A Bit of Background

A Bit of Background

In Europe, there is growing pressure to mark the transitions in the lives of individuals and groups with secular, tailor-made ceremonies.

Thomas Wegmüller, Susanna Meier, Klaus Beeler, Susanna Maeder

Nearly 20 years ago, Thomas Wegmüller and Klaus Beeler founded the Fachschule für Rituale. Together with Susanna Meier and Susanna Maeder they pioneered training in ritual accompaniment in the German-speaking areas of Europe.

Between 2000 and 2012, they conducted five three-year training courses and trained around 50 people in ritual accompaniment, some of whom became members of ritualnetz.ch web site, now known as zeremoniennetz.ch. In October 2015, Susanna Maeder relaunched the Fachschule für Rituale with a new design and concept. The main emphasis is on advising and accompanying people through their life events. The names of those trained by Susanna in the new version of the Fachschule für Rituale can be found on this page.

Although Jeltje Gordon-Lennox was not aware of the work in the Swiss-German part of the country, she began offering non-religious ceremonies about this same time in the French-speaking part of Europe, notably in Switzerland and France. Using a different format, she trained some 30 celebrants between 2003 and 2017. In 2006, she set up an association of ritual professionals similar to that founded by the pioneers of the Fachschule for Rituale and called it celebrants.pro, now known as celebrants.ch.

Members of the European Ritual Network (ERN) at their meeting in Geneva

In the autumn of 2015, Jeltje and Thomas were invited to a meeting of ritual experts from six different European countries organised by the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In spite of the differences in the linguistic, cultural and historical backgrounds of the organisations they represented these experts soon realised that they had a common goal: train people to be competent in secular ritual accompaniment. They also realised that their exchanges enriched them personally and dynamised their respective organisations. In November 2016, Jeltje and Thomas invited the newly formed European Ritual Network (ERN) to meet in Geneva to enhance collaboration between members. The group also helped launch a book that was inspired by their first meeting in Utrecht, Crafting Secular Ritual: A Practical Guide.

At the end of 2017, Susanna, Thomas and Jeltje began working together to harmonise the training programmes offered in Switzerland with an emphasis on the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Ritual Accompaniment (CAS). In 2018 it became Jeltje’s turn to relaunch the Ashoka educational programme with a new design and concept for training in ritual accompaniment.