This blog has been discontinued. See Adam Gonnerman for all future posts.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Humanist Ministry for New Jersey

Being raised Roman Catholic meant that when, in my early teens, I started to think ministry would be in my future, the specter of celibate priesthood loomed large. As time passed and I explored religion further I became unconvinced of Catholic teachings and moved on to Protestantism. Along the way I studied for the ministry and was ordained by an independent Christian Church, serving churches and in Brazil church planting along the way. Now, as a Humanist, that draw into ministry remains even as I work in streaming technology program management as my 'day job.' Fortunately, avenues of service remain for me, including as a Humanist celebrant. 

An odd thing about a lot of ministry education is that the practical element is often left to the side. At no point in studying for my Bachelor of Ministry degree was there a class on officiating weddings and funerals. It must have come up as a topic somewhere, but there was certainly no instruction provided on how to go about it. We were more focused on marriage and family counseling than on the mechanics of a ceremony. That's probably fairly typical of evangelical ministry training. So, what I know I learned through experience.

The first time I was approached for a wedding ceremony was in New Mexico in 2004. A young couple came to church one Sunday expressly to talk to me about officiating for them. I don't know what drew them to that church in particular, but I was happy to help. It turned out to be a great experience, and I officiated two more weddings in the following months, before relocating my family to New Jersey and ultimately beginning a new career in technology. Even in the process of career change I offered my services to officiate, and handled a few more weddings in New Jersey.

Last year I had the honor and joy of officiating my daughter's wedding, and it got me thinking again about how much I enjoy offering this type of service. For me it's less a business, though I'm in the process of organizing an LLC for legal and practical reasons, and more about giving back to the community. It's for that reason my rates are lower than what might be expected from any other officiant in the area. 

As a Humanist celebrant I am "authorized to attend to the pastoral and ceremonial needs of Humanists and all others seeking these services," as it says on my endorsement document from The Humanist Society, and this is exactly what I am to do. People in our times are more disconnected from organized religion than previous generations, which means that when special occasions arise they won't necessarily have a clergyperson they know to officiate for them. I am glad to be able to fill this role for them.

Further, while I am certainly happy to be a one-off celebrant for a wedding or other milestone event in the lives of families, I am also available for pastoral care. While I am not a therapist and wouldn't think to take the role of a mental health professional, I can be there for people in times of crisis. For that there is absolutely no fee. As a Humanist minister it is my privilege to be the ear that listens and the presence that consoles. 

While I am registered to officiate weddings in New York City, and can certainly do so, I am especially committed to provide my services in New Jersey, where I make my home. Simple ceremonies in Carteret, where I live, can be made available for free. Anything a bit more involved or taking place elsewhere in the state will have a fee, but as I said above, it won't be on the level of some of what I've seen out there in terms of cost. Weddings are expensive, and I have no need to make it more difficult for anyone.

For weddings, vow renewals, infant dedications, and more, contact me. I look forward being of assistance.