Members of the British Humanist Association (BHA) gathered at the Bishopsgate Institute in London on Saturday 11 July for the Association’s 2015 AGM and surrounding activities.
Attendees turned out in force and spent the morning learning about the BHA’s work across ceremonies, pastoral care, and campaigns. Head of Ceremonies Isabel Russo was pleased to show data for the rising popularity of Humanist Ceremonies™ across funerals, weddings, and namings, while Head of Pastoral Support, David Savage, was able to announce that the BHA has trained over 40 volunteers who can deliver like-minded pastoral care to non-religious people in hospitals and prisons. Recent news that NHS England will now mandate hospitals to provide adequate non-religious pastoral support is expected to drive a surge in demand for non-religious pastoral support volunteers, and the BHA aims to train at least 60 more in the next year through its pastoral arm, Humanist Care.
BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns Pavan Dhaliwal updated members on the BHA’s policy and public outreach work. Delegates heard about the growing momentum of the BHA’s ‘faith’ schools campaigns and the increased international focus of the BHA’s work, highlighting its involvement in establishing the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws and its recent interventions before the UN Human Rights Council. Pavan also updated members on the BHA’s discussions with the Law Commission in relation to its pending review of legalising humanist marriage, and announced that the BHA was exploring strategic litigation in relation to several of its core campaigns this year. She was also happy to report on the BHA’s enormous social media growth, including its sizeable Facebook page and impactful and ‘Verified’ Twitter account.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson gave an address to the membership, discussing the whole of the BHA’s activities over the previous 12 months. ‘We are not just a campaigning organisation,’ he told members, ‘but a social and cultural movement that exists to do more than just influence government policy.’ He gave thanks to the BHA’s members and volunteers for their generosity and continued moral support, reflecting on sustained publicity around the BHA’s campaigns, as well as successful events such as the Darwin Day and Voltaire Lectures, the World Humanist Congress in 2014, and its 2015 Annual Conference.
The formal business of the AGM was handled efficiently by Robert Ashby, now entering his 10th year as Chair of the Board, with members electing Amy Walden, Blaise Egan, and Guy Otten to serve on the Board. Outgoing trustees Alan Palmer, Martin Rowson, and Mary Porter were thanked for their dedicated service. Members were delighted to hear from Treasurer John Adams of the BHA’s good financial health, which has allowed the creation of three new staff posts to improve its capacity across campaigns, events, and the coordination of BHA groups and sections.
The day was rounded off with an informal Q&A session featuring most of the BHA staff. Highlights promised for the year ahead included greater integration of BHA groups and sections, with the offer of further skills training for volunteer group leaders; an even broader events programme; and exciting plans to reach more teachers than ever through the Humanism for Schools programme.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.