ANNUAL REPORT 2015-16
|Officers and Committee members
||David Cryer (co-opted)
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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