June 2016 e-Newsletter

e-Newsletter June 2016

In this issue:

Happy World Humanist Day on 21 June!

First Sunday Meeting – 5 June Coding, Kids and Creativity

Report of First Sunday Meeting 1 May: Shakespeare and Humanism

Humanist Same-Sex Weddings – One Year On!

Calling Volunteers for HAI Campaigns!

Help Wanted!

Volunteer Chaplaincy Workshop

Chaplaincy News

Inaugural Meeting of the North Dublin Humanist Community

Summer School Global Climate Change 26-28 August

Interview with a Child on School and Religion – Any Volunteers?

Local Humanist Groups

News Bytes

HAI Stand at the GPO

Contributions from Members

Living Wills and Planning Ahead

Happy World Humanist Day on 21 June!

First Sunday Meeting – 5 June Coding, Kids and Creativity

A presentation and demonstration on how teaching computer programming (coding) to younger learners enhances their reasoning ability and adapts their creativity for a digital age.


Fachtna Roe has been teaching Computer Science – and rational thinking – to young adults for almost 25 years. He has a strong sense of how to explain the way society has developed to its present point, through understanding how our use of information technology has evolved over 3,000 years.

He works in a vocational school in preference to voluntary schools such as where he was himself enrolled as a boy, working in the only State controlled second-level school in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

He joined the HAI board in 2014 to help generally with moving the cause of Humanism forward in Ireland, particularly in the area of education.

Report of First Sunday Meeting 1 May: Shakespeare and Humanism


Brian McClinton was the ideal person to help us to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary. He has been an active spokesman on behalf of humanism in Northern Ireland for many years and is well known as the editor of Humanism Ireland. He was a schoolteacher and is the author of two other books, The Shakespeare Conspiracies and Ulster’s Third Way. He has an abiding deep interest in philosophy and the Renaissance. Shakespeare of course needs no introduction: his ideas and language have permeated English culture like no other texts except the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. His compassion and humour can still touch us all.Brian McClinton began with a survey of ideas of humanism — a term coined by Niethammer in 1808 and based on Cicero — the idea of the centrality of essentially good, autonomous individuals. This is in complete opposition to the Christian dogma of inherently evil nature of humans (exemplified by Pope Innocent’s views). The idea of the essential goodness of humans was extinguished during the ‘Dark Ages’ and only revived in the 15th century (the Renaissance). The ideas were developed and later artists, such as Breugel, portrayed people on a human scale.The principal emphasis of ideas shifted from Christian theology towards a moral philosophy; a much more compassionate view espoused by Erasmus. Thomas More opposed Luther’s ideas of predestination with an emphasis of freedom of the will.
Most Renaissance humanists would have regarded themselves as Christians as Shakespeare himself did.Brian McClinton examined the ideas of humanity in several plays. Hamlet and The Tempest battle with the idea of revenge and forgiveness: characteristically, we are not given any easy answers but are left with important moral questions. In this Shakespeare is in the Renaissance humanist tradition of placing moral questions above theological ones. The latter might have proved dangerous in any event.The discussion considered Shakespeare as an artist exploring philosophical (moral) ideas, rather than giving answers; questioning rather than repeating theological notions of the inherent evil of humanity or moral judgments. An essential part of Shakespeare’s fascination for us is the manner in which arguments are balanced and not resolved, although no ‘baddies’ escape punishment and even the good are punished for their faults.Fachtna Roe, a Director of HAI, chaired the meeting which was attended by about 35 members and visitors.Report by Alan Tuffery

Humanist Same-Sex Weddings – One Year On!

On Friday 22nd May 2015, as we all know, Ireland voted in favour of same-sex marriage. The HAI was obviously fully behind the Yes campaign and it was a source of great joy to us, and in particular to the HAI celebrants, when the referendum was passed.As celebrants we would have conducted a number of same-sex marriages over the years – both before and after civil partnerships came into existence in 2011. In fact HAI celebrants have done at least 16 legal same-sex marriages since the recent legislation was passed and we have at least 49 booked for the rest of this year and into 2017.But to give a little bit of historical context to where we find ourselves today: Ellen Sides remembers conducting a wedding ceremony in a B&B (approx. 15 years ago) for a lesbian couple – where discretion was very much the watchword. It was an ordinary house in a small estate in the west of Ireland and wasn’t even advertised as a B&B. It was run by a lesbian couple for other women who wanted somewhere to stay where they could simply be themselves. As a result of that wedding Ellen was asked to do another ceremony and this couple did book a hotel. But a few days before the wedding the hotel found out that it was going to be a same-sex wedding and so they cancelled the booking. As you can imagine – considerable distress ensued.So it is absolutely wonderful, in 2016, to finally be able to conduct legal same-sex marriages in the same spirit of joy and openness that we conduct all our wedding ceremonies. I personally have done 3 legal same-sex weddings since the start of the year and at least two of the couples have been together for over 20 years – when they first got together they never dreamed that one day they would be able to get married. The photo that accompanies this piece is of one of those couples – two fantastic spirited women with 3 gorgeous kids. They are a family, the same as any other, and their wedding was simply a celebration, as all weddings are, of the deep love and shared responsibility they have for each other and, in their case, for their children also.

