Humanist national memorial

June 15, 2020

Humanist National Memorial Ceremony will mark three months since lockdown with input from humanists from all four nations of the UK.

On 23 June at 11:00, Humanists UK – supported by Humanist Society Scotland – is holding a national memorial ceremony to help those who have experienced loss due to the coronavirus pandemic and to mark three months since the start of lockdown. The ceremony will offer an opportunity to reflect on what we have been and are still going through, pay tribute to those we have lost, offer hope, and reckon with the grief, mourning, and anxiety so many of us have known these past three months.

Taking the form of a 30-minute live broadcast across social media, the film is being released to coincide with the 3-month anniversary of the start of lockdown – a long and difficult period in which over 60,000 excess deaths have been recorded. The ceremony is presented by well-known faces like Joan Bakewell, Mark Gatiss, Alice Roberts, and Jim Al-Khalili, but also includes frontline humanist community service workers including funeral celebrants, pastoral carers from NHS chaplaincy teams, and community volunteers from across the UK who have been working at capacity during this crisis.

Millions of people in the UK each year draw comfort from humanist funerals and this ceremony has been scripted in that spirit. It is principally directed at non-religious people but it is hoped that it may give comfort to those of different beliefs.

Michael Rosen, whose poem in tribute to the NHS is read in the ceremony by Mark Gatiss, paid his own tribute to health service workers.

The NHS has just saved my life, nursed me back to health and are now rehabilitating me to be able to walk and be strong. I will forever be a champion of the NHS.

Michael Rosen

Humanist Society Scotland Chief Executive, Fraser Sutherland, commented:

Throughout the lockdown period humanist funerals have continued, but we realise that not everyone who would have liked to attend a loved one’s memorial has had the opportunity to do so. This initiative will allow people from right across the UK to join together in a common act of remembrance via an online ceremony. It will also reflect on the changes to all our lives and the challenges we continue to face.

‘The inclusive ceremony will draw upon shared values that humanists hold in common such as compassion, love, and our common humanity.

Fraser Sutherland, Humanist Society Scotland

Humanists UK Chief Executive, Andrew Copson, commented:

In every part of the UK, people have experienced loss due to the coronavirus pandemic, or suffered enormously with the weight of lockdown. Humanists UK’s national memorial ceremony is designed to bring together people from all nations of the UK to remember the lives we have lost and acknowledge the sacrifices we have made. This is a ceremony anyone can access and like all humanist ceremonies, its format is inclusive of attendees and listeners from all walks of life.

A humanist ceremony is typically characterised by its personalisation and its uniqueness to the situation at hand. Here, humanist celebrants have risen to the challenge of applying that same craft and care to create a ceremony that can speak to the whole nation at a time of grief and difficulty.

Andrew Copson, Humanists UK

The ceremony is first being broadcast at 11:00 on 23 June, through Humanists UK’s YouTube channel and will be shared to Humanist Society Scotland’s social media streams at the same time. It will be available to watch back after it first goes out.

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