New Ceremonies for Old Skin.

5 03 2011

It is time to create new, secular and humanist ceremonies to commemorate disasters.

The Christchurch earthquake of February 21st has claimed 169 lives, with a guesstimated death toll of 240. Already talk has begun of a memorial service for the dead and injured. We need to have an urgent discussion on how this should take place, it should no longer be the default position the religion should be the centre piece.

After the Pike River mine tragedy a memorial ceremony was held for the 29 men whose lives were lost. As the plans for the memorial ceremony were unveiled it became clear that this would be an overtly Christian religious service, rather than a memorial to those who had died, regardless of their religious affiliations. A West Coast blogger even wrote a post, Pike Memorial was blessedly Christian.

The memorial included the following:

  • Opening by Canon Mere Wallace
  • Introduction by Reverend Tim Mora
  • St Patricks Catholic Church choir sing "Amazing Grace"
  • Hymn How Great Thou Art sung together, led by Carolyn Williams and her band
  • "You’ll Never Walk Alone" sung by Carolyn and Sarah Williams and her band
  • Prayers written by Charles and Sue Prattley and read by Father John Morrison for bereaved families, rescue teams and support workers. Prayer for God to help us in our grief.
  • Bible Reading and homily by Reverend Tim Mora
  • Blessing by Canon Mere Wallace

At the last New Zealand Census (2006) 51.2% identified (or in the case of children were identified) as Christian; a very skinny majority. This number has declined every Census since 1901. That means that any Christian emphasis excludes 48.8% of the population. Further, at the census, 32.2% identified as non-religious. That is 1,381,491 people excluded from the memorial on the basis of religion.

Let’s begin a conversation about recognising loss and grief, about commemorating the dead and about bringing people together, without the need for invocations to non-existent deities, without the myths that god cares and heals and without the saccarine sentimentality of religion.

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