Sunday 23rd August: ‘Express Yourself’

The theme of this month’s service was Express Yourself and we kicked things off with a rendition of Madonna’s song of the same name.  Gareth read from ‘Letters of Note’ an entry by Robert Pirosh who expressed his love of words in his cheeky pursuit of a job as a screenwriter.  Pirosh’s creative approach apparently worked and his career change eventually resulted in an Academy Award: who knows what opportunities can arise from expressing yourself? Our main speaker was the inspiring Jo Hunter, co-founder of 64 Million Artists.  After quitting her job and wondering what to do, Jo asked her friends to set her some creative challenges to push her outside of her comfort zone.  She was challenged to’ grow something’, ‘write a poem to a stranger and leave it somewhere to be found’, to ‘cook a meal she hadn’t made before’, and to have ‘one person half her age and another person twice her age to teach her their favourite dance’.  Not only did these challenges teach her new things, they also introduced her to new people and helped her to express who she is.  Through 64 Million Artists, Jo invites everyone in Britain to ‘do something new and celebrate their creativity, to be proud of their passion, and show their flair’.  Jo believes that ‘art is not just for people who are good at it’ and offers ways in which we can unlock our potential through creativity by doing 3 things:

  • Do stuff – actually do it: don’t just talk about doing it
  • Think about it – reflect on the experience transforming it into being a cognitive action
  • Share it with other people

Jo’s talk mirrors the benefits that I have felt since being involved with Sunday Assembly Brighton.  Through doing many things outside of my comfort zone, by reflecting on my actions and by sharing the experience with other people my life has been enriched and I recognise the value in her campaign. We followed Jo’s talk with our version of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I am what I am’ which our everyone sang with gusto. Richard Robinson, director of Brighton Science Festival  was our ‘science guy’ for today’s event, and stressed the importance of us expressing ourselves to help shape the world.

Jeff from Sunday Assembly LA and his tattoo

 

Our ‘This Much I Know’ slot was filled by Jeff – a fellow Sunday Assembly organiser from Los Angeles. His passion for Sunday Assembly prompted him to get a tattoo of the Sunday Assembly logo.

 

 

 

We had a moment of reflection, some choosing to spend the silence giving a thought to those affected by the devastating plane crash in nearby Shoreham yesterday.

Our notices this month include:

  • Planning meeting: Tuesday 1st September, Battle of Trafalgar 7pm. Everyone is welcome to come and share ideas, offer their time, or just to find out what is needed to put on our monthly events.
  • Choir for all abilities: Tues 8th Sept and Tues 22nd Sept 7pm at the Brighthelm Centre, North Road (email us for more details)
  • Top of the Crops sing-a-long: Thursday 10th September 7pm, Union Chapel, Islington (see Sunday Assembly website for details. Tickets £12/£9)
  • Third ThursdayThursday 17th Sept Battle of Trafalgar 7pm
  • Next service: Sunday 27th September 11am – ‘Respect’
  • AGM: Sunday 27th September after the service (email us if you wish to register your interest in standing for election to the committee by 20th September)

We wrapped up with a rousing rendition of We Are the Champions, accompanied by Chris and Paul on guitars.

If you would like to express yourself and tap into your inner creativity, what better way than to get involved with Sunday Assembly Brighton? If you would like to read a poem, offer a talk for the This Much I Know slot or if you would like to sing in the choir or join the band then please get in touch: I can thoroughly recommend it!

See you In September!

Jo x

Sunday 26th July: Wild!

It was this time last year that Sunday Assembly Brighton took itself outdoors and held the July service on Hove lawns.  This year, we brought the outdoors inside, which was just as well as the heavy rain would otherwise have made for some soggy cake!

Anita and Izi were our hosts for the day and kicked off proceedings by leading us into singing one of Sunday Assembly Brighton’s favourite songs, ‘Born to be wild’.  Our reading was a poem called Dragonfly Dance written and read beautifully by our avid supporter, Meg.  It was a wonderful poem, inspired by a time that Meg had spent with her mother in the countryside of Cannock Chase.  The imagery Meg created captivated everybody in silence and wonder.  Even the young ‘heckler’ who joined in with the excited exclamation of ‘a dragonfly!’ seemed only to add to the magical feel of the reading.  Many thanks to Meg for sharing it with us.

