Civil Celebrant was our original title

THIS IS IN REPLY TO A GROUP OF NEW CIVIL CELEBRANTS WHO COMMENCED A PUBLIC DISCUSSION REGARDING WHAT WE SHOULD BE CALLED.

ICC Sydney19May05-2.JPGHow very distressing to see these wounds opened up.
From the beginning we were “civil marriage celebrants” or “civil celebrants”. In 1977. When the dispute about what we should do emerged, the founding Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, weighed in to publicly state (he was then a Judge of the High Court) that civil celebrants were to officiate at all the ceremonies the non-church world needed, in those days funeral and namings. We were to be seen as enriching the culture in every way we can.

In perhaps the most catastrophic day in the history of Civil Celebrancy, Sept 1 2003, a group of ignorant public servants feathered their own nest by jumbling up civil celebrants with the fringe clergy – a surprise change never envisaged, a change the clergy did not want, and we did not want. We were stripped of our proud title of “Civil Celebrants” and entered the dishonest and limited world of legal trivia and fear administration, which ignored 30 years of cultural and legal precedent – and totally ignored Section 48 of the Marriage Act. (never been taught in OPD!!!).
http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com.au/p … e_Act.html
Since this catastrophic day I have been sick in the stomach regarding what passes for training in celebrancy – the ignorant setting syllabi for the untrained.

With due modesty may I ask members of this forum to read my book “Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: a History of the Civil Celebrant Movement”. It is well reviewed as “readable”. The history of celebrancy should be essential in every course of training. You can get the book from Yvonne on 1300 446 786. You can get it as an ebook on iBooks or at Amazon/Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Murphys-Law-Pursuit-Happiness-Celebrant-ebook/dp/B00GSYEDFK?ie=UTF8&keywords=Murphy%27s%20Law%20and%20the%20Pursuit%20of%20Happiness&qid=1384990080&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

If participants have some accurate information, we can then have the facts which will lead to discussions, which will lead to progress in the form of information — and inspiration to be better celebrants.

Finally, may I ask all celebrants to campaign strongly with the new Attorney-General to restore our proud title of “Civil Celebrants” and restore our original purpose of top class ceremony providers, and to rescue us from the morass of legal trivia which now passes for celebrancy.

Dally Messenger
LIFE MEMBER

Civil Celebrant Program under Threat

This article of mine was published in the Australian Humanist – Summer 2015. Since Phillip Ruddock made his statement on QandAClive Palmer has come up with a plan that sounds very much the same. Here is the full text of my article.

AH_HSV_CMC-Article-TopCIVIL CELEBRANT PROGRAM UNDER THREAT

The unique Australian Civil Celebrant Program was and is a great social and political initiative. For over forty years it has enabled secular humanists to free themselves from religious connections. Unfortunately, in the last ten years this program has been partially destroyed, and certainly greatly diminished by hostile (religious?) public servants and politicians.

The very existence of the civil celebrant is now is under serious threat. It is close to possible annihilation. If the enemies of secularism do succeed in finishing it off, it will go without bang or whimper – ceasing to exist while still under the radar.

This possible death sentence was casually dropped in the ABCs “Q and A” program some weeks ago. In answer to a question, the panellist, Phillip Ruddock QC, MP stated, as an aside, that if gay marriage was approved by the Australian parliament “perhaps we should adopt the French model for all marriages.” The remark went unnoticed.

The “French model” basically means that there is a central office, like the 1973 Sydney Registry Office, wherein a couple records their marriage in a computer or a book, and goes away with a receipt.(1)

Mr Ruddock did point out that if anyone, perchance, wished to have a ceremony thereafter, they could proceed with their receipt to “a church or similar venue” and have one.

Mr Ruddock seemed to have some authority from the federal Liberal cabinet (then under Tony Abbott) to advise on the Marriage Act. So I wrote to Mr Ruddock. I sought to dissuade him from this path.(2) Space does not allow me to repeat the full letter here but in summary I pointed out:-

  1. That secular people (Humanists) have emotional, psychological, social, and artistic needs and feelings just as everyone else does. Therefore, we need ceremony just as much as our religious forbears did or our religious contemporaries do.
  1. That the civil celebrant program had almost embedded itself in the Australian secular psyche but, just as it was having substantial success, in 2003 it was cut off at the knees.
  2. Since 2003 the civil celebrant program has been seriously weakened by:-
  • the appointment of 9000 unnecessary celebrants (3)
  • the encouragement of dodgy “trainers”, who knew nothing and taught even less (4)

(c) The legal transference of appointment and administrative power from the federal Attorney-General to a public servant. (5)

(d) the diversion of the program from ceremony quality to an intensive preoccupation with legal trivia – most of which was erroneous, unimportant, and dishonest.

