Our November service was based on the theme of ‘Gratitude’. Anita warmed everyone up on this damp and chilly November morning with an interactive ice-breaker encouraging pairs to alternately count to three replacing 1-2-3 with a ‘clap’, a ‘stomp’ and a ‘whoop’ which was more difficult than you might think! There was more liveliness with our first song ‘Bare Necessities’, particularly enjoyed by our younger members who were dancing in the aisle at the back of the church. Sally did a great job leading the choir, accompanied by the Sunday Assembly Brighton band, the trumpet-playing by Stuart being particularly impressive.
The reading was given by one of our newer congregation members, Gareth, who paid homage to Carl Sagan by delivering a passage known as the ‘Pale Blue Dot’, an incredibly inspiring piece which you can read here: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1816628-a-pale-blue-dot)
Our main sermon was by Jude Claybourne who, inspired by a friend’s talk on gratitude and her sister’s achievement of writing a sestina every day for 100 days, embarked on a project she called ‘100 Days of Gratitude’ http://daysofgratitude-jc.blogspot.co.uk/. In October 2011, Jude set out to write a blog-post every day for 100 days which would explore what gratitude meant to her: by the time she came to speak at Sunday Assembly Brighton she was on Day 627. Over the course of the project she would engage in a regular practice of gratitude and write about gratitude, the result being an inspiring and positive account of the small (and big) things in life for which she was grateful, also rousing the suspicion of a local shop-keeper who couldn’t quite fathom why Jude was smiling all the time. She also observed her state of ‘pronoia’ (the opposite of paranoia) the effect of which, she noted, was to feel like everyone was conspiring do things which would make her happy. Jude’s talk was followed quite fittingly by everyone singing Dido’s ‘Thank You’.
Our ‘This Much I Know’ slot was filled by Amy, one of our longest-attending congregants, who read some excerpts from her ‘Gratitude Journal’, many of which revolved around her appreciation of her friends, delicious cake and ‘face-cuddles’ with her cat. The reading and talks this month gave us a lot to reflect on during the minute of contemplative silence. Our final song was the suitably up-beat ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, accompanied by some quite brilliant clapping by Pete the drummer.
Everyone’s contributions this month felt very relaxed and authentic and made for a really enjoyable service. Planning the services can sometimes feel like a big responsibility but it’s well-worth it when everything comes together in an uplifting event. I get a great deal of satisfaction at the end of the services when I stand at the back of the church observing our growing community of attendees as they chat to new people, whose paths they might not have otherwise crossed, enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake. A few months ago someone commented to me that ‘it feels like it’s a real community’ and last week another attendee told me he has been taking the themes from each service and reflecting on them over the course of the month. Similarly, inspired by Jude and Amy’s talks at the November service, I have started my own ‘Gratitude Journal’ and have been finding it a very pleasurable and nourishing thing to do every day. I hope you find coming to Sunday Assembly Brighton a positive experience too, in whatever form that may be. If you want to get more involved there are opportunities for everyone, whether it be in the form of contributing ideas, suggesting (or even writing!) a poem, filling the ‘This Much I Know’ slot with your story of an inspiring personal experience, bolstering our choir, joining the band, baking a cake, greeting people on the door, or helping us set up the church before the monthly service: please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also come along to one of our open planning meetings or our regular social event, ‘Third Thursday’ (resuming in January) – keep an eye on our website and social media for details.
Establishing the Sunday Assembly Brighton community would be impossible without the hours put in by our voluntary committee, organising team, volunteer helpers and band, not to mention those who bring along delicious cakes. It is also thanks to the enthusiasm and warmth of everyone who comes along – for those things I, for one, am incredibly grateful!