Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Sunday Assembly High Wycombe... our second coming...

Well, we managed to pull it off again, but not without an element of stress. Here is how it played out, based on my report submitted to Sunday Assembly International...

It's Friday night before our second ever Assembly, the High Wycombe Sunday Assembly organisers Facebook group jolts into life,

“You know it's remembrance Sunday, what are we going to do about the 2 minute silence at 11am”. This seems like a minor problem, we delay the start, put something respectful on the screen, explain sensitively to people as they come in... The irony that we forgot Remembrance day is not lost on us.

A new Facebook notification comes in...

“And you know we meet right opposite the War Memorial...” Yes, our venue could not be closer to the town War Memorial, it was as if the cafe had been built in that location especially for its wonderful views of the memorial.

A hasty rearrangement of the schedule takes place, we can't be singing “Don't Stop Me Now” while those outside are respectfully remembering the dead. We will start later, we can do talky stuff at the start, we can move songs to later, yeah, this can work, no problem.

Sunday comes, we apprehensively share breakfast together at a local restaurant, we make our way over to the venue, will the roads be packed with people? No, we are lucky, just a few people milling around, this is OK, some people will gather for the silence then disperse, we can start at five past 11 and all will be well.

Except that the pavement outside fills up with people, and the road outside fills up with people, a PA system is turned out outside, trumpeters turn up, brass bands turn up, a military march of uniformed soldiers goes past. Veterans with their medals descend on the area right outside the cafe we meet in, only separated by a pane of glass

Our speaker for the morning texts me “Just walking past a roadblock, amazing, didn't know you would attract so many people”, this made me smile... for a short time.

The church bells die out, signifying that it is eleven, we have just about got our equipment inside in time, we display the word 'Remember' on the screen, Twenty-five of us sit, some respectfully, some awkwardly. The silence ends with a trumpet, but the tone outside remains respectful, people don't float away as we expected, no, there are wreaths to lay, prayers to say, and for us this means a delay.

It is twenty past, people are happily chatting to each other, some cake has even been passed around, actually this is what it is all about, but it was not the plan, and when something is not the plan it feels uncomfortable. We need to start, we cancel a song from the running order, we tell our speaker his talk will be up first, people can't complain outside about someone talking, surely?

Our hosts start the service, they explain what Sunday Assembly is all about, we have a reading, an announcement that we will be singing our first song. THIS IS NOT THE NEW PLAN! WE CANCELLED THE SONG! We quickly find the slides for the song, BUT WE CANCELLED THE SONG!

I turn and look outside, and, like a miracle has happened, the crowd has totally dispersed, there are no old men with medals, the wreaths are laid, not a trumpeter in sight, and inexplicably there is an ambulance outside taking any attention away of noise we might be making.

We sing the first song, Our speaker gives an amazing talk., we have our very own moment of silence, we finish at 12.15 and have a very fast clear up, we go to the pub and have a lovely time. We all knew that it would be ok in the end, didn't we? Yes, never a doubt, never a doubt.

Do join us for our next Assembly on the 13th December! www.facebook.com/WycombeSundayAssembly/

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