1. "Baptism" or
"Welcome for recent arrivals to the planet."
In the Church of the Eternal Question we keep a close eye on recent arrivals to the planet. We do this because we reckon that they carry with them clues to the answer to the eternal question. We reckon that their memories may still be fresh from a previous reality and we have to listen carefully for signals. We reckon that as they stay with us, these memories gradually disappear, after extended exposure to this reality. So, in the early stages, we have to observe carefully for unadulterated information or clues. You have to do this by observing indirectly. If you give too much attention, they become self-conscious and forget the raw data. If you listen sideways, it works much better.
In the Church of the Eternal Question, when a child arrives on the planet, we welcome it with a ceremony which is not dissimilar to the baptisms practised by many christian churches. In this ceremony we issue to the child the two basic essentials which we in the Church of Eternal Question reckon every human being needs for a passage through this reality. The first is a copy of the Church of Eternal Question Prayer book, available, on sale, at quality bookshops and newsagents everywhere. The other is, of course, a 5 string banjo. (Incidentally. also available through the church franchise at a very reasonable price - the ceremony itself is available, inclusive of Prayer Book and banjo, for an all in fee of only £999, plus VAT.)
procedure is as follows:
The parents are invited to come in to the chapel where three chairs are placed. A church dignitary welcomes them. They are invited to seat their child on one of the chairs and then to seat themselves on the others. The dignitary informs them that it is important to remember that what s/he is actually doing is addressing the child, and that they, the parents, are there to observe, over see, and assure fair play.
The first thing the dignitary does is to pass to the parents, the hymn book and the banjo. These are not for the parents themselves. They are to be held in trust by the parents until the child reaches maturity, at which point, of course, they revert to the child. Then the dignitary reads to the child the following piece which endeavours to define the common understanding.
Dignitary reads: "The Common Understanding
The Common Understanding
is the fund of knowledge
into which we are born;
from which we spring
on our journeys through
The beauty of the Common Understanding
it is assembled over many centuries
by ultimately selfless people...
In their journeys through human consciousness
many people forget the indefinable nature
of the task facing them....
They forget that they are here to learn
and to contribute...
In the course of this forgetting
many of us become petty and selfish...
But this only lasts a short time
because people die
and in this ultimately selfless act
they leave behind
whatever they have learned or discovered
in their journeys...
The sum total of all these
that those of us still journeying
can remember or record
is the Common Understanding....
The sum total
of these recorded or remembered discoveries
becomes the best answer
that we, through the generations,
to the question
"Why are we here....?"
"But it is the question, not the vast panoply of
answers, which unites us,
and that we commend to you, here, today.
The vast panoply of answers have their own distinct, albeit subjective,
elements of grace and beauty,
but it is the question that brings us together.
It is the question that puts us all in the same boat.
It is the question that makes us brothers and sisters.
So, .......................let that be a lesson to you.
if I could just add,
with every ounce
of my being
and every particle
of my soul...
(reaches slowly for baby's hand, then shakes)
Respectable dignitary concludes the ceremony with words of congratulation all round and heads for the sandwiches and punch (to be provided by the child's family).
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2. "Wedding Ceremony."
After words of Welcome from a highly
respected Church Dignitary, s/he leads the congregation in a short prayer.
Dignitary says, congregation repeats:
a gift of consciousness.
From whom I don't know.
To whom I don't know.
But, a gift nevertheless.
All the others are like me,
gifts of consciousness.
Like me, they haven't a clue
about what's going on.
But I admire them
as I admire me
for carrying on
in the face of the impossibility
of ever finding out.
It is my purpose
to assume responsibility
for my passage through this reality,
to learn what I can,
to act where I can upon that learning,
and to deal with my death when it comes.
Should it ever
that I meet the entity or entities
behind all this,
I shall demand
a very comprehensive
Respectable dignitary carries on as follows:
"As the universe explodes, we drift on this particle, Earth, knowing that our role as an intelligent life form is becoming more and more inexplicable. As we learn that we are not the centre of the universe, we come to know that our function as a life force has apparently less and less significance in whatever order towards which the universe is moving....
In the face of this knowledge, we must embark upon our mission of embracing life and intelligence....
In the face of the disintegrating nature of everything around us, we must move towards integrating....
In the face of the impossibility of developing a stable rationale, we must move towards developing a stable rationale....
In the face of the futility of moving towards and the impossibility of arriving at a specific goal, we must learn to appreciate that it is the direction in which we move, rather than the point of arrival, which is of greater importance....
In the face of this knowledge, this
certainty that arrival is out of the question,
we must also take account of the "scale of coincidences".