We were delighted to have Dr Tony Whitbread, Cheif Executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust as our main speaker.  His talk was titled ‘what have flowers ever done for us?’, and as he demonstrated, the answer is ‘quite a lot’: we simply wouldn’t be here without them.  Besides which, they look nice and can make us feel happy.

Timeline of the creation of the universe, life and everything

For more information about the Sussex Wildlife Trust, how you can support them and how you can learn more about our beautiful Sussex countryside you can visit their website https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk.

Also let us know if you would like Sunday Assembly Brighton to set up a one-day volunteer project with them – they could always do with some hard-working volunteers!

Our second song, musically accompanied by our amazing guitar duo, Chris and Paul was ‘Wild Thing’.  As a special treat, I dusted off my recorder (which has not seen the light of day since primary school!) and I filled in for the ocarina solo, much to the delight (at least I think it was delight?!) of the congregation.  Thanks for cheering me on, everyone!!

Our ‘This Much I Know’ slot was filled by an inspiring tale by Russell Clark.  Russell had felt disconnected from his fellow passengers on his daily commute between Redhill and Brighton, and recognising that people seem more sociable when they are in the countryside, he decided to bring the countryside inside the train by handing out flowers.  You can read about his project to promote social interaction here: https://www.facebook.com/flowersonatrain.

We concluded things with a slightly slowed-down groovy version of ‘I wanna be like you’, accompanied by our fab choir.  We have started to hold regular choir sessions, lead by Rob and Phily, for anyone who wants to sing for fun.  There is no obligation to stand at the front on service days if you don’t like the limelight – the choir sessions are for anyone, whatever your ability.  If you would like more details and dates of when and where the sessions are being held then please email us at sundayassemblybrighton@gmail.com.

Thanks to everyone for making it such a great service: to the tea crew, to the washer-uppers, to the meeters and greeters, to you for your generous monetary donations (which go towards the running costs, equipment hire and speaker expenses), for the food donations (which go to the Hangelton Food Bank), and for the cake bakers (thank you Amy C for the timely supply of the Banoffee Pie, following the recent death of its creator, Nigel Mackenzie).

Sunday Assembly Brighton is run entirely by volunteers, some of whom will be standing down from the committee at the AGM in September.  To ensure the continued success of Sunday Assembly Brighton we would really appreciate some more voluntary support, either in a formal capacity as a committee member, or as a dedicated part of the planning team.  Perhaps you only have time to send one email a month, or perhaps you’d like to be responsible for building a whole new website?  Or maybe you’ve got good communication skills and are good at motivating people to help?  Or perhaps you live round the corner from the venue and can pick up the keys and open up the venue every month?  There are lots of ways that you can help out, depending on your availability and amount of time to spare.  At the moment, there are a lot of jobs being done by a few people but we need to spread the load to make things sustainable.  If you would like to know more, or can offer to help on a regular basis, or if you would like to stand for election to the Sunday Assembly Brighton committee then email us at sundayassemblybrighton@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you at the next service at 11am on Sunday 23rd August.

With love,

Jo xxxx

A bit of Sunday Assembly poetry

Regulars out there will know that we’re lucky enough to have a resident poet in our congregation. Rosa sometimes performs poems she’s written especially for our assemblies, based on that month’s theme.

Well, it’s about time some of her wonderful creations were immortalised here, so everyone can enjoy them as often as they like!

Acceptance
Our judgey judgey culture is all-pervading,
Whether it be the immigrants invading
And stealing our jobs, on the scrounge.
It comes through our telly, it sits in our lounge
Or judging the judgers, the other way round.

