Thursday, 12 March 2009

Put A Tick In The Appropriate Box

For some months now, and as part of my Plans for 2009, I have been considering training as a Celebrant.

I’m sure most of you will know this already, but a Celebrant is someone who officiates at non-religious weddings, funerals, namings and other civil ceremonies.

Why have I been considering this? Well many reasons: Firstly I have a background in communications and events which is currently going to waste, secondly I need a second income that can fit around my current work and thirdly because I think that I will a) be good at it and b) enjoy it.

Mostly though I feel that it’s important that people like myself, who have no particular religious or political beliefs, are able to have a ceremony that represents something about their personality without having to have the usual half-hour of speeches, readings from 1920s etiquette books, performances of the Macarena dance or sudden burstings into song about what a nice bloke Jesus is. So if they want a Hawaiian style funeral, a Tony Blair impersonator to officiate at their wedding or want to name their child 4Real then they can hire someone who is willing and able to make their day complete.

Having looked around at the organisations out there I have found two: the British Humanist Society and the Association Of Independent Celebrants.

Whilst the BHS (not to be confused with the chain store) is clearly the bigger and more organised group I have decided, for a number of reasons, not to join them.

True: their training is much more in depth – they offer ongoing support whilst you get up to speed, insist on an interview prior to signing up to a course and even send a trained celebrant to your first few bookings, but there are several drawbacks.

Firstly they want you to join the BHS and to take a 10% cut of your takings. Secondly their courses are more expensive.

Primarily though my caution over joining is that I am always reluctant to join any organisation that has any political agenda. I tried explaining my concerns to one of their staff – but couldn’t quite get them to understand.

One of their current agendas is to campaign for a change to the entrance requirements for religious schools. This is not a subject that I have ever thought about in any depth previously, nor that I can admit to having any strong beliefs either way about.

But by becoming a member I would be saying to the world that I also support these causes.

For the same reason I would be unable to get married in church with a vicar – for me it would be a lie, done for the sake of ceremony and tradition.

For the same reason I have never joined Amnesty International or Save The Whale: because whilst in general I agree that people should live free from repression and that sea bound mammals should be protected from hunting and extinction I cannot, in actuality, support the violent or high-profile means used by members of either organisation to effect these ends. By signing up and giving my hard earned money to someone like Animal Rights, whose members feel free to terrorise the families of people who work in the animal industry, I would be saying that I feel those means are justified – something that would not be true.

And ok – yes I did vote in the last election. I voted for a bunch of people that I have no particular faith in and whose policies I mostly don’t know or believe will make the blindest bit of difference: and I am not pleased with myself for doing so. My justification in this instance is that my vote, wasted or otherwise, is a vote that helps to stop the British National Party gaining ground and is a vote that is spent on the party that I feel most likely to be honest about telling me what they’re going to do whether I will like it or not. My only excuse is that if I don’t vote for someone then I really don’t have the right to complain about the shower of bastards that get into power.

BTW – whilst on the subject of following organisations or otherwise I would like to apologise to everyone who reads this blog that I have never elected to “follow” any of your blogs. This has nothing to do with any political or personal agenda – whilst I enjoy reading all of your thoughts and contributions I know myself well enough to know that I would get seriously annoyed with the constant emails reminding me that you have updated.

I’d rather take the time to take the pleasure in reading you and responding when my brain is at its most responsive

Any thoughts, organised or otherwise, would be appreciated as usual xxx


English Rider said...

I like your reasoning and the name of your blog. BHS also stands for British Horse Society so I now have a mental image of celebrants on horse-back, garnished by Pixie dust, (Cornish Piskies where I come from). Sounds as though that would also be do-able, upon request.
Have you discovered the Random and Interesting Thoughts of Edward Monkton? Your singing potato reference sounds like one of his.

Honour said...

I want to hear what the other association is like. What else do you celebrate?? (besides weddings, funerals etc.).

One must do what one must do.

I have made decisions like this ... and then I forgive myself if I renege on them later .... and forgive myself when I take them up again later.

That's what life is -- ebb and flow, ebb and flow. :)

(all my comments sound so easy-going tonite,eh???)

Captain Steve said...

Is that what happens when you decide to "Follow"? Huh. Well, that would be kind of annoying wouldn't it.

Michael said...

Celebrant sounds like fun. My part-time job if I had the luxury of time would be mortician. Not the creepy kind, the celebrant kind.

I admire how you let your principles guide you in your life's choices.

Anonymous said...

