Final Paper Submitted for Pagan Ministry Course

[media-credit name=”Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository” align=”alignright” width=”400″][/media-credit]

Hurray; the paper for the summer course I took is now done and submitted! As I recently recounted, this course expanded some of my thinking and boundaries, and I am happy to report it is now complete!

The paper was ultimately called Pagan Ministry and Service to the Earth: An Actor-Network Explication of Ministering to the Spiritual Agency of Nature. It continues an idea I have been exploring, namely ways of thinking about Paganism from an actor-network theory perspective.

I have written many papers in my day (one that continues, thankfully!), though this is the first one in some time I can recall looking forward to the feedback from the professor. You see, I hope to expand upon this and submit it for a couple conferences / publications, so am actually looking forward to critically-helpful feedback this time.

Hope to eventually share it!

BTW, in case you may be wondering, I am using a fresco of St. Francis of Assisi (one who has distinct Pagan tendencies, to be sure!) as his sermon to the birds is about as Pagan as one can get. Hey, who doesn’t talk to birds?! It is along the lines of actor-network theory when we consider how our speaking to them is only one part of a very complex set of network experiences. With so many people looking forward to the Eclipse tomorrow, it is easier to envision how non-human agency moves us to act across networks. When this happens in a way that influences our spiritual response? Now THAT is approaching the area of inquiry in my paper!

This posting is part of my ongoing, shared journaling related to the Formations for Modern Pagan Ministry course I am taking during the summer of 2017 at Cherry Hill Seminary.

You are welcome to join me on this journey!

Implications for Ministry (Beyond People)

While my course on Pagan Ministry is drawing to an end, the questions for my next steps are just the opposite . . . I now have more questions and areas of possible exploration than I anticipated! I consider this a successful course, as I really appreciate learning enough in a course that I end it with deeper and more informed questions!

After all, who wants to take course to learn something new and NOT have any more questions or areas of future inquiry as a result?!?!

When I started the course, I began by thinking of ministry, or ministering to others, in a fairly traditional (i.e., Christian) way. How was I not to think of it as akin to my previous experiences?! Ministering to people was shorthand for helping people to spiritually move forward in a shared direction, and while good-intentioned, often was realized as a form of proselytizing. What better way to spiritually help people than by helping them to accept the same truth as I already have.

Ahh, how limited!!

Like medicine, where we go to a doctor for him/her to help us to the doctor’s perception of what is the best health (for us), or for us to take a taxi (where we go with the trust that they will bring us where we need to go, following the best directions they have based on their navigation apps). If we could do it all on our own, we would not need to seek the help of others, into whose hands we give ourselves. This works similarly with ministry, where it is also common to go to somebody in our tradition for their help to guide us in advancing through our tradition. This assumes that there are people who want to embody this role, though that may be a question for another day.

Yes, I have learned this is not the case when we speak about Pagan Ministry. We may know part of the journey ahead, or aspects of the path, though the ministry–better thought about as spiritual facilitation, support, or advisor–helps us advance in ways that are most comfortable and accessible for our needs. As this involves Pagan practices, which are in various Druidic traditions in my own case, there is less an emphasis on a single, correct path, and more a focus on a single, spiritual path for me right now. This would be even more important if seeking spiritual support and guidance from somebody from another pathway within Paganism itself! In this way, Pagan Ministry would not seek to make a Mini-Me, but rather help me to achieve the spiritual best of me, in whatever way that makes the most sense to me.

Ministering helps people, yet insofar as Pagans engage in the living earth as the source and end of energy and life and spirituality, then so to does ministry need to engage with this broader environment for where, or how, or for whom / what ministry entails. As Pagans are often solitary and eclectic in their practices, to engage in useful and helpful ministry must also encompass an awareness and acceptance of a diversity of meaning-making. If I were engaged in ministry, that means working with people and/or spirits in the earth and world around us.

In this way, ministry does not only involve groves or covens or groups of people, but the very real, spiritual being(s) in and around us. This is the main take away and area for further inquiry that I see coming from this course in Pagan Ministry. As my own understand has broadened, so have those implications and richness in how the experiences can be so much more inclusive than only with people.

As a result, ministry and the spiritual care and support of others has as the most important element–others. One cannot care for nothing, it must be for something . . . yet this something does not have to be limited in human capacity. We can minster to the earth, to the other living and spiritual forces in and around us, and to one another.

Ministry is much richer than I initially suspected, and as a result, I find it broader and more inclusive than simply limiting it to other people, like me. Ministry can be to others, to the Earth, the Spirits of Place, plants, animals, or any who need (spiritual) support.

I really need to consider this in new and expanded ways . . .

This posting is part of my ongoing, shared journaling related to the Formations for Modern Pagan Ministry course I am taking during the summer of 2017 at Cherry Hill Seminary.

You are welcome to join me on this journey!











PantheaCon 2017 Reflection

This was my first PantheaCon, and I have never met a warmer, welcoming, and spirited group seeking to share and learn / experience together the richness of what it means to be Pagan.

I had the opportunity to attend PantheaCon 2017 last weekend, and have been thinking about it and processing the experience all week. For anybody who is not familiar with it, this is the largest (indoor) Pagan conference in the country, and with over 2,000 attendees, it may also be the most inclusive. There were young people and older people, those with various (dis)abilities, shapes, sizes, colors, cultures, creeds, and levels of understanding and intensities. Children and dogs were present and welcome, too!

