West London Humanists and Secularists

Humanist Ceremonies - 23/02/2011

At the February meeting Caroline Black, who is a humanist celebrant with 10 years experience, gave a general overview of the role of a celebrant (either at funerals, baby namings or weddings). She explained that the role of the celebrant had become more formalised over the years with a structured training programme, a monitoring system and ongoing development.

She described how a celebrant is chosen for a particular funeral and the various difficulties encountered e.g how she has dealt with family groups where some of the members are traditionally religious. As far as weddings and baby namings go, the format of the ceremony is as formal or as fanciful as the people involved would like but a funeral has to follow certain time and place constraints.

In the follow up question and answer session she explained that her job was to provide a memorable and comforting experience not an opportunity to voice her humanist opinions. She would not say prayers or sing hymns herself even if other members of the funeral party wished to include these in the ceremony. She described the difficult circumstances where a baby may have died or a suicide may have taken place and how privileged she felt to be able to help at a time of great distress and bewilderment.

Caroline brought and distributed the printed literature produced by the Humanist Association which is available to funeral directors and other interested parties.

Denise Hopkins 19.03.2011