Thursday, June 30, 2005

The task of celebrancy - according to Einstein

I'm sure Albert Einstein wasn't thinking of celebrancy when he wrote the following, but it seems to me to be a great vision-statement for a celebrant
A human being is part of the whole,
called by us the 'universe'
limited in time and space ....
Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison
by widening our circle of compassion
to embrace humanity and the whole of nature in its beauty

Til next time

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Children learn what they live

Probably the most common poem read at Baby Naming Ceremonies is Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte. And yes, the poem is plural and does have an author. Numerous adaptations of the poem are around, most used in namings are in the singular and have the personal pronoun adjusted to suit the gender of the child.

I've just bought a great little book in which Nolte (who wrote the original poem to explain what her parenting classes covered) explores and expands the meaning of each couplet. It is called Children Learn What They Live: Parenting to Inspire Values.

As Jack Canfield writes in the foreword
No parent I have ever known wakes up in the morning, turns to his or her spouse and says, "I've just thought of four great ways to destroy little Billy's self-esteem. We can judge him, ridicule him, shame him, and lie to him. Nobody sets out to purposely hurt their children, and yet parents often do just that. It's not intentional. It is usually out of unawareness and fear that
parents pass on their own limited beliefs and emotional hang-ups to their children.
When I ask parents what they would like to promise their child as part of my naming ceremonies, I see wonderful creativity, thoughtfulness and love in their responses.

Having read this book, the words I put round the principles of being loving, respectful, affirming and empowering parents, will reflect the poem more closely.

A good read and highly recommended to all parents.

Til next time

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Religious content in Baby Naming Ceremonies

Another FAQ ....Can we have religious references in the ceremony?

Obviously, if you want a fully religious ceremony, you should be contacting your church or religious community.

But there is nothing wrong with having some reference to God, perhaps a prayer, or a reading with a religious bias, included in a civil ceremony - just as there is nothing wrong with having a 100% secular ceremony.

The main thing is that the ceremony should be authentic to you, your family, and your beliefs.

At a ceremony I performed not so long ago, the grandparents were committed churchgoers and the parents of the child were not. So out of respect they asked the grandparents if they would choose and read a passage they felt was appropriate to their beliefs at the ceremony.

It went really well.

Til next time ...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Ceremony Space

Several weeks ago I conducted a naming for two gorgeous children - a baby and a toddler - at their grandparents home. Nice property with about an acre of ground north of Brisbane. The way they had organised the ceremony space was quite inspired.

They had used the space in front of the garage and arranged it so everyone had a chair, and there weren't too many rows from front to back. The table for signing was a lovely family antique covered with a lace cloth and the backdrop to it all was a screen of golden-cane palms which surrounded the covered barbeque area (where they'd set up the refreshments for afterwards). So from every angle throughout the ceremony, the photographs had a lovely backdrop, and everyone could hear - the only problem was that palm trees often harbour mosquitoes and we were all bitten to death - at 3pm

Obviously, as a celebrant, it is part of my job to ensure that the ceremony space is appropriate. But that can be difficult when the ceremony is held in a private home (as most baby naming ceremonies are).

Still, I've found that paying attention to the following will help to make sure that everyone is comfortable, safe and can see and hear:

  • Make sure you don't invite more people than the space can accommodate - and even if you have a large outdoor area, the weather isn't always cooperative, so you need to use the inside space you would use in case of rain as your basis for deciding on how many guests to invite
  • Try and have enough chairs for everyone (children can sit on cushions on the floor/ground in front of the seated adults)
  • Have the chairs relatively close to the action and try not to have too many rows of them
  • Make sure the table provided for the signing of the naming certificate and register is stable
  • Check on external noise - over-flying aircraft, building construction, lawn mowers and powertools can all drown out a ceremony. Try to pick a time for the ceremony that both suits the baby's routine and is relatively quiet. If you have a good relationship with your neighbours it is a good idea to let them know when the ceremony is being held and ask that they don't use tools or lawnmowers during that time
  • Check that all areas that are hazardous to children (ponds, pools etc) are secured
  • Provide shade on hot days
  • And if you have native Australian plants or palms that hold reservoirs of water in which mozzies can breed, spray the area well before the ceremony!

Despite the mozzies it was a lovely, happy ceremony and the photos were great.

Til next time ...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Why Baby Naming?

I've been creating and conducting baby naming ceremonies (aka namegivings) for some time, and I'm continually surprised by three things:
  1. How often the people who engage me have never been to a civil naming, but just know they want some formal ceremony to name and welcome their child into their family and immediate community but have no idea of what it consists of.
  2. How often wonderful spontaneous expressions of love and support and really heart-warming evidence of really good parenting occur during a naming ceremony
  3. How often, during the ceremony preparation phase clients introduce a request for something they'd like at a naming ceremony by saying "If we're allowed.....

My response to No 3 is commonly a threat to take a baseball bat to their heads if I ever hear those words coming out of their mouths again.

Seriously, folks, when you hire a civil celebrant, you have the cheque book, you are in charge.

The role of a civil celebrant, as I see it, is to be an inspired listener, extracting from you information about what you feel and need and would like, and then to be a facilitator who uses that information to make suggestions and develop a ceremony that meets your needs.

Til next time