The first coincidence is that, against infinite odds, life occurred.
The second coincidence is that, against infinite odds, out of life, consciousness emerged.
The third coincidence is that, against infinite odds, out of life and consciousness, intelligence emerged.
The fourth coincidence is that, against infinite odds, out of life and consciousness and intelligence, capacity for pleasure emerged.
The fifth coincidence is that, against infinite odds, out of life and consciousness and intelligence and pleasure, love emerged.
The sixth coincidence is that, against infinite odds, out of life and consciousness and intelligence and pleasure and love, two human beings made eye contact, bonded, and decided to commit to each other."
Respectable dignitary leads bride & groom and bride & groom repeat as follows:
I, (name of bride/groom)
acknowledge the vastness of the universe
and I acknowledge the infinite unlikelihood
of overcoming the odds
against finding one other
with whom to bond full-on, at solar plexus level.
But I call upon those here assembled
to bear witness to my certainty
that I have found in this partner here
and to share with me
the inexpressible joy this has brought
and my hope that this feeling may proliferate
among humans in general
and among you here assembled in particular.
Respectable dignitary concludes the ceremony with words of congratulation all round and heads for the sandwiches and punch (to be provided by the groom's family).
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3. "Funeral Ceremony"
After words of Welcome from a highly respected Church Dignitary, s/he recites the following:
Good evening brothers and sisters. I have been invited here tonight to lead you in a short prayer, and to join with you in a brief remembrance of a passing sibling. I hope you donít mind, but I need to preface my remarks by explaining my particular attitude to "belief". I hope none of you will find it in any way off-putting. Certainly, I don't think Xxxx [the deceased] would.
My Church is the Church of the Eternal Question, the C of E ... Q. In the Church of the Eternal Question, we do not respect belief. This is because we do not, ourselves, believe. We simply reckon, and we reckon on the basis of information currently available. In the Church of the Eternal Question we reckon that the application of human intelligence to unquestioning obedience and uncritical rote learning, that the use of human imagination as a vehicle for unquestioning belief, is roughly equivalent to using an intergalactic star ship as a doorstop.
I donít know where Xxxx is now, but I reckon that I have a better idea of where s/he might be now than I have had for the past few days/weeks/months [period of illness]. And I reckon itís probably easier for him/her to observe and hear from us now than it has been during those past few days/weeks/months.
I also reckon, that we humans are not just individuals. It is ridiculous to think of a human being existing alone. It is a contradiction in terms. We are who we are, but perhaps even more so, we are also the communities and networks we create. Perhaps even more so, we exist in the minds and memories of the people within those communities and networks that we spend lifetimes creating.
And Xxxx created this community here present today. In this sense, Xxxx could be said to be very much with us, here, now, in our minds and memories. S/He is the common thread running through those of us here today, and through many others of us scattered across the globe. We are all parts of many communities, but today we are primarily members of this particular community which Xxxx has brought together in the course of his/her life.
At this point, I would like to recite an Irish folk song, a sort of a reel. It is addressed to Xxxx, but it is also addressed to that part of Xxxx which is here in each one of you, and perhaps especially to that part of Xxxx which is within his/her brothers/sisters/mother/father/children present here today.
It is a song for Xxxx, but it's also a song for the Xxxx community, a community that may have lost touch with itself and which, in a sense, may have felt abandoned by Xxxx since his/her illness began. So, it is, as well, a song for you.
However, I wondered if I could ask you not to look at me as I recite this, but to look away. You can close your eyes or look at your hands or look out the window. Just donít look at me. There will be pauses, but no looking up. And donít worry, I promise to say "thank you" at the end so youíll know itís finished.
Respectable dignitary recites as follows:
I been lovin you a long time
through all the years and all the days
and I've cried for all your troubles,
smiled at your familiar ways....
We watched our friends grow up together
and we saw them as they fell.
Some of them fell into heaven,
some of them fell into hellÖ.
Sometimes I wake up in the morning,
the ginger lady by my bed
covered in a cloak of silence
I hear you talkin in my head,
I hear you talkin in my head...
Iím not singin bout the future.
I'm not dreamin bout the past.
I'm not talkin bout the first time.
I never think about the lastÖ
Now this song it's nearly over,
may never find out what it means,
still there's a lot I hold before me,
but you're the measure of my dreams,
you're the measure of my dreams,
you're the measure of my dreamsÖ..
Respectable dignitary concludes the ceremony with words of congratulation all round and heads for the sandwiches and punch (to be provided by the deceased's family).
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If you would like to book a CofEQ ceremony for your special event - baptisms, weddings, funerals (or anything else) - please do not hesitate to contact us via email.