(e) The loss of our honoured title as Civil Marriage Celebrant. In 2003 we became jumbled up with the clergy of small churches, given the same title as them (Commonwealth Authorised Marriage Celebrants), and, after protest, were given the sub title “those who choose to do civil ceremonies”.

In short I told Mr Ruddock that I was aware that many people would not look on a celebrant as a sufficiently desirable ceremony provider, once a couple were told they were legally married. Celebrants then need not be authorised. A few couples would probably do what some secular couples do now when they want formal dignity in their ceremony — go to the church!

Attorney-General and High Court Justice Lionel Murphy -(First Humanist of the Year), who founded the Civil Celebrant program believed that a secular person in our society was equal in dignity to a religious person. That equal dignity and substance in ceremonies was the yardstick which would clarify this in the mind of every citizen.

He believed that our culture was so rich in music, literature, stories, symbolism and all the components of ceremony that we could develop an idealistic value filled, identity confirming secular/humanist culture which would enrich the life of every Australian.

FOOTNOTES

  • Readers should note carefully that the French Model is not like the United States or New Zealand model. In those jurisdictions you are given a “licence” to have ceremony – but you are not married until you have that ceremony.
  • Anyone who wishes to read my full letter to Mr Ruddock can find it here – https://iccdiplomas.com/2015/07/12/the-french-model-mr-ruddock/
  • 11,000 altogether when 2000 celebrants would be more than enough for the country.
  • Now well documented by the Age and the ABC e.g. (Victorian Government Launches Crackdown on ‘dodgy’ Training Providers, ABC News Melbourne, 29-6-2015 and so many other reports) .
  • Section 39 of the Marriage Act 1961 used to be a simple provision, empowering the Attorney-General to appoint celebrants. Now this Section is overloaded with paragraph after paragraph regarding the “Powers of the Registrar”. These provisions should never have found their way into the Marriage Act. At most they should have been internal protocols of the Department.

Dally Messenger III was appointed a celebrant in 1974. He is the Principal of the International College of Celebrancy, and is the author of the book, Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the Civil Celebrant Movement

 

 

 

The Wedding Vows as a Compact

THE ROADMAP FOR THE MARRIAGE
Hi, My name is Dally Messenger
I ‘ve been a Civil Marriage Celebrant for 40 years.
This is about writing your own vows for your marriage. ceremony.Vows as compact.

This is possible now since the Australian Attorney General Lionel Murphy founded Civil Celebrants in 1973 – to bring dignity into the lives of non-church people through ceremonies of meaning and substance. In those days the only alternative to a church ceremony was a very anemic and humiliating “so-called” ceremony in a registry office.

So Murphy, in a revolutionary way, established the right of people to create their own marriage ceremony, which included the composition of that most important part of that ceremony – the vows. Instead of vows coming from somewhere else – God, the Church, the Government, — Murphy’s dream was that they would come from the experienced heart – from you.

But how do you do this?
The best approach I can suggest to you is a way  to carefully make a compact. That is, after all, what marriage is – compact. (Don’t like the word – contract). My conviction on this insight came from a woman commentator on the BBC. She criticised the vows in the Church of England wedding ceremony because it was not a compact.
The ceremony should be the roadmap for the marriage.Often it was not a sincere agreement.

It is important that you give this compact — the words mean “a coming together to make peace”– expressed in your vows to each other – very serious thought.

Now what a well trained celebrant (or relationship educator in some cases) – will suggest to you, and help you put into good words, is this compact.

How do you go about this?
First, for an hour or so, each of you should go your separate ways!
You should sit down in a corner somewhere with a writing pad or clipboard, or at a desk ,or at the keyboard, and think carefully – then compile a shopping list of what you want the other person to promise you – your wish list of promises.

You might, for example, want you partner to:-

be gentle with criticism –
avoid sulkiness
refuse to stonewall –
not to let anything fester
listen sensitively
listen without trying to solve the problem
be totally loyal and faithful
Promise to give you space.
encourage fun and
to maintain a sense of humour.

Bettina Arndt interviewed 100 couples. 80 % were not happy because one party or the other denied the partner physical intimacy. This is such a distressing finding.
So you may wish to promise the other to do you best – that is what all vows are anyway – it is about attitude really – emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy.

Then you must come together and – forgive the word – marry your lists!

Sometimes this a tad confronting. If you cannot achieve this then you really should think twice about getting married.