It is a huge privilege to be a celebrant: to be present at some of the most meaningful times in peoples lives, from birth to marriage to death, and we are simply thrilled that in regard to marriage all our fellow citizens are now treated equally.

Emma Sides
Ceremonies Management Committee

 

Calling Volunteers for HAI Campaigns! 

We’re calling on all willing members to let us know they can help!
We need volunteers to manage or support a campaign for:

  • Reform Census Question 2021
  • Blasphemy (Ireland & International)
  • Religious Oaths
  • Amend section 37 of the Employment Equality Act
  • Dying with Dignity

Just to list a few.

We have had a number of successful campaigns, such as our recent Census campaign Tick the No Religion Box. Other campaigns and initiatives include:

  • last year’s baptismal certificate campaign highlighting discrimination against non-religious children in schools’ admissions policiies
  • questions to ask candidates in the General Election
  • submission to the UN Human Rights Council on equality for the non-religious

We are looking for more members to join our enthusiastic & strong campaign team of volunteers to help with research, organise events, write to politicians, compose submissions and help to spread information and do your bit for equality for the non-religious.

Simply email me and I will be in touch with you. Terry Flynn         terryflynnhai@gmail.com

Our volunteers are invaluable and your support is greatly appreciated!

Help Wanted!

Volunteer Chaplaincy Workshop

On the 11th of May, 2016, Director of Ceremonies and Pastoral Care, Willie Collins, and Chaplaincy committee member Oisin Carey attended a ‘Train the Trainers’ day in the office of the British Humanist Association in London, intended to qualify members to deliver and assess the Volunteer Pastoral care training course that has been developed by the BHA.On the 15th of May, 2016, a workshop was held in the Ashling Hotel to explain the history of Humanist Chaplaincy in Ireland, describe the current situation in which Irish chaplains work, and describe the BHA training programme for volunteer chaplains. An estimated 55-65 members attended the workshop, hailing from all corners of Ireland, united by their desire to do good for their fellow humans.The Chairperson of the Board, Síle Headen, introduced the meeting, describing the Chaplaincy team’s trip to the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, the Netherlands as the inspiration behind the current direction of the HAI chaplaincy team. Síle defined the chaplaincy service as “emotional support in times of life change, grief and uncertainty.”Willie Collins chaired the meeting, and introduced the first speaker, Nicolas Johnson, former Head of Chaplaincy with the HAI, and founding member and first president of the Board of Directors of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University. Nic reviewed his work over the years for Humanist causes, detailing the development of the first paid Humanist Chaplaincy service in Harvard University. Through fundraising and the acquisition of endowments to develop the service, Nic oversaw the employment of two full-time Humanist Chaplains, a service which is continued today through the Humanist Hub on campus under the leadership of Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein. Nic later came to Ireland, and through years of work discovered the significant state role in paying and employing Catholic chaplains, often through secretive and undemocratic employment systems. Through his years of activism, Nic has overseen the representation of Humanist chaplains at multiple Irish state commemorations, and on the HSE advisory council. This is among all of the rest of the work that the HAI Chaplaincy does. Nic received an extended ovation and much thanks from the audience and his co-speakers. We are all incredibly grateful for his years of activism, and we thank him again here now.Paddy McDermot was the next speaker, detailing the results of the previous census finding of over 300,000 non-religious, indicating that there is a significant need for Humanist representatives in state institutions where chaplains have been hired. He described his work in contacting chaplaincy services in the prison service and the armed forces, and lobbying the Oireachtas committee. Terry Saunders followed by giving a stirring speech about the inspiration that the Chaplaincy Conference in Utrecht provided, giving the team a vision of what Humanist Chaplaincy services can look like when fully integrated into state institutions. Terry made clear his deep admiration for the audience’s interest and commitment in the chaplaincy service.One of the HAI’s only chaplains and celebrants, Joe Armstrong, reflected on his experiences of chaplaincy services through his past experiences in training to become a Roman Catholic priest, describing his visits to prisons, old folks home, and the stories he has heard of people’s experiences of needing pastoral care, and finding it.

