The word humanism suggests that it is concerned or interested in what it is to be human so in the broad sense, everyone, to some extent, is a humanist. Definitions of Humanism abound but because it is a dynamic, ever evolving and fluid life stance, it is open to interpretation. The former British Humanist Association agreed a simple definition of Humanism as “an approach or attitude to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognising that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.” To gain a better understanding of Humanism, I encourage you to click on the following links:
Incidentally, my own ‘brand’ of Humanism encompasses environmentalism, which is essentially concern for the ecology and overall health of the ‘pale blue dot’ of a planet that we inhabit and that we call Earth. Besides a longstanding member of Humanists UK, I am also a time-honoured member of Friends of the Earth. Please take a moment to click on the following links:
No. Indeed, the majority of people for whom I perform Humanist ceremonies would not define themselves as humanists. There are many reasons why people choose a Humanist ceremony but typically, they are among an increasing number who have opted to live life without religion and for whom a religious service would be inappropriate. Many people choose a Humanist ceremony because they had previously attended one and were impressed at how meaningful and personal it was.
Anywhere indoors or outdoors that can accommodate the number of people expected to attend the ceremony. I have conducted all kinds of Humanist ceremony in such unusual venues as castles, community centres, a concert hall, parish halls, a farm, a playschool and nursery, an historic manor house, private houses, function rooms, hotels, public houses, restaurants, a football stadium, social clubs and a redundant church. I have also conducted ceremonies in the great outdoors on beaches and cliff tops, in fields, gardens, marquees, nature reserves, a vineyard and even on a boat at sea.
If you’re considering an outdoor ceremony, it would be wise to check the long-range weather forecast and have a contingency plan in place in the event of inclement weather.
The majority of namings take place at weekends, either Saturdays or Sundays, when the likelihood of assembling family and friends is greater. The most popular days for weddings and civil partnerships are Fridays and Saturdays. Other ceremonies like birthdays often occur on the milestone day. Regarding funerals, most occur on weekdays when cemeteries and crematoria are available.
Most naming, wedding and funeral ceremonies are held during the day, either of a morning or afternoon. I have, however, conducted several ceremonies, including funerals, of an evening.
Regarding funerals, many bereaved people seek to hold the ceremony at the earliest possible opportunity. If you require me to perform a funeral ceremony, please bear in mind that I generally need at least a week to prepare it.
A valid criticism of Humanist ceremonies is that they do not generally present opportunities for communal singing, which is a pity because the act of singing together promotes a visceral sense of belonging and has other benefits too.
Hymns have next to no place within Humanist ceremonies, which are of a non-religious or secular nature. Hymns are a type of song that are traditionally religious and usually written for the adoration, praise or worship of a god. Even so, there are a few hymns that may be sung at a Humanist ceremony. Although sung to the familiar tunes of traditional hymns, the lyrics are of an alternative, secular nature.
Lots of popular songs lend themselves to communal singing.
Among such are John Lennon’s Imagine and Monty Python’s Always look on the bright side of life, both of which are especially popular at Humanist funeral ceremonies.
Unlike many Humanist celebrants, I am not averse to including religious material within a Humanist ceremony for I accept that religious influences are firmly embedded in our culture and heritage. Provided that religious material does not detract from the overall Humanist tone of a ceremony and provided that it cannot be construed as an act of worship, I am generally happy to include it.
Most definitely. Indeed, I actively encourage the participation of family and friends. It makes for a more personal ceremony if other people, especially those near and dear, are actively involved. Think in terms of the appointment of ‘Guide Parents’ or ‘Support Parents’ and the involvement of grandparents at a Humanist naming ceremony, children serving as ring bearers at a wedding or someone paying personal tribute at a funeral. At any kind of ceremony, a family member or friend may wish to read a poem or passage of prose.
The duration of a ceremony all depends of the nature of it and how elaborate or simple it is to be. An average ceremony lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. The shortest ceremony that I have ever conducted was a funeral that, at the specific request of the bereaved, was only 2 minutes long! The longest ceremonies that I have performed have been weddings, milestone birthdays and funerals that lasted around 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Fees charged depend of the nature of the ceremony and how elaborate or simple it is to be. Humanists UK recommends fees of between £150 and £300 for namings and anything between £450 and £1,000 for weddings and civil partnerships. I charge upwards of £325 for funerals and memorial ceremonies.
If I were required to conduct a ceremony outside Guernsey, the expense of travel and perhaps overnight accommodation would be added to the fee.
Although I belong to a network of over 500 celebrants accredited by Humanists UK, its assurance of finding a first class celebrant to cover me and deliver a ceremony that we have created together may not feasibly extend to the Channel Islands. Nevertheless, I have played an instrumental role in mentoring three, local, independent celebrants, all of whom are female. While bodies outside Humanists UK have accredited them, please be assured that they are appropriately qualified and highly competent celebrants who would willingly stand in.