The Wild Goose Chase

Part 2

Under the headline “Two mutilated Canada Geese found in Cardiff woodland”  Bird Guide reported on 22 March, 2003,  that a pair of mutilated Canada Geese has been discovered in the Fairwater area of the city.  The geese were hanging from separate trees and had been ‘paunched’, with all the potentially edible meat cut away. There was a large, yellow hazardous waste sack also present, containing feathers.

1  Care for creation

Geology, human history, and wildlife are interconnected and have influenced each other in various ways throughout time. Here’s a brief overview of their relationships which outline a knowledge framework that defines cultural ecology.  It is situated  in the context of a liturgy to celebrate humanity’s care for creation.  Understanding the interdisciplinary relationships between geology, human history, and wildlife is important for various disciplines, including geology, archaeology, anthropology, and biology. It helps us appreciate the complex interplay between the Earth’s geological processes, human civilizations, and the natural world.  Any animal is important for marking this interplay and geese offer particular advantages, 

Geese, especially during migration, may visit agricultural areas, including fields or farms, in search of food resources. This can lead to conflicts with farmers due to crop damage. In some cases, farmers may employ deterrent measures like noise-making devices or physical barriers to protect their crops,  Many wild geese find sanctuary in protected areas and wildlife refuges, where they are able to live undisturbed by human activities. These areas often provide suitable habitats for nesting, resting, and feeding. People can visit these areas for birdwatching and nature observation, following designated trails and guidelines to minimize disturbance to the geese and their habitats.  

In many urban and suburban areas, wild geese, particularly the Canada goose have adapted to human environments and can be frequently encountered in parks, golf courses, and other open spaces. These geese often interact with people in close proximity. Some people enjoy observing and feeding them, while others may find their presence bothersome due to droppings or aggressive behavior, especially during the nesting season. Local authorities and communities often implement management strategies to strike a balance between human and wildlife needs, including habitat modification, or egg addling programs.

2  A Secular Liturgy for a syllabus of hope.

The term “liturgy” traditionally refers to a formal religious or ceremonial order, often associated with specific religious traditions. As such, a liturgy is inherently connected to religious or spiritual practices. However, the concept of a “secular liturgy” has been explored and developed in some modern contexts, particularly in art, culture, and social movements.  In a secular context, a “liturgy” could be understood as a structured and ceremonial expression of shared values, principles, or ideals that are not based on religious beliefs. It would serve as a symbolic and communal ritual without religious connotations, meant to bring people together and create a sense of meaning, purpose, or unity.  For example, some environmental or ecological movements have adopted elements of a secular liturgy to celebrate and honor nature, wildlife, and the interconnectedness of all living beings. These ceremonies may incorporate poetic readings, music, dance, symbolic actions, and moments of reflection to emphasize the importance of environmental stewardship and a sense of oneness with the natural world.  Similarly, some secular humanist organizations have developed ceremonial events, often called “naming ceremonies,” “coming-of-age ceremonies,” or “celebrations of life,” to mark significant life events and transitions in a non-religious manner. These ceremonies can provide a structured way to mark important moments in life and reinforce shared values within the community.

While a secular liturgy may not have the same religious underpinnings as traditional liturgies, it can still serve the purpose of creating a shared and meaningful experience for individuals or communities in the material world, particularly in the context of the climate crisis. The main distinction lies in the absence of religious beliefs or deities, focusing instead on human values, ethical principles, and reverence for the natural world.  However, it is essential to recognize that the concept of a secular liturgy might be met with varying degrees of acceptance and controversy, as some may argue that certain elements of religious or spiritual practice are not easily separable from the idea of a liturgy.

In conclusion, while the term “secular liturgy” might be somewhat unconventional and not universally accepted, the idea of developing structured, symbolic ceremonies to celebrate shared values and interconnectedness in a non-religious context is indeed possible and has been explored in various secular movements.

The development of a local secular liturgy should be a living and evolving expression of shared values and aspirations, fostering a sense of meaning and belonging in nature for its participants.  The need for a liturgy, or a formal religious or ceremonial order of worship, to celebrate wildlife depends on individual beliefs, cultural practices, and the context in which the celebration takes place. In some religious or spiritual traditions, the natural world and wildlife hold significant value. These beliefs might include ideas of stewardship, interconnectedness, and questions about how the universe began. In such traditions, adherents may find meaning in creating liturgical rituals to honor and celebrate wildlife as part of their personal spiritual practice.

