What are your services like if you don’t pray? What’s the point of services without God?
The value of any religious or spiritual communal gathering comes from the people who are gathered there, not from God. It comes from the beliefs they hold and the morals they live by. Coming together as a community allows us to meet new people and form lasting relationships with people who share our worldview and ethical values. More than finding like minded people though, communities provide support, inspiration, encouragement, intellectual enrichment, ethical accountability, and a challenge to grow.
In our services, we gather to give voice to the most important beliefs and moral values in our lives. We remind ourselves of everything we believe to be of utmost significance, and challenge ourselves to live up to our highest ideals. Our gatherings are times to celebrate, reflect, and meditate. We do this in a variety of ways: silent and guided meditations, study and discussion, poetry, prose, and music.
A typical service for our havurah takes about one hour and follows this general format:
- Welcome and Opening meditation
- Poetry or prose readings and music
- A meditation on oneness, either a poem or prose reading (rather than reciting the Shema, which declares the unity of God, we read something that reflects on the unity of life, the universe, or humanity) followed by a Humanistic interpretation of the V’ahavta prayer
- A guided meditation based on the themes of the Amidah followed by silent meditation
- A period of study and discussion
- Participants are invited to share joys and concerns from the past week
- Poem or prose reading
- Loving-kindness (Metta) guided meditation
- Refu’ah Shleimah – expressing our hope for the healing of anyone who is sick
- Memorial for departed and alternative Mourners’ Kaddish
- Concluding exhortation to donate/volunteer for worthy causes as able
- Closing poem or prose reading
- Community announcements, if any
- Secular blessings for wine/juice and bread
“Celebration is the humanist alternative to ritual. Celebration is the act of dramatizing our commitments to people and ideas. It helps us to focus on what is most important in our lives, on what is worthy of our energy and enthusiasm. We have to say aloud what we already believe in order to fully understand it and to establish a connection with those who share our convictions.”Rabbi Sherwin Wine, Celebration: A Ceremonial and Philosophic Guide for Humanists and Humanistic Jews