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Humanism and community

Humanists Sarah Gresty and Anthony Lewis describe the way local humaist groups can support the need for community

Not all humanists will gather with other humanists in any organised sense, and there is certainly no obligation to do so. Many will get all the community they need from friends and family, work colleagues, local sports clubs, and through the many other ways human beings group together under shared interests and goals.

However, there are around fifty local humanist groups in the UK. Below are short articles about two of them.

Sarah Gresty

Our members belong to our humanist group because it enables discussion and social engagements with like-minded people, something that many of us have struggled to find elsewhere. We are a supportive group of people and our conversations are important to us, because we share a similar worldview and similar values. This understanding creates a space for humanists to express their feelings or concerns, ask questions, and learn from each other. We hold monthly meetings, which can sometimes be a speaker on a defined subject or a general discussion evening, and we also host socials in pubs and family walks.

As a group, we also look to engage with other worldviews in order for us to learn more about each other. We have had fascinating discussions with people of faith, and those who have left a faith, which have offered interesting perspectives. Our speaker programme is a varied one, ranging from talks about the palm oil initiative at Chester Zoo to local homeless projects.

What is becoming more important to us as a group is our connection and involvement with our local community. Within our group we have a number of trained humanist celebrants, pastoral carers, and school speakers, which has brought us into contact with many different people and organisations. We are the organisers for the Chester Great Get Together (a celebration of what we all have in common in remembrance of Jo Cox MP), an event that saw over 300 people attend in 2018. We have just started a Death Café (a space for people to gather and discuss death with a view to helping them make the most of their lives). We also have plans to deliver a monthly Sunday Gathering, which will offer an opportunity to connect with other humanists (but you don’t have to be a humanist to come!) and enjoy a meaningful connection through music, poetry, and conversation.

All of these different aspects enable our Chester Humanist members to find something they enjoy. Our group offers a sense of belonging that understands, respects, and supports our members and our local community, and we try to positively help others where we can.

To us, that’s what humanism is all about.

Anthony Lewis

Having spent 30 years travelling the world working for a global energy company, I now find myself working from home focused on my new passion of creating and producing electronic music! I found this new existence fulfilling but isolating, and realised that I had never really made any friends in my local Windsor area, having been very career-driven most of my life. I missed being part of a community. I missed feeling like I belonged.

In 2014 my husband and I took the opportunity to attend the World Humanist Congress in Oxford. We met so many lovely friendly people with whom we had so much in common. We realised we both would like to get more involved as we had probably been humanists for most of our lives!

We decided to set up a humanist group in our local area. It’s been a great success story for us personally as we have made some real, like-minded friends in the local area, who we would not have met any other way. It’s also been a success in other ways: both of us feel more connected with the wider religious and political community through being involved locally with humanism.

We have several members trained up as schools speakers. We are invited to speak in local schools to provide pupils with a non-religious perspective to their ethical, religious, and moral questions. Speaking to young people has been a revelation for me on how energising it is and how it really connects me back to young people, teachers, and the local school communities.

Windsor Humanists are active members of the two local interfaith groups. Together we have organised an annual series of successful Community Street Showcases on the high streets of Slough, Windsor, and Maidenhead. We are part of an initiative to support the religious and non-religious to work together to help foster dialogue and friendship between different communities.

Through getting involved with Windsor Humanists, I feel much more connected to my local area and community in ways I could never have envisaged when I started this journey. Local groups go a long way to meeting the deep need within us all, as human beings, to belong.

Question: How important is community to human wellbeing?

© Humanists UK
This article is from the free online

Humanist Lives, with Alice Roberts

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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