Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Pay It Forward

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments,
but what is woven into the lives of others.
— Pericles

Is modern Paganism sustainable?

Our traditions are only now beginning to be tested beyond the lifetimes of the original founders and those directly taught by them. With a wildly diverse number of beliefs, Gods and Goddesses, sacred texts and forms, will our practices have relevance for those born in a completely different context than the elders who established them?

Will modern Paganism grow, deepen and flourish for many generations as a strong, meaningful alternative to the major players now dominating the world’s religions?  Or will it simply end up being a footnote to our turbulent historical milieu?

I believe that our ability to survive and thrive as a viable spiritual path for the future depends in large measure on whether we have a wise, competent, skilled and well-trained clergy.

We need a dedicated clergy that is recognizable, both from within the many traditions of Paganism, as well as to mainstream government and  religious institutions. We need highly professional, accomplished, seasoned scholars, leaders, teachers, and chaplains who have been educated at the graduate level – in a Pagan learning environment, by Pagans, and for Pagans.

Of course, many of our traditions are building their own internal systems for training future leaders, and, certainly, such programs are important in ensuring the endurance of their particular customs.

But please — let us not repeat the insularity of Christianity’s denominational systems, which have contributed to centuries of misunderstanding and bloodshed.

Instead, it seems to me that an Earth-based spirituality should see the obvious advantage of the cross-pollination of ideas and practices for its budding Priests and Priestesses. Instead of cultivating a monoculture within each tradition, I think we should encourage diversity and exploration.

Consider how much richer our own traditions could become if, say, our Reclaiming tradition Priestesses and Heathen godhis were also fluent in “Dark Green Religion,” experienced in Voudon, animism and Druid rituals, and formally trained as grief counselors and dispute mediators.

But how can this be accomplished?

If you subscribe to my newsletter (I hope you do!), you may recall that back in March, I wrote that I was honored.. okay, blown-away thrilled…. to have been chosen to join the Board of Directors at Cherry Hill Seminary.

Cherry Hill Seminary is the world’s  first and only graduate-level education for Pagans of all traditions. Cherry Hill Seminary offers online distance-learning classes, regional workshops and intensive retreats in religious studies and topics at a professional and graduate level. It is where Pagans from all walks can be nurtured and taught the topics so vital to a sustainable Pagan ministry.  We offer courses within a degree program, and also on an ad hoc, elective basis.

Because we are not a “bricks and mortar” university, our students are from all over the United States, as well as other English-speaking countries. This means that as long as they have Internet access, qualified individuals can receive a quality higher education not available anywhere else. Many of our students are already accomplished professionals who are ready to deepen their Pagan practice.  They seek both the theory and practical skills which will make them more effective in their communities.

But Cherry Hill Seminary, like all other institutions of higher learning, needs more than student tuition to support its existence. It needs you and me.

So I am asking you to join us as we make history. I am asking you to become a donor to Cherry Hill Seminary.

If you believe, as I do, that the time has come for the next generation of Gaia-loving men and women to have access to higher education that honors their beliefs; that teaches them critical, sometimes complex skills for serving their communities; that hones them into outstanding, creative leaders and scholars, please give as generously as you can.

Simply click on the Cherry Hill Seminary button in the left column of this page, or else click right here,  to be directed to the donation page.

Your gift will change lives now, today, by ensuring that qualified students who desire this training have it available at an affordable price.

But please know also that your gift will ultimately help shape the legacy of today’s Paganism. This is an opportunity for weaving enormously important money magic. You can make a gift for our future generations by supporting their mission.  Please pay it forward.

Blessed be.

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  • June 9, 2010, 12:19 pm Ellen-Mary

    I looked into Cherry Hill Seminary. I was interested in deepening my Pagan practice and I still feel the call to some degree. I don’t have a bachelor’s degree so I can’t enroll in Cherry Hill. I don’t particularly want a bachelors degree nor do I have any other use for one but to be eligible to enroll in Cherry Hill. That doesn’t make it worth the expense. I have been unable to find any similar education opportunities that don’t require a bachelors in something else first. I’m not alone in this boat. I think it would be better for the Pagan community if there was a way for motivated non-degreed people to participate.

