A HUMANIST Celebrant will lead prayers before the next Middlewich Town Council meeting, in a bid to become more inclusive.

The council has invited Jan Ferguson, who regularly conducts Humanist weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies, to deliver some fitting words ahead of the meeting on Monday, September 16.

Traditionally, prayers have been said by the town clerk ahead of council meetings.

Cllr Gareth Williams said: “After the May election, we discussed many ways in which the council could act in a more inclusive way. We changed meeting times and made the public speaking period more welcoming of residents’ questions.

“We were also aware that the traditional prayer before the start of the meeting was always conducted by the same person, excluding residents from other denominations and faiths, and also those of no faith at all.

“We wanted to respect the tradition of saying prayers, which we felt was a good counterbalance to the cut and thrust of the meeting itself, and therefore decided to open it up to all faiths and none.”

Previous meetings since May have seen prayers led by Christian figures such as Rev. David Spence of the United Reform Church, Middlewich, and Rev. Simon Drew of St Michael & All Angels Church, Middlewich.

Jan said: “This was an unusual and very welcome invitation from Middlewich Town Council.

“I would like to thank them for this opportunity to show what Humanist ideas can bring to the community.

“Humanism is a belief in placing human welfare and happiness at the centre of one’s ethical decision making, and I think that the town councillors who give up their time to serve their community will share many of our ideals.”

Cllr Williams added: “I am delighted that Jan has agreed to do this for us. She is a popular and well-respected Celebrant in the region. Once again, Middlewich is bravely looking forward, improving our traditions – neither ripping them up nor blindly sticking to them.

“This council represents everybody regardless of their beliefs, and we hope to see other non-Christian faiths represented in the near future too.”

n Prayers will begin at 7.10pm, with the meeting scheduled for 7.15pm in Victoria Hall.