Like many people, David Atkinson found the first humanist funeral he attended was unlike any other funeral he had experienced. He was so captivated by the personal approach to the non-religious ceremony, that he decided to apply to become a humanist celebrant.
David tells us how he became an accredited humanist funeral celebrant.
A few years ago, I accompanied my elderly aunt to the funeral of her close friend. The ceremony was conducted by a Humanist Ceremonies celebrant. It was the first humanist funeral I had attended — and I was enthralled by it.
The ceremony was a wonderful celebration of her life, held at a location that was special to her, with her beloved dog in attendance. It was nothing like the traditional funerals I had attended before, which I’d found to be rather impersonal and unsatisfactory. I decided there and then that I wanted to apply to become a humanist celebrant.
How do you become a humanist celebrant?
There is an application process to join the celebrant training programme. You need to complete an application form and have a video interview, in which you are asked to demonstrate your commitment to Humanism by showing that you have a clear understanding and a strong commitment to the underlying principles of Humanism. (If you are not already a member of Humanists UK, you’ll be expected to join.)
If your application is successful, you will attend a training programme which includes an induction session and general and technical skills training.
‘To me, Humanism is a philosophy which encourages open-mindedness and relies on evidence, science, and logic. It seeks to treat people and the world with care, kindness and respect.’
What skills do you need to be a humanist celebrant?
My skills are not unique, but they are important skills for all celebrants: I listen carefully; I aim to produce a really special, unique ceremony every single time; I try my best to keep my composure; and I’m scrupulously organised!
I feel honoured to be entrusted to assist people at a time of intense, personal grief. I like the challenge of discovering and telling the unique story of the person who has died, and to provide some comfort to their loved ones.
On a personal level, in going about my work as a celebrant, I have grown significantly through the interactions I have had with such diverse people.
‘Being a funeral celebrant is the most rewarding thing I have done.’
My first ceremony
The first humanist funeral ceremony I conducted was that of a much-loved man from a nearby village. Having recently completed my Humanists UK training, I was nervous, but not daunted (as I had observed several ceremonies conducted by my mentor and two fellow North Wales celebrants and had lots of ideas and inspiration).
About a year after the funeral, the man’s wife decided to move away from the area to be close to her son and granddaughter. Before leaving, it was important to her to invite me to her home to say farewell and show me some mementos of their marriage, which was very touching. It reinforced how important the role of a celebrant is.
A moving farewell
I also conducted the funeral of a man who for many years was a member of the Morriston Orpheus Choir, an internationally renowned Swansea-based male voice choir. The committal, to a stirring recording of Gwahoddiad sung by the choir at the Dolgellau Town Cemetery in the shadow of the Cader Idris mountain, was a wonderful and moving farewell.
Get in touch
David is not currently working as a celebrant. You can find other celebrants in the area here .
Humanist funerals and memorials are non-religious ceremonies that support family and friends to mourn and to celebrate the person who has died. They focus on the life they led, the relationships they forged, and the legacy they left. They are based on the humanist perspective that every life is individual and valuable.
Funerals conducted by humanist celebrants are both a celebration of a life and a dignified, personal farewell. They’re the perfect option for families who want a sincere, personal reflection on the life of their loved one.