We are delighted to report that local Humanist Celebrant David Hewitt (pictured) officiated at Ferndown’s first fully inclusive Civil Service on Friday July 11th 2014.
Having recognised that church-based thanksgiving services exclude a significant number of the area’s increasingly secular population, Ferndown’s town council recently took the commendable decision to break with tradition and host a non-religious outdoor service that would celebrate the town and its facilities.
In its coverage of the event, Blackmore Vale Magazine reported that Mayor of Ferndown, Councillor Mike Parkes and Town Clerk, Vanessa Ricketts were “delighted with the positive response from around 200 attendees”.
In the following article written for Dorset Humanists’ forthcoming August Bulletin, David Hewitt shares his recollections of the service, and describes the circumstances that led to this very welcome development.
A Humanist ‘Civic Ceremony’ by David Hewitt
On a quiet Friday lunchtime in May I received an intriguing email from the Town Clerk at Ferndown Town Council. She wrote: “Every year mayoral towns hold Civic Services which normally take the form of a church service of re-dedication and involve a few hymns, normally ‘I vow to thee my Country’ and ‘Jerusalem’, a sermon from the Vicar followed by tea and cake. The mayor, the youngest in the town’s history, and I want to bring this event into the 21st century!”
And so the idea was born of holding a fully inclusive Civic Service; one that would avoid alienating all those in the community who are not CofE, as so many previous services had done, by focussing more on celebration and less on thanksgiving. As I say in all my different ceremonies, if Humanism is about anything it is about leading ethical lives based on rationality and our common humanity. What better foundation then, what more apposite sentiments could there be for a ceremony to celebrate the high ethical standards and secular service that this lively and diverse community expects and enjoys?
True to the brief, we had no hymns, no prayers and definitely not a sermon. Instead the Mayor delivered a speech that talked about the past, present and future of Ferndown. We had a handful of readings, mostly delivered by youngsters from the community, and a period of reflection to appreciate what the council and community does for residents, and - paraphrasing JFK - what residents could do for the community. We even played some music: Lou Reed’s Perfect Day. It seemed the perfect song with those lyrics that talk about reaping what you will sow. The ceremony celebrated sowing the seeds of community spirit and encouraging community support, for doing so surely reaps countless rewards. Unfortunately, there was no ‘sangria in the park’, only Ringwood Best!
On-line coverage in the Blackmore Vale Magazine afterwards claimed it as a first for Dorset, but I suspect it might be the first anywhere in the country. How did it go down? The overall response was enthusiastic and positive, for at the heart of the ceremony was a ‘commendment’ that had as its theme a celebration of the wonderful ‘hard’ facilities the town enjoys, not least the spacious playing fields on which the open-air event took place, and the continuing ‘soft’ input that comes from the army of volunteers operating through - indeed bringing to life - the many organisations that serve the varied needs of this vibrant community. A truly Humanist celebration!
For more about the services offered by Humanist Celebrants, please see our Ceremonies page and the links contained within at: http://dorset-humanists1.blogspot.co.uk/p/ceremonies.html