Without the religion, of course! The first time someone told me I was like a modern day parish priest, I thought they were joking. But after chewing on it for a while I decided they are quite right!
In the ‘old’ days we had an individual in our village or town who knew the families in the area and served them in times of joy and sorrow. These were the Parish Priests: parish being the community and priest referring to their role leading ceremonies and sermons. The Parish Priest knew people personally and was entrusted with blessing their babies, officiating their weddings, attending their deaths, and leading their mourning and burial rituals.
Today, unless we belong to a faith institution, we no longer have our ‘parish priest’. That begs the question: Who do we turn to to guide us in the significant ceremonies of our lives? Most of us would prefer someone who knows us, or takes time to get to know us. But who?
Well, I’d have to say that I see this as an important part of my lifework as a Celebrant. Celebrant, after all, is another centuries-old term for someone who leads a community in ceremony. It’s true that in the past Celebrants and Parish Priests were once associated with a particular religion (often Catholic or Anglican). But today we are interfaith and intercultural, respecting the values and beliefs our very diverse clients.
There aren’t many of us around yet… in fact I was the first full-time, professionally educated, modern Celebrant in Vancouver. I actually call my business Modern Celebrant! Today the demand for my services has grown dramatically. It tells me that a Celebrant-led ceremony is a perfect match here on the west coast where we trend to a multi-cultural, not formally religious demographic. People want this. And thankfully more Celebrants graduate and enter the profession every year.
Serving Vancouver and Whistler (hey, it’s a large parish), families are turning to me in the way they would have years ago with a parish priest. Couples I have married are having babies and calling upon me to create a family ceremony for them. Many clients have told me that when a parent or other family member passes away, they will entrust me with creating the Celebration of Life or other memorial.
I wish I could express just how immensely privileged I feel to be invited into the intimacy of my clients’ hearts and emotions. And into the most transformational events of their lives: births, end of life, marriage, beginnings and endings. For these are experiences that change us.
To be so trusted at such significant moments is a great gift that brings meaning to my own life. I imagine that this is what it means to be a modern day parish priest… and a thoroughly Modern Celebrant.
If you know someone experiencing a transitional event in their lives, I’d be grateful if you let them know about me. It’s my greatest desire to serve our community by sharing the healing power of ceremony. I’m at 604-992-4217.