Knowing what to accept, that’s the tricky bit.
What’s that AA thing? It’s got God in it.
About grace and wisdom for knowing when
It’s something to change, or then again
Just to accept: every day Zen

Cause the Buddhists are all over this particular one.
You contemplate, accept and then you move on.
Zen master I’m not though, although I have tried
To accept such things as my father who died
And chances untaken; my shame I can hide

From the world but not from myself
As life moves on, this cluttered mental shelf
Full of bugbears that need dealing with;
They sit, become mouldy, there’s no healing it.
The anger, resentment leave me reeling a bit

So…

Start small I reckon with every day stuff,
Take deep breaths for the smooth and the rough;
The IKEA delivery, it’s not come,
That recurring disagreement you have with your mum
That extra fat layer you have on your tum.

The wisdom of Disney to just Let It Go,
An emotional frisbee that you can throw.
Don’t let it fester, clear out the inside,
Say fare thee well to resentment besides,
A spiritual laundry, all washed out and dried.

Play
This is my play within my week
No skipping rope, no hide and seek
Just pen and paper, words and rhythm
Skip and seek the poem hidden

Underneath the every day
Mundane worries stripped away
Wait and leap on thoughts and rhymes
All been used a thousand times.

So this, and then sorry to say
Like many adults here today
A glass of booze, or two, or three
And who comes out? A playful me.

The life and soul, I have been known
To find the bruises getting home,
The only proof on shaky Sunday;
Saturday, must have been a fun day.

Who here can say they haven’t used
The demon drink to be amused
By each other’s playful side?
A cheekiness we often hide

In the humdrum of the day-to-day
Too kowtowed to peel away
The sensible and adult masks
Ensuring we complete the tasks.

My child though is no greater gift,
An opportunity to lift
The modest skirts of adultness
And put my play skills to the test.

We bounce about, we laugh and sing.
We play act monster, witch and king.
And in that moment, if you commit
To acting like a total twit

All ego can be left behind,
We open up our just now mind.
We need to play; it is a break
From all the promises we make.

So act the fool, laugh and tickle,
Roll around, embrace the fickle!

Thanks, Rosa!

And if there are any other closet poets out there who fancy sharing something at an assembly, do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Brighton Fringe special May assembly: Connection

singing onstageWhat a lovely day we had on Sunday at Brighton’s fabulous Spiegeltent. I hope it’s not presumptuous to say that a good time was had by all…

It was such a privilege to be invited back by Brighton Fringe and particularly to return to the grandest tent you’ll find that doesn’t come with its own ringmaster. Not least because it means it’s very likely that filing in alongside our lovely regulars were people who’d never heard of Sunday Assembly before.

After a rousing welcome by our daffodil-yellow-clad and ever-chipper host Rob, we got things going with ‘We Go Together’ from Grease. The choir, newly led by congregant Jinny, were in fabulous voice and more than made up for a few of us (ahem, me) stumbling just a little over the scatting: ‘We go together like somethingsomethingsomething sha-bippety-bip-de bop…’. Tongue-tying, but lots of fun.

kine k
Breathing and singing with lovely Kine

I felt pretty spoilt by our four amazing speakers for this one. I say speakers, though our reading this month was actually a singing. Wonderfully, we’d been approached by Norwegian singer Kine Kvalstad (via Sarah, one of our congregants: thank you, Sarah!). Kine is part of Singing Cities, an inclusive initiative that works to spread the magic and benefits of singing. She began by reminding us all of the best way to breathe in (into your belly), then how to breathe out on a note. After which, of course, the congregation could sing back up for Kine’s beautiful performance of her own song ‘Breathe’. As well as do the latter much more effectively too.

Dr B
Dr Bramwell: found utopia at home

Next came our main speaker, and we were so happy to welcome David Bramwell, a bit of a Brighton legend: founder and host of the Catalyst Club, author, speaker and occasional Radio 4 presenter, we were lucky he had time to pop by! The tale David had to tell was of the year he spent searching for utopia, or something like it. After living among many communities, from Scotland to California, he not only found himself back where he started, he realised that might have been where he could find some kind of utopia all along. It may matter less where you are and more who you’re with, and how you connect with them. He left us with a quote from Julia, a friend he made during his quest: ‘There is hope in people. Not systems. Or governments. Simply in people.’

