Building a Sustainable and Diverse Community

Submitted by Andrea Perrault

The Board of Trustees of the Ethical Society of Boston is engaging with members to expand the reach of the Society through a concentrated strategic planning effort, and it is critical for all of us to reflect on what we believe our community should have as a focus. While we’ve recognized for many years that our ranks have not grown and our current membership is not able to maintain a consistent level of activities, we have not really concentrated on what changes we must undertake.

Certain activities have been sustained – Sunday meetings, movie viewings, and courses on topics related to ethical issues – others have fallen by the wayside largely due to the inability of enough members to take on leadership roles.

Another key fact is that our “age” demographic keeps shifting upward, without new younger members joining the Society. With the move into the Humanist Hub, we have an opportunity to chart a new path. We must not waste this opportunity, and it must be integral to our strategic planning activities which will continue into next year.

Our collaboration with the Humanists at Harvard is still in its infancy as they have just started their activities in the spring 2014 semester, and we are the first “tenants”. Greg Epstein has reported that as they become more settled in their priority activities, they’ll be much better equipped to discuss with us how to build collaboration. So far, there have been some overlapping activities, some of them planned and others coincidental. We planned to have James Croft address the Ethical Society at our first meeting at the Humanist Hub – that was very successful in drawing people from both groups as James is active in both. He has promised to address us again before he leaves in the late spring/summer to move to St. Louis where he’ll be an Ethical

Culture Leader in Training. The memorial service honoring Tom Ferrick brought both our communities together again, as Tom had roles in each organization.

A beneficial but unexpected point of collaboration exists in the fact that the Humanists at Harvard are engaged in a volunteer activity to aid the homeless this semester and the Humanist of the Year for the Ethical Society of Boston is Dr. James O’Connell, founder and President of Healthcare for the Homeless. These are good beginnings, but our collaborative efforts must continue both consciously and continuously to build the humanist community in Boston.

A few ways that we at ESB can continue the positive start we’ve had in 2014 include the following:

• Solidifying our role as a partner at the Humanist Hub.

• Engaging in joint planning for programs throughout the year.

• Taking on leadership roles that support collaboration in activities, projects, and in promoting and building the Humanist Hub in Boston.

• Continuing our strategic planning effort.

• Making at least a two year commitment to building the capacity of the ESB.

• Dedicating funding to continue the effort.

• Investigating the possibility of adding staff to our organization.

In collaborating with the Humanists at Harvard, we have a joint interest in assuring that the “age” demographic of the humanist community in Boston is diverse. By drawing people of different classes, races, and genders to our new home, we may be able to ensure that the humanist tradition in the area will extend for many years.