Ann James opened the meeting by wishing everyone a productive 2014.
As Ann has retired as Chairperson and moved to the UK, Daphne Wynne made a presentation to her on behalf of the HAI. Daphne, Nic Johnson and Brian Whiteside all spoke of Ann’s immense contribution to our association and of her warmth and friendship to them. She has been our longest serving board member and has done the lion’s share of the work to bring the HAI to where it is today. Ann has been the HAI public face for radio and press and our prime negotiator at government meetings. She founded the Summer School, started Darwin Day and was the first accredited humanist chaplain who was also a celebrant.
In response Ann thanked those who inspired and worked with her to bring us to where we have a good name amongst humanists worldwide.
Ceremonies: Brian Whiteside reported a significant increase in demand for humanist ceremonies for 2014
Chaplaincy: Nic Johnson advised that the April meeting will be devoted entirely to this topic in order to lay down plans for the future.
Summer School: 29th to 31st August. Volunteers are needed to work with the Dublin and N.I. group.
Survey: Jane Haringan, a psychology student, asked attendees to complete a survey entitled Investigation into the relationship of forgiveness on general health is related to religious versus non-religious people. She will send the results in April.
Open Forum How do those of no religion deal with practical life issues? Ann invited people to comment on how we cope with relationships, death, marriage and children. How does christianity impact on our lives. Some contributions were:
People can find it difficult being a humanist in a Christian household. It can cause family dissension and alienate friends in the community.
There was a lengthy discussion on death: Many members expressed difficulty in explaining death to children without the convenient loophole of heaven. One suggestion was that we should teach them the concepts of science and biology – they are more resilient than we think.
As we perform weddings, should we provide pre-marital courses as churches do. Eithne said of the fifty-five couples she has married, only one asked about this. We could compile a listing of suitable counsellors and offer this to couples as marriage is a life skill which requires preparation.
A heated discussion took place around the Irish traditin of saying ‘god bless’, ‘I will say a prayer for you’ etc. Meeting was divided between ‘accept as it is kindly meant and is part of the our culture’ and the opposite ‘we have done enough accepting, shouldn’t we make a stand’.
We have different tolerance levels. Should we devote another meeting to look at ways we can help ourselves and others cope with the emotional side of alienation, bereavement and relationship difficulties.
Elmer Flynn attended their first Dublin meeting which was attended by circa 100 young people. Started in the U.K in 2012, it has spread to 28 cities. As this is the age group we wish to attract, agreed we should liaise with them. Website http://sundayassembly.com/about/
Meeting report by Maeve Cooling