We all used to do this for the first 30 years of the program. Sometimes the parents, sometimes the groomsmen and the bridesmaids, would sign. In doing so they felt of real significance and part of the ceremony.. (The two witnesses were in their normal place on the certificate)
Then you-know-who invented, out of that falsely legal head of hers, another new baseless rule, and added it to the pile of legal trivia which now constitutes the marriage celebrants of Australia.
New inexperienced celebrants somehow got to teach OPD. Some (not all) seemed to love these new invented rules, and seemed to love showing off their recently invented knowledge with great authority. The end result? In doing so they killed off that little bit of joy that people gained by being a little bit more part of the event.
The dictum of the law is – in dubiis libertas – in doubtful things freedom –
There is a law which says two of the witnesses must sign – but where oh where is there a law forbidding other witnesses to sign?
The real issue here is taking away from people the joy of looking at their Marriage Certificate and remembering who the key people were.
The signing was a dignified joyous moment – and sometimes that wonderful wedding singer was able to sing three songs instead of two. The singers also felt more part of the event.
Another observation. If you ring an inexperienced public servant in the AG’s office and ask the question – “can I do this?” – to cover their behind, the safest thing they can say is “No”. ( My observation is that they do not do any course of study; just like most celebrants of the you-know-who era they pick it up as they go – learn from their mistakes – good old victim-based learning).
I hope (I urge) everyone who reads this far also to read the never-ever-ever taught Section 48 of the Marriage Act – http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com.au/pages4/Sect_48-Marriage_Act.html -. It is the most valuable part of the Marriage Act. It is a freeing experience. A good understanding of it will help a celebrant concentrate on what is our real and original task – enriching the culture with ceremonies that keep getting better.
I have submitted this to the Skills Council as being my take on why we should have and in-depth Diploma Course in Celebrancy. The tragedy is that before the Downgrading of 2003, and the deluging of the celebrant marketplace, we were getting somewhere. We were going somewhere good.
Students of the College gathered in Sydney (some time ago now !)
— The Civil Celebrant and the Diploma Course.
It is difficult to explain my position briefly but let me start by saying I totally favour the CoCa position of the Diploma being the minimum requirement for celebrancy.
In 1995 at the invitation of the AGs Department eighteen of us celebrants devised a course of three Diplomas in Celebrancy (Marriage, Funeral and General).
This International College of Celebrancy course was, and still is, rich with inspiring and motivating theory. It tracked the achievements and ideals and values of the main religions in the cultural, social and personal realm and applied these lessons to our predominantly secular cultural scene (secular spirituality if you like).
Creating the course and refining it over sixteen years.
The eighteen celebrants who, with academic advice, created our eight module course dealt with questions such as the history of ceremony, why we have ceremony, and what the psychological, social and cultural effects of ceremony are. We researched why we have a link between the unity of a ceremony and the full range of the visual and performing arts. We articulated and discussed the question of why it is better to do a good ceremony than a mediocre one in a secular context. We discussed the effects, for example, of a marriage ceremony on the conscious and unconscious mind, and how ceremonies have been created to help human beings to adjust to changes in human life.
In deepening our understanding of the celebrant role we, of course, turned to the anthropologists, sociologists, commentators and historians in the field. The pivotal but difficult book, Arnold Van Gennep’s “The Rite of Passage, of course was central. But there was also insights and inspiration in the works of Joseph Campbell, Ronald Grimes, David Oldfield (USA!), Margaret Mead, Alain de Botton and Louise Mahdi.
A Cultural Infrastructure of Ceremonies
As we studied these works we came to realise that we were blessed by Attorney-General Lionel Murphy with a pivotal, unique, innovative and challenging celebrant role. We realised we had been charged with developing a cultural infrastructure of ceremonies, which replaced the rejected supernatural infrastructure of the religions, but which expresses, transmits, and reinforces the wonderful and enriching artistic treasures and deep and evolved values we have inherited from the religious influences which have formed western society.
We also studied, for example, how a creative funeral ceremony aids in triggering the process of healthy grief and the maintenance of sanity and much more.
A Course in celebrancy cannot be superficial it must be transformative which means absorbing the content of a course over a suitable period. Quickie courses, beloved of capitalistic economists simply do not give a student the TIME to absorb, think and transform. Educationally, it does not work.
