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From Faking It to Making It

Pagan Baby
The many branches of Earth-centered spirituality have come a long way from the early days I remember, like when we were pulling our liturgy from pop fiction (“May you never hunger, May you never thirst” is straight out of Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land).

But those days of flying our broomsticks by the seat of our pants have evolved to winning the right to display our sacred symbols on our service members’ gravestones, and being welcomed at the table of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Our many ways of worshiping the Old Ones, or the Earth, or the Goddess, have truly begun to gel into traditions and teachings that are being handed down to new generations.  Although we are still facing massive, well-organized bigotry and misunderstanding, a slow dawning of credibility has begun.

We Must Change From Faking It to Making It

That’s why it is vital that we begin taking ourselves, and each other, as seriously as we would ask the wider culture to.

Frankly, I am mighty tired of hearing my fellow Pagans squabble over their fears of becoming too “churchy,” or our leaders actually being trained and disciplined (the horror!), or whether this or that school has received state accreditation (because, while this would be ideal and will happen someday, what is the CV of Lady TwinkleWolf, who is currently managing your local coven?).

Meantime, the needs of our people are real, complex, and urgent. Our ill, our dying, our soldiers, our incarcerated members, our folks in legal turmoil, our groups in the media crosshairs — can usually only receive second-rate assistance, if any at all, from (usually, but not always!) well-meaning, make-it-up-as-you-go-along priestesses and priests.

That’s why I am sharing this brilliant article today by the Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary, Dr. Wendy Griffin.

Periodically, the Pagan community gets caught up in a discussion about whether or not we should have professional clergy. This is significant in a religion where the Divine may manifest itself differently to each of us and we resist external religious authority. We often tend to argue about the topic of professionalization without defining our terms. Exactly what do we mean by professional and to whom would these professionals minister?

We know we don’t want them ministering to our own group; we demand more spiritual autonomy than that. And with no centralized authority, an anathema to many of us, we probably will not have a cadre of traveling professional priests and priestesses ministering to our spiritual needs.

But there are situations where our own spiritual group or practices simply are not enough, situations where a professional ministry might be welcomed: among the troubled, the sick and dying, in hospitals, prisons, interfaith, the military and so on.

As a community we have been very fortunate to have individuals out there who currently devote themselves to serving in these areas that might be considered professional ministry. Some of these people have been wonderful and their work extremely valuable. But not everyone who does this work does it successfully. Or even ethically.

To me, whether or not to have professional ministry is the wrong question. We have one even if we don’t call it that.

The real question is do we want an educated ministry?

Do we want Pagans who will serve in these ministerial situations who have been trained in things like ethics and boundaries, family dynamics, substance abuse, social justice issues, interfaith dealings, counseling techniques – all from a Pagan perspective?

As Paganism continues to grow and more Pagans feel safe to practice their religion openly, I don’t think we can afford not to have a professional priesthood, and by that, I mean men and women who have been systematically educated to minister to Pagans in need. I believe we owe that to ourselves and to our gods.

That is why I support Cherry Hill Seminary, the only seminary that offers a Master’s of Divinity, 72 hours of academic study, focusing on Paganism and Earth-based Spiritualities.

Right now there is a donor who will match contributions up to $10,000 for endowed scholarships. For every $20 given by an individual, Cherry Hill will receive $40, for every $100, $200.

I may never want or need the services of professional Pagan ministry, but I’ve made my pledge. I think of it as a tax-deductible gift to the community, my offering to the gods.

Now, it’s your turn.

Indeed it is!  Please consider studying with and/or donating to Cherry Hill Seminary. Your financial help during this first-ever matching grant fundraising can make history.
Please donate today – the grant deadline is July 1.

Blessed be,
~ Beth

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • June 17, 2013, 4:25 pm Maggie Magpie

    I find myself being drawn to discovering a way of becoming a part of pagan clergy (of the educated kind). I am in the UK but only seem to be able to find US based information; any pointers?

    MM x

  • June 17, 2013, 7:23 pm Beth

    Hi, Maggie! Thanks for writing! As a matter of fact, the beautiful thing (one of MANY!) about Cherry Hill is that, other than requiring participants to speak English, it is truly international: meaning available to people worldwide, and welcoming well-credentialed teachers from everywhere.

    The courses taught are at a very high academic level, so they are not as U.S. specific as many other things I’ve seen offered online. And of course, the classes are designed specifically to be workable for ALL trads.

    Does that answer your question, or are you asking something else?

  • June 17, 2013, 8:08 pm Christopher Blackwell

    In the twenty nine years that I have been Wiccan have seen Wicca go in all direction, some this way and some that. That seems true with the rest of the Pagan community. Why does that seem to trouble people? There is no one correct way. Some want structure, some want organization and education and some are not interested, and some will remain solitary like me. None of that is wrong, we are should not be interfering wit what each other wants.

    So solitaries will be solitary group people will form groups, some will be educated, some will be spontaneous, and some will depend on gnosis. Some will create temples and churches and some will not. Let it be, do what is right for you. Just don’t start telling people, with a different view, that they are wrong or wrecking Paganism for doing, or believing, different.

    Yes, Cherry Hill Seminary has its place for those that want to be a bit more professional and want to learn different skills necessary in formal ministry, including book keeping, administration, dealing with the media and counseling. Some will never use it, but there will be a need for those that make use of what Cherry Hill provides in education.

    If we are going to have 24 hour, seven day a week professional ministers, guess what? They are going to need a salary, and income. Get over this idea they should always do it for free.

    The rest of us will making our money in other things and perhaps be part time ministers, or only minsters to ourselves. None of this hurts those doing it differently, nor should it. Lets leave the one right and only way to other religions and get on with developing our own personal practice between us and our gods or goddesses.

  • June 19, 2013, 7:46 am Beth

    Thank you for this, Christopher. I agree with what you are saying.

    Luckily, Cherry Hill does not try to direct anyone towards some “right” way of doing things, nor ever try to position ANY spiritual practice as superior or “true” in any way. They make it a point to be inclusive to all trads, which no other formal training program I know of does.

    And the very cool thing, too, is that they don’t ONLY offer degree programs. They have all kinds of fascinating courses and workshops that are simply for personal education and growth. Again, they emphasize being all-inclusive, without a whiff of “who’s right, who’s wrong, this is THE only/best way.”

    And I absolutely cheer for and agree with your statement that we have got to get past the idea that a full-time professional clergy should be voluntary and unpaid. We would never expect that of any other serious, skilled profession.

    Thanks for weighing in!