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

February 8th – Consciousness (in pictures)

We had a full house for this assembly! We welcomed 214 people and 65 newbies.
We had a full house for this assembly! We welcomed 214 people and 65 newbies to the first of our Brighton Science Festival specials.
Returning poet Rosa recited her own creation the subject of consciousness
Returning poet Rosa recited her own creation on the subject of consciousness.
Uni of Sussex professor Anil Seth gave a fascinating sermon on his field of expertise
Anil Seth gave a fascinating sermon on his field of expertise and showed us how much of our worlds are our minds’ interpretations.
Russell marvelled at the human mind, which is never less than amazing (even if you think you're not so smart…)
Russell marvelled at the human mind, which is never less than amazing (even if you think you’re not so smart…).
The fun doesn't finish when the assembly does, you know… Sunday afternoon is the perfect time for pub + games. Join us next time!
The fun doesn’t finish when the assembly does, you know. Sunday afternoon is the perfect time for pub + games. Join us next time!
A beautiful end to a lovely and thoughts-on-thought-provoking day
A beautiful end to a lovely and thoughts-on-thought-provoking day. How wonderful to have chance to see the world this way.

January 25th: Animals

FB-event cover-JAN15The congregants came in two by two. Hurrah!

Well, OK: there were probably a few groups of three, and some people came solo. There may have been the odd four. Basically, there was no particular pattern to how everyone turned up. But turn up they did: nearly 160 lovely folk got out of bed on a chilly but golden January morning and ventured out to contemplate, celebrate and sing about animals for an hour.

So, what did we learn this month? Many things. To name a few:

  • The octopus is a hot contender for the title of Best Animal Ever.
  • Very few people know the second verse to ‘Karma Chameleon’, while the best bit of ‘Crocodile Rock’ is undoubtedly the la-la-la-la-las.
  • The collective noun for a group of crows is a ‘murder’, though it may be an undeservedly harsh word to associate with these rather clever creatures.
  • We could all stand to take a life lesson or two from dogs.

There were lots of treats too, including not one but two poetry readings. Regular congregant and staple on the choir Lynn read Ted Hughes’ magnificent poem The Horses. And SA Brighton committee member Simon read his own creation, based in a penguin-themed shop in Simon’s Town, South Africa (it needs to be anthologised).

Our sermon was delivered by returning main speaker and director of February’s Brighton Science Festival Richard Robinson, who took us on a journey of our interpretations of animals through the ages by way of bestiaries (illustrated guides to animals both real and imaginary). It would seem that, where we may always have projected our human characteristics onto creatures, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we must also then acknowledge animal traits reflected in ourselves – and, inevitably, in our offices, as Richard himself has illustrated.

There was much rejoicing as SA Brighton favourite Russell Arnott returned with his semi-regular science slot. This month he revealed his nomination for the best animal in the world ever … Spoiler alert: it’s the octopus. And by the end of his talk, it seemed most people were convinced he was right. (C’mon: these creatures can open jars, fit through any space their beak does, are masters of disguise and are so smart that if kept singly in captivity, a person must be employed to provide regular stimulus or the octopus will die.) Plus, almost as many people were considering a career change to Octopus Entertainer.

This month’s This Much I Know came from Helen, who – after responding to a Facebook call-out for speakers – led us through a day as seen through the eyes of her dog, Bennie. A rescue Rottweiler-Labrador cross she chose when she went looking for something completely different, Bennie and Helen are approaching their ten-year anniversary. During that decade, Helen explained, she’s learned a lot from her canine companion, including how to enjoy every last little bit of what life brings you, even – or especially – when it doesn’t look exactly like you may have planned.

Our first-time host was committee member Maggie, and her enthusiasm and energy came in very handy in the face of (bane of every event organiser’s life) faulty equipment – in this case, a malfunctioning mic. Another lesson we might learn from dogs, as well as a general excitement about life, is that of persevering no matter the setback (heck, they’ll always keep bringing your present back to you, no matter how many times you hurl it away). Happily, Maggie and our speakers were full of this quality, and all did an admirable job of filling their lungs and PROJECTING THEIR VOICES while even our contingent of babies and littl’uns showed a lot of respectful quiet.

In the notices, Rob – resplendent in a flamingo-shaped hat – announced our new partnership with a local food bank: we’ll be having a drive at our assembly on 22 February. This is an initiative led by one of our congregants, and you can find a list of the food items they need on their Facebook page. Rob also announced that a troupe of us were due to be heading up to a training day the following Saturday to gather in London with other UK-based Sunday Assembly organisers. The idea is to find ways to make Sunday Assembly even better, so watch this space for more on that…

At the very start of the year, when the weather, post-Christmas lull and lack of light all generally whisper ‘stay at home’ and it’s not only the bears who are leaning towards hibernation, it was easy to imagine that we could have been looking at a lot of empty pews this assembly. It was particularly cheering, then, to see St Andrew’s gradually fill up. Even better to see it fill up with a collection of lovely people – both familiar faces and first-timers (36 of the latter) – all set to sing along, chat over tea, and readily forgive the odd technical difficulty. What wonderful animals you all are. You may even have pipped the octopus to the post.

See you next time!

Catie x

November 23rd – Gratitude

FB-event cover-NOV14

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 sundayassemblybrighton@gmail.com. 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!

Jo x

December 22nd – Winter Wonderland

For our December assembly, we’re exploring the theme of ‘wonder’ with another morning of uplifting songs, inspiring talks and this time just a little bit of festive cheer…

The guest speaker is Kate Genevieve. Kate is an Artist and Director based in Brighton. Her work brings together research in science, technology and performance around how humans sense the environment and each other. She creates works for art galleries and theatre settings, as well as directing unusual site-specific projects for places such as Modernist tower blocks and heritage castles.


Doors open 10.30 for an 11am start.
St. Andrew’s Church, Waterloo Street, Hove, BN3 1AQ.

November 24th – Lend a Hand

Sunday Assembly Brighton is a godless congregation which meets once a month to hear guest speakers, sing brilliant songs and have more fun than is strictly appropriate for a Sunday morning…

There’s also tea & cake, and what’s more, it’s free!

Our ambition is to inspire you, and us, to live better, help often and wonder more.

The theme for November is “Lend a Hand”. The guest speaker is our very own psychologist, Dr. Anita Marsden.

Doors open 10.30 for an 11am start.
St. Andrew’s Church, Waterloo Street, Hove, BN3 1AQ.