We had a brief Taylor Swift interlude where we were all invited to ‘Shake if off’ and to marvel at Ella and Sophia in the choir rapping. (They were fantastic. Word.)

Don’t try this at home, kids. No, but really.

Then it was time for everyone’s favourite wish-he’d-been-my-teacher, Russell. His take on the theme was in exploring the way that radio waves allow us to connect over long distances. This led to a show-and-tell tour through the electromagnetic spectrum using an old TV, a microwave oven, an Infrared heat lamp, a UV tanning lamp, and a Geiger counter. We learned many things along the way, including that white noise is partly cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang; after cataract surgery Monet could see some UV wavelengths of light; and if you put a crisp packet in the microwave it will shrink to a tiny version of itself. (And our apologies to the parents of all the kids who probably went home wanting to do just that.) He may also have briefly microwaved fire. (Again, parents, really sorry.)

bernadette russell
Bernadette: a story about stories

We also had the great pleasure of welcoming back previous speaker Bernadette Russell for our This Much I Know segment. Bernadette gave us a very brief but inspiring ‘Ted talk’, which is to say a talk about a man named Ted. After being invited as an artist to be part of an outreach programme, Bernadette went from expecting to talk and perform to realising how important it can be to just listen. In doing so she learned Ted’s story of overcoming his stage fright to become a singer at 84, and that we all have stories to tell, if someone is just willing to take the time to hear them.

After our moment of silent reflection and a chance to say hello to temporary neighbours and possible new friends, we joined voices one more time with the song everyone clearly knew best: the Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’.

The theme of ‘connection’ (thought up by Jo, who has a serious talent for themes) really did feel perfect. And not only because it was the thread that ran in various guises throughout our speakers’ topics, but because it feels so fitting for Sunday Assembly generally. From my position at the back of the tent I could look out over people who’d been brought together, however briefly, for this event. Who might build on a connection they made that day, or after a later event. And I could see the members of our lovely team who come together to create these events. People who’ve come into my life (or maybe I came into theirs) because of this flipping lovely organisation. We really must work on an assembly with the theme ‘Lucky’.

Can’t wait to welcome you back to St Andrew’s on 28 June, friends.

Catie x

PS Don’t forget: there’s no assembly on 24 May!

PPS If you want to experience David Bramwell’s adventures in full, you can read about them in his book. And check out Zocalo, the simple annual festival of neighbour meeting neighbour by means of a chair outside their house and time spent together. You could even have a look at Bernadette Russell’s happiness-spreading Happy Monday project while you’re at it.

splendid spiegeltent

Sunday 26th April: Play

Yesterday (25th April) marked two years since Anita, Amy, Sanderson and I met in a pub in Trafalgar Street to talk for the first time about setting up a Sunday Assembly in Brighton … and what an incredible two years it has been!  Now, as a strong and supportive 9-person committee and with the ongoing invaluable help from a wonderful team of volunteers and enthusiastic congregants, the Sunday Assembly Brighton community continues to grow.

Perhaps rather poignantly, Sanderson and a team of organisers and volunteers from Sunday Assembly in Bristol and London joined us for today’s service, partly as a social visit, but mainly to undertake the new process of accreditation, so that we could be assessed for meeting a set of criteria to be able to continue to operate under the Sunday Assembly banner (contact us if you are interested to find out more about this process).  After a long discussion including feedback on what we are doing well and where we could improve, we were declared to be highly successful and are now an accredited group within the Sunday Assembly movement.

The theme today was ‘play’, and our host Rob, playful as ever, got us off to a lively start and led us into singing Pinball Wizard.

Rosa presented her bespoke poem, my favourite line of which talked of following the lead of children in ‘lifting the modest skirts of adultness’.

Andy Cain, former therapist and comedy improviser gave our main talk, suggesting how we can regain the playfulness that we perhaps remember from our childhood, but which we have since lost due to our adult desire for control and certainty.

