by Paul Harrison
I don’t believe we should lay down any strict form of “service.” The belief statement says (§9) that pantheists should be free to express their beliefs “in any ritual or symbolic form that is meaningful to them.” It’s probable that more than one tradition or form of expression will emerge, with room for those who prefer to dress up as well as for those who prefer to lie in a circle on their backs, gazing at the milky way and those who prefer philosophical discussions like John Toland ‘s secret pantheist society.
But I think we do need a suggested format. This can only be suggested. But without it, the whole thing could get too amorphous, with no clear image for members or outsiders.
We need a form of meeting that embodies what we are about. What are we about? Love of nature, awe for the universe, curiosity, vitality, affirmation. We need rituals that express our feelings and that deepen those feelings.
The eventual suggested form of meeting will be the result of a process of consultation and decision, based on ideas and on real experiments by individual groups.
For myself, I imagined that meetings would be mainly in a natural open-air setting or in homes. There would often be picnics and outings into nature. Some outline suggestions follow in the pages on meeting formats and the pantheist calendar .
What should our meetings be called? I favour Pantheist circles, for symbolic reasons and because if we congregate as circles, there is no hierarchy. There is nothing worse than a congregation where everyone is sitting in rows looking at the back of the heads of the people in front, facing the lectern so they can listen to the same preacher droning on every week – even if they’re talking about loving life and nature rather than loving Jesus, it will still become a drone after a couple of weeks, because it is unnatural for humans to sit passively. From week to week as many people as possible should take turns at leading. That is liberating and educating.
- Typical format of meeting
- Topics for the yearly cycle
- A Pantheist Calendar
- Example: meetings of the Rome group
- Other comments from the scientific pantheism mailing list