I just received my five-year "congratulations" email from Universal Life Church, which gives ordinations to just about everybody online.
It occurred to me that this is one way in which Epicurean Philosophy could assert itself in the mainstream and become part of everyday discussions. It's generally seen as a stamp of societal legitimacy when a movement provides chaplains and celebrants for rites of passage like baby namings, funerals, and weddings--as we've seen with Humanist celebrants. Plus,
- it has become clear recently that some Epicureans feel very strongly that we really are a thing different and distinct from generic humanism, and that a humanist celebrant may or may not speak to the Epicurean soul, and
- Epicurean tradition has VERY specific and particular things to say about life events, particularly memorializing friends and death. We also had our own distinct funeral traditions in Roman antiquity (non fui, fui, non sum, non curo). This means that a unique liturgy evolved in antiquity for the needs of Epicureans. I think this liturgy would speak to many in our world today, particularly atheists.
- Although there are Unitarian ministers (like the Cambridge chaplain, author of the 'Caute' blog) who affirm an Epicurean identity, we have otherwise had almost zero influence on Unitarian chaplains' intellectual formation; and although the Humanist Jews also affirm an Apikorsim identity and have incorporated EP into the formation of their rabbis, we have had no initiative to cooperate in the creation of education material or influence their Epicurean teaching in favor of a more orthodox approach to EP.
- As a result of this, there are really no options for someone who may want to have a ceremony that fits his or her values as an Epicurean as of today.
I personally think that the easiest way to prepare future Epicurean chaplains would be by partnering up with the Ethical Union or a Humanist Group, or even the Unitarian Church, etc. At least initially. If we are distinct and not at all ecumenical, then the idea of an Epicurean chaplaincy program (rather than a collaboration with kindred organizations) might be a way to promote EP as a separate, distinct tradition.
Just a few thoughts. Chaplaincy is much simpler than conventional ordination as rabbi, priest or minister, although it requires a strong background in ethics and the ability to facilitate events.
(P.S. My neighbor Fran, who is a school librarian and started calling himself an Epicurean after reading my book, ministered a gay wedding last year, for which he prepared a short speech, so I already feel like we have an Epicurean chaplain in Chicago. He's got a "high school teacher" "Mr. Rogers" type of personality.)