And as well as inspiring education there must be training and mentoring in the practical skills and actual ceremonial practice. Further additional skills such as creative writing and competent public speaking. A celebrant too must spend a great deal of time understanding the need for resources – knowing the great inheritance of poetry, music, prose, story-telling, mythology, symbolism, choreography and the visual arts – many need to acquire a feel for the beauty in these components and how to apply them appropriately in a ceremony which means something. My colleagues and I have developed this at the then Attorney-General’s invitation. (But then when we downgraded in 2003 a new era emerged which concentrated on legal trivia – most of which was wrong anyway. Hence the 6 changes of the official guidelines for celebrants.)
I stood on this hill in this small country town. It could have been any one of hundreds of country towns in Australia. I counted five churches. One could tell that they were all in disrepair, either no longer used or the numbers sadly depleted.
I asked myself what went on here. These institutions once transmitted the influences which formed our society – but they have lost their mojo, who and what is there to replace them? What cultural infrastructure do we have to replace the religio-cultural infrastructure we had here?
That was a eureka moment for me. I hope I can pass it on to you. In your hands you have this marvellous opportunity to intelligently contribute to the education and formation of the cvil celebrant of the future – hopefully part of a team of celebrants so well educated and trained that they will have a lasting positive effect on our society.
This website sets out the eight Modules, the three Diplomas, the Graduate Diploma and the opportunity to achieve the award of Master of Celebrancy. (only one of students has ever achieved this.
Dally Messenger III
I wrote down these thoughts as celebrants and public servants are arguing about a proposed “recognised” course for celebrants.
Preview: Re: 1A CHCCEL503X Research, create, evaluate and organize ceremonies
Our Diploma of Marriage Celebrancy (international College of Celebrancy) has had this course, this material, this research done for twenty years.
How can you expect public servants, even educational organisers, to decide on a course of celebrancy when they have never done the study, have never been active celebrants -= do not know what it means, and cannot see where it fits into the context of the broader society? Where is Van Gennep, where is Grimes, where is Campbell? Where is the researched input from experienced celebrants and students?
But is our ICC course recognised, ask some?
Recognised by whom? By ignorant non-celebrants with pre-conceived ideas? What do they, you, whoever want? Education and training? Or the “recognition” of the ignorant.
This is so superficial it drives me crackers. They don’t know what they don’t know.
A course in celebrancy has to come from a team of people who are experienced, who reflect on their experience, and who study and distill the experience of scholars in the field and relate it to their own experience.
The AG in 1995 asked us to create courses, with their support. This we did in the end without their support.
Then a certain public servant decided she knew better than us celebrants.
This foolish discussion and struggle is the result.
This heart was woven of human joys and cares, Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth. — The years had given him kindness. Dawn was his, And sunset, and the colours of the earth. — He had seen movement, and heard music; known Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended; Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone; — Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended. ————— (slightly adapted from Rupert Brooke) ————-
Brian McInerney was a man who could read, write and speak. He was a man of many parts but here I just want to talk about him as a funeral celebrant.
I first met him in 1972 when he was executive producer of English language radio programs for the ABC’s Radio Australia.The pressure of the job was affecting his health, so he resigned from the ABC in 1975.
The recently created marriage celebrant program established by the Attorney General Lionel Murphy had been enthusiastically received by the general public.
Marriages are very happy occasions and the original celebrants enjoyed their task immensely – but inevitably there came the time when clients of celebrants required non-church funerals. The marriage celebrant community, consonant with the culture of the times, vehemently rejected the idea of officiating at secular funerals. So we could fill the need, Murphy (then a Justice of the High Court) urged me and others to go out into the “highways and byways” and find non-marriage celebrants to respond to the need.
Mr “Golden Voice” from the ABC, as Brian Mcinerney was known, became one of the first funeral celebrants. He stepped into this totally new field as if he had done it all his life. He was such a natural. Brian was probably the most well read, best self-educated person I have ever met. Family members told me that he had read the complete works of Dickens before he turned fifteen years of age. In the days before Google and the internet, Brian was the “go to” person if you had a line or quote from a poem and you needed to know the source.
Today’s readers will find it difficult to comprehend that there was no such thing as a non-church funeral in the mid 70s. McInerney was a pioneer who established the new freedom and who set the new standard. For the first time in Western cultural history ordinary people were farewelled in a funeral ceremony which was framed by appropriate and carefully selected poetry, prose, music, symbolism, myths, and stories. The life of the person was recorded, their achievements recognised, and their character and personality described in a eulogy which set their special place in family and community history.
