Catriona and others have drawn attention to the wonderful resource for contemporary spirituality that is the Community of the Beaker Folk at Husbourne Crawley. The recent post on Comparative Religious (sic) I: Modern Christian Songs (my personal favourite is Section 3, question 1: "I want to be out of my depth in your love". How deep, in your opinion, would be sufficient?) is excellent and thought provoking.
However those in need of more extensive exposure to the riches of this community should investigate the Beaker Common Prayer. I hope my good friends in the UCA will forgive me for noting that there are some expressions of worship in the Uniting Church that come very close to this (as, for the record, was also the case in my previous workplace).Here is Archdruid Eileen on the foundational principles of the commnity:
I can share these three fragments of truth with you. Because let’s face it, they’ve made me happy. So why shouldn’t they make you happy as well? And they are these.
Secret 1 - People want to feel good in religion. They want to feel connected to the Ultimate – whatever that represents. Oh yeah, there’s a few that really like to feel bad – who bash themselves over the head with guilt, see the darkness of what some call sin, and the challenges of temptation - and make everyone else around them feel the same way. But who wants to hang around with them? They’re just depressing. The ones who want to feel a connection with the Divine – they don’t necessarily want to be challenged. They just want to feel good.
Secret 2 - Retreat centres are amazing places. People go there and you can offer them plain food, give them menial tasks to do (tell them it’s "discipline"), just leave them to their own devices (and call it "space"). And then you charge them a fortune. Just like my old school.
Secret 3 - It’s not good enough to let people discover themselves. People have to go abroad to learn news of home. If you offer them the good old Church of England, they’ll think of musty hassocks and dodgy cassocks and stay at home of a Sunday morning. But offer them Celtic Christianity and they’ll hear the wind blowing over the heather and the waves crashing on Iona’s shores. You can tell them to listen to the "whisper of the Wild Goose" – as if wild geese whisper. They honk. But never mind, if it keeps the punters happy tell you can tell them that wild geese sing 15th century madrigals. Let people sing in Latin and they won’t understand it and they’ll be released from their mundane lives. Tell them it’s Primeval Mystic Truth, discovered by the Ancients, and they’ll swallow anything you want to feed them. Tell them it’s primeval spiritualism, and brings you one-ness with the universe, and they’ll give you all their money.
And here is my favourite liturgy
And here is my favourite liturgy
Winter Solstice Eve is held at a really good time of day. It means we can get all our worshipping in early and then have the evening off. We celebrate the end of the Beaker year prior to the New Year’s celebrations that occur in a few hours’ time.
Sunset on Solstice Eve in Husborne Crawley is generally round about 4pm. The Beaker Folk are always reminded to be there sharp. This isn't one of those occasions when you can turn up late and wait for the worship to "warm up". It’ll just all be over.
The Gathering in Apprehension
Shivering in the cold of the Winter Air, but glowing in their orange hi-viz, the Beaker People gather on Aspley Heath.
"Raise your banners high. Don't die, Sun - don't die!" (repeat 12 times, in growing despair)
Looking to the South-East in Silence
All: "Is that the sun down there or is it just the floodlights from the Amazon warehouse?"
The Archdruid remembers that the sun sets in the other direction.
Looking to the South-West in Silence.
At the precise time of sunset, the Solstice Fire is lit from the eternal flame. An appropriate song (for example, "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles) may be played.
"Let the flames burn high - Goodbye, Sun - Goodbye!" (repeat 12 times, growing gradually sadder)
Hnaef: Does anyone have a lighter? The Eternal Flame seems to have gone out...
As it grows darker, panic may spread among the congregation. The Gibbon Moon folk, generally of an excitable nature, lose it completely and run off into the woods, howling with fear
Archdruid: Darkness falls and the night is with us. The year is dead.
Young, keen and generally stupid Beaker Folk may leap over the Solstice Fire, once Hnaef has finally lit it, in an age-old and traditional ritual. Those whose hi-viz vests catch fire are doused with water from the Safety Beakers.
The lighting of the Bling
Archdruid: OK, Hnaef - flick the switch
The Orchard is illuminated with the light of a thousand suns, as Santas, Snowmen, inflatable Alan Carrs, flashing lights, Singing Ringing Tree, dancing penguins, a sleigh and about a million blue LED icicles blaze into view. The congregation may go "Aaah".
Archdruid: Off you go, then. Don’t forget – the midnight ritual is at midnight.
All: Isn’t this where we came in?