He suggested the ways to play are to:

  • Be present
  • Let yourself fail
  • Listen – allow yourself to be changed
  • Build on what you’re given
  • Relax and have fun

He invited us to participate in an exercise of creating a story using words provided by our neighbour.  When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be telling a new-found friend the story of an anaemic platypus who, having been given a blood transfusion by a passing mermaid, restored his energy and was once more able to play with his friends and share with them the ham and pickle sandwiches that his mum had made for his packed lunch!  It was a fun and liberating exercise.

He also suggested some things you can do:

  • Give play some importance
  • Look into your play history
  • Spend time with playful people
  • Create opportunities
  • Choose to bring a playful attitude

He pointed out that ‘you don’t connect with others because you have 15 facts in your back pocket for filling uncomfortable silences: you connect over a sharing of fun and joint discovery’.

The up-tempo ‘Happy’ kept up the energy levels, led enthusiastically by our lively choir and band.

Adam told us what he knew about play in the slot we call ‘This Much I Know’, and inspired us by explaining how we can ‘transfer the mundane into the magic’.  He talked of making check-out conveyor city-scapes from your weekly groceries, or how following a dog can lead you to all sorts of new places.  Or how you could follow the outline of an image drawn onto a map and be led to new parts of a town that you wouldn’t otherwise have gone.  Or how you can have a spontaneous adventure by going on an ‘alphabet walk’, starting at a place beginning with ‘A’, then perhaps heading to a particular ‘B’uilding, turning a ‘C’orner and so on.  It’s surely only a matter of time that we will bump into one another lurking around the ‘x’-ray department, or meet each other at the ‘Z’oo where all our walks are sure to terminate! You can download a free copy of Adam’s book, Playground Earth, here:

www.smashwords.com/books/view/300580

We had a moment of silence to reflect on the theme, followed by our notices.

As a brief summary:

  • Next service: ‘Connection’ Fringe special, 3rd May 14.00-16.00 Spiegeltent, tickets here
  • Second Sunday: Café Rouge, Haywards Heath 10th May 15.00-17.00. Details can be requested by emailing us at sundayassemblybrighton@gmail.com FAO Izi
  • Third Thursday: Earth and Stars 21st May from 19.30
  • Next planning meeting (1st Thursday): Battle of Trafalgar, 4th June, from 19.00
  • Next service at St Andrew’s: 28th June, 11.00 ‘Strength’
  • Research project about the impact on participants of Sunday Assembly: details from Michael.price@brunel.ac.uk
  • If you are interested in helping set up some events for children and family socials, get in touch by emailing sundayassemblybrighton@gmail.com, FAO Jo and Lynne
  • Plus there is always a general call for cake bakers, volunteers, singers, musicians, suggestions, and donations for the Hangleton food bank…

Our final song was Play That Funky Music, which our band duly did!

Hope to see you next Sunday afternoon at the Spiegeltent.

Jo x

Sunday 22nd March: Conflict

134 people came along to our service on 22nd March to explore the theme of ‘Conflict’, wonderfully hosted by Anita and with musical accompaniment by our house-band and choir.

We were spoilt for choice with conflict-themed melodies, but – having thrown out suggestions such as ‘Street-Fighting Man’, ‘I Predict a Riot’ and ‘Kung-Foo fighting’ – we kicked off the proceedings with The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’  Thankfully, congregants opted for the former.

We were thrilled to introduce Chris McDermott as our main speaker.  Chris has a particular interest in mediation and conflict-resolution, and spoke animatedly about the subject.  He asked ‘who has ever experienced conflict in their life?’, and added ‘who would like to have a life free of conflict?…..well, I’m sorry but you can’t have it!’  Regardless of the nature of our anguish, conflict is as normal an emotion as happiness and, perhaps through techniques such as meditation and mindfulness, we can learn to ‘make friends’ with our negative emotions as well as the positive ones.  He elaborated by explaining that conflict is an important feature of human life, and it’s not always a bad thing as crisis can provide us with opportunities for personal development and growth.

His take-home messages to help us cope with conflict were:

  • Use the breath to stay grounded and calm
  • Be aware of your thoughts: the background commentary is probably not reality
  • Befriend the most uncomfortable emotions
  • Nurture compassion

Our second song, Let it Be, was dedicated to Colin Jolly, a regular attendee of Sunday Assembly Brighton who died unexpectedly last month.  Our thoughts and condolences go to his family and those who knew him.