Ruth Yeo, a chaplain in Queen’s University, Belfast followed with a description of her own experiences in working to develop a chaplaincy group for Humanist students, and the slow transition from the initially cold and unfriendly staff and chaplains to her recognition as a true member of the chaplaincy team. Describing her initial status as that of a “wandering gypsy”, Ruth has worked to develop connections between groups of Humanist students with group meetings and pizza and pub sessions. She also described some  of her latest experiences in working as a volunteer chaplain in a hospital, and how she came to be accepted as a member of team there.

After the break, Oisin Carey gave a broad overview of the BHA pastoral care volunteer training course. He started with the overall structure of: the preparation, requiring readings and attendence at an online conference call to introduce participants; the face-to-face classes where the skills are taught and assessed; and accreditation, consisting of the organisational approach plans, reflections, and online catch-up sessions to assess progress. The content of the course consists of detailed descriptions of the roles of chaplains in hospitals and prisons, teaching and assessment of key care skills such as active listening and building rapport, and an overall view of what the meaning of Humanist chaplaincy services is and how we can present them to people who are unaware of who we are and what we do.

It has been arranged that BHA trainers will come to Ireland in July to provide the first Irish training of pastoral care volunteers, and the participants at the workshop have been invited to apply to be trained in this first cohort. As time goes on, Irish trainers will begin to deliver the course. Our aim is to develop a well-connected chaplaincy support network nationally providing our services to the general public. We are extremely excited to be at the beginning of this fantastic journey.

Oisín Carey

Chaplaincy News
Willie Collins, Norma McElligott and Nic Johnson attended the HSE Chaplaincy Council meeting on April 26. In response from a request from the Chair for stories about experiences people may have had with chaplains at HSE hospitals, Nic Johnson read aloud one such experience written by a long-term HAI member. It was very well received by the group:
“I was in the Blackrock Clinic having open-heart surgery, and subsequently had mental complications which the hospital didn’t seem at first to recognise. When I had checked in, I had met the Chaplain, Fr. Gerry, and explained to him that I was a humanist and wouldn’t be needing Mass or Catholic spiritual guidance, and he happily accepted that.  Nevertheless, he used to pop his head around my door every day with a cheery smile, and later when I was in trouble, his visits were very welcome and I always looked forward to seeing him and getting the news from him. He never once mentioned God or Jesus or anything like that. We have exchanged Xmas cards every year since, and I recently met him when I was visiting the hospital, and we were both delighted to see each other, and had a cup of coffee together in the canteen. A lovely man.
That’s my story.”
We offered this experience at the HSE meeting as an example of good chaplaincy service and to highlight the fact that good chaplains need not have to provide religious services as part of their job.
Nic Johnson

Inaugural Meeting of the North Dublin Humanist Community

Dear fellow HAI members:

Inspired by the South Dublin Humanist Community, and determined not to be left out, Sally O’Kelly and myself have decided to start a North Dublin Humanist Community! We would like to further broaden the opportunities for members to meet up, alongside the 1st Sunday meetings, and all the other regional groups.
We are going to have our first meeting at 8pm on Monday 27th June in Hedigan’s Pub (also known as the Brian Boru) in Phibsborough. After that, and if anyone else turns up, we’ll see how we’re getting on! As the mother of two small children I would particularly like to organise some family-friendly outings such as a walk in the Botanic Gardens on a Saturday morning etc. So we hope that that sort of thing would constitute part of the activities.
If you are interested in coming along then please email me at emmasides@gmail.com and myself and Sally look forward to seeing you.
Warmest regards

Emma Sides and Sally O’Kelly

Summer School Global Climate Change 26-28 August

Summer School

Every year the Humanist Association of Ireland  and Humani (the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland) jointly organise a Summer School held in Carlingford.
This is a two-day theme-based event with guest speakers, discussions and workshops, as well as plenty of social activities. It’s great fun as well as giving fascinating insights into widely varying areas of Humanism.
Learn and enjoy! 

