European Humanist Professionals Newsletter (June 2020)

European Humanist Professionals Newsletter (June 2020)

Posted on the 25/06/20



 Neil Anderson
Chair of Commission-EHP

Welcome to the Summer edition of the EHP Newsletter.
As international humanists we know that when our blue planet is viewed from space, there are no national boundaries to be seen – and while Covid 19 pays scant regard to borders one of the outcomes of the global response to the pandemic has been to see the nation state implement territory specific rules and practice and to tighten border control.
And the response of our respective governments means that there is a wide variation on how we are having to address our work on Chaplaincy, Education and Ceremonies. In this issue we have highlighted some of the responses of our colleagues to the pandemic and how we, as European Humanist Professionals, continue to deliver our services to a public who need our help, guidance, empathy and skill even more at this time.
We would like to share your experiences with our humanist community  – so do please drop us an email or post on our Facebook page to tell us how things are being viewed in your neck of the woods and how you and your colleagues are rising to the fresh challenges as we address the evolving new normal.
We are unable to hold face to face meet ups meantime and so we are looking to hold on line discussion and training – see below for our first session  – and we are keen to develop this avenue as a way of further engaging with our members. so, again, please contribute your thoughts and ideas for future professional development and networking.
Stay safe. Stay positive…. and “Happy Humanism”

Neil Anderson


Last Sunday we as humanists celebrated World Humanism Day. All across the world there were special messages, campaigns and, although still quite restricted, even some events. In Antwerp, Belgium for example, donated more than 25000 flowers to residents, patients and care-workers in retirement homes, hospitals etc. 



Due to the Corona-circumstances we had to decide to postpone the summerschool, as you will understand. The University of Humanistics (UvH) is very busy developing online classes for their regular students, which means they cannot (help to) prepare our summerschool to a good level. Also, there are still many uncertainties about the possibilities to travel in July.

But we have set a new date in 2021, more or less in the same period: 5th of July till the 9th of July 2021. Please save the date! Keep an eye on the EHP website for further information:   

This year we will organize a one-day online summerclass on Wednesday 8th of July. Prof. Carmen Schumann of the University for Humanistics will give a lecture based on her recent article on Humanist Chaplaincy. After that we will discuss the article, and look at the chaplaincy situation in the countries of the participants in smaller groups. We will end with a plenary session, and look at the summerschool 2021.

Please let us know if you would like to join the online summerclass at [email protected] or [email protected]



“The division I work for (Social Medical Services) went on lock down pretty fast for clients and patients. Only a small number of the staff was allowed to come in, so my work as humanist chaplain stopped. House visits weren’t possible as well so all that remained was support by phone. However, that felt very limited as well since a lot of the job is through context, presence and voice. What was possible was something I already did, but this time in a different way: activities for contemplation. Only this time, instead of doing them on missions or in excercises, I made videos from home. Making the series ‘Mijmeringen’ on Youtube helped me to keep some structure and at least something good came out of it.”

Gösta Huijs,
Humanist Chaplain, Dutch armed forces

“A lot of the planned weddings this Summer has been postponed by the couples themselves for obvious reasons. Some couples who had planned for a Civil wedding at City Halls this spring that was cancelled by the Cities, still wanted to get married now, and not later, and asked the NHA if we could help them out. And to quote the 44th US President: “Yes we can”. As long as we operate within the regulations and guidelines set out by the authorities at any given time.

Rules for social distancing in Norway was somewhat moderate compared to a lot of other countries. 2 meters separation between people from different households, and no large groups of people. The 2-meter rule being the most important one. Indoor weddings was not impossible to conduct, but we have for the most part done them outdoors in parks and with a scaled down ceremony. In many cases just a short speech by the celebrant and then the formal part involving the usual questions, exchange of rings, signing of the marriage document and pronouncing the couple lawfully married. It is possible to have music and poem readings, but we didn’t encourage it under these circumstances.

We kept it simple. When it came to the signing of the document the couple, witnesses and celebrant brought their own pens and we used hand disinfectant as needed.” You can watch a VIDEO HERE of one of the ceremonies. 

Baard Thalberg,
Wedding and funeral celebrant Human-Etisk Forbund, Norway

“Especially in the beginning, the lock down was very confronting. Not being able to do my thing anymore, time was being taken away. Not seeing ‘my’ children anymore. We could choose how we wanted to keep teaching. Whether through sending assignments or online. In the beginning I chose assignments.

I tried to focus as much as I could on topics like solidarity, kindness, citizenship… I also gave assignments to do with the family. For example, they had to pick one member of the household and ‘spoil’ them for a whole week. We did a lot on feelings as well. Some children were ‘angry’ at the virus, some were very sad. Many children had learned how important their friends were. 

It was quite difficult at times. Sometimes I felt a bit useless. I really missed the contact. We couldn’t work in all our schools to keep the ‘bubbles’ small. Some of us also had to teach all the children of the different life stance classes. So it was difficult but I do feel that very importnat lessons were learned.”

Britt Baetens,
Humanist Teacher, Antwerp Belgium




Humanists around the world face discrimination, persecution and ostracism due to their non-religious beliefs. Humanists International works directly with those at risk, and with other non-government organisations and officials, to advise, improve security, or in some cases to help relocate people under verified threat.

Link to our #ProtectHumanistsAtRisk campaign:



Humanists UK has broadcast a national memorial ceremony to mark three months since the start of the UK lockdown, to offer an opportunity to reflect on what we have been and are still going through, pay tribute to those we have lost, offer hope, and reckon with the grief, mourning, and anxiety so many of us have known these past three months.

The ceremony is now available to watch through Humanists UK’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.



BOOK TIP: LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD. Organised Humanism in the World: Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the United States of America, 1945-2005

Author(s): Niels De Nutte en Bert Gasenbeek (eds.)
ISBN: 9789057188015
Seize: 17 x 24
Pages: 172
Language: English

The number of secular people has increased substantially over the past several decades, and research on secularism and non-religion has been on the rise these past years. Yet, until today, no publication had examined the evolution of organised freethought and subsequent secular humanism as it emerged in different Western countries in a comparative perspective. In this book, a team of historians brings together the histories of secular humanism in some pioneer countries.


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