Brother from a British Mother:

I think you know that I have tons, TONS, to say about this post. i will get back to this and read it again and comment on it when i have time. I, as you know, am heavily politically biased (not religiously, although I worship Christ), but i will associate and befriend anyone who has rational thought. i will definitely get back to this post soon.

Buddha said...

You need a guru, a good shrink or some life coach – and no I am not inferring or offering anything here – I just think you have a tremendous talent and potential and you are pissing it off finding superfluous distractions and excuses not to get serious about your life.
I know it hurts you more than it hurts me, but you asked my honest opinion.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Hi English Rider - i do like the way you think! I'm not aware of Edward Monkton, but he sounds worth a look

Honour - weddings, civil partnerships, funerals, naming ceremonies, renewal of vows - we all have to make decisions that compromise our values sometimes

Captain Steve - you really must tell me how the response thing works on your page - i keep trying, but keep not knowing

Michael - Mortician could be interesting. As i just said though, good intentions don't always work out. Sometimes by staying on the fence and seeing both sides i've ended up causing more harm than good.

Samurai - i look forward to hearing more :)

Buddha - thanks for your honesty and to an extent i agree. The reality though is that very few people become successful artists or writers (which i would love to do) and even less make a living from it. So the celebrant thing is my way of earning a second living that will allow me to study for what i want to do (hoping to put any money towards an art degree) whilst doing something that i feel benefits others.

Much preferable to taking a second job in Tescos at the weekend

Anonymous said...

Alright, alright. Tea is steaming hot, tobacco is lit, and I'm ready to ponder:

1) You do not get e-mailed when you follow someone's blog, although I'm sure that you can set it up that way. I'm following a bunch of people and I don't get any e-mails about new blog posts. If you follow someone, you are able to read their blogs from the Google Reader, which is generally easier to access for cell phones and slower computers than is.

2) Individualism has become more important to me than almost any and everything else in life. I strongly believe that understanding it and considering it first when reaching out to others in any capacity is one of the more important aspects of bridging gaps between people. I also don't believe in having to constantly explain yourself to the world for the sake of normalcy or their standards of justification.

With that said, it is fully possible for you to join BHS as a celebrant without associating yourself with some of the other things that the organization does. I of course say this without any sort of regard for what the world will think. You have your own reasons for joining, and that's good enough. I'm sure that little more than half of all the people in the world that are part of an organization completely agree and comply with everything said organization does. Some people would just like to make a living, and go to join the org. that is the lessest (new word?) evil than everything else.

3) I'm also not really sure about what the conflict with them taking 10% of your earnings is. Once again, I'm sure many organizations (of all kinds) do this. But if you know that it's possible to find a Celebrant org. that lets you keep all of your earnings, I fully support your search for it.

4) I fully understand the married-in-church thing, but I'm now curious as to what exactly BHS would like to change the religious school standards to. I will also say that abstaining from Amnesty International based on their methods of dealing with family members of people in the animal industry is a very mature and justified position to take. I must also suffice it to say that, from the sound of things, I personally can't say that I'd feel sorry for said family members, so I probably would've joined (this is quite possibly because of my political/moral bias).

5) On your elective vote: I'm not too familiar with the British political system. Were there other parties that you could've voted for? Could it have been possible that there were parties with policies that were closer to what you believed in? I understand not having faith in politicians, but it is one thing to vote for the lesser of two evils, and quite another thing to just vote for whatever is not the party you've disagreed with (considering that there was more than two parties running for power). Doing this may actually lead to putting a party in power that is worse than the one you were against.

Lydia said...

Isn't Buddha something the way he zeroes in on specifics? Pretty amazing observation there!

No, that's not what following blogs is like. You don't get constant reminders that anyone has updated, at least I don't. I love my followers reading list and use it as my reader.....

A celebrant sounds like an interesting sort of hobby. My husband often jokes about getting one of those online pastor licenses, just to annoy his step-father who is a clergyman (retired, and a piss-poor example of a Christian if you ask me).

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Lydia/Samurai - thanks for the clarification on "following" - i was led to believe you got regular updates. If this is not the case then i will happily follow your blogs

Samuria - thanks for the detailed response. I think my problem with regards to part 2 is more the fact that we all too blindly follow people without question and i would continue to be concerned about an organisation taking action in my name that i don't agree with

Part 3 - just basically greed: why should they get 10% indefinately when they're not there?

I will dedicate a full post sometime soon to the British electoral system - i've been thinking about it for a while, but a) i don't honestly believe that any one party has a better idea how to do things than another and b) the party that i vote for is, traditionally, the one that tends to be upfront about their policies - even if you don't like them at least you know where they're intending to go!