    As much as I would like the training and ordination the idea also makes me a bit nervous. If Paganism follows in the footsteps of the mainstream religions we may lose what makes us who we are. There are those who are calling for Pagan churches and clergy. Before long we will have an institutional hierarchy and get dogmatic. Where does that lead us? What future would that bring?

  • June 9, 2010, 12:54 pm Beth

    Thanks for your very thoughtful post, Ellen-Mary!

    I can see your point about wishing you did not need an undergrad degree, but of course that is precisely the point of what CHS is – a graduate-level institution. I admit I don’t know all the ins and outs of the policies of enrollment for courses, especially if you were not going into the degree program, but wanting to just take courses on an elective basis.

    But on your other concerns, honestly, I really don’t see any indication that CHS has the slightest intention of homogenizing Paganism as One Official Thing, much less contributing to any sort of hierarchy or dogma. Quite the contrary; I believe our courses in fact celebrate and cherish the diversity of what Paganism is, and emphasize the importance of the individual’s direct experience of the Divine.

    This is one reason why a Pagan seminary has to be so different from other mainstream ones. We are teaching leadership skills to a religion that eschews too much (sometimes ANY!) leadership.

    I think that, ultimately, CHS is trying to establish itself as being as rigorous and serious as any other institution of higher learning, and especially any other mainstream seminary. If we are going to be taken seriously by non-Pagans, and be credible and inviting to our own future generations, I personally feel that it would be a disservice to the Pagan community, in the long run, to waive the basic standards other universities require for their students.

    Does that make sense? Thanks for triggering this additional food for thought!
    – Beth

  • June 9, 2010, 6:52 pm Beth

    Just to follow-up, Ellen-Mary.. I talked to the other Board members just now, and except for courses required for a specific advanced certification, or within the graduate level program, the Cherry Hill Community courses (referred to as Pagan Community Education) are offered without any undergraduate degree prerequisite.

    In fact, they are specifically geared towards being widely accessible, in order to help Pagans meet the needs of their local communities and traditions, in the capacities I discuss above.

    For instance, I am taking “Practical Mystagogy: An Introduction to Liturgical Design” in July! I can’t wait! 🙂

    But the real point here is – do we as Pagans believe that we need and deserve our own educational facilities? Do we want to step up and offer our future leaders, priests and priestesses classes and curricula that assume an Earth-centered spirituality – instead of asking them to make do with whatever divinity school classes they can find elsewhere, sometimes being forced to stay in “the broom closet” in order to get them?

    If so, then I am asking for EVERYONE’S help. Please become a donor today, and support the first living, breathing multi-traditional, Pagan-centered seminary in modern times.

    Make history with us, and leave a blessing for the Pagan generations to come.

  • June 10, 2010, 5:12 am Otter

    Thanks so much for telling us about this! I just sent them twenty bucks and I hope everyone will pitch in what they can. Blessed Be!
    Otter

  • June 10, 2010, 6:02 am steward

    There are enough distance learning institutions, such as Thomas Edison State College in NJ, and brick-and-mortar institutions with distance-learning programs, to get a liberal arts undergraduate degree from.

    However, when is CHS going to get accredited by a recognized national accreditation program? It’s been years now within one authorized accreditation program trying to get accredited, and I have not heard of any success – or even progress. Accreditation would also help with legitimacy, which in turn helps fundraising – not to mention granting accredited degrees would likely increase enrollment.

    Most Pagans don’t -need- CHS as it is now. I can find what training I need within the SpiralHeart community, or, for certain things, reach out to the greater Reclaiming community.

    But neither Reclaiming nor SpiralHeart grant nationally-recognized degrees, nor is a project like that being worked on. That is, to me, what CHS is for… but it’s taking an awfully long time (and yes, I checked the accreditation timeline the last time I ranted about this) for accreditation.