Yes, there was a diversity of practices, belief systems, and religious plurality as well!

Given this festive event over President’s Weekend in San Jose, California, and given I took a flight before the sun came up on Friday morning and then back home after the sun went down for the red eye on Sunday evening, I felt I was intentional in my actions enough to embrace all the experiences I was able, while also not doing it to an extent that I did not take care of my own needs and comfort levels. In this manner, it was a success.

There were several people, sessions, rituals, and experiences that really made the time memorable for me. Moreover, many of these continue to have an effect on me, and before we get too far from PantheaCon, I want to share my top 8 memories from the event. Like the Wheel of the Year that helps us orient time in quarters and cross-quarters, I will do similarly, also in some loosely related order of their happening (and not necessarily in order of importance or impact).

I will not make any claim that one was better than the other, but my PantheaCon experience would have been lessened had any of these not been present.

      1. ADO Triskelion Ritual Connecting with Land, Sea & Sky & the Awen— I had been wanting to experience one of the Anglesey Druid Order’s rituals, and as it was led by Kristoffer Hughes, it could not have been more reverent, prayful, and hysterically funny than it was. That I met Kris in person after knowing him from a distance for many years made it only more special.
      2. The Awen I sing from the Deep I bring it — The second of the two sessions I attended of Kris’, and this time I was able to get two of his books I did not have. Again, for anybody who has never heard Kris present, he has a way of taking very serious material and making it so funny and fitting, that I can only wish I presented more like him. Next stop, Wales!
      3. Magickal drumming – Ritual/Ceremonial Drumming workshop — Don Schulz did such a wonderful session that I bought one of the drums he used during this before I left on Sunday evening.
      4. Into The Labyrinth: Change Through Movement — Laura “Tempest” Zakroff had me moving in ways that I usually do not. Nothing revealing or the like, but as I spend so much time living in my head instead of in my body, this helped me experience something that I often try to avoid, namely bodily movement and feeling comfortable in my own skin.
      5. Thanks to the Aquarian Tabernacle Church for hosting their “Drunken Divination Party.” Lots of fun, snacks, and drinks, along with the sense that there was a healthy community present; kudos Dusty! Not only was I able to get a fantastic reading from Phaedra Bonewits (she was spot on before even sharing my question for the cards), but I  also had the opportunity to spend time and many laughs with Shade, Cotodia, and Rick, all of whom contributed more than I was able to share back! Ever have the feeling that you have known folks much longer than the calendar indicates?
      6. My visit to the SHARANYA Hospitality Suite was a rich, rich experience, finally allowing me to meet with Chandra, the greatest spiritual nonprofit and fundraising professional I know!
      7. I was able to spend two occasions with my colleagues from AODA (Ancient Order of Druids in America) — Larisa, Mizket, Pkford, Carmiac, and Oliver. How good is that — speak and learn with and through these distant grove-mates over the years and finally meet, informally more than once, at PantheaCon! Next year we should schedule something as well, perhaps for the benefit of the larger Con!
      8. Finally, I had the opportunity and privilege to have deep and exciting conversations with Laura, who was kind enough to offer me a ride to and from the airport to the conference. Truly paying Karma forward and most humbly passing it on.

There are many others who I met along the way whose presence added to my experience, but I wanted to share this while we were still within the week from the Con. Thanks to the many who helped make this such a spectacular event. I hope to take what I learned and share it back tenfold.


13th Annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies Take-Away Themes

I had the opportunity to attend and present at the 13th Annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies this past weekend at Claremont Graduate University, and it exceeded all my expectations!

Not only gaining valuable insights into questions related to my research in process, but I also had the pleasure of meeting some people whose work I have read, known, and discussed outside the conference but never met in person. Likewise, I believe I now have a new group of colleagues, without whose support and engagement I would not be able to sustain the academic work I have started doing in the area of Pagan Studies.

I wanted to share a couple themes that I found throughout the conference, in part as my own meaning-making process. While this list Continue reading13th Annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies Take-Away Themes

The Celebration of Awen (BMDO DP M1W2)

wheeloftheyearContinuing my Black Mountain Druid Order (BMDO) Dedicant Path (DP), I am still looking at Awen, specifically the Celebration of Awen here in my second week.

While I am not going to do an intense study of the Wheel of the Year right now, I have been thinking more about the change in seasons and how the  circularity of it repeats  each year while we in turn get older and benefit from more experiences. The regular 12-month calendar that we follow does not seem to account for the change in seasons and as such somehow separates us from our natural world. Those of us living in an urban environment are already somewhat distanced, so following the druid (pagan) wheel of the year provides an opportunity to be present to the changes that happen in the natural world, along with traditional human and agrarian activities that follow it.

The part of the year that most resonates with me is Yule, due in part no doubt to how much Christmas is hyped and celebrated in our culture. The light in the darkness and turning point in the seasonal weather follows a tradition familiar since  child, and perhaps that is a useful way to adopt and adapt to what may appear new to many of us.

That the darkness is met with trees that are still green and fragrant, along with a fire that has a feel of safety and new life, makes the period of Yule even more significant. As I recounted how I celebrated Yule a few weeks ago, it is still alive within me, something that helps me to get through what otherwise could be a dark and difficult time of the year.