Dally Messenger III - Articles, Keynote Addresses etc

Launch of the Celebrant USA Foundation
Held at the Montclair Library

Wednesday June 5, 2002

by Dally Messenger III


I would first of all like to acknowledge Gaile and Pat Sarma, the Executive Director of the USA Celebrant Foundation, and

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

Today the people of the USA are starting on a new journey to a new kind of freedom. It is complete freedom to choose, and to be empowered, over the important ceremonies in their lives. So because we are launching a new cultural journey, I am going to read the famous poem of C.P.Cavafy - The Road to Ithaca.

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.
The more a person is educated in the Humanities, in Philosophy, in Mythology, in Literature, in Poetry, in Music, in History and in the Arts the better celebrant they will be.

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.

When you start on the journey to Ithaca,
then pray the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty,
if a fine emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them with your soul,
if your soul does not carry them within you,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!

Stop at the Phonecian markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
and learn and learn
from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you a beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor,
Ithaca has not defrauded you.
- With the great wisdom you have gained,
with so much experience,
you must surely
have understood by then
what the journey to Ithaca means.

C.P. Cavafy

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
A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor's office. After a thorough checkup, the doctor called the wife into his office alone.
He said, "Your husband is suffering from a very rare and severe disease, combined with dreadful stress. He is on the edge. But with proper and detailed care I feel he can make a full recovery. If you don't do the following, your husband will surely die."
"Each morning, fix him a healthy breakfast. Be pleasant, and make sure he is in a good mood. For dinner each night prepare an especially favourite meal for him, cooked just the way he loves it.
Don't burden him with chores, as he has probably had another hard day. Don't discuss your problems with him, it will only make his own stress worse.
When he comes home make sure the children are under complete control , the house is tidy, and the children are warned to quiet and clean — and ready for bed.
Most importantly. make love with your husband several times a week. Do so lovingly and with enthusiasm and seek to satisfy his every desire and fantasy as fully as you possible can."
If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, I think your husband will regain his health completely.
On the way home in the car, the husband asked his wife. "What did the doctor say?"
She replied: "You're going to die".
- - - - - -

It is up to us
As I said, I have told you this story for a purpose. There are some things in life, if we do them, they happen. If we don't do them, they won't happen.

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.
They would say that if Lionel Murphy hadn't instituted Marriage Celebrants in Australia in 1973 someone else would have.
I don't believe it.
If Gaile hadn’t organised this intitiative, Celebranst may not have happened in the USA - at least not for a long time, and then not properly.

The Disclaimer
And before I start I want to put in a disclaimer. I come from a country which has a number of different attitudes and some different ways of understanding key words. So pray do not be offended if I say something you may react to. I may not be saying something nearly as bad as you think I am saying.

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
Because Celebrants are into History, and because celebrants are into honesty, authenticity and especially truth, let me now tell you a 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).

I'll tell it to you as Murphy himself told it to me. Appalled by the "four by four" legal dryness, the lack of beauty, and the sheer indignity of the Sydney Registry Office at that time (and the indignities heaped on some church members by their own churches), and their poker faced officials, Murphy explained his notion of a marriage celebrant to his friends in the Labor Party (sort of equals your Democrats but much more socialist). They were appalled.

"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: -
"If it adds to the sum total of human happiness, you do it, and if it doesn't, you don't."

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?
These are the propositions I want to put to you tonight.

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
The Wind in the Willows

"Besides, there are a hundred things one has to know,
which we understand all about
and you don't, as yet.
I mean passwords, signs, and sayings
which have power and effect,
and plants you carry in your pocket,
and verses you repeat,
and dodges and tricks you practise;
all simple enough when you know them,
but they've got to be known … "

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.

A Beautiful Mind - John Nash
The celebrant should constantly encourage beauty and substance in ceremonies. The celebrant is dedicated to ceaseless improvement — and the pursuit of excllence — in ceremonies. This is the great difference with us. It sounds so simple — but we just don't “do” it, but we commit ourselves to doing it really well.
(The greatest complaint we hear about celebrants where I come from is :
(a) they couldn’t be heard and
(b) the ceremony was too short.)

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.

Some other personal ceremonies dleivered by civil Celebrants are --
Anniversaries and Renewal of Vows
Adolescence and Puberty
Dedication of Houses
Retirements and Farewells
Significant Birthdays (21st, 49th, 50th, 60th)
Changing a Name
Special Relationships e.g. Step-parent and stepchild
Redundancies and restructures
Special Birthdays
Signing of contracts
Club inductions

Public Ceremonies include:-
Memorial Day
National Tragedy (9-11!)
National Joy (Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Thanksgiving)
Family Reunions,
School Reunions
Opening a Theatre (Luna Stage!!)
Remembering the Victims of Cancer
.Launching Ships
Citizenship Ceremonies
Graduation Ceremonies,

Seasonal Ceremonies include
The Cherry Blossoms
The Irises of Montclair

You have some great challenges ahead of you.




Dally Messenger
at Queens College
University of Melbourne