The Interfaith Contact Group
The Brighton & Hove Interfaith Contact Group

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For the Love of Our City

November 18, 2020
Ours is a City with a strong sense of its own identity. It’s a City that wants to look after its own. Most of us live here by choice, and that is a great privilege. But maybe what makes Brighton and Hove so special is the diversity of its citizens. People come here from all over the world to live and work, and we warmly welcome them.

This Sunday we would have held our Annual Interfaith Service, but lockdown stopped all that. I believed it would have been our 10th Interfaith Service, but a long standing member of the IFCG wrote to me saying: “The interfaith services go back to the late 1980s, when they were being organised by an informal group that would reconvene each year to organise a service (each year hosted by a different faith community or tradition) and then disband. Each year the convener would contact people again through their details maintained on the group’s contact list, which is why the IFCG was originally called a Contact Group when the group decided not to disband but to stay permanently in touch as the IFCG from the mid-1990s onwards I know the format of these services has changed over the years. Maybe that’s why they’re being recounted. The first one I recall attending was hosted by the Sussex University Chaplaincy in 1992. There’s a possibility (although this is just a guess) that the first service in Brighton & Hove was in 1987 So, maybe the IFCG should be ‘boasting’ of thirty years of interfaith services in our city. Thank you so much Peter Sharrock for putting me right.

We will be releasing a film to replace our Annual Interfaith Service next week, meantime I would like to offer you words of homage to our fair City. Firstly a sensational work by an infamous atheist – Philip Larkin and his nostalgic poem To the Sea. Secondly and in great contrast some unusual blessings, thirdly a selection of Buddhist readings and finally a Tribute to Our City in Lockdown.
Very best wishes,
Anthea
Chair IFCG

TO THE SEA
Philip Larkin

To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before—
The miniature gaiety of seasides.
Everything crowds under the low horizon:
Steep beach, blue water, towels, red bathing caps,
The small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse
Up the warm yellow sand, and further off
A white steamer stuck in the afternoon—

Still going on, all of it, still going on!
To lie, eat, sleep in hearing of the surf
(Ears to transistors, that sound tame enough
Under the sky), or gently up and down
Lead the uncertain children, frilled in white
And grasping at enormous air, or wheel
The rigid old along for them to feel
A final summer, plainly still occurs
As half an annual pleasure, half a rite,

As when, happy at being on my own,
I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers,
Or, farther back, my parents, listeners
To the same seaside quack, first became known.
Strange to it now, I watch the cloudless scene:
The same clear water over smoothed pebbles,
The distant bathers’ weak protesting trebles
Down at its edge, and then the cheap cigars,
The chocolate-papers, tea-leaves, and, between

The rocks, the rusting soup-tins, till the first
Few families start the trek back to the cars.
The white steamer has gone. Like breathed-on glass
The sunlight has turned milky. If the worst
Of flawless weather is our falling short,
It may be that through habit these do best,
Coming to the water clumsily undressed
Yearly; teaching their children by a sort
Of clowning; helping the old, too, as they ought.

 

UNUSUAL BLESSINGS

From a 16th Century Sampler

 

God bless all those that love;
God bless all those that love me
God bless all those that love those that I love
And all those that love those that love me.

Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people so that you will work for justice, equality and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.

Irish Blessing

May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

 

 

FOUR BUDDHIST READINGS

 

Being Peace
Thich Nhat Hanh

If we are peaceful,
If we are happy,
We can smile and blossom like a flower.
And everyone in our family,
Our entire society,
Will benefit
From our peace.

 

Offering the Mandala
Tibetan Prayer

Here is the great Earth,
Filled with the smell of incense,
Covered with a blanket of flowers,
The Great Mountain, the Four Continents,
Wearing a jewel of the Sun and Moon.
In my mind I make them the Paradise of a Buddha,
And offer it all to You.
By this deed, may every living being
Experience the Pure World.

 

Sky Is Free
Anam Thubten Rinpoche

Sky is free.
Ocean is blissful.
Trees are divine.
Rocks are enlightened.
So are we.
Who is still searching….
For what?

 

Prayer For Youth
Anon

May the children of the world grow constantly
In spiritual awareness and peace consciousness.
May more and more young people each day
Find the wisdom of simply being and awakening.
May we all find the alert stillness of our Buddha natures.

 

 

TRIBUTE TO A CITY IN LOCKDOWN

Between the Downs and sea
The promenade
Is just a little quieter
Then she used to be

The ripples come and go
Leaving memories of sickly sweeties
Babes in the Wood
Silver scooters, pink floss

Summer’s over
Here and in Regency
Those classical curves
Home to drug dealers and princesses
Seem strangely silent

But then one day
The sliding pebbles
And the rustling shore
Gave us a promise…

Music will play again
The bandstand and the pavements
Will throng with students, families
Bubbles, cars, steam-punk fun
Greenhouse-gasses, bracing ozone

It’s a tough call for a City
Full of stars, sunlight and laughter
To go quiet
To switch off the lights
Turning day to night

But when the ripples recall
The memory of it all
Join me on the pier
We’ll walk on the gentle side
Celebrating our difference
Making dreams reality
Good people, all sorts,
Strong in faith and none
People of attitude, sacred
A City of two parts and one
Brighton and Hove
Singing and winging
Blessing each and every one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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