Boston’s First Atheist Community Center (I Believe In…)

This is a guest post by Sarah Chandonnet, the Outreach and Development Manager at the Humanist Community at Harvard. Sarah has, for the past few years, been a leader in the secular movement in the Boston area – a true unsung hero of atheism and Humanism – and now she tells her story.

I believe in community.

For nearly five years, I’ve worked at the Humanist Community at Harvard doing what many would call “atheist activism.” I’ve been behind the scenes supporting a lot of great leaders and thinkers and helping to spread their messages of reason, progress, and pluralism to people around the world. But I’ve learned that, at the end of the day, what I’ve helped create is a network of people who turn to each other not only for shared philosophy, but for comfort and connection.

In April of this year, the city of Boston was rattled by a terrible tragedy. Many were injured or killed at the marathon, including two women who are like family to me. A week or so later, I was in a major car crash that sent me to the hospital and my car to the junkyard.

I was overcome with gratitude for the outpouring of support from Humanists here in Boston and all over the country. I received calls, emails, donations, and more from so many people after the marathon, helping raise more than a million dollars for my loved ones’ medical bills. My friend Molly Fazio, who has been coming to HCH since 2010 and is an active volunteer, was one of the first people to reach out to me in the aftermath of the marathon, telling me she had already sent in a donation. Two leaders from Tufts University’s Freethought group came by my office with a handwritten card the next day.

And after my accident, I couldn’t believe how many people rallied around me a second time with more calls, more visits, and more support. Emails poured in from friends and volunteers — Tony DeBono, Judah Axe, Llaen Coston-Clark, writer Mary Johnson, and so many more — and from other secular group leaders like Ellery Schempp and Todd Stiefel, not to mention my fantastic staff here at HCH.

It was amazing just how far a vase of flowers or a note in an email could go when I working so hard to mend. Mostly, I was reminded: I’m not alone.

HCH is an organization with a mission: to build a strong community of atheists, agnostics, Humanists, and the nonreligious at Harvard University and beyond, and to do so by addressing the philosophical and pastoral needs of those who come to our events and those who share our resources worldwide.

After many years, we’ve finally found a community center that will help us bring people together better than we ever have before. Our dream is to have a big event space to hold weekly Sunday meetings, classrooms for children and adults, conference rooms for podcasts that reach around the world, a meditation space, and offices for our staff and chaplains.

But that’s not all. This new space will be a home for more than HCH — we’re partnering with local Humanist/atheist groups so we can all come together under one roof and offer an even broader range of programs and resources.

 But we need your help to make it happen!

Our new space is 2,700 square feet and located right in Harvard Square. But it needs some major construction, paint, repairs, and furniture to best serve the needs of our diverse community and make our dream a reality.

If you feel how I do, if this community is your home, or if you support secular communities and want to share in the resources we create here, I urge you to make a financial contribution toward helping to realize our highest shared aspirations.

We are a 501(c)3 organization and all of our funding comes from donations from people like you who support our vision.

About James Croft

James Croft is a Humanist activist and public speaker who has swiftly become one of the best-known new faces in Humanism today. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently studying for his Doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As a leader in training in the Ethical Culture movement – a national movement of Humanist congregations – he is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.


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