Brian, more than any of us, gained the reputation of writing eulogies for ordinary people which bordered on the masterful. The connections to history, the allusions to literature, were skilfully inserted with animation and colour.
A new and exciting phenomenon, celebrants were, at this time, widely reported in the media. Brian Mcinerney was often featured. One famous account relates the funeral of the father of the family who evoked the story of the Knight in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”. Brian centred his eulogy around the story of the Knight and in doing so uplifted the spirits of everyone who attended the funeral. What he didn’t know was that one of the man’s children had arrived from the USA on the morning of ceremony. This young woman was a lecturer in 14th Century English Literature at Harvard University. Expecting a “nothing” funeral, she had the thrill of hearing her father eulogised in terms of the Knight.
Up to 1995 or so funeral celebrants throughout Melbourne were often called on to create funerals for the soldiers who had survived World War II. At our meetings and seminars, Brian would inspire his fellow celebrants with the poetry of Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. When Brian began to recite –
“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge …”
we knew, in the vividness of our imagination, we were going to be transported to the horror of war. Thus inspired by Brian, we composed funerals for those old soldiers which did them proud.
The end of the eighties /early nineties was a time of high inflation in Australia. Brian and his wife Tina had three young children and were feeling the pinch financially. He needed to increase his income and so asked the funeral directors with whom he worked to give him a rise in fees. He had come to believe that the people he knew in the funeral industry were his personal friends and collaborators. They would understand his position and recognise his contribution. But at this request the smiles went off their faces. He learned later from one of them that they had rung around and decided to “put him in his place”. All funeral work suddenly ceased.
Brian was deeply hurt and disillusioned. To survive he had to capitulate. I don’t think he ever recovered his faith in human nature after that. To maintain his income with what had become a pittance of a fee, he had to take on more funerals and lower his standards – a decision which always cuts deep into the heart of the true professional. His health slowly deteriorated and he gradually withdrew from funeral celebrancy. But in his first twenty years of work he had set a benchmark standard for secular people in western society. The thousands of written records which survive his pen will be the joy of family genealogists and historians for centuries to come.
(Brian is survived by his wife Tina, his daughter from his first marriage, Jane, his stepdaughter Amy, his son Michael and daughter Sophie. A commemoration ceremony will be held for him on February 8.)
Brian McInerney recites the World War 1 Wilfred Owen Poem – Dulce et Decorum est. Dulce et Decorum est. Explanation of the text
Here are the priority questions I think should be dealt with by the meeting of the December 2, 2014.
The possibility of a new understanding of the relationship between the Attorney-General’s Department and working celebrants. i.e. Public Servants who are informed, supportive, and interested in what celebrants can do for individuals and society. AND celebrants who are informed with the knowledge of the history and purpose of civil celebrancy and who possess an attitude of cooperation.
A Transfer of Section 39A to M – the powers of the registrar – to, mutatis mutandis, standing orders within the department – and the powers and responsibility be returned to the accountable minister i.e. to the Attorney-General.
That public servants dealing with celebrants undergo a course of training in the nature and evolution of ceremony, the importance of culture, the psychological power of memorable events, and the nature of society. The course should include attendance at celebrant weddings, funerals, namings, and other secular ceremonies — with reports and critiques.
There should be a serious ceremony at which celebrants are inducted into the profession, attended by the Attorney-General or his equal.
That the Attorney-General assist celebrants expose our exploitation by Funeral Directors, who effectively control fees by not sub-contracting any celebrant who does not conform to their low fee, thus depressing standards.
There are many more issues which I have outlined in fate following articles and blogs:
I would like to ask the Attorney-General to consider the following.
ISSUE A STATEMENT OR WRITE A LETTER TO ALL CELEBRANTS – encouraging them to observe high standards in ceremony .i.e. to deliver ceremonies of substance, meaning and beauty – well prepared and well rehearsed – and with dignity. (this has not been done for at least 15 years).
REVERSE SECTION 39 OF OF THE MARRIAGE ACT. This provision was the central part of the Downgrading of 2003. This section outlines an extensive list of powers and gives detailed authority to an unaccountable and relatively junior public servant — with predictably disastrous results. All these powers, before the Downgrading of 2003, were the prerogative of the elected and accountable Attorney-General, to whom they should be restored.
REVERSE THE RULE ALLOWING ONLY CANPRINT THE RIGHT AND THE CONTRACT TO PUBLISH MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES FOR THE PARTIES (Form 15).
