Jeanne Rathbone, the Celebrant

I have been a Humanist celebrant for 20 years. I have probably always been an atheist (despite having been brought up in Ireland) except for when, as a susceptible girl, I might have wanted to be a saint or a missionary. A cousin of ours, Edel Quinn, was a missionary in Kenya and is on a list for beatification in the Vatican!

I don’t believe that children are born with a religion or ‘original sin’. I still find the idea abhorrent of children aged seven being deemed to have reached the age of reason and therefore ready to undergo the preparation for going to ‘ confession’ when we had to go into a dark confessional with priests behind a grille ands here we had to confess to having sinned. This was in preparation to make our first ‘Communion’ when girls wear virginal bridal dresses and receive the ‘body and blood of Jesus Christ’ – cannibalism. It seemed evident to me that a child’s religious label was dependent on where they were born and the prevailing religious beliefs. I became a budding atheist and sceptic and very aware that religions were invented by men. Later on I realised the connection between religion, patriarchy, misogyny and gender inequality!

Having attended a few inappropriate funerals of people who were not religious I joined the BHA and responded immediately when they stated that they were looking for people to train as ‘officiants’ to conduct funerals and the other ceremonies. The ‘home at last’ feeling was wonderful as was the discovery that I found what I wanted to do when I grew up! Being a Philosophy graduate and having had a varied career- laborarory technician, childminder, youth worker, adult education tutor, trainer, Women’s Officer in H & F Council, counsellor and comedy performer- as well as having three children and involved in local/community politics all seemed to be preparation for being a humanist celebrant. It is the most rewarding and interesting work.

I believe that the rite-of-passage ceremonies, especially funerals, are of significance in our lives no matter who we are or where we are from. Although I have not put my name on the wedding celebrants list I still do conduct weddings for people I already know and have contact with. However, I do conduct a Wedding/Naming combined ceremony which I regard as the inexpensive, hassle-free wedding for couples who have been living together and had a baby and want to mark the occasion but do NOT want an extravagant wedding and I help couples write a wedding script for a family member/friend to act as celebrant.

I also believe that we should be holding Divorce Ceremonies but they have not caught on yet! A Divorce ceremony is also a rite-of-passage. I reckon that they could help couples and their children as they move on to the next stage in their lives with the support of their family and friends. However, it seems that I am ahead of my time on this.

Our ceremonies are very personal and I think that humour is an important ingredient in them, as it is in life.

My fees are £200 for Funerals and Namings and £450 for Weddings.

[email protected]

I conduct funerals, namings and wedding/namings around London – based in Battersea.
My address: 103 Lavender Sweep, London SW11 1EA, UK

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