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| Article Specs|
Article ID: 8779
Age Group: Adult
Posted: October 23rd. 2004
Reaching Out: Community Building for Pagans
by Rev. Heidi Gleber
In the Spring of 2004, my Clergy partner, Shelly O'Brien, and I first discussed the need for a monthly outlet for Pagans to get together and network in our area. Although there are several get-togethers of this type available in other surrounding cities, there was nothing of this type being offered locally. We had spoken with a number of Pagans from our area that expressed a desire to attend get-togethers like those offered in other areas and we began exploring a way of meeting that need. After deciding to use the Pagan's Night Out model, we discussed possible venues and the pros and cons of each venue. The café area of a large local grocery store was one possibility, as was the café area of a chain book and music store.
There were several key points we looked at when choosing a venue. First and foremost was size. We had considered a bread store that has a café area but soon dispensed with that idea as we realized that, although the area was adequate for a fledgling group, we would most likely out-grow it rather quickly. Another consideration was parking - since we would be meeting at night, it was important that there be plenty of parking near the venue and that the parking area be lighted. Both the grocery store and the bookstore had plenty of well-lit parking available. We ultimately decided that the bookstore would best meet our needs, for several reasons. First, it is a non-threatening place for someone new to the Pagan community to attend an initial event. I have spoken with several Pagans who described feeling comfortable with entering a bookstore for a get-together and having the opportunity to "scope things out," so to speak, before approaching the group. The second advantage to meeting in a bookstore is obvious; when the conversation turns to reading material, as it often does, attendees can easily take a moment to look through many of the materials being discussed and decide if the information will be useful to them.
Due to our involvement with organizing the first Pagan Pride event in our area, we decided to wait until after Fingerlakes Pagan Pride Day had taken place before beginning to organize and facilitate a monthly Pagan's Night Out in our area. In addition, this gave us the opportunity to first discuss the nuts and bolts of organizing a regular Pagan's Night Out for Pagans in our area with Isaac Bonewits who, together with Phaedra Heyman, facilitates Pagan's Night Out in New City, NY.
The first Ontario County Pagan's Night Out took place October 13, 2004 at Border's Books and Music in Victor, NY. (Ontario County Pagan's Night Out will continue to meet on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the café at Border's Books and Music in Victor, NY.) Seven Pagans spent the evening discussing Medicinal Herbs, Homeopathy, Home-schooling, an upcoming local Halloween Ball, Celtic Mythology books and more.
Why should we take the time and effort to facilitate community-building get-togethers for Pagans such as Pagan's Night Out? After all, this means committing ourselves to one night a month in addition to the time spent planning and promoting the event. So why might you want to do this in your own area? The benefits of facilitating networking and community-building among Pagans has it's own rewards:
How to organize and facilitate a Pagan's Night Out in your area:
- Perhaps