In certain cultures, wildlife has deep cultural significance, and ceremonies or rituals might be organized to pay homage to the animals and their role in the human ecosystem. These celebrations may not necessarily follow a strict liturgy, but they can still be deeply meaningful and important to the community.  In a broader context, celebrating wildlife can be a way to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote conservation efforts. People might come together for events, gatherings, or ceremonies focused on appreciating and protecting wildlife, without necessarily adopting a traditional liturgical structure.

Celebrating wildlife doesn’t always require a formal liturgy. Many individuals connect with nature and wildlife through personal practices like meditation, spending time in nature, or participating in activities that promote wildlife conservation.  Some societies or groups may organize secular events or festivals dedicated to wildlife without any religious connotations. These events can still serve the purpose of appreciating and preserving the natural world.

Ultimately, the need for a liturgy to celebrate wildlife depends on the context and the beliefs of the individuals or communities involved. Whether through formal ceremonies, cultural traditions, or secular events, celebrating wildlife can foster a deeper connection with nature and a greater understanding of the importance of acting  to  protect the natural world.

3  Creating a secular liturgy

A secular liturgy is a structured practice or ceremony that helps individuals or communities come together, connect with shared values or experiences, and find meaning and purpose outside of religious frameworks. It provides an opportunity for collective reflection, celebration, or remembrance, while encompassing a broader range of philosophical, cultural, or humanistic perspectives.

Creating a secular liturgy that embodies care for creation can be a beautiful way to foster reverence, gratitude, and mindfulness towards the natural environment. Here are two suggested outlines for such a liturgy:  Remember, this liturgy can be adapted and personalized to suit the specific context and traditions of the individuals participating. 

The following framework for a secular liturgy was created by two groups of University students attending a field course on the small offshore Welsh island of Skomer.  Unlike other Welsh islands of similar size Skomer has not been associated with the development of Christian beliefs but, on the other hand, archaeological research indicates that it has been occupied since stonehenge times.  In this connection a belief is growing that it played an important role in the migrations of henge builders to Stonehenge.

Skomer National Nature Reserve is now one of Britain’s most important seabird colonies and is home to the largest breeding colony of Manx shearwaters found anywhere in the world, which currently stands at around 350,000 breeding pairs. The student’s key was to create a meaningful and intentional liturgical space that encourages a deep sense of connection, gratitude, and responsibility towards the island and its outstanding wildlife inhabitants and be the central thread of a syllabus of radical hope.

The project was launched to celebrate the arrival of a small flock of migrating Barnacle Geese on the island.

Version 1

Research and Understanding

  • Begin by researching the local wildlife and their significance in the ecosystem. Learn about the various species, their habitats, behaviors, and the role they play in the environment. Understanding the importance of wildlife conservation will help inform the content of the liturgy.

Purpose and Theme:

  • Define the purpose and theme of the secular liturgy. Are you aiming to celebrate the beauty of wildlife, raise awareness about conservation, or emphasize the interconnectedness of all living beings? Clearly articulate the central message you want to convey.

Gathering Space

  • Choose an appropriate natural setting or a community space where the liturgy will take place. Consider parks, gardens, nature reserves, or any location with a connection to wildlife and the environment.

Order of Ceremony

  • Develop an order of ceremony, drawing inspiration from traditional liturgical structures. The secular liturgy may include elements like readings, poetry, music, moments of silence, and symbolic actions related to wildlife and nature.

Readings and Reflections

  • Select readings, poems, or writings that celebrate the local wildlife, environmental consciousness, and unity with nature. These texts should reflect the chosen theme and evoke a sense of reverence and respect for the natural world.


  • Emphasize the interconnectedness of all life forms. You can include passages about ecological harmony and the importance of each species in the web of life.

Symbolic Actions:

  •  Incorporate symbolic actions into the liturgy. For example, you might have a moment where attendees release biodegradable flower petals to symbolize the harmony between humans and wildlife.

Music and Art:

  • Include music and art that complement the theme and evoke emotions related to the natural world. Live music or recordings of nature sounds can enhance the atmosphere.

Educational Component:

  • Use the liturgy as an opportunity to educate attendees about local wildlife, conservation efforts, and sustainable practices to protect the environment.

Community Participation

  • Encourage active participation from the community. You can involve people in reading passages, sharing personal reflections, or participating in the symbolic actions.

Respectful Language

  • Ensure the language used in the liturgy is inclusive and respects diverse beliefs and backgrounds. Avoid any religious references to maintain the secular nature of the ceremony.