  • June 10, 2010, 8:43 am OakFeathers

    Beth, I am afraid I must agree with Steward. After following this institution for a number of years, I can see no advantage of it over other non-accredited pay courses. The Ancient Religion studies courses and Druid courses offered by Westbrook University in USA and O.B.O.D. are excellent. Both are available online. I support the idea, but after reviewing many of the courses I do not feel they are as all encompassing as they make it sound in their sales pitch letters.
    They offer no more than what anyone can learn by doing research on their own, and/or taking courses in Esoteric Studies, Jungian Psychotherapy, Transpersonal Psychology, Herbology, Natural Health Sciences, Mythology, Native American Studies, Metaphysics, Ancient History, and even many of the natural sciences. It is in the learning about all religions, science, history and nature we are able to define our own and understand how they all have various pieces of the puzzle of lifes secrets. A degree is not necessary and neither is a certificate. All that is needed is an inquiring mind and willingness to learn new things and be open to all posibilities.
    I think it is ones duty to pass along information to those who seek what you know, but in placing a charge on that is wrong hearted. If one learns something of value they should be gracious enough to give what they can to their teacher, even if only in exchange of information. Almost all pagans are non-capitalistic and few have funds to pay for this kind of training. But they can get funding and grants for the subjects I listed earlier, all of which will bring their understanding of Paganism and all its factions into focus.

  • June 10, 2010, 8:43 am Holli Emore

    Otter, may your blessing return to you many times over!

    Steward, CHS did not make the decision to seek accreditation until two years ago. I would invite you to go here and read the evaluation criteria: http://issuu.com/detc/docs/accreditation_handbook_2010?mode=embed&layout=http%3A//skin.issuu.com/v/light/layout.xml&showFlipBtn=true

    We would also welcome your contribution towards the $10,000 application fee. Yes, just to apply. A whole team will make a site visit, inspect our records, infrastructure, procedures, etc. By that time we must have a FT paid Ph.D. as a director, and all of our faculty must be salaried, not paid per pupil as they are now. We will have gone through a full financial audit and converted our bookkeeping to accrual. We will have to have a bricks and mortar office by then, not my home office. (does anyone else see dollar signs here?) The whole city was celebrating a few years ago when one of our universities here in Columbia (Allen, an HBC) was accredited after ten years of working on it.

    One reason Beth was so eloquent yesterday about financial support for CHS is because, while we have moved light years ahead in our academic programming, internal procedures, communications, evaluation, admissions, student services, and many other things, all of this has been done by volunteers and one 15-hr/week paid staff member. We still have a lot of hard work to do, but the biggest obstacle for CHS is, quite simply, money.

    You seem to have a passion for this subject, and so might be just the kind of volunteer we are looking for. Our board accreditation committee can use more volunteers, as can our strategic planning committee. Do get in touch with me if you would like to jump in!

  • June 10, 2010, 3:49 pm Beth

    Macha Nightmare, who is President of the Cherry Hill Board of Directors, posted this on my Facebook page, where a parallel discussion is taking place. She gave me permission to cut and paste her response here. — Beth

    @John Deltuvia, whom I call Steward, CHS just recently changed hosts and we are learning from posts like yours what didn’t transfer well. We will be fixing broken links post haste, if it hasn’t already been done.

    CHS is seeking accreditation from the DETC (Distance Education and Training Council), which has been accrediting schools doing distance… See More learning since the 1920s. Look it up and I’m sure you’ll recognize some of them.

    We also intend to meet the requirements of the ATS (Association of Theological Schools) once we get accredited by DETC. We figure if Naropa, whose students are non-deists, can do it, then so can we polytheists. (No, please let’s not get into the polytheist, pantheist, panentheist, and other …ist discussion here.)

    In order to apply to DETC, we have to meet many requirements. Most of them we have, but it takes a long time, AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT from those who claim to want us to do this, to make this happen.

    We have three Board members who have taken the extensive online course in seeking accreditation. We need a minimum number of students, fully developed programs (still being done but really coming along fast, especially when you consider the obstacles), a minimum number of paid employees, a bricks and mortar headquarters, an audit by a CPA (there’s that money thing again — anyone want to start an endowment or two for us?), a library with a minimum number of volumes. Plus all our teachers must have terminal degrees, meaning Ph.Ds, M.Divs., D.Mins., JDs, etc. You try to find such accomplished ppl willing to put in the time and effort to make CHS happen for little or no money (little if they teach, none for chairing departments, reviewing applications, etc., etc., etc.)

