Secular Liturgies is the annual publication of the Secular Liturgies Network and Forum. The first edition will be published in the Autumn of 2019. Please see our call for submissions below. The best submissions to the blog will be brought together in Secular Liturgies 2019 and distributed as an online magazine/journal.
Defining secular liturgy
Secular liturgies are writings, and other liturgical expressions such as ritual, meditation and art forms, which are read (or take place) at secular private or public gatherings. They explore, celebrate and convey the secular values of compassion, truth, freedom, equality, courage, tolerance and responsibility. They also seek to capture and communicate, in creative ways, the latest information and research that can help us to advance well-being and alleviate suffering.
The Network’s definition of liturgy is very broad. Whilst it more obviously includes writings and readings, which are morally and/or intellectually instructive, it also includes words and activities, which are indirectly helpful to us, for example, by creating spaces for reflection or socialisation, or by defining rituals which instil healthy habits, practical wisdom, critical thinking and so forth. A story, a poem, a dance, the process of painting a picture, a journey, a piece of music, a period of silence, and even the shipping forecast- these may all be described as liturgy!
In addition to liturgies for secular events, we are also keen to explore the possibility of integrating liturgies and liturgical moments into everyday life. Liturgies often define the values, goals and cultural identity of groups, from the tattoos and graffiti of youth subcultures to word-art in the homes and workplaces of the aspirational classes. We will be exploring how our secular liturgies on the Nine Themes, and elements of our liturgical events, might be incorporated into our home, working and leisure environments.
A call for creative contributions
Join us in this exciting and experimental process of writing secular liturgy and choreographing innovative liturgical events along the Nine Themes.
Send us your secular liturgical extracts, poetry, short stories, personal accounts and other creative nonfiction, short dramatic scripts/extracts, short films, art-works, music and cultural heritage content/objects.
Submit articles relating cutting-edge academic research in areas relevant to the SLN&F.
Share your suggestions for readings, from novels, poetry, works of philosophy and other literature.
Contribute ideas for activities that may be integrated into secular liturgical events e.g.meditations, community feasts, tea ceremonies, dance routines, multimedia, art exhibitions, songs and other musical compositions.
Please send your submissions to Anastasia at email@example.com
The Nine Themes
Our nine themes for liturgical writing and liturgical events are:
1. Critical Thinking – truth, evidence, research, excellent science, responsibility
2. Good Life – character, empathy, wisdom, courage, virtue, kindness, compassion
3. Good Society – social justice, human rights, individual freedom, equality, democracy
4. Sustainability – our place in nature, green lifestyles, religious naturalism, biophilia
5. Health and Well-being – reflection, meditation, mindfulness, socialisation
6. Big Culture – cultural exchange, diversity, comparative philosophy/religion
7. Community – companionship, relationships, humour, fun, friendship
8. Life-Cycles – birth and coming of age celebrations, weddings, funerals
9. Seasons – annual and seasonal events following a secular calendar
While we use the term ‘secular liturgy’ in a broad sense, and sometimes in a metaphorical one, we do also welcome contributions of actual liturgical material and will collect these scripts and make them available to the general public for life cycle, annual and other events.
Below are two extracts of secular liturgy to illustrate the diversity of forms. The first is an extract of liturgy, which could be used at a coming of age celebration, or at a re-affirmation of vows ceremony, or it could simply be used within a liturgy and liturgical event choreographed for regular communal use.
Twelve Vows for Life
1. I shall be faithful to the principles of liberty, equality and sustainability.
2. I shall take time to rest and contemplate the beauty of the Earth and its inhabitants.
3. I shall study the brave, noble and kindly acts of my fellow humans, both my peers and my predecessors, and take inspiration from them.
4. I shall honour my family with gratitude and loving-kindness, and I shall be a comfort to my friends, knowing the richness that brings.
5. I shall be forgiving and compassionate towards others, since all of us are flawed, fellow-sufferers in a troubled world, dependent upon one another for our survival and flourishing. I shall do so from gratitude, since so many have been generous towards me.
6. I shall be compassionate towards other animals and the Earth, for they too sustain and enrich my life.
7. I shall work to bring justice, healing and peace to humanity and the Earth, and I shall refrain from doing harm.
8. I shall endeavour to pursue noble goals with diligence and care, so that I may make a valuable contribution to the world, and so that I may set a courageous example for others.
9. I shall speak kindly of others and truthfully of myself.
10. I shall respect the person and possessions of others, being honest in all my dealings.
11. I shall always seek the truth, by studying the evidence, listening to others, and taking time to come to my conclusions and judgments. I shall not ignore evidence I do not like, or seek out or invent evidence, which appears to confirm my own assumptions, or which advances my own interests, and which is a deliberate attempt to mislead others.
12. I shall be content with what I have, rejoicing in the success of others, while working hard to better myself.
A Secular ‘Prayer’ for Healing (inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals)
As fellow sufferers in a troubled world, we come together in solidarity, with all who long for good health, for peace, for forgiveness, for comfort, for love, for reunion, for kindness, and for hope.
For those who long for the healing of their bodies, we work to create cultures and environments that are conducive to our physical health and well-being, and we work to alleviate all pain and suffering.
For those who long for the healing of their thoughts and emotions, we work to create cultures and environments that are conducive to healthy, peaceful minds, and we work to provide services to assist people in their recovery from mental illness.
For those who long for the healing of their relationships, we work to restore healthy relationships through mediation, forgiveness and reconciliation.
For the victims of religious and political oppression, armed conflict, crime, torture and exploitation, we work to achieve liberty and human rights for all. We uphold the rule of law and universal access to justice. We work for inclusive and peaceful societies, and for effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. We seek lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity, by reducing the flow of illicit arms, by bringing developing countries into the centre of institutions of global governance, and by strengthening global partnerships for justice, peace and sustainable development.
For those consumed by poverty and hunger, we work to achieve a fair distribution of wealth and equal opportunities for all, for greater co-operation between nations, for sustainable agriculture, optimal nutrition and a living wage for all.
For those without access to knowledge, we work to ensure that every child has a high quality and equitable education, regardless of gender and place of birth, and we endeavour to provide lifelong learning opportunities for all.
For all who are unemployed or unhappily employed, we work for an inclusive and sustainable economy, for full productive employment and decent work for all, and for an end to forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. We work to build a resilient infrastructure, and to ensure an inclusive and sustainable industrialisation that fosters innovation.
For those subject to discrimination, stereotyping and stigmatisation, we work to build societies without prejudice, where no one is judged according to a single facet of their identity, such as the colour of their skin, their gender, their faith or their sexuality.
For seas ravaged by pollution and plundering, we work to conserve our oceans, seas and marine resources, and to use them intelligently for sustainable development.
For lands ravaged by pollution and plundering, we work to protect and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and the sustainable management of forests, to combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and bring an end to the loss of biodiversity.
For the climate and ecosystems which have been altered by humankind, we work to restore clean, diverse environments, and to provide reliable, sustainable, clean and affordable energy for all. We work to build inclusive, safe and resilient human settlements and cities, with sustainable consumption and production, and designed with our well-being as the priority.
Moment of Silence
We strive to grow in empathy and understanding, in kindness and compassion, in patience and a slowness to judge. We seek to know the truth and to find it in others.
(This one can also be a Call and Response, with the sections read by different people and the last part in bold spoken in unison by a ‘congregation’.)
© Anastasia E. Somerville-Wong