she pointed to two small trees. “My children are Lauren, 13 and Olivia, 9. That’s a bay (Laurus nobilis) and that’s an olive.” Now she has found a job that seemed all along to be her destiny: “I am so lucky to have work that I love,” she says. “I was always meant to be a flower girl.
Reprinted from the May 2017 Dedham Parish Magazine.
Recent examples of Dedham Church flowers.