    We have to have a library with a minimum number of volumes. Caroline Dechert, a librarian from Delaware Valley Reclaiming whom I think you know, has generously created a virtual library called the Judy Harrow Library. We are also working with Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (have one member on the CHS Board) to make their New Alexandrian Library be a part of CHS by serving as its library.

    Finally, the application fee for accrediting authorities to review an application is $10K! So how might we have been expected to have achieved accreditation any any faster pace than we’ve already been racing?

    We currently have five areas of study, plus PCE (Pagan Continuing Education) for those not seeking a degree, lots of selfless volunteers doing the website, databases, social networking, newsletter, processing and thanking for donations, managing classrooms. chairing departments and developing programs, plus one P-T employee.

    Simply finding qualified teachers committed enough to the Pagan movement and our role in it to teach at CHS is a huge job. They are not waiting behind each hedge, believe me!

    @John Rottet, thank you very, very much!

    @Dana, many groups such as you mention actually send their ordination candidates to CHS to learn stuff they don’t teach and they want their candidates to learn. The institution you’ve been following, CHS, has undergone many, many, many changes over the time you’ve been observing, all in an effort to meet the needs of those we serve, meet the requirements of those from whom we seek accreditation, and operate as efficiently as possible with insufficient financial support and 99% volunteers. Plus, our faculty make nowhere near what they can earn teaching in academia. OTOH, they get to design courses specifically for Pagans entering some kind of ministry and to work with highly motivated Pagans. Because that’s who takes our courses.

    Please go here.

    As to political and economic systems Pagans subscribe to, you and I are not living in the same world if you only see non-capitalists with few funds. I agree with Steward. There are plenty of quite well-off Pagans out there, some even living off Wall St investments. I’m not one of them, mind you, but I know plenty.

    We invite you to be a part of growing a healthy, honorable, sustainable Pagan culture. Join us in our work by giving your tax-free donation to Cherry Hill Seminary.

  • June 11, 2010, 5:27 pm Kay StarKindler

    The first course I took with CHS in 2005 was easy, similar to what I would expect at a local community college, or continuing-education seminars but not as rigorous as what I might find at the university level. The last three classes I took were equal to the online courses I took through The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and UNC-Chapel Hill’s LearnNC.

    While I agree that the O.B.O.D. classes are less expensive, the Westbrook University ones look as though they run about $600/3-credit hour course. While the cost is comparable to local colleges, Westbrook is still more expensive than CHS in the long run. Since I can only manage one class while working full-time and raising a family, that is important for me. Another consideration, at least for me, is that I do not follow a Druidic tradition. The instructors at CHS come from many Pagan traditions, and bring to their not only academic credentials, life and ministerial experience, but also a broader pan-Pagan perspective.

  • June 12, 2010, 4:52 am Beth

    Thanks SO much, Kay! It is really helpful to have a first-hand perspective from a student. I appreciate you joining the discussion.

  • June 12, 2010, 5:14 am Cat Chapin-Bishop

    Holli, with respect, I must correct your history of CHS in one regard. It is false that Cherry Hill only began to consider accreditation two years ago. From at least as early as 2000, that has been the goal and plan, of the previous administrations as well as recent ones. Only the plan to apply through ATS–a source of accreditation which has not previously recognized Pagans, though I am delighted to hear you plan to challenge that–is new.

    However, as you have pointed out elsewhere, the obstacles to accreditation are many. The decision to seek accreditation through DETC is a very logical one, and one that has been under consideration for years prior to your association with Cherry Hill. However, such requirements as that $10,000 application fee were even greater obstacles in the past than they are now. It was the decision early on–and I believe the reputation of the school today upholds the decision–that the first priority had to be building up a high-quality teaching staff.