CLIMATE CHANGE

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The theme for this year is Climate Change. The information listed below is a preliminary sketch of what will be a wonderful few days in Carlingford.  Nearer the date, we will confirm speakers and workshops.
Global warming” may not sound too bad but “Climate chaos” is in fact a more apt description of our future, and the chaos is unlikely to stop at climate.
This year the All Ireland Summer School will focus on Humanism and Climate Change and discuss how we can expect increasing conflicts over diminishing resources such as oil, land and water, escalating extinctions of wildlife, more frequent humanitarian disasters, and mass migrations of refugees from areas where food crops no longer grow.
Confirmed speakers include:
·         John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at QUB will speak on Climate Justice
·         Eamon McCann, Journalist and Author, campaigner for social justice will speak on Paths to Sustainability
·         Duncan Stewart, Award-winning Architect and Television Producer, has been a leading Irish advocate for environmental, health and conservation issues for over 40 years.
The dates are Friday night, Saturday and-Sunday morning, of 26th-28th August 2016.  We meet informally on the Friday night in the Carlingford Arms, then on Saturday and Sunday until lunchtime in the Heritage Centre, at the foot of Slieve Foy, the highest peak on Carlingford Mountain.
Ticket Price is €30 for Saturday and €15 for Sunday
On Saturday night we have a dinner and entertainment. If you wish to attend the dinner, the cost is €30.00
If you plan to come for two or three nights, it is important to book accommodation early. http://www. carlingfordandmourne.com/ carlingford/where-to-stay
If you any problem finding accommodation, please contact admin@humanism.ie.
Paypal will be available on the website nearer the time or you can send a cheque for the amount, payable to Humanist Association of Ireland
For more information on previous Summer Schools see the Archive page or click on the links below.

– See more at: http://humanism.ie/events/summer-school/#sthash.kCcCsS1W.dpuf

The theme for this year is Climate Change. The information listed below is a preliminary sketch of what will be a wonderful few days in Carlingford.  Nearer the date, we will confirm speakers and workshops.
Global warming” may not sound too bad but “Climate chaos” is in fact a more apt description of our future, and the chaos is unlikely to stop at climate.
This year the All Ireland Summer School will focus on Humanism and Climate Change and discuss how we can expect increasing conflicts over diminishing resources such as oil, land and water, escalating extinctions of wildlife, more frequent humanitarian disasters, and mass migrations of refugees from areas where food crops no longer grow.
Confirmed speakers include:
·         John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at QUB will speak on Climate Justice
·         Eamon McCann, Journalist and Author, campaigner for social justice will speak on Paths to Sustainability
·         Duncan Stewart, Award-winning Architect and Television Producer, has been a leading Irish advocate for environmental, health and conservation issues for over 40 years.
The dates are Friday night, Saturday and-Sunday morning, of 26th-28th August 2016.  We meet informally on the Friday night in the Carlingford Arms, then on Saturday and Sunday until lunchtime in the Heritage Centre, at the foot of Slieve Foy, the highest peak on Carlingford Mountain.
Ticket Price is €30 for Saturday and €15 for Sunday
On Saturday night we have a dinner and entertainment. If you wish to attend the dinner, the cost is €30.00
– See more at: http://humanism.ie/events/summer-school/#sthash.kCcCsS1W.dpufxth class who would be willing to be interviewed on camera and be asked a few questions about their experience of religion in school.

Interview with a Child on School and Religion – Any Volunteers?

A journalist from the news website TheJournal.ie is looking for a child from fifth or sixth class who would be willing to be interviewed on camera and be asked a few questions about their experience of religion in school.

He is doing a series on religion in schools, and wants to interview a child about being educated without any religious direction.

Questions can be approved in advance by the parents and the school.
The journalist’s contact details are: Michael Sheils McNamee, phone number 089 2153461 or 01 6854073

Local Humanist Groups

Cork Humanists meet on the First Tuesday of the month in the Bar BOQ, Bridge Street, Cork at 7.30 pm.  Details are also on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.Humanists West serve Galway and surrounding areas, and meet in Galway City on the last Sunday of each month. Please note the change of venue: we are now meeting in the Anno Santo Hotel, Threadneedle Road, Salthill, Galway. The meetings start at 12 noon. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on garryol@hotmail.com or 087 2222726.Kilkenny plus members from Laois, Offaly, Carlow, and Kildare meet on the second Friday of the month at 8.00 p.m. in The Bróg Maker, Castlecomer Road, Kilkenny.    Contact Fachtna Roe on fachtna@fachtnaroe.ie for further details.  Please note change of location!Mid-West Humanists