Student Minister

A secular chaplain serves individuals who are not affiliated with a traditional religion and provides guidance to secular institutions such as universities.

Who are the Religious “Nones”?

The Religious Nones are a large demographic group in America. According to the Pew Research Center’s massive 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 23% of adult Americans and 36% of those born after 1990 are not affiliated with traditional religious organizations.

Some Religious Nones are atheists and agnostics. Others are spiritual but not religious. Some are believing but non-congregating members of their childhood faith traditions. Others are indigenous people whose spirituality is part of their cultural practices or who, as I do, engage with an indigenous spiritual practice.

What is the Humanist Community?

Humanists are a morally charged community of Religious Nones who connect to support each other in evolving as people and in acting together to make the world a better place. As openly secular people, we stand for mutual acceptance, reason and love.  We choose to put our compassion into action every day.

Humanists believe that our views of the world, including our spiritual and religious traditions, are human products. Whatever our personal guiding beliefs and stories, when we come together as a secular community, we rely on science and reason to decide what is true. We understand that science and reason are also context-dependent human products.

The foremost tasks of a humanist are to cherish the joy of living each day, feed the flame of hope, find our purpose on the planet, and choose the ethical standards for which we stand as individuals and act in community.

What is a Secular Chaplain?

A secular chaplain is a champion of individual humans and kindles the human spirit in secular institutions.   A secular chaplain acts with love and speaks for a moral high ground from an interfaith position based on shared values, reason and compassion.  A secular chaplain creates and leads human-centric invocations and ceremonies.

Secular Chaplaincy is the “Act Too” of my life, and is taking a greater and greater share of my time. First, I am serving as a community leader at the Humanist Hub in Cambridge under the guidance the humanist chaplain at Harvard, Greg Epstein.   As a community center, the Humanist Hub serves the greater Boston area, including many MIT and Harvard alumni.  Second, I am a student at Meadville Lombard Theological School, a Unitarian Universalist seminary.  I am also a member of the Humanist Institute’s Class 20, under the direction of Anne Klayesen, David Breeden, Kendyl Gibbons and other humanist leaders. Dr. Klaeysen serves as humanist chaplain of Columbia University and NYU, and leads the New York Society for Ethical Culture.  Rev. Dr. Breeden is the senior minister at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.  Rev. Dr. Kendyll Gibbons is the senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City. Finally, I am engaged in praxis with the MIT community, primarily around the existential issue of climate change.


One response

18 09 2016
Chris Highland

Interesting viewpoints and work, Nina. I was ( maybe still am) a chaplain, now a Humanist celebrant and blog at Drop by sometime. In nature we trust, Chris

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