What would be appropriate ceremonies for a secular church? A secular church is one founded on a rational human relationship with the world as we can understand it, and not upon beliefs which must be taken on pure faith because they can not be substantiated by consistently replicable experiences. The secular ceremonies should give honor to some aspect of our world and give the participants a feeling of a closer and more meaningful bond. These could be specific purposeful routines which would help the individuals see their interconnectedness with everything and with the specific subject of a given ceremony.
The UU church of Central Oregon had a brief ceremony last week where each person brought a flower from home and placed it in a vase on the altar before the regular service began. It was intended as a tiny symbolic gift to the community as a whole, and then at the end of the service each person came up and retrieved a different flower which was accepted as a gift from the community to them personally. It is a wonderfully simple ceremony and yet it gives a lovely boundary to these people. It has the effect of binding them together. It is emotionally light-hearted, it is economically trivial, it places an invisible opening and closure to an invisible but easily remembered inner event for each of those people.
This ceremony illustrates that a significant religious event need not appeal to an external supernatural entity of any sort to be meaningful and powerful. Will it be possible to create such a wonderful an event for every service of the year? There are certainly more than fifty-two clearly definable qualities of our human condition that could and should have a special remembrance dedicated to them. For example there could be an Origin remembrance dedicated to the creation of the Universe. Then several more pre-animate events, each dedicated to a major event in our cosmic history and moving on through to the origins of our species, our agriculture, our early technical achievements and right on through the present and on into the remote future. Perhaps one per month of those type of natural events would be appropriate. There could also be remembrances of the multitudes of people whom we shall never encounter who in their combinations provide us with everything we hold dear. Perhaps those people were simply working to earn a living for themselves and to support their family and yet without their past and perhaps continuing efforts our world would be diminished. We could somehow acknowledge to our fellow participants our realization of these simple but obvious facts of our dependence on others.
The question then becomes, how can we acknowledge and make real and participatory for every individual these observations? The previously mentioned flower exchange ceremony brought these various ideas together and made these almost insignificant things into symbolically meaningful ones, and physically real objects of no particular meaning were converted into meaningfully coherent life-changing experiences. That is the goal: to change personal habits from daily routine activities into events for the realization of the exciting reasons we are even existing.