harrow humanists
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Harrow's Holocaust Memorial Day Event
January 2017

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ANNUAL REPORT 2015-16

Officers and Committee members
Chairman: Terry Lilley  
Secretary: Julie Crow  
Treasurer: Charles Rudd  
  David Cryer (co-opted)  
  Eileen Bostle  
  Tony Thorne  

Committee meetings were held on 16 April and 27 November 2015

Membership: We had 16 paid up members and several others who attended some of our meetings.
Death: (full obituaries can be read here)
Don Liversedge
was a long standing and active Humanist who amongst his many other activities was a founder member and sometime Chairman of Harrow Humanists. He died on 10.7.15 at the age of 98.
Ike Ascher together with his wife Suzette was a regular attender at our Tuesday morning coffee drop-in sessions. He had been unwell for some months and sadly died on 21.2.16 at the age of 85.
Gill Pharaoh died on 21.07.15 age 75 at her own request, at Lifecircle in Basel, Switzerland accompanied by John, her partner of 25 years.
Ted Gascoigne was for a while a regular supporter of both coffee mornings and our evening meetings but he did not formally join the society and after he stopped coming we lost touch with him. It therefore came as a shock to discover from a local paper in October an account of the inquest into his suicide which had apparently occurred in May 2015 at the age of 80.

Meetings Programme
Our programme of meetings and social events was advertised in local newspapers, on our website and in the BHA e-bulletin.

  • In April 2015 we had John Edwards who has a background in applied science, mainly applied thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, to give us his views on climate change.
  • In May David Savage who is head of Pastoral Support at the BHA talked to us about his pioneer work in hospital and prisons and the plans to train others to carry out this important Humanist role in an increasingly non-religious society.
  • At our June meeting Dr Bill Thompson who describes himself as philosopher, architect and environmental psychologist led a discussion under the heading So what is human nature?
  • In September we had Barbara Smoker, well-known Secularist and Humanist author telling us about her detailed researches into the Moors Murders and discussing whether capital punishment can ever be justified.
  • Our October meeting featured Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Her talk was entitled Secular Muslims: on building inclusive religious spaces and it was followed by a wide-ranging discussion.
  • In November Jeremy Rodell, dialogue officer for the BHA discussed The Big Change in Religion & Belief in Britain - A Humanist Response. The number of Anglicans is steadily declining but the number of evangelical Christians and of Muslims is increasing, as is the number of people with no religious affiliation. There is thus a potential for societal polarisation. Dialogue with 'other' groups is important with promotion of universal human rights and secularism. Multiculturalism where different groups are leading parallel but separate lives does not encourage assimilation and understanding of others points of view. Interculturalism with integration would be better.
  • Humanism in schools and living with difference was the subject of our meeting in January 2016. It was agreed that the regulations governing both the teaching of RE in schools and the assembly for an act of collective worship are hopelessly out of date and not fit for purpose in 21st century Britain. There have been a number of independent reports relating to these issues published in 2015 and the major points arising from these reports were discussed. We concluded that school assemblies should include a time for reflection on moral and ethical issues rather than religious worship and that Religious Education should be replaced by a more inclusive approach such as Philosophy, Religion and Ethics which would include non-religious world views such as Humanism and would be on the National Curriculum.
  • In February we had a further discussion on the best way to influence local schools to include Humanism in their RE teaching.
  • In March, John Holroyd, a teacher of Religious Studies and Philosophy in London for the past twenty years, gave us a very interesting, detailed talk on the history and structure of religious education in England; this was followed by a mostly philosophical Q&A session. Historically, there was a move from the traditional 'nurture' theological approach of religious instruction to a 'thematic' sympathetic approach in the 60s and 70s. The Conservative government re-established the primacy of Christianity in the 1988 Education Act, and the Tony Blair 'Academy' project of 1998 re-introduced a more religious ethos through the setting up of Faith schools.
  • In April we had Luke Donnellan, the BHA's Head of Education, to speak about the How, the When and the Why of teaching Humanism in schools. He also replied to questions about the state of RE and its future prospects, the situation of under-trained but committed teachers, and the opportunity for humanism to play it's role in opening young minds to the diverse reality of modern Britain.

Other activities

BHA Group Representatives Annual Meeting (GRAM)
Charles and Terry attended the 2015 GRAM at The Rocket Café in Kingsway in November.
All the BHA officers were in attendance and each gave impressive accounts of their work during the previous year. This was the fourth GRAM Terry has attended and he felt it was the best with more groups represented than ever (from Plymouth to Newcastle) and all eager to share their experiences in making Humanism better known and understood.
The highlight was an entertaining and informative role-play with Pavan Dhaliwal (Director of Public Affairs and Policy) in the role of journalist interviewing Andrew Copson (Chief Executive) twice, with exactly the same questions; first to illustrate how not to respond and secondly, how to respond with aplomb.Harrow Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education (SACRE) and Agreed Syllabus Conference (ASC)
Julie has continued to represent Humanism on Harrow SACRE and has chaired the ASC which has been organising the RE syllabus revision for Harrow community schools. The new syllabus will be presented to Harrow Council in April 2016.

Schools
Terry and Julie attended a BHA training day for school speakers. They also represented Humanism at an RE day at St Helen's (private girls) school. Sequential groups of 11-12 year olds circulated between representatives of the various religions and philosophies throughout the day, followed by a Q&A session for the whole year with a panel of their teachers, also representing various faiths and beliefs.

Social
In July, our annual outing was somewhat spoilt by a tube strike meaning that only three members made it to Cambridge but they did have an enjoyable and instructive trip.
In December we had our Yuletide party kindly hosted by Terry and Maureen.
We have moved our drop-in coffee mornings from BHS to Debenhams restaurant where the ambiance and service are better. They still occur on Tuesday mornings starting at around 10.30 -11.00am for a general chat and exchange of views. Members and friends are all welcome.

JC April 2016


 
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06-10-2016
'One of our members' letter to his MP on new government Faith School plans'

01-02-2016
'RE Classes and Curriculum in Harrow'