In March Marge Rose spoke to the Stockport group about her experiences of Being a Funeral Celebrant.
Marg considers herself to be a Celebrant first and a Humanists second. She was brought up in the Church of Scotland and lost her faith at the age of about 14 or 15 when the bible classes she attended were saying that a bad thought was as bad as a bad deed. In her 20s she went to Quaker meetings and got married there. In 1980 her husband had a near death experience and was helped to understand it by American Indians. She then became an agnostic pagan.
When her father died she thought she could have done at least as good a job as the Church of Scotland minister and she decided to become a Humanist celebrant. She went to Greater Manchester Humanists and took the introductory course. She then applied to train as a celebrant but was turned down in the first instance as there were too many applicants. She eventually got training and has now conducted 100 funerals.
Anyone can conduct a funeral and there is a book called Funerals without God which is excellent for those conducting a DIY funeral - Funerals Without God: A Practical Guide to Non-Religious Funeral Ceremonies by Jane Wynne Wilson.
Humanist funerals are always about the person who has died. 90% of Humanists are cremated and about 10% are buried.
Most ceremonies follow a similar pattern. After some introductory music the celebrant welcomes everybody and explains the Humanist Funeral. Tributes are paid to the person either by the celebrant or members of the family or friends. Readings, poems, songs etc may also be included, time permitting. A quiet period for contemplation is included and this may be used for silent prayers by religious people. At the end there are usually notices telling people where to go, what charities are being supported etc.
The BHA training and support is excellent and once a celebrant is trained there are private on-line support forums.
On the first day of training, the trainers talk about the ceremonies and there are exercises to test the trainees skills. The trainees then go off to observe both Humanist and Religious funerals. A month later there is a two day more in-depth course including role play, writing scripts etc. Written scripts are submitted to the tutors. A month later there is note comparing, further training on record keeping, and a visit to the back of a crematorium. The trainee also gives a script as if for real and gets feedback.
After all that the trainee gets to do ceremonies alone and is visited by a monitor. If successful he/she then becomes a BHA accredited celebrant.
Few celebrants actually make a living from this work and there are ongoing expenses, such as membership of the BHA and Celebrant annual fees. There is continued professional development in the form of workshops on various topics, keeping up with Humanism, and an annual Celebrant Conference.