Our resident science aficionado Russell asked ‘War, huh, yeah – what is it good for?’…As it turns out, quite a lot!  Amongst other things, incidental inventions during wartime efforts have included the neoprene wetsuit, the electronic computer and the use of microwaves for cooking leading to the development of the not-so-compact 6-foot tall ‘Radarange’.

Our ‘This Much I Know’ slot was filled by Tracey.  She spoke about her personal and traumatic experience of being burgled, and gave an emotive account of her brave decision to agree to meet her perpetrator as part of Victim Support’s ‘Restorative Justice’ programme. Tracey now volunteers for Victim Support and inspired us by showing that despite her ordeal she is able to help many other people.

Our service was wrapped up with Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’.

Our theme and our speakers reminded me of something that I heard recently on the radio.  In answer to the question ‘what makes us human?’ Val McDermid, Scottish crime writer, surmised that ‘the ability to show love, compassion and kindness – that’s what makes us human’ and it shows strength and courage to be able to show forgiveness, even when we have experienced suffering.

As a quick reminder, our notices included:

  • Our next service on the fourth Sunday 26th April at 11am at St Andrew’s
  • Planning meeting on the first Thursday 2nd April at 7pm at the Battle of Trafalgar
  • Second Sunday at 3pm at Café Rouge in Haywards Heath, for those wanting a sort of Sunday Assembly ‘lite’ in the Mid-Sussex area
  • Third Thursday, our monthly informal social at the Earth and Stars from 7.30pm
  • Our May service will move from its regular time and place to be held on Sunday 3rd May at 2pm at the Brighton Spiegeltent as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival.  Please note, this is a ticketed event so you will need to obtain tickets in advance.  Tickets are free but are subject to the Brighton Fringe’s booking fee of 95p per ticket.

http://boxoffice.brightonfringe.org/performance/20198/sunday-assembly

If you would like to contribute a reading, a main talk or an experience to share in the ‘This Much I Know’ slot or if you have any questions or feedback you can contact us at sundayassemblybrighton@gmail.com

Look forward to seeing you next time.

Jo x

February 22nd – Creativity

FB-event cover-FEB15-BHuge thanks to congregant Gareth for this guest post!

In addition to encouraging people to live better, help often and wonder more, the Sunday Assembly held on the 22nd of February in Brighton celebrated creativity.

It was definitely agreed that two songs were better than one as service kicked off with a full-throated rendition of Queen’s mighty ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ followed swiftly by ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves.

The reading was a delightful excerpt from the website Letters of Note, in which committee member Catie told the beautiful response by Kurt Vonnegut to a group of students asking him to come and speak at their class. Alas, he was an old man in his 80s and was not able to attend, but his words of encouragement, to write a six-line poem and then tear it up and put bits in different bins, struck a chord (my downstairs neighbour doing just that after the service).

After Morecambe and Wise’s delightful ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ we moved along into the main talk.

The speaker Maggie Boden then shared her significant insights into the field of creativity, her lecture breaking down creativity into three aspects:

  • Combination creativity, which combines familiar ideas in novel ways
  • Exploratory creativity, which generates new structures in existing thinking styles
  • Transformational creativity, which alters the rules of what is currently accepted or thought possible to create new structures and forms.

We then welcomed back Richard Robinson, organiser of the Brighton Science Festival and firm Sunday Assembly favourite. Richard’s talk was on the theme of failure, most notable creative failure, retelling a number of familiar and unfamiliar tales from the history of science that relied upon failure to succeed. My favourite being potato crisps being invented by an overly stubborn chef who had chips sent back to him twice for not being crisp enough, so he used a razor blade and fried them until they were that crisp they snapped. He was rewarded by two repeat orders and snacking has not been the same since.

The service drew to a close with the congregation of 170 up on their feet give it their all to the theme to Flash Dance.

Hope to see you in March

Gareth x