Dally Messenger III - Articles, Keynote Addresses etc
Launch of the Celebrant USA Foundation
Wednesday June 5, 2002
by Dally Messenger III
Charlotte Eulette, the National Director, our super personable, powerful personality
I would also like to salute the other celebrants, Dr Frank Hentschker, Cynthia Reed, Remi Barclay Bosseau, Genevieve Messenger (on loan from Oz) and finally, Kim Kirkley who unfortunately cannot be with us.
Dedication: Lionel Murphy and Kathy Hurley
I will read it for another reason - because I wish to undeline that celebrancy is a profession based on the Humanities. The Humanities are getting a pounding throughout the world today.
I am going to read this poem for another special reason and that is, as a celebrant, I glory in the privilege of being a member of the only professional group in the world paid to read poetry in public. Before long you will hear every celebrant in this room communicate deep truths in beautiful words to you.
This evening we start a journey but apply this to your own journey if you wish.
Then pray that the road is long.
Stop at the Phonecian markets,
Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
And if you find her poor,
Because we are also tellers of Myths and Personal Stories in ceremonies I thought that tonight I would tell you a story. This story also underlies the truth that good ceremonies don’t just happen, you have to prepare for them carefully, give great attention to detail, and make them happen.
The Myth Story
It is up to us
When I was lecturing at Victoria University there was an historical theory floating about among the academics of this field that events happen when they are ready to happen — and if one person doesn't do them, as it were, someone else will.
For example, I found I have been misunderstood on the word “spirituality”. The word “spirtuality” we have come to apply to the level of goodness in a person’s life, and it is independent of whether that person goes to church or doesn’t go to church, or believes in a particular religion or doesn’t so believe.
The word Spirit might be the Great Spirit of the Native Americans, the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit which will drive New Jersey to defeat Los Angeles as we speak. Pat Sarma could be considered Spiritual because of the spirit with which he supports the New Jersey Devils. Even a devil worshipper can be spiritual?
Or as you Americans might say “spirituality” depends on the “content of their character” not on the religion they profess, or whether the say “God Bless America” or not.
Celebrants are there to assist people express the best values of their spirituality - be they believers in religion or non-believers in religion.
The True Story
Lionel Murphy, industrial lawyer, gained preselection for the Labor Party in New South Wales by a vote of 362 to 361 — in the early sixities. He was preselected on the third seat (the most precarious electorally) to the Senate of the Parliament of Australia. We have a different system to yours - but in short this means he was borderline to get preselected and borderline to be elected. As it turns out he became a senator, then the Attorney-General of Australia for two short year,s and then a revolutionary Justice of the High Court of Australia. That is the context.
Let me tell you the story of the appointment of the first independent marriage celebrant in the world, my beautiful friend, Lois D'Arcy (Just as an aside, Lionel Murphy was an ugly man, who was always surrounded and loved by beautiful women).
"As if we weren't in enough trouble already, Lionel, you would bring all the churches down on our heads as well?"
He discussed his idea with the Public Service. To a man they all shook their heads and looked the other way.
He raised it with his own staff, who figuratively went on their knees and begged him not to do it.
But Murphy lived by a simple principle: -
So one night when his staff had all gone home, he sneaked into his own Parliamentary Office, took a letterhead off the shelf, rolled it into the typewriter, typed the first letter of appointment, signed it, and put it in an envelope and sealed it. He found a stamp, put it on the envelope, locked his office, cat-like treaded to the nearest post box, and posted it.
The next day he told everyone what he had done. They wept and wailed but it was too late. We, the marriage celebrants of the world were in our boat, we had left the wharf and our journey to Ithaca had begun.
It was popular move from the beginning and our greatest supporters were the churches.
So what are celebrants about?
Celebrants are here. Tonight Montclair leads the USA in extending the freedom to be honest and authentic in Rites of Passage and Ceremonies for all citizens.
Celebrants are a group of professionals and not a cause. We are independent professional listeners, creators, a deliverers of ceremonies. We a bringers of freedom. We empower the people. We are professional ceremony providers for whomever wishes to avail themselves of our services.
With a celebrant the choice is of the people, by the people for the people. When a couple come to a celebrant to get married, for example, they compose the story, they choose the celebrant, the place, the time, the setting, the myths, the poetry, the prose, the music, the symbolism, the movement and the choreography.
The celebrant is the resource person, the advisor, the orchestrator, the promoter of substance and meaning, and the deliverer. The brief is from the client.
The beliefs of the celebrant, if any - are irrelevant. Are we competition to religion? - No. In Australia, the religions asked for us, and they have historically supported us. We work well with the clergy. We all believe in honesty and authenticity. The genuine clergyperson does not want to officiate at ceremonies for persons who do not believe in the words said - or the lyrics sung.
Those of you who have studied Joseph Campbell know that good ceremonies make happier and better human beings and result in a more civilised and stable society.
We believe that celebrants must be qualified and trained professionals. The job is too important to be left to amateur do-gooders. The six celebrants in this original group in the next few days will graduate (in a ceremony!) with Diplomas in Marriage Celebrancy from the International College of Celebrancy. Like all professionals they will need to be paid reasonably and adequately for their services.
They have studied the myriad details needed for a prfessional ceremony. As Rat says to Mole in
"Besides, there are a hundred things one has to know,
Rites and ceremonies should be recognised as necessary in the lives of every individual and every society. The psycholgists tell us that our very sanity depends on the esteem of significant others in our lives. That none of us survive as normal unless we are loved, appreciated, respected, have a sense of identity, and have supportive relationships. So much of this comes through Rites and Ceremonies.
There should be an awareness that Rites and Ceremonies are a way humans have devised to feed and orient their subconscious and thus their future behaviour. This is the finding of contemporary psychologists such as Dr John Grossman. (It was Sigmund Freud , Carl Jung and Alfred Adler who pioneered the discovery that expressions of human behaviour and energy spring from the subconscious. Grossman maintains that relationships in shaky times are held together by happy memories - the Marriage Ceremony is basic in this context.)
In this room as representing the population of the USA we have some ardent believers in religion, and some ardent disbelievers who may call themselves agnostics or atheists. I would be willing to bet that most of us fall down the cracks in the middle. Most people in this spectrum are neither metaphorically black or white — but grey. Celebrants are they for the grey - and the black!! That is why we now in OZ do 53% of the weddings. and in some places 80% of the Funerals. We have no idea how many Namings there are vis-a-vis Baptisms. There are no statisticsfor these because it is mostly "cash in hand" and can be easily hidden from the IRS! (Taxation Department)
That the flagship ceremony of society is the Wedding. The Ship not far behind is the Funerals, and not far behind Funerals are the Namings.
Seasonal Ceremonies include
You have some great challenges ahead of you.
I HEREBY DECLARE IN THE NAME OF LIONEL MURPHY ANMD KATHLEEN HURLEY, THE CLEBRANT USA FOUNDATION AND PROGRAM LAUNCHED
SMASH THE GLASS