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Humanists UK services during the epidemic

As well as cancelling our public and member events between now and the end of July, Humanists UK is responding to the coronavirus pandemic across its range of community services by making important changes to the way they are carried out.

Funerals, weddings, and namings

Our celebrants are already making the necessary adjustments to make weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies possible in the context of physical distancing and the self-quarantining of people at home. By making greater use of streaming and video-calling technologies, humanist celebrants will be taking forward the person-centred and uniquely tailored support we offer to grieving families and to wedding couples in web meetings to plan the ceremony and even, where people don’t wish to delay, the live-streaming of ceremonies.

Our priority remains supporting bereaved families as much as we can to make sure that they can say farewell to their loved one in a personal and meaningful way, and at the right time for them.

Naturally many people will choose to delay their important ceremonies until after the epidemic. In the case of funerals, humanist celebrants will be on hand to support families with planning longer memorial services at a later date for those who choose to have direct cremations in the meantime.

For more information, you should read the statement from Humanist Ceremonies and keep an eye on this website for further updates.

Education and schools

A poster for social media, telling parents about our support for home-schooling

Our accredited school visitors will not be making school visits for the foreseeable future, but we will be uploading new resources to our dedicated education websites Understanding Humanism and Assemblies for All.

These resources are all available for teachers and parents to use completely for free, and specially designed for children of different ages.

We want to do everything we can to make these resources as useful as possible to parents who, following school closures across the country, will need stimulating and educational materials for their children.

For those looking to explore longer and more in-depth material, we would encourage looking at our online courses, some of which are provided through the FutureLearn platform. These are a great way to engage in social learning in conversation with other learners from around the world.

Pastoral care

We have not suspended the work of our pastoral carers, but widespread rule changes across hospitals, hospices, universities, and prisons mean humanist pastoral carers will no longer be able to provide non-religious pastoral care in those institutions face-to-face.

We will look to resume this work as soon as the situation allows. In the meantime, there may be opportunities for our pastoral carers to provide care voluntarily in the national effort – such as online using a secure platform, or in developing resources to help people who are struggling, or in partnership with other charities. We are developing a series of online pastoral care sessions we will offer to NHS and other front line staff and actively exploring these possibilities.

The welfare of our volunteers and those we support remains our priority and we will continue to look for ways to provide non-judgemental pastoral care to non-religious people in this time of uncertainty and anxiety.

Other face-to-face services

Other services which rely on face-to-face contact, such as peer support groups for people leaving cults and coercive religions through Faith to Faithless, and our dialogue with religious groups, will be suspended until further notice. We encourage all those making use of these services to contact us if they have any problems.

Another priority for us is combating loneliness in the wider community. One aspect of our community services which addresses this aspect of our work is our local groups, branches, and sections bringing together non-religious people around the country. While physical meetings will not go ahead, the fellowship and community our branches and sections provide will continue. Working together with celebrants and pastoral carers, our community sections will be setting up digital forums to facilitate socialising and human connection, even in self-isolation. We will look to resume hosting regular ‘death cafes’ and other similar discussion forums about sensitive issues over digital platforms. Please keep an eye on our social media for updates.

As the situation evolves, we will be looking to contribute to the national effort in all ways we can. If you’re involved in the delivery of key national or local services, we stand ready to provide help. You can get in touch with us by email

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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