The compact is a road map to a happy life. No agreed roadmap should contain  unresolved conflicts. Seek reputable marriage preparation counselling.

Relationships are difficult – But they promise the greatest happiness life can give. Here is one example from my celebrant experience (or close to it!)

I, John,
thank you, Mary, for trusting me,
and claiming me as your closest friend.
As far as I am able
I promise to treat you respectfully,
and speak to you respectfully, at all times.
I will be gentle and positive
with any criticism I consider I have to express
I will try never to cut you off,
or stonewall you in difficult moments.
I will speak frankly, but softly,
rather than let any resentment fester.
I ask you to listen to me when I need to talk,
and I promise to listen to you
when you need me as your listening friend.
I promise to be loyal and faithful to you
I promise to give you your space, when you need it
and I ask the same of you.
I will happily sustain the fun, and humour
we have experienced in our relationship.
I promise to do my best, every day,
to encourage a marriage
 characterised by
emotional, spiritual,
and physical intimacy.
Therefore, I John, call upon the persons here present,
to witness, that I take you Mary, to be my lawful wife.

 

© D.Messenger – permission given to brides and grooms to use, adapt in whole or in part in a marriage ceremony, without acknowledgment.
This extract is part of the International College of Celebrancy Wedding Diploma. No permission is given to republish without my permission on the internet or in any publication and certainly not without acknowledgement. Permission will be readily given for bona fide use (I have given several celebrants permission to send/give to clients .

Brian McInerney – Pioneer Funeral Celebrant

Brian McInerney

Brian McInerney: Pioneer Funeral Celebrant

Brian McInerney died on December 22nd, 2014

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

Dulce et Decorum est – the Poem

Marriages are up, divorces are down

AAP Report in Melbourne Age. August 29 2008 ( I wrote this a while ago before I started this blog – the facts are still valid – as facts always are. )

So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
‘What would I do?’ I said to Pooh,
‘If it wasn’t for you,’ and Pooh said: ‘True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two
Can stick together,’ says Pooh, says he.
‘That’s how it is,’ says Pooh, says he.
‘That’s how it is,’ says Pooh. 

(A.A.Milne- Now we are Six)

DivorceRates2001-8

Although this was written in 2014 we have chosen these years for reasons which will be clear from the article.

Pooh is right. It is much more fun when there are two, and, as Pooh further points out – mutual support is an additional bonus. Since 1973 civil celebrants have established dignity in personalised marriage ceremonies. From the same time period, the Australian Family Law Act has injected relative dignity to the legal sealing of a relationship break-up.

If you disagree with my propositions – you simply haven’t lived long enough.

When Attorney-General Lionel Murphy battled his heart out to take the unnecessary pain and expense out of fault-and-blame divorce laws, and set in train a system to bring dignity and meaning into marriage ceremonies, I, for one, knew that, sooner or later, the good effects must become apparent.

Australia is unique in all the world. Except for New Zealand, who followed the Murphy principles in some ways better than we did, the Australian Civil Celebrant has injected something special and unique into the Australian cultural scene.

There would be few who would disagree that in the 1960s and 70s many marriages in the Christian churches were inherently dishonest, and most marriages in the Registry Offices were a humiliation. Those who did marry were mainly driven by convention, very few by the personal conviction that they needed a solemn ceremonial commitment. The institution of marriage was seen by leading feminists, for example, as a state in itself oppressive to women.

Those young women who didn’t go that far, saw themselves as choosing between a marriage ceremony, where the male was clearly spiritually superior (and they were inferior), or a civil marriage in a Registry Office. The latter would take place before a poker-faced official – the legal words lasting, at the most, a minute. These “marriage ceremonies” took place on weekdays only, with only two witnesses allowed. Most saw this as an event no even partially sensitive person should have to face.

Divorces2001-08As a corollary to this, divorce laws were obscenely expensive and totally legally dishonest.

Lionel Murphy, acting almost alone, did away with all this. He gathered around himself a group of people, among which I proudly number myself, whom he asked to bring dignity, meaning and culture back into the non-church marriage ceremony.

To those few who understood his visionary explanation, it was alarming and radical. What? Couples designing their own ceremony? What? Couples choosing their own place and time? What? Couples choosing their own celebrant? No, no, Lionel! The church or the public servant decide the ceremony, the officials decide the words and the place, the common people should do as they are told — if they want to be married.

Now, in 2009, we are all familiar with the repercussions of those dishonest and humiliating marriage ceremonies. I doubt if there is any country in the world where people live together in de facto relationships to the extent we do in Australia.

