Greetings! My name is Chris Stedman; I am so thrilled to be joining you at the Yale Humanist Community as the new Coordinator of Humanist Life, and I’m looking forward with excitement to our work together.
By way of introduction, I come to the Yale Humanist Community (YHC) from the Humanist Community at Harvard (HCH), where I am currently the Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard. (I will continue to work part-time at HCH as I begin my work here with YHC.) From this work I bring a passion for supporting Humanist community and secular students, and for organizing civically engaged, thoughtful, active nonreligious communities. If you want to know more about my background, please click here.
This coming year, I will be working with YHC to build up a community of Humanists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and the nonreligious at Yale and beyond. While this community is organized under the banner of Humanism (to learn more about Humanism, please click here), there are people involved who do not identify as Humanists — we welcome everyone. I’ll be doing some of this organizing remotely, but will also be in New Haven for 3-4 consecutive days one week a month (usually the second week of the month). I’ve already spent much of this summer in New Haven working with my colleague Paul Chiariello (YHC’s Director of Operations), with Miles Lasater (the Chair of our Board of Directors), with members of the Yale Humanist Society and the Open Party at Yale Divinity School, and with many others on developing resources for the community and preparing for a busy academic year. I have been so grateful for their welcome, and I am looking forward to what’s ahead. There will be more to say soon, but in the meantime I am excited to share some information about one of the projects we’ve been working on.
Our first event of the academic year will feature the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Susan Jacoby, a powerful thinker and skilled writer (author of Freethinkers, The Great Agnostic, and many others), who will speak about secular ethics. After her remarks, Jacoby will take questions, sign books, and participate in a reception where members of the community can meet and get to know one another. Click here for a description of that event, and to RSVP on Facebook. We hope to see you there!
This event will be the first of many. We are already working on plans for service projects that will enable us to act on our values and engage with the broader New Haven community, on interfaith dialogue events that will help us build relationships of understanding with our religious neighbors, on discussions about Humanist ethics and identity, and much more. Stay tuned for more information from me and Paul about these events!
I also wanted to share our new logo with you (pictured at right), which I developed with designer Alex Dakoulas. The hands, which come together to form an H, represent human ability and the value of community and relationship; it’s a visual representation of Humanism — not just as a set of human-centered ideas and principles, but as a lived project.
Finally, a note for those wondering about our current standing with Yale: We have been in dialogue with the Yale Chaplain’s Office and our Yale Religious Ministries (YRM) application is in the midst of the process for membership. We understand that our organization is nontraditional for YRM, and we welcome the conversation that has unfolded. As a community we seek to engage with, collaborate with, and support our religious friends and neighbors — in fact, we see this as core to our mission — but we also deeply respect the process of the Yale Chaplain’s Office and expect our application to be considered with no more urgency than any application before ours. We appreciate the opportunity to explore the possibility of collaboration with them, and the openness with which they have communicated with us so far. We’ll let you know if and when there is more to share about this.
In the meantime, we welcome you to learn more about our community. Explore the website, come to our first event next week, check out our Facebook page, Tweet with us, and, if you’re interested, schedule a time to talk with me. I’d love to meet you, learn from you, and hear your story. Together, we can build a community for the nonreligious at Yale and beyond that is there to mark life’s joys and challenges, and collectively consider what it means to live a meaningful and considered life as a Humanist in a pluralistic society. It’s a project that will evolve and grow as more and more people participate, so we hope you’ll join in and offer your unique contributions!