What exactly is humanism? What does it mean?

Unsurprisingly, there is no definitive answer to this. However, the way I usually explain humanism (including to myself!) is by saying that humanists believe that we only have one life. Because of this, we try to live that life as well as possible by being kind and compassionate to those around us, by valuing community and human connection.

Humanists are non-religious and do not believe in any gods, doctrines or life after death. However, humanism doesn't mean a lack of faith, as is often assumed.  Quite the opposite in fact.  We do have faith - faith in the power of humanity to do good, and in the power of community, as well as reason and the evidence we see all around us.

For further information on humanism, please take a look at my page on Humanist Links and Resources.

I've never been to a humanist funeral before - how does it work?

Humanist celebrants write unique ceremonies, using the thoughts and memories of friends and family as a starting point and firmly placing the person who has died at the centre of everything.  Many people will not have experienced a humanist funeral before, and they can feel very different without the religious structure that we are often more familiar with. However, as celebrants we work hard to ensure that everyone feels included. 

The first step will be a family meeting, where we talk about the person who has died. I use my notes from this meeting to help me write your ceremony.  There is a suggested order/structure to humanist funerals, but this is not fixed and can be adapted to reflect what you want.  We can include readings, poems and prose, tributes, music - and any other elements you would like to include.  Often people like to include a symbolic gesture such as lighting candles or laying flowers.

 

Each funeral or memorial service is different, but the emphasis is always on ensuring you have a ceremony that you are happy with, and that reflects the person who has died. 

Do we have to have a cremation or do you also conduct burials?

The majority of funerals these days will be cremations.  However, if you have decided on a burial - whether in a cemetery or a woodland plot - I can also help with that.

What does it cost?

All fees are detailed on my Services page. Fees are set within the recommended range of Humanists UK.  Payment is usually arranged through your chosen funeral director, and they will advise you on this.  If you contact me directly through my web site, I will arrange payment with you.

How can we book you?

You can either fill in the contact form on my website, or email me at alex@alexcolliscelebrant.co.uk.  I am also contactable by phone on 07587 297657 or let your funeral director know that you would like me to lead your ceremony and ask them to get in touch with me.  I am happy to answer any questions you might have about how a humanist ceremony works, or if you want to just explore whether it is the right option for you - free  of any obligation.

Do you only conduct ceremonies locally?

I am based in Cambridge, but work across Cambridgeshire and East Anglia. For ceremonies beyond a 30 mile radius, I also make a small additional charge for travel costs.

We'd like to be involved in the funeral - is that possible?

You can be as involved as you want.  I really value and enjoy hearing friends' and families' memories of the person who has died, and it adds such wonderful colour to a ceremony.  If you would like to do a reading, play some music, put together a slide show, give a tribute - let me know, and we will make it happen.  Also, remember that you do not have to do any of this if you don't feel comfortable.  My job is to make the day as easy as possible for you, and deliver the ceremony you want.

Can we include any hymns or prayers?

As I am a humanist celebrant, I would not be able to read any religious material or lead any act of worship.  However, perhaps there is a particular hymn that has particular significance for you or the person who has died.  Maybe someone among your family and friends would like to read a religious passage or prayer. I am more than happy for that to be included in the ceremony and we can discuss details of this when we meet.

I would like to speak at the funeral but am worried I will be too upset.

I will work with you to support you in giving your tribute, and putting together a contingency plan if you feel unable to read it yourself on the day.

Can I contact you to arrange my own funeral?

Yes - if this is something you would like to do, please get in touch and I will be happy to discuss the details with you.

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© 2019 by Alex Collis

(Portrait photography by James Murray-White, Logo by Carla Keen Design)