Historically, communities and movements have been drawn together by a shared sense of purpose and mission; a common set of values. As we build our Sunday Assembly community here in Nottingham we have given much thought to our own shared values, to the ‘glue’ that binds us together. We are a close knit group with a core of activists who have been together since the beginning, so there are strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie to bind us together. But what about new members coming into the community? What group ethos can we offer them to give them a sense of belonging and to enrich their lives – as well as that of the community?
A Common Vision
Traditional churches and religious groups are drawn together by a common belief in certain supernatural events and ideas. Other secular groups have a shared political vision or cultural creed. The Sunday Assembly doesn’t have this, so it is all the more important to develop a set of shared values that act as a marker of who we are. My experience of both religious and secular organisations is that while social bonds of friendship and community are strong, the underlying unity comes from the core ideology. Take that away and the community disintegrates.
Looking to the future
Our vision for the Nottingham Sunday Assembly is to be a strong, life-affirming community that thrives and grows for many years. I look forward to the first Nottingham SA weddings, child naming ceremonies and to celebrating important anniversaries. Sad as it may seem, even remembrance services for deceased members are a sign of continuity and community strength, as we celebrate the passages of life and a new generation shapes the community in their own image.
These events all lie in the future. For now, we have been discussing the shared values that will enable it to happen. In the Assembly this month we celebrated the theme of ‘values’. It was a warm and intimate service, held the day after Valentine’s Day. The talk, songs and readings all prompted us to think about our own values, and how we work in conjunction with others.
I would like to close by sharing the reading from the service, which is from ‘My Creed’ by Robert Ingersoll.
to love mercy,
to pity the suffering, to assist the weak,
to forget wrongs and remember benefits,
to love the truth, to be sincere,
to utter honest words, to love liberty,
to wage relentless war
against slavery in all its forms,
to love family and friend,
to make a happy home,
to love the beautiful in art, in nature,
to cultivate the mind,
to be familiar with the mighty thoughts
that genius has expressed,
the noble deeds of all the world;
to cultivate courage and cheerfulness,
to make others happy,
to fill life with the splendor of generous acts,
the warmth of loving words;
to discard error, to destroy prejudice,
to receive new truths with gladness,
to cultivate hope,
to see the calm beyond the storm,
the dawn beyond the night,
to do the best that can be done
and then be resigned.
This is the religion of reason,
the creed of science.
This satisfies the brain and the heart.