By Barry Klassel
Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers University
A couple of years ago I performed a humanist civil union ceremony in the beautiful formal gardens that adjoined a mansion on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University. The elegant building was designed in the 1890s by famed architect Stanford White. After the ceremony I enjoyed a bit of wine at the reception inside one of the fine halls and, as I was gathering my stuff to leave, the couple asked me if I would stay and say Grace for the meal that would follow.
I knew I had been working on a version of a humanist Grace and I hurriedly tried to remember what I’d written, but I didn’t recall enough of it to say anything. So I made some excuse and left. The next day, I completed the writing and, since then, I’ve kept a copy in my wallet in case anyone asks again.
I hope what I’ve come up with is simple yet gracious enough for any setting. I freely admit I took what was best from other versions I’d found and combined those with some of my own phrasings and ideas. I think saying a few words to encapsulate the significance of a meal can set a warm, thoughtful tone to the shared experience that follows.
This can be done with no religious overtones as we remind ourselves of our connections to each other and to the natural world.
So the next time you sit down to a meal for a holiday or at other times and someone asks “Who will say Grace?” or you decide to take the lead and offer before being asked, here is an example of what you can say. Don’t hesitate to make any changes you want and add your own touches. Just make sure you bring it with you in your wallet or purse.
A Humanist Grace
As we gather to share this (whatever occasion it is) meal, let us first remember how it came to us:
This food was born from the bounty of Nature, the warm sunlight, the rich earth, the cool rain. Let us thank the hard working people who cultivated it, harvested it, brought it to us, those who prepared it so lovingly and those who will clean up afterwards.
Let us recognize that we, too, are part of Nature and the cycle of life. What we take, we must carefully return.
May this food nourish us. May its consumption bring the pleasures of friendship, laughter and good company to those who join us, especially to those who are new to our table so that they may desire to return – (can name those who are new). Let us recall with love those whose presence we miss (each guest can share names of those they miss).
And let us also promise to work so that, some day, all people on Earth may enjoy the same bounty that we share today.
May it be so.