    And that, I think, is the real response to those who question why they should support CHS. Look at the quality of the teaching staff. In the graduate program, you will find only Pagan academics with appropriate terminal degrees–just as at a mainstream college or university. More impressively, look at the quality of instructors, board members, and other staff throughout the program. While you can find wise, well-known, and published authors teaching in other programs, to my knowledge there are no other programs that currently offer the depth of knowledge and achievement across such a variety of Pagan religions and traditions.

    While still somewhat Wiccan/Witchen- and Druid-centric, it has always been the aim of Cherry Hill to attract talent across all Pagan traditions. As a result, the talent pool available to a student at Cherry Hill Seminary is not only unusually deep, but it is wide. That is a tremendous advantage to our students. Rather than work with the few experts available within any single geographic area, tradition or Pagan religion, students at Cherry Hill Seminary can work with the finest that the entire Pagan movement, coast to coast.

    Does that make a difference? The constantly expanding student body, even while the requirements for accreditation are “under construction” testifies that it does.

    It is not enough to be accredited; accreditation requires money and money requires community support.

    First, it is necessary to be very, very good–to have something to offer the Pagan community. This Cherry Hill Seminary has.

    And therefore, it is now appropriate to ask the community it serves to consider contributing to the institution’s support. Now is exactly the right time to be building what will win accreditation for Cherry Hill Seminary, because the heart, soul, and substance of the program–its talent–is already in place. No one is being asked to support something that is not yet a magnificent resource for the Pagan movement.

  • June 12, 2010, 5:18 am Cat Chapin-Bishop

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that I am no longer associated with Cherry Hill Seminary in any way; since becoming a Quaker as well as a Pagan, I have needed to back away from clergy training while my own ideas about what it means to be clergy season further.

    Bottom line: my support of the institution does not benefit me personally. I am speaking out only because I know the institution to be unique. I believe that anyone who investigates it and other superficially similar Pagan education programs can see that for themselves.

  • June 12, 2010, 10:20 am Clare

    Perhaps the most important part, for me, of CHS is that it seems possible to fail a course. If I don’t work in the way I’m asked to or to the deadlines or don’t attend to the work because the Guides won’t help or the Awen isn’t flowing then I can fail.

    Individuality seems valued and nurtured at CHS and I’m hypersensitive to any hint of box-ticking but it’s also a truth that in wanting to be a person who is available to vulnerable people within an institutional setting, Pagan chaplains will be expected to immediately come right up to the mark of other religions who’ve had centuries to develop their way of being. Many people want to be chaplains but “I want to help you,” is not enough.

    Personally I don’t work well online, I much prefer to see and hear and be with tutors and peers, and I hold in my mind and heart a vision of a bricks and mortar Seminary, a minute piece, an embryo maybe, of an egregor of that place. But in the meantime, for me, CHS is AFAIK, the only place where Pagans who want to act in a professional capacity take the risk of being unsuccessful. I want clergy who are willing to take that risk and who are successful in it. It doesn’t mean that every CHS graduate will be perfect but it does mean that they will know what they’re talking about, know what they doing and know why they’re doing it.

  • June 13, 2010, 1:32 pm Weavre Cooper

    I just wanted to add a note of support for CHS in seeking accreditation. Accreditation brings with it not only increased acceptance outside the founding community, but also the potential for increased donations and financial aid (even, eventually, federal financial aid) for students.

    We live in an increasingly populated world where information and learning are highly valued. That shapes what successful adaptations look like. We can remain Earth-centered, egalitarian, and freedom-loving. We cannot eschew all structure and teaching if we want to mature into an established, accepted part of the wider global community. In order to continue to develop our understandings, we need to have access to the hard-learned lessons of those who came before us, and at a certain point, that requires an educational infrastructure that outlives any participant; one-on-one learning is limited to what can be discovered, retained, and shared by a single teacher.

    I’m not a part of CHS in any way other than being aware of it and glad it exists. I’m an Earth-centered Quaker, although today is one of the less common days when I might be more accurately described as a Quaker-tradition Pagan. Either way, I’m not clergy material myself and probably never will be.

    To those working hard to build CHS into something sustainably long-lasting, though: Thank you for contributing to a world in which, if I feel the need of support from a knowledgeable clergyperson, I can hope to find it.