Saturday, 16 June 2012

Prague

Morag and I went to Prague last weekend. We went as guests of the Prague Unitarian Church, to help celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Prague congregation. Prague is a charming city - even my philistine eyes can see that - but it is full of tiny squares which make it impossible to negotiate for those (like me) who have no sense of direction. Fortunately, our hotel was only seconds away from the church and only minutes away from the astronomical clock, which was built no later than 1410 and is a wonder to behold.


We went to the Salvador Dali exhibition and I was particularly struck by his painting Fighting over a Dandelion, which just about sums up many of the conflicts throughout human history.


There's a tiny museum devoted to Johannes Kepler, and it honours Kepler the astrologer as well as Kepler the astronomer. Most people don't realise that he had a collection of over 800 horoscopes and wrote that, for all its imperfections, astrology 'compelled his unwilling belief'.


His horoscope shows Neptune rising in Gemini, giving him something of a mystical bent, and his astronomical-astrological interests are indicated by the conjunction of Mercury and Uranus in Capricorn. Unfortunately, Kepler wouldn't know about either Uranus or Neptune! Here are two versions of his chart - one in the old style 'square' format (which Kepler himself used) and in the more conventional circular style.




The Unitarian Church is not a beautiful building, but it couldn't be more centrally situated. It is on Karlova Street, just seconds away from the Charles Bridge and thousands pass it every day. Charles Bridge is full of highly entertaining buskers (we bought a DVD of a trad jazz band) and portrait painters.

On Sunday morning Morag and I attended the 90th birthday celebrations of the congregation, along with Rev. Mark Shiels (who leads the English speaking Unitarians in worship twice per month), Rev. Steve Dick, representing the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists,  Rev. Eric Cherry from the UUA, and a woman called Freya, representing German Unitarians. Dozens of 'virtual greetings' had been sent from all over the Unitarian world, and these were on display. The service itself was extraordinary. It was a 'flower communion', to honour Norbert Capek, the Czech Unitarian minister who devised the ceremony, and who died in Dachau in 1942. A large choir, half of which were Unitarians, and a group of musicians, sang and played a 'mass' which had been specially written for the occasion by the church's musical director. This was filmed and will no doubt be on the web soon. The sermon, which concerned 'tending one's own garden', was delivered in Czech by the minister, Rev. Petr Somjsky and an English translation was read by Rev. Mark Shiels. A splendid occasion. Morag and I felt very privileged to be invited.

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