The public and celebrants were delighted when the Celebrants Centre and some others printed professionally designed Marriage Certificates on worthy light cardboard. The previous Registrar ruled against this and required that all certificates be numbered and printed only by Canprint.
IMPLEMENT AN INDEFINITE MORATORIUM ON APPOINTMENTS.
Once 1600 celebrants serviced the whole of Australia. 2500 celebrants would be an oversupply – but, for the same number of marriages, Now Australia has nearly 11,000 !! The new provisions, in their crude way will reduce numbers, but unless more is done, the low standards currently will deteriorate further. Expertise cannot be developed or maintained unless celebrants are engaged regularly.
HELP US GAIN THE RIGHT TO CHARGE OUR OWN FEES FOR FUNERAL CELEBRANCY.
(now set by collusion, by the Funeral Directors)
AUSTRALIA NEEDS AN ADOLESCENCE CEREMONY TO BOND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH THEIR FAMILIES AND THE COMMUNITY.
We have the celebrants with the expertise and idealism but we cannot do it without help from, and the support of, the Federal Government.
I could add much more to this, but I would love to ask the Minister to take an interest in his obligations to the cultural life of our country. I have given most of my life to celebrancy (most of it voluntarily) only to see most of the gains we have made destroyed by some public servants, who attempted to “build an empire”. They have near destroyed a program which has changed the face of Australia for the better at a very deep level.
This is an interesting historical document. It is one of the first batch of certifications of Civil Celebrants in the USA (i.e for the State of New Jersey). First of all, congratulations to my colleagues in the USA who fought a long and now successful political campaign to achieve this- Gaile Sarma – sponsor of the Celebrant USA Foundation – and Charlotte Eulette, the Director of the Foundation from the beginning.
They have always been gracious in acknowledging our founder, Attorney-General Lionel Murphy.
Left to Right: Cindy Reed, Remi Messenger, Charlotte Eulette, Gaile Sarma, Kim Kirkle
New Jersey based its system on our Civil Celebrant program as it was before 2003. (This is when we ceased to become Civil Celebrants and became “Commonwealth Authorised Celebrants” i.e. jumbled up with the clergy – a retrograde step if ever there was one, which I hope we can reverse when we get an interested Attorney-General.
To be certified a Civil Celebrant in New Jersey
one has to complete a six month interactive audited and approved course on how to deliver high quality ceremonies for secular people. (not legal trivia).
Gerald Fierst is graduate of the International College of Celebrancy, as indeed are the first 30 celebrants or so, after which time our graduates over there set up their own teaching system.
In August, Dally Messenger will be teaching two sessions of Professional Development. Look forward to a lively presentation and discussion with someone who has lived through the history of civil celebrancy.
I’ve just witnessed (on video) a recent country wedding conducted by a civil celebrant. What astounded me was that the celebrant: a. did not state they were legally authorised to conduct the marriage b. the Monitum was not spoken c. neither party to the marriage said the compulsory legal vow This celebrant was authorised more than 20 years ago, according to the AGD register of civil celebrants so they’ve been around long enough to know better, or are there different rules for the “elders” amongst our ranks. I’m very curious to hear others’ opinions.
I suppose I’d be classed as an elder.
You may not have noticed that we had a book of legal interpretations in 1995, Which had been valid since 1973. We had access to GOOD advice – The Public Service defied the precedents of 30 years of interpretation. Hence they made a lot of mistakes and invented lot of stuff which you may think is “correct”-
In the last ten years we have had at least four revisions –
Explanatory notes 1, Explanatory Notes 2, When Words are not enough. 3.
And now the latest “Guidelines for celebrants” 4 –
which, the first time I opened it, I saw a serious error (checked by my lawyer friends). (Note that the Department have now nearly come back to square one i.e 1995).
For example, the interpretation for vows for thirty years was “as long as the words conveyed to those present that the couple were taking each other in marriage”.
For example, on the business of names – when you boil it down anyone can be any name they seriously choose to be. God knows how much unnecessary pain the recent erroneous interpretations have caused people.
I wrote this article for the AFCC magazine – some really ignorant people made disparaging remarks about it – but check it out – it is important – and it is correct. http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com.au/pages4/Sect_48-Marriage_Act.html
Finally, may I say that I hereby cast a pox on anyone who says I am not exact with the law or that I do not advocate it in my training courses. We are all bound by the same GENUINE rules of interpretation,we are not bound by the changing legal whims of public servants who have never been celebrants.
A lot more could be said –
Dally Messenger III