A flock of Humanists descended on Great Eccleston on Wednesday night!
The inaugural meeting of Lancashire Secular Humanists was a great success.
The meeting was opened by Ian Abbott who explained that the primary aims of this meeting were two-fold.
On the one hand it was intended as a dry-run to identify any glitches that may occur when our meetings begin in earnest in January 2008; and on the other, it was to give people an opportunity to come along, have a look at us, see what we’re all about and maybe take away any literature they wanted.
People there had travelled from as far afield as Clitheroe and were pleased to be given the opportunity to meet with so many other like-minded people from around the county who had come to listen to Television Screenwriter and University lecturer Bill Dawson; a Humanist Celebrant accredited by The British Humanist Association.
So many people attended that the extremely helpful staff at the new Great Eccleston Village Centre went to great lengths to help the meeting move into a much larger room just to accommodate the numbers.
And all those who attended agreed that the journey was well worth the effort.
Bill entertained his audience with stories about how, many years ago, he had attended the very disappointing church funeral of his Uncle Billy in Liverpool and came away convinced that he couldn’t possibly do it any worse and feeling that he could probably do it infinitely better.
He described how he made contact with The British Humanist Association and was accepted by them for training in Humanist ceremonies and then talked about the huge variety of ceremonies he has conducted.
There were stories both tragic and humorous about some of the predicaments he’d encountered including his own, real life version of the Dead Parrot Sketch.
He talked about his own (recent) very moving Humanist Wedding ceremony and of some of the wonderful people whose weddings he has been privileged to have officiated at, and some of the strange and unusual locations where they have taken place.
And Bill’s genuine enjoyment in conducting Baby-Naming ceremonies was obvious for all to see.
Everybody present had the opportunity to throw questions at Bill about Ceremonies in particular and Humanism in general and, at the end of the evening he was roundly applauded by a very appreciative audience.
Forthcoming events already planned will include
Dignity in Dying … putting the case for elected medically assisted death… and no doubt including information about ‘Living Wills’.
‘Faith schools should form no part of the state education system’. Andrew Copson (BHA Education Officer) will be leading a debate.
How the Chaplaincy Services in The Health Service, Palliative Care, Universities, Prisons, and The Armed Forces; are failing to address the needs of those who are not religious.
R.E. in Schools … many year six Junior School pupils having found out which High School they have got into will want to know where they stand on issues such as R.E.; Collective Worship Assemblies, Home to School Transport etc. Particularly if they have concerns about being allocated a Church school simply because it’s their nearest school.
On the whole the meeting proved invaluable; certainly with regards to our first aim … identifying glitches.
We were able to speak with the Village Centre staff and revise the procedures for future meetings.
They were surprised by how many people had turned up and had some concerns about how smoothly the changeover would be given that the earlier occupants of ‘our’ room would be leaving when such a large number of ‘us’ were arriving.
We decided that, for future meetings, we would assemble in the coffee lounge from 7:30, greet & meet each other as people arrived and have our coffee / tea & biscuits then – before getting underway with the planned event.
We could also use that time to share any housekeeping notices, news and messages with the attendees; thereby giving the Village Centre Staff time to prepare the room for us before we make our way up to begin at 8pm.
As to how successful our second aim was … ‘to give people an opportunity to come along, have a look at us, see what we’re all about and maybe take away any literature they wanted’ … that is perhaps a little more difficult to judge. Certainly a lot of people attended, and those who did were very enthusiastic. A great deal of literature was taken away and many questions were answered [And the ten ‘canvass’ BHA shopping bags disappeared very quickly] so, in that respect it was without doubt a success; but I suppose the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
Hopefully this encouraging start augurs well for the future but for our group to thrive make a difference we will have to make sure the events and speakers are pertinent and interesting; and that every new-face is made to feel welcome and valued.
Bill Dawson made an excellent point when he reminded us all that there is no hierarchy in humanism; just because some members have been attending meetings for many years, and some of them have been pressed into holding offices, that doesn’t make the views of others any less valuable. In fact, it could be argued that it makes their views all the more valuable; because newcomers should question why things are done in the way they are … and that’s a question that is always worth asking.
One thing that was revealed by this inaugural meeting was how under-represented young people are. That is something that needs to be given some thought.