Reed & Angela’s Wedding Page

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Reed Henry Byers
Born: January 12, 1968
Redwood City, California
Angela Christine Shilling
Born: October 29, 1969
Lebanon, Oregon
Son of
Ross Reed Byers
Lydia Louise Byers
of Houston, Texas
Daughter of
Roy Phillip Shilling
of Lebanon, Oregon
Jersey Village High School
Houston, Texas in 1986
University of Houston at Clear Lake
Houston, Texas in 1992
with a Bachelor’s degree
in Computer Science
Lebanon Union High School
Lebanon, Oregon in 1987
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon in 1992
with a Bachelor’s degree
in Political Science


Thanks to everyone for making our Humanist wedding a tremendous success! Special thanks go to:

  • Nancy Powell of United States Atheists for her terrific job performing the ceremony.
  • Tori Baur for being the “Stage Mom” and making it all happen smoothly.
  • Jim & Jan Donnelly for picking up the cake, decorating the place, “changing the set during intermission” and cleaning up afterward. We truly could not have done it without them!
  • The Dearing family: John & Peggy for performing readings, James for decorating and clean-up & Charles for being our ring bearer.

The Ring


Wedding Location

Albany Senior Center
489 N.W. Water Street
Albany, Oregon 97321


Wedding Program

Opening Words

Believe It Or Not

Reading by Peggy Dearing

Declaration of Principles — Babylon 5

The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice… It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of trust. It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion. It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul. But always it is the same voice. It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us and the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born. The small, still voice that says: ‘We are one. No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the star. .. We are one. No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear. .. We are one.’ Here, gathered together in common cause, we begin to realize this singular truth and this singular rule — that we must be kind to one another. Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us and each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light our way to a better future. We are one.

We are one.


What is Humanism? by John Dearing

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the wedding of Reed Henry Byers and Angela Christine Shilling. For many of us present today, in some respects, this will be unlike any wedding we’ve ever attended. Just as Christians have Christian weddings, Jews have Jewish weddings, and so on, this wedding is an atheist or Humanist wedding, reflecting the secular, freethought worldviews of Reed and Angela.

I am honored to have been asked to speak here today. I am John Dearing, president of Corvallis Secular Society, or CSS for short. CSS is “a Humanist and Freethought society for all nontheists of good will.” It is a local organization, affiliated with the American Humanist Association and with the Council for Secular Humanism. I formed the group in June, 1994. Two years later, I ran across a well-written letter in the local paper, and wrote the author asking him if he’d like to attend one of our meetings. After some hesitation, he decided to come, and Reed has been a member continuously since then. In fact, he soon put his talents to work for CSS, and became the editor of its newsletter, now called Willamette Freethinker. Reed also serves our group as its vice-president.

Reed and Angela met through an online personal ad service three years ago. After exchanging Emails for a couple of days and learning how much they had in common, he invited her on a very unusual first date. They stayed up talking on the phone for most of the previous night, then got only two hours of sleep before meeting in person for the first time, and driving up to Portland.

It turns out that that was the day of the second Oregon Secular Symposium – an annual event organized by all of the atheist and Humanist groups in the state. Reed and Angela spent most of the day listening to speakers and participating in workshops, then raced back to Albany where Reed’s other life awaited. You see, he was also scheduled to run the sound effects for a Shakespearean science-fiction musical comedy being performed at Albany Civic Theater, entitled “Return to the Forbidden Planet”. So Angela got to watch the show while Reed ran sound, then they both headed to Riley’s to hang out with the actors. By the time Reed got Angela home from Riley’s, their first date had lasted close to 24 hours!

In that one amazing day, Angela met many of Reed’s theater and freethought friends. She obviously liked what she saw, because it wasn’t long at all before Angela joined and started volunteering her labors for both groups! At the theater, she regularly takes tickets and works box office. She’s even been known to run lights on occasion. For our secular group, she is now Webmaster, Treasurer, and Assistant Editor.

Recently, in addition to her other volunteer efforts, she managed to chair the planning committee for this year’s Oregon Secular Symposium (which took place last month), and still found the time to plan and organize this wedding! As you can tell, she’s a woman of many skills, and I know Reed feels lucky to have found her.

As I mentioned at the start of this speech, Reed and Angela share a Humanist worldview, and this is a Humanist wedding. What does that mean?