  • End the liturgy with a moment of reflection and gratitude, expressing commitment to take positive actions in support of wildlife and environmental protection.

The development of a secular liturgy for wildlife celebration should be a thoughtful and respectful process. The goal is to create a meaningful experience that fosters a sense of unity with nature and inspires a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Version 2

Opening Invocation:

  • Begin the liturgy by acknowledging the sacredness of the natural world and setting the intention to honor and care for creation during the visit to the island. Offer a prayer or invocation to express gratitude for the opportunity to experience the island’s beauty and to seek guidance in fostering a deep connection with the land, sea, and sky.

Reflection and Contemplation:

  • Take a moment for silent reflection, inviting individuals to contemplate their connection to the natural environment and the significance of the island they are visiting. Encourage them to observe and appreciate the unique flora, fauna, and landscapes around them, fostering a sense of wonder and awe.

Words of Wisdom and Inspiration:

  • Share readings, poems, or passages from spiritual or ecological texts that highlight the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of caring for creation. Draw upon the wisdom of indigenous cultures, environmental activists, or ecological thinkers to inspire reverence and environmental stewardship.

Commitment to Care:

  • Lead a collective commitment to care for the island and its ecosystem. Invite participants to offer personal commitments to take specific actions that demonstrate respect and responsibility towards the environment. This can include pledges to reduce waste, conserve resources, support local conservation efforts, or advocate for environmental protection.

Blessing and Gratitude:

  • Offer a blessing or prayer for the island, expressing gratitude for its natural beauty, biodiversity, and the abundance it provides. Acknowledge the interdependence of all living beings and the need to protect and preserve the island’s ecological balance. Encourage participants to express their own words of gratitude and appreciation.

Ritual Actions:

  • Incorporate symbolic actions that deepen the connection with the island and its environment. This could include the lighting of a candle or the placing of natural elements, such as flowers or stones, in a designated area as offerings or symbols of respect. Encourage participants to engage in these actions mindfully and with reverence.

Closing and Sending Forth:

  • Conclude the liturgy by offering a closing blessing, or meditation, inviting participants to carry the spirit of care for creation with them as they leave the island. Encourage them to extend their commitment to environmental stewardship beyond this visit and integrate it into their everyday lives.

3  Applying a secular liturgy to wildlife

The killing of two wild geese in Cardiff raises the question: is it possible to apply a secular liturgy to the loss of wildlife or any other significant environmental?. As outlined above, liturgy is a ritual or ceremony that often has a religious connotation, but it can also be adapted for secular or non-religious purposes. In a secular context, a liturgy can be designed to provide a structured and meaningful way for people to come together, reflect, mourn, and take action in response to the loss of wildlife or environmental challenges.

The following liturgy is meant to celebrate the beauty of nature and honor the unique connection between humans and wildlife.  It is a fictional liturgy and not based on any established religious practices.



Welcome, friends, to this sacred gathering, where we come together to honor the graceful beings that soar through the skies. Today, we gather to celebrate the loss of two Canada geese, symbols of freedom, unity, and the harmony of nature.

[Pause for a moment of silence, allowing everyone to appreciate the surrounding natural beauty.]



Let us begin with an invocation, recognizing the majesty of the natural world and our shared connection with all living beings.


We stand here, united in spirit and heart, humbled by the wonders of the Earth and its creatures



Reader 1

In the flight of these Canada geese, we witness the beauty of synchrony and cooperation. They remind us that we are all part of the same ecosystem, bound together by the delicate threads of existence.

Reader 2: 

Their wings beat in harmony, teaching us the value of supporting one another and embracing our diversity. They migrate across vast distances, showing us the importance of resilience and adaptability.

[Pause for reflection]



Let us offer a blessing for our feathered friends, the Canada geese. May they find abundant food and safe havens on their journeys. May their flights be filled with purpose and their lives enriched with joy.


May the skies always welcome their graceful presence and may they continue to inspire us to appreciate the wonders of nature.

[Shared Reflection]


Before we conclude, let us take a moment to reflect on the lessons we can learn from the Canada geese. How can we better support one another in our communities? How can we cultivate a deeper connection with nature?

[Pause for personal reflection]



As we bid farewell to these majestic travelers, let us carry the spirit of unity and appreciation for all living beings in our hearts.


We thank you, Canada geese, for gracing us with your presence and reminding us of the beauty that surrounds us.

[Closing Words]


May we continue to celebrate and protect the diverse tapestry of life on Earth, recognizing that we are but one thread in the grand design of nature.




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