Archive for the ‘Humanist Chaplain’ Category

Blanchardstown Hospital Memorial Event

Monday, November 30th, 2015

I was honoured to be invited to represent the Humanist Association of Ireland at a commemorative event held at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, on 30 November 2015.

A psychotherapist spoke of the process of coping with grief and loss, how we can feel lost and that our very identities have changed when someone close to us has died. She spoke of the value of talking about the deceased, taking time out during the day to sit perhaps with a cuppa and a photo of the loved one. Letting memories surface and remembering even their foibles. Often, she said, people can feel distracted and feel that they’re going mad. That certainly echoed in me: I was so absent-minded after the deaths of my mother and brother earlier this year. My mind was elsewhere, as it needed to be.

There were two separate 90-minute commemoration services held. At each there was a choir from nearby primary schools. The kids were great and they contributed a lot to the ceremonies. In the second of the two sessions a Roman Catholic priest, chaplain Tony O’Riordan, spoke from a religious faith perspective; followed by a guitarist playing the Ave Maria. Then Rev Ken Lynsey, a Methodist minister spoke, structuring his contribution around the four words trauma, tears, talk and time. In short, bereavement is a trauma, it’s good to cry and talk, and grief takes time. A Muslim woman spoke and then the choir sang and then a nurse manager read ‘For Grief’ by John O’Donohue. Then the guitarist played the Beatles’ ‘In My Life’, followed by Church of Ireland chaplain Hilda Plant, who chose an apt quotation from anti-Nazi dissident and Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The choir then sang the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ and then I spoke. I was conscious that much of the contributions had been from a religious faith perspective and I thanked and commended the organisers for inviting voices inter-faith “and none” and I was happy to be a representative of people who do not believe in any deity or an afterlife.

I shared ‘We Are Leaves’ which I had written this time last year for the Humanist Association of Ireland’s annual commemoration to support the bereaved. A month after reciting it last January, my mother had died, and a month after that, my brother died. And a dear friend, Marist priest Denis Green, died more recently still.

People seemed to get some comfort from it and I enjoyed delivering it, and I was very happy to be there representing people who do not feel the need to believe in a deity or an afterlife in order to find their meaning in life, even in the face of death.

Humanist chaplains appointed to US universities

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Humanist chaplains are being appointed to US universities. Read all about it here

Joe Armstrong represents Humanists at National Famine Commmemoration 2014

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Joe and Ruth Armstrong after the National Famine Commemoration 2014

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Joe and Ruth Armstrong after the National Famine Commemoration 2014

I was honoured to be asked to represent the Humanist Association of Ireland at the National Famine Commemoration at Strokestown House, Roscommon, on Sunday 11 May.
My three-minute reflection was made 1 hour 5 minutes into the ceremony, immediately before Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s speech. You can hear it on this RTE link

for 21 days from 11 May 2014: http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10281979/
Here is my reflection:

Words of Joe Armstrong, Humanist chaplain and celebrant

Famine. Famine. Can I imagine it?
Famine. Either a feast or a famine.
Feasts I know. But famine?
Work drying up, the closest I know. Money tight. Or doing a fast, perhaps.
But famine. Famine!
Hunger. I’ve been peckish for a meal. But everyday persistent aching hunger?
Hunger. Countrywide hunger. A nation on its knees.
Beggared. The shame of hunger. Unasked for. Not chosen.
Crops fail. Shock. Fear. Courage! We are strong.
Crops fail again. And again.
Soup kitchens. Food parcels. No money for rent.
Disaster.
Bodies shrink. Tall emaciated figures on Custom House Quay in Dublin: our ancestors.
Children dead. Relatives dead. Neighbours dead.
The boat to England, America, anywhere away from this godforsaken land of hunger and famine.
Famine.
Can we imagine it?