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This is an important time of year for the Jewish and Pagan communities. The Jewish New Year took place on September 18th (the year 5781). Then the most sacred of Jewish holy days was celebrated on Sunday 27th – Yom Kippur, which ended on Monday, 28th. For the Pagan community yesterday, Tuesday 22nd was the time of the Autumn Equinox, the moment when both the Sun illuminated the Northern and Southern hemispheres equally, and day and night were of equal length. Autumn is now with us. We see the season and feel it, and some of us celebrate it.
At the Brighton & Hove Progressive Synagogue 28 households that were unable to share on-line sacred ceremonies, were given a gift from volunteers and Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah. Honey cake, baked by helpers, apples and honey, a card, also a booklet, containing the Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur sermons with reflections by Rabbi Elli. Sacred moments are very special, and we are reminded of this in our film Light in the Lockdown, when Ramadan took place during April and May. Spiritual awareness, love and respect for each other are important at the height of this cruel pandemic.
We open Words of Connection with a Pagan Autumn Equinox prayer, chosen by Lyn Baylis. We follow this with a poem entitled Closing the Circle by the American poet and environmental activist – Wendell Berry. This is followed by a truly great poem – To Autumn by John Keats. We close with two prayers – one is an Autumn prayer, the author is unknown, the other is by Jenny Dyer, the Methodist superintendent minister at Stoke on Trent, submitted by Charlotte Gravestock.
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The wheel turns and the harvest is safely gathered in, and will be stored to sustain life during the forthcoming winter, providing the seed to guarantee future harvests.This is a time of balance, when day and night are equal, and we reflect on seasons past and those to come, looking within to find a balance which we can extend into our daily lives.
The fruiting is over,
The harvest safely gathered in.
Let us give thanks
To Old Ones of this land
And to all who have worked so hard
And brought about this bounty
Where there is darkness
May we find light
Where there is despair
May we find hope
Let us find within a balance
That will be reflected throughout our lives
As we feel our connection to the earth,
And through it our connection to our true self.
May we walk towards the darkness of winter
Knowing peace, love and harmony within,
So that we may share these gifts
With all mankind and all living beings.
May the love of the Old Ones
Bring peace back to the world.
CLOSING THE CIRCLE
Within the circle of our lives
we dance the circle of the years,
the circles of the seasons
within the circles of the years,
the cycles of the moon
within the circles of the season,
the circles of our reasons
within the cycles of the moon.
Again, again we come and go,
changed, changing. Hands
join, unjoin in love and fear,
grief and joy. The circles turn,
each giving into each, into all.
Only music keeps us here,
each by all the others held.
In the hold of hands and eyes
we turn in pairs, that joining
joining each to all again.
And then we turn aside, alone,
out of the sunlight gone
into the darker circles of return.
John Keats (1795 – 1821)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
O God of Creation
You have blessed us with the changing of the seasons.
As we welcome the autumn months,
may the earlier setting of the sun
remind us to take time to rest.
May the glorious colours of autumn’s leaves
remind us of the wonder of your creation.
May the steam of our breath in the cool air
remind us, that it is you who give us the breath of life.
May the harvest from the fields remind us of all we have been given, so we may share it with others.
May the dying of summer’s spirit be a gentle reminder,
That death is temporary and life is eternal.
And so we give thanks.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Jenny Dyer, Methodist superintendent minister, Stole-on-Trent
Light of the World,
you shine for me always,
whether I am strutting my stuff in the footlights
or caught like a rabbit in the headlights;
when lightning strikes twice in the same place,
or all the lights go out.
Draw me in to your firelight,
search my heart with your candlelight,
may I live in your
until every dark place in my soul is illumined by you.