As many readers may know, I made a little bit of news back in January over this little federal lawsuit I filed with the Center for Inquiry against my local county clerk, for the purpose of challenging the Illinois marriage statute that excluded secular celebrants from the classes of people who are legally authorized to solemnize marriages in the state. Which we won.
So that’s that, right? Nope.
I knew pretty much as soon as we were done that I didn’t want to stop there in my advocacy for secular celebrants. I mean, of course there is work to be done after securing this one legal right, and I’m happy to report that I have had a substantial influx of interest in my celebrant services since January. (Funny how a little publicity and securing a legal right will do that!)
But that isn’t enough for me. I didn’t lobby for two years and sue my own county just to get a right for myself: I did it because I wanted others to benefit as well. So what more can I do for other secular celebrants?
Write a book, of course.
Creating a Unified Resource
When I went to CFI-Indiana for my own celebrant training in the fall of 2014, I was pleased to find that not only were we being given some practical mentoring on aspects of celebrant work that we would need to know, but that Reba Boyd Wooden (director of CFI’s secular celebrant program and all-around great person) had materials for us to leave with, including quite a few sample ceremonies. She also tried to point us to other resources, but one of my frustrations was that some of these resources were books that were either out-of-print or fairly difficult to track down.
So here’s what I’d like to do: I want to create a resource for secular celebrations that can serve as a core text for anyone doing secular ceremonies. Some of this will be philosophical or instructive, talking about process and how best to guide couples as you collaborate together on a service, but I also want to write a significant amount of original content in the ways of reading, vows, and the like that can be used. (In fact, I will not be including any content that I do not personally produce, in part for simplicity to avoid concerns over copyrights.)
Much of the content will of course be related to weddings, as that is one of the most singular events that celebrants are called on to officiate. Non-religious texts are not especially hard to come by, but what I would like to provide here are some options other than just generic secular passages. To that effect, I plan to include some readings that are explicitly humanist and interfaith. I already have some such content crafted from work I’ve done for couples, but I would like to expand the selection of texts.
Funerals and memorials will constitute the other major section, since that is also a need that atheists, humanists, and other non-religious people have. The main part of this content will be religiously neutral as well, but here, readings can do much more to set forth the values of the deceased and provide appropriate context to the celebrations of their lives.
I would also like to include some material on a few ceremonies that are often overlooked: what I called coming-of-age and welcoming ceremonies. The content here will of necessity be a bit more flexible, but I would envision ceremonies that would allow the commemoration of various milestones for adolescents and young adults, like the crossing-over into adulthood upon graduation from high school (or perhaps even younger), as well as ceremonies that might mark the notable entrance of a new individual into the family unit, through birth or adoption or such.
Throughout, of course, I intend to pepper the texts with some of my own thoughts and insights from having performed these ceremonies and hearing the requests and needs of those who have come to me for such ceremonies.
How You Can Help
Quite simply, I could use your financial support through Patreon. The writing I do here is not especially profitable (the compensation is paltry in comparison to the time I put in), and the individual work I do for clients as a celebrant also generally goes toward the time I spend customizing ceremonies to particular needs and other related expenses.
Still, I believe in this project as a way of continuing my support of secular celebrants wide and far, so I will (eventually) move toward that goal. Your support can help me get there.
And as I told Stephanie Zvan on The Humanist Hour back in January, what I ultimately want to do with this book is not just to sell it (which I would probably do as a low-cost E-book) but to provide it at no charge to secular celebrants who are certified through CFI. It’s my way of continuing to support a program I believe in and have been privileged to be a part of.
If this sounds like something you’re on board with, consider jumping on as a patron. And through the end of the month, any patron who signs up at the $10/month level will get the listed perks — plus a free copy of the book (as an E-book) prior to its official publication and sale to the public. (Higher patrons can even get their name in the Acknowledgments.)
(If you can’t justify an ongoing contribution but would like to make a one-time donation, you can sign up for one of the levels and simply cancel after the first payment comes out at the beginning of the next month or choose a lower amount.)
Whatever you can do, remember that you’re not just supporting work now — you’re helping to fund a resource that will hopefully benefit others beyond just me, beyond the individuals who I serve as a celebrant, but hopefully to many others.
As always, thanks for reading.
Image by George Hodan; public domain