Editor’s Note: The third and last Rabbi featured in the series on non-believing clergy guilt doesn’t feel any guilt! How did he manage to avoid it? By becoming a Rabbi at a humanistic Jewish congregation, a subject he wrote about earlier here. While he didn’t respond to my series of questions, he did respond with a hopeful message for all non-believing clergy.
By Jeff Falick
After reading over these questions about clergy guilt, I realized that they really do not apply to me. Once I realized that I could no longer function as a conventional “believing” member of the clergy, I was so fortunate to find meaningful work as a Secular Humanistic rabbi.
As I have entered the world of “Congregational Humanism,” as I like to call it, I have had the honor of meeting Humanistic clergy from other traditions, notably those from Humanistic Unitarian-Universalist congregations and from the American Ethical Union. One such meeting took place at Linda LaScola’s home on the morning of the June 2016 Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. It was there that I met Amanda Poppei, leader of the Washington Ethical Society. The result of our conversation was the first ever modern-era gathering of Humanistic clergy this past March. Over two days at her congregation, we enjoyed a remarkable opportunity to discuss our unique roles in the vanguard of nontheistic religion.
Throughout the event—which was covered by The Washington Post—I frequently thought about our colleagues in the Clergy Project, particularly those still in “the closet.” Here we sat openly discussing our work in godless congregations while so many others who believe exactly as we do are forced to suffer in silence. As a gay man, it reminded me of nothing more than my days in that particular closet as I watched “out and proud” LGBTQ+ people openly organizing.
Certainly it is difficult—nearly impossible—to find full-time employment as we lucky few have done. Yet there is so much room for this movement to grow and we who are fortunate to do this work have discovered that a need absolutely exists. The number of nontheists in this country is growing and many of them will be seeking communities to replace the churches and synagogues in which they were raised.
For most who choose this path it will not provide full-time work. Yet I know many clergy, both conventional and Humanist, who work part-time with fellowships and congregations.
Imagine how much more quickly Congregational Humanism would grow if more members of the Clergy Project now exiting their closets chose to build new communities that reflect their newfound commitments! Who better to help build capacity for our hoped-for future wave of (nontheistic) religion?
Please consider joining us!
Bio: Jeffrey L. Falick is the rabbi of The Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Ordained by the (theistic) Reform Jewish movement, he later became associated with Secular Humanistic Judaism, an approach that combines adherence to nontheism with a celebration of Jewish culture and life. He serves as president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis and on the Executive Committee of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. He blogs on the Patheos atheist channel as The Atheist Rabbi.
>>Photo Credits: By Jeff Falick, personal photo 2017