As Carrie and I have been arranging more and more funerals we’ve realised that there’s a real gap in knowledge about the different types of people who actually deliver the ceremonies.
Often we find that people who aren’t particularly religious say they would like a humanist to lead the ceremony but when we talk more about what they’d like we realise that perhaps a humanist celebrant isn’t in fact who they need, and vice versa. Often people tell us that they would like a non-religious ceremony but still say that they would like a short prayer or reading to be included.
So we asked Ellie Farrell of Alternative Ceremonies to provide a quick guide to help everyone understand the difference:
My name is Ellie Farrell and I am a Civil Celebrant. I write and perform funeral celebrations of life and memorial ceremonies which are centred on the life of the person who has died. Most Celebrants perform life centred ceremonies, but what is the difference between a Civil Celebrant and a Humanist Celebrant? Below are the differences to consider when looking for a Celebrant to perform a ceremony for your loved one.
A Civil Celebrant is somebody who is trained by a professional organisation to write and deliver weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies. Civil Celebrants will add or leave out religion if required. Hymns and prayers can be included in a funeral ceremony led by a Civil Celebrant and the ceremony will be centred around the life of the deceased. A Civil Celebrant may or may not have a personal religious belief or could be an atheist, but this won’t be apparent in the ceremony. Spiritual and personal beliefs of the deceased can be included into the ceremony, as can a reflective period during which mourners are given the chance to say a personal prayer or share a thought for the deceased. Any choice of music can be played at a funeral ceremony led by a Civil Celebrant.
A Humanist Celebrant is somebody who is trained by a professional organisation to also write and deliver weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies. Humanist Celebrants are non-religious and believe in life centred funerals, and won’t generally include any hymns, prayers, readings, poems or anything mentioning religion or referring to an existence after death and which may be considered an act of worship. Humanists do not believe in any kind of afterlife and believe death is the end.
There is often a misconception that a non-religious funeral is a Humanist funeral, but this isn’t always the case. A Humanist funeral has no religious content at all. The presence of a cross, or any other religious objects, religious music and saying ‘Amen’, won’t be seen or heard during the ceremony.
A Secular Celebrant is similar to a Civil Celebrant in believing that equal rights for people of religious and atheist views are observed on an individual basis. A Secular Celebrant is also trained by a professional organisation to write and deliver weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies. Religion can be included in their ceremonies if required by the family or the wishes of the deceased person. It is usually the choice of the individual Celebrant as to whether they refer to themselves as a Secular or Civil Celebrant.
When planning a funeral, celebration of life or memorial ceremony, it is important to the memory of the deceased and to their family to honour personal beliefs.
All Celebrants believe the ceremony should be about the person and everyone of us will work with the family to produce a personal and life centred ceremony relevant to that person.
More information can be found on websites such as: The Natural Death Centre, The British Humanist Association website , UK Society of Celebrants, Fellowship of Professional Celebrants, The Institute of Civil Funerals, Pagan Transitions
Photos courtesy of http://www.robfarrellphotography.co.uk