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Meeting Humanist Needs In Your Community

Joe Beck, C.S.W.
Director, Humanist Counseling and Celebrations
(716) 636-7571 ext. 222
Email: JoeBeck@HumanismServices.com 

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 16, Number 4.

Nine-year-old Karen Smith came home from school crying because her friends made fun of her for not believing in God and because they said she was going to hell if she didnít start going to church. Karen subsequently asked her parents' permission to attend church services with her friends, and since there was no Humanist alternative for their daughter, the Smiths gave their permission. Shortly thereafter, the entire Smith family began attending occasional church services. Most of the parishioners were pleasant and the church offered a summer camp and other programs for children, so the Smiths eventually became members of their local church.

John had been raised in a loving family by parents who described themselves as agnostics. When he became engaged to marry Sally, a nonpracticing Presbyterian, her parents asked that they be married by the family's minister. John met the minister, who seemed like a pleasant person, and since John knew of no alternatives, he acquiesced. When Sally gave birth to Laura, their first child, it came as no surprise when Laura was baptized as a Presbyterian and later began attending Sunday-school programs.

Tom, a longtime secular humanist, died without giving anyone the authorization to officiate at his humanist memorial service. His sister, a conservative religionist, successfully prevailed upon her spiritual advisor to perform a religious ceremony for Tom, one that would have had Tom reeling in his grave if one believed that was possible.

Paul and Rachel, a nonreligious couple, retired to Arizona and began socializing with their new neighbors. They accepted their friends' invitation to attend a chicken barbecue at the local United Church of Christ Church and began playing cards on Wednesday evenings at the church. When Paul suffered his first heart attack he was visited by the church's minister, as was his wife while she was recuperating from her hip surgery. When Paul died a few years later, Rachel accepted the minister's condolences along with his offer to perform a memorial service for Paul. Five years later when Rachel died, she left $5,000 to the United Church of Christ Church that had been so kind to her and her late husband.

The recurring theme in the preceding vignettes is that we are losing humanist families, children, and adults to traditional and New Age churches due to the lack of humanist alternatives.

That was the bad news. The good news is that you can now have a comprehensive range of humanist ceremonies, such as: regularly scheduled humanist gatherings, weddings, child-welcoming celebrations, memorial ceremonies, right in your own community.

All that you need to do is call me at the Council for Secular Humanism and I will help you locate a person to provide the desired service, or I can provide you with the consultations you need and suggest materials that you can review in order to initiate any of the humanist programs listed below.

Or if you prefer, I can provide humanists in your area with a workshop on "How to Officiate at Humanist Ceremonies." Call me if this option appeals to you and we will work out the details.

REGULARLY SCHEDULED HUMANIST RENEWAL GATHERINGS. These can start as monthly gatherings with like-minded adults and families at which time you can share some thoughts, music, conversation, and a meal. Some of the approximately 7% of the American population who consider themselves nonreligious are living in neighborhoods near you and will welcome the opportunity to meet with fellow humanists.

HUMANIST WEDDINGS. It will take you only a few hours to review a basic format for performing a humanist wedding ceremony, which you can perform on a fee basis or as a public service. If your state does not recognize secular humanist weddings, the bride and groom can be legally married in a private ceremony while you officiate at a public ceremony attended by family and friends.

HUMANIST CHILD-WELCOMING CEREMONIES. The Council for Secular Humanism has a child-welcoming booklet that explains how to conduct a meaningful ceremony that will welcome the birth of a humanist child into the family of humankind.

HUMANIST MEMORIAL CEREMONIES. Atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other freethinkers have the right to memorial ceremonies that reflect and honor their lifestance. We have materials that help you to conduct the various aspects of a memorial service along with sample ceremonies appropriate for the death after a long illness, premature death of a child, or a self-initiated death.

Over the past two years I have had requests from humanists throughout the country for help in planning and conducting the various ceremonies described above. I now look forward to helping you conduct these yourself or to locate and train people near you who can help you to keep Humanism alive in your area.


[*] Secular Humanism Online Library

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