Leicester Secular Society

THE OLDEST SECULAR SOCIETY IN THE WORLD - FOUNDED 1851

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A Secular Hospital Chaplain

The following is the text of the First Person column in the Leicester Mercury that appeared on 29 April 2006. The original was on the thisisleicestershire site. To find the article there, look under News / First Person, or search for 'Davidson'. We are not sure how long the Mercury keep articles on their site, hence this copy.

NATIONAL FIRST FOR LEICESTER HOSPITALS TRUST

29 April 2006

Humanist Eleanor S Davidson champions equality and diversity for non-religious people

As a volunteer member of the University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust Chaplaincy Team, I am the country's first Humanist/non-religious pastoral visitor. Just like other team members - Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Muslim and Hindu - I'm available to support patients, visitors and staff.

Team members are there for all, but the non-religious have the same needs as everyone else and deserve someone of their own outlook to call upon. This has been recognised for several of Leicester's minority religions which have their own representatives.

Being in hospital for investigation or treatment, visiting loved ones who are suffering, facing the multiple challenges of working to promote health produces frustration, anger, fear, hurt, bewilderment and sometimes joy.

We may find it helpful to share or explore these feelings in confidence with someone who is independent, trained and trusted.

I found in the 2001 census at least one in six of us expressed no religion - outnumbering all the non-Christian religions combined - and met the head of Chaplaincy to discuss provision for non-religious patients. He invited me to join the team, recognising that our city's multi-faith and multicultural character merits equality and diversity.

Humanism is a philosophy which questions ideas. Its emphasis is on the human, the here-and-now - making the best we can of life for us and the wider community. Humanists are rationalists, agnostics, freethinkers, brights, atheists, secularists and more. Our moral guide is in making the best analysis we can, individually and collectively, of the consequences of our actions.

My own beliefs include my passion for peace and human rights, a free National Health Service, decent pensions for all, a secular state education system promoting excellence in the arts, sports and sciences, and the protection of our fragile global environment.

In these polarising times, we are proving in Leicester's hospitals that, with a little tolerance and understanding on all sides, those of all faiths and none can work together for the good of the whole community.

The chaplaincy department has various religious texts for comfort, guidance and inspiration. A non-religious alternative is needed and I invite you to send me your suggestions for inclusion in an anthology of such works - poetry, songs, prose and pictures. I am thrilled to be the country's first secular chaplaincy representative and proud of Leicester's progressive lead.

* Eleanor S Davidson is an accredited humanist celebrant for funerals, weddings, affirmations and namings, and a member of the British Humanist Association and Leicester Secular Society.

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