Not quite noticing that the scene had began to improve, and as time went on, these de facto couples demanded that that they be treated the equal of people who had been through a ceremony. The politicians acquiesced. The Democratic clamour of the people had to be recognised. What was a marriage ceremony anyway ? Just some froth and bubble — some mumbo-jumbo — a few words that entitled you to a piece of paper!

In contrast, followers of the Lionel Murphy vision believed that ceremonies are a valuable means of deep psychological orientation — and we should have them all the time – for every milestone in life. They are an essential means of personally serious and public communication. The “Sorry Ceremony” last year was a class example. The word “Sorry” in a ceremonial context changed people’s lives, reduced them to weeping, recognised and released pent up years of pain, and validated interior screaming. But the “Sorry Ceremony” was contentious. “Mere words” said one group. “Only actions mean something”. The philosopher rose up and said, “but words are actions”.

And then, last year, Barack Obama was made President of the United States. If he hadn’t had a ceremony, he would still be President of the United States. So why did he have one? What difference did it make? But he did have a ceremony — thousands gathered in Washington DC from around the world. Millions watched the ceremony on TV. It was a spellbinding event; it had great meaning. His choices of music and poetry and songs — his choice of speech words and vows were the “roadmap” (to use a modern concept) for his presidency.

In the same way a marriage ceremony can be, and ought to be, and so often now is, a “roadmap” . It sets out a couple’s commitment to attempt to establish a fulfilling, happy and positive relationship. With the assistance of a civil celebrant who “gets it” the couple can make a compact. They can exchange vows which abjure contempt, renounce stonewalling, modify defensiveness, and envelop criticism in kindness. Couples can declare equality, honesty and open communication. They can promise to express love, re-assurance, and support. They can (as Bettina Arndt proposes they do) seriously commit to maintaining a life of intimacy at every level.

Marriages up, divorces down, the ghost of Lionel Murphy will be smiling.

Dally Messenger III

Editors Note: In 2003 the Civil Marriage Celebrant program was seriously downgraded. In blunt terms the government passed the administration into the hands of a public servant (The Registrar). They have since appointed 10,500 celebrants when 2000 would have been more than enough for Australia – with predictable results and a deterioratiing marriage/divorce scene.

Celebrants – what is and what ought to be. #6

LIONEL MURPHY – FIT & PROPER PERSON

LIONEL MURPHY
Is the founder of the Civil Celebrant Program. Most celebrants – especially the excessive numbers since the Downgrading of 2003 – have never heard of him – or his ideals of professionalism and quality.MLATPOH_

What should happen – Lionel Murphy and his work should be known and honoured. Those who drink the water, should remember those who dug the well. His achievements should be the subject of a three hour OPD (at least).

——————————————–
FIT & PROPER PERSON
No unaccountable officer or even an accountable officer should have the power to destroy people’s lives by making such a decision about a person, or branding a person in such a way.
In the Age of the Internet this tag of not “fit and proper” on a person’s reputation is like a criminal record. Used in a cavalier way by a public servant, I have seen it almost destroy one person’s life. The decision about this celebrant is still on the internet!

What should happen – Applications to become a celebrant should simply be accepted or rejected without such branding. Reasons should be given for such a rejection and an appeal process, which an ordinary person can afford, should be part of the process. Better still, as has often been proposed, a balanced committee should decide how many celebrants are needed to provide a balance in a natural geographical area. Would be celebrants should apply, be shortlisted in the usual manner by an independent person, and the best applicants should be chosen.

Take the police – as I write this there are 61 police officers with charges against them in Victoria. In other words, people who have legal powers, as individuals, should be accountable. The police have the OPI – Office of Police Integrity – to check on the abuse of power – the public service has no one to check on them. (The ombudsman and the AAP have in a very restricted number of cases. The ombudsman only intervenes if it is in the previous 12 months, and the AAP is very expensive (legal representation). It is no use complaining to the Minister because the letter usually goes straight through to the public servant one is complaining about !
So where can the celebrant or citizen turn for redress when such power is abused? To declare a person, not “fit and proper” should not be allowed except under the signature of the Minister and then in only very serious circumstances.

In the case of Suzanne Ingleton – a person declared not “fit and proper” by the Registrar of Marriages – the Administrative Appeals Tribunal upbraided the Registrar for

– signing a false affidavit

– interpreting the law wrongly

– acting “ultra vires”

– disrespect for the tribunal

– making a groundless decision etc

–   -no action was ever taken ! Ms Ingleton is still on the internet as being accused.