Lets start by defining the word “atheist”. As the parts of the word imply, an “a-theist” is simply one without god-beliefs: nothing more, nothing less.

I doubt that anyone here today still believes that Apollo, the Greek sun god, actually drags the sun across the sky in a fiery chariot pulled by horses. But at one time, the Greeks accepted this as true. After all, they saw the sun rise and fall in the sky each day, and they were familiar with chariots and horses. The Apollo story explained the facts at hand.

Throughout the ages, humans have believed in countless gods, and they have always felt justified in doing so. Just as Santa Claus “explains” Christmas presents, and the Tooth Fairy “explains” the money under your pillow, gods “explain” the world around us. Besides, it’s comforting to think that we are being watched over by someone bigger and more powerful than ourselves. And nobody wants to think that death is really FOREVER.

But no matter how nice it would be if some sort of god existed, and no matter how easy it would be to explain everything we don’t understand by saying “God did it”, an atheist cannot help but think back on Apollo, and wonder what the difference is.

Atheism by itself, however, is simply a negative statement – a lack of belief in gods. It says nothing about values. So that’s where Humanism comes in.

Simply put, Humanism is ethical atheism. Religious people derive their values from their holy writings. Humanists derive theirs from reason. Humanists are primarily concerned with overall human happiness and welfare. Humanism is dedicated to the use of free inquiry, critical intelligence, reason and the scientific method in acquiring all knowledge, and in providing meaning and values for individuals.

Humanism affirms the dignity and worth of all human beings, and defends the right of all people to live their lives as they choose, consistent with the rights of others. Humanists contend that humans are a part of nature, that they have developed through evolutionary processes, and that their values have their sources in human experience and culture.

As Freethinkers, we reject authority in regard to opinion; we form our views about all matters, including religion, on the basis of evidence and reason. We uphold the separation of government and religion, a founding principle of our secular nation. We believe in freedom of belief for all people.

So why this “sermon”? Why did Reed and Angela feel the need to share their feelings and beliefs with you, who are their dearest friends and family, on this joyous occasion?

Because even amidst all the happiness, there is some sadness today as well. Certain members of Angela’s family have informed her that they would not be attending the wedding today, because they could not bring themselves to pay the same respect to Angela and her beliefs, that Angela has always shown to theirs. Even at this time of union and celebration, their religious beliefs prevent them from sharing in her joy. And that’s a shame.

Let me end with one quotation: after hearing it, please guess to yourself who spoke it, or at least what worldview he or she holds. Here it is:

We make a very big mistake when we assume religion is something good. Religion is like a knife. When one uses a knife to prepare food, the knife is good. When used to stab someone, the knife is bad. Life is full of ambivalence…. The awful thing is not doubt, it is certainty.

Who said that? A Humanist leader? Well…you judge. It was South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Nobel laureate Tutu helped lead the struggle against apartheid in South Africa; today he speaks of the need for people everywhere to come together as brothers and sisters. He has said that, no matter a person’s background or beliefs, “we are all family.”

Let us heed Archbishop Tutu’s call for reconciliation and tolerance! It is my fervent hope that those gathered together here today can all agree: no matter a person’s background or beliefs, “we are all family.”


I’m Under Your Spell

Second Reading by Peggy Dearing

Apache Wedding Prayer

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now you will feel no loneliness, for each of you will be a companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies, but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place, to enter the days of your life together.
And may your days be good, and long upon the earth.



I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish. Until death do we part.

Additional Vows we wrote for ourselves:

On this day, I join my life to yours, not only as your (husband/wife),
but as your friend, your love, and your confidant.
Let me be the shoulder you lean on,
the rock on which you rest,
the faithful companion of your life.
With you I will walk my path from this day forward.


Exchange of Rings

Light Unity Candle

Sign Marriage Licenses



From Back of Program

G’kar — Babylon 5
Meditations on the Abyss

If I take a lamp and shine it toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search truth, for understanding. Too often we assume that the light on the wall is God. But the light is not the goal of the search; it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the sense of revelation upon seeing it! Similarly, someone who does not search, who does not bring a lantern with him, sees nothing.

What we perceive as God, is the byproduct of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished, not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes we stand in front of the light and assume that we are the center of the universe. God looks astonishingly like we do! Or we turn to look at our shadow, and assume that all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose; which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty… and in all its flaws. And in so doing better understand the world around us.

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