(12-11-2017)

Here are some random things about me, my family, pets, hobbies, and how I got to being a wedding officiant, in case you’re interested in knowing a little more about me as a person.

I am happy to say I’m the mother of two wonderful school-age children. We are all pretty geeky together with science shows and Star Wars movies. We can all toss around a football together, bake a pie, identify some bugs, and then craft realistic Pokemon puppets from paper plates. When I put it that way we sound kind of awesome, don’t we?

In early 2013 we adopted a puppy named Harvey, a scruffy little white beagle-labradoodle. Now he’s a big guy at about 70 lbs, but is the most chilled out, smart, friendly dog.  In 2016 we started a backyard chicken mini-farm with 6 tiny peeps who are now egg laying hens, Butterball, Peepster, Shadow, Sunshine, Cloud and Storm. Harvey tried to eat a peep, but after some rigorous attitude adjustments he’s become the chicken guardian and they all get along nicely.

I enjoy organic gardening, genealogy, nature, photography, art, reading, sciencey stuff, and artsy craftsy stuff. I’m a huge fan of comedy, satire, and sarcasm. I love to laugh and be creative. I sell vintage jewelry on ebay under the shop name Stone and Trinket. Sometimes instead of working I end up watching a chain of random videos that seem to go from politics to science to cats.

Chelsea, Michigan, is my home now, though I was born in Detroit and have lived near Ann Arbor most of my life. I have an Associates Degree from Washtenaw Community College. Through most of my twenties I worked for a eco-travel company in Ann Arbor called Journeys International. It was kind of just luck, being in the right place at the right time, when I started there. That was, at the time, my dream job, and my opportunity to travel to some of the most exotic places in the world. I planned trips, traveled to and photographed Australia, Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, the Amazon, Machu Picchu, Argentina, Chile and Antarctica. Then I had kids!

Actually, I wasn’t sure until after my first child was born that I didn’t want to go back to full time work. Then 2 years later with my second child it just worked out that me being a stay at home mom made the most sense. However, to be honest, in that year I about lost my mind without something else to do. It was serendipitously around this time that a couple of weddings fell in my lap.

As far as beliefs are concerned, I am an atheist and Humanist. I do not believe in any supreme beings. I do believe in the good of people, and that being kind and seeking to understand others is a key to being happy. I am an active supporter of equality, civil rights and LGBTQA issues. I am in awe of the vastness of the universe, I marvel at evolution and life on this planet. My philosophy behind A Simple Ceremony is that I am honest with myself and am genuine in all that I do. From that comes everything else.

I was raised Catholic, decided not to (refused to) go through confirmation, and left the church at about age 12. In my teenage years I experienced a bit of Evangelical Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, and Zen Buddhism, before realizing that while I enjoy learning about religion from an academic viewpoint, I was just not able to actually believe in god or anything supernatural (even though I really tried). I do love mythology, philosophy, psychology and anthropology. Science and nature provide me with enough awe, wonder and unanswered questions balanced with evidence-based reasoning that I don’t feel the need to complicate things any more. I understand the struggle of those who have parted ways with the religion of their parents. Mine still undoubtedly pray for me and think I’m going to hell when I die, though I tell them that I don’t believe in hell, so it’s ok. We can agree to disagree.

Therefore, I don’t perform religious ceremonies simply because it would be insincere for me to do so. I respect the freedom of religion as well as the freedom from religion.

I was ordained as “Reverend” by the Universal Life Church in 2004, on the internet. I am not a practicing minister in any church.* My first wedding was performed in 2004 for a friend and coworker who wanted a quick ceremony on the beach near her house. She convinced me to see if the online ordination was legal (it is) and to sign up (I did.) I hung up my ordination certificate at my desk at work and asked my other coworkers to call me Reverend (jokingly of course). Some things at that first ceremony I didn’t anticipate. That the sound of the water would drown out me talking, and without a microphone no one heard anything. Also, I had previously been deathly afraid of speaking in public, and to my pleasant surprise I made it through the whole thing without choking or passing out. It was actually quite fun.

Nearly five years later in early 2009 I was asked to officiate another two ceremonies. One was for a friend of a friend in a local park with a few family, super easy/fun. Then, my sister-in-law Karen said she was getting married, and I offered to help. We looked at different readings, traditions, and vows, and also had a rehearsal where I first learned how difficult it can be to get a bunch of adults to pay attention. Her wedding was one of the most beautiful I’d ever seen, and I was honored for them to have me officiate and coordinate their ceremony. That’s really when this all began. I saw the pieces coming together of how being a wedding officiant would actually work with my life and fit with so many of the things I’m good at and really enjoy.

I’ve met so many great people at the variety of weddings I have been a part of, learned much about life and love, and even discovered new things about myself. Every couple and every wedding is unique, and it is so special for me to be welcomed into such a personal moment in people’s lives. By the end of a wedding ceremony and after all is said and done, I almost always feel like part of the family. I really love my job.

-Stacey Swickerath (Rev.)

*Note, I should say I am an atheist minister, and an ordained reverend of the Universal Life Church, and in that capacity my church is my home and my congregation is my family and friends who gather on a regular basis to share in the gospel of reason and science. Perhaps one day I’ll start a non-religious church to get tax-free status that is so unfairly reserved for churches.

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