A Goodbye and Thank You from Chris Stedman

It was wonderful to see many of you last Sunday at our panel on raising moral children—especially because it was my final Sunday working at the Humanist Community at Harvard. (Thanks to my amazing colleagues for the beautiful surprise goodbye!)

As this is my last week at HCH before I head off to direct the Yale Humanist Community, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the last four years.

So much has changed since I moved across the country to work for HCH in 2010—and I’m not just referring to the fact that I don’t have to couch surf any more. We’ve opened an amazing new community center, our staff has grown, and our community is active like never before. It’s been an incredible transformation, and I’m so grateful to have been here for it.

Thanks to your incredible volunteer efforts, Values in Action, the program I was initially hired to create, has accomplished much more than I could have imagined. And the approximately $32,000 we’ve raised to package more than 126,000 meals for children in need is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been deeply inspired by this community’s commitment to justice issues like food insecurity, climate change, and LGBTQ rights—we haven’t just talked about Humanist values; we’ve acted on them. And we’ve done so in partnership and dialogue with faith communities in a society that often tells us that atheists don’t help others, or that atheists and theists can’t work together. Your example has inspired me to dig deeper and do more—and it has inspired many others around the world, too.

In addition to coordinating our community service and interfaith programs and assisting with other programs, one of the most meaningful aspects of my work has been the one-on-one counseling I’ve done with students and community members as a Harvard chaplain. Meeting with students and community members to discuss some of life’s biggest challenges, unpack and explore existential questions, and make sense of life’s difficulties and joys has been indescribably significant. I will forever cherish the powerful convictions, questions, and stories that so many of you shared with me. Thank you for opening up to me—your vulnerability has changed me.

As I reflect on the last four years—how much this community has grown, and how much I have grown—I keep thinking about Tom Ferrick, our amazing founder who died at the end of last year. He was one of the first people I met in this community, and his work inspired me every step of the way. It’s been an incredible privilege to carry his mission forward, and to see the organization he founded grow and expand in its work to support a diverse community of atheists, agnostics, and the nonreligious.

I am leaving, but the work of fulfilling Tom’s vision of Humanist community continues. So before I go, I have one final request: Please donate to support the creation of the Tom Ferrick Memorial Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, a new position in Tom’s memory solely dedicated to his life’s work of supporting atheist, agnostic, and Humanist students and community members as they navigate the trials and thrills of life. We need your help to make this position a reality. If you’ve been inspired by Tom’s legacy and his commitment to helping others and building Humanist community, please dig deep and give. (And thanks to the generosity of others, if you give now your donation will be matched up to $7,000.)

A number of the students I first met years ago are about to graduate, and I feel like I’m joining them as they move on to the next stage in their lives. My four years have been so formative—challenging and engaging, rich and full—and it is thanks to all of you. Thus, I’d like to share these words from past American Humanist Association honorary president Kurt Vonnegut, offered in a 1974 commencement address: “What should [people] do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

Thank you all for being daring, and for helping to cure my loneliness. Please stay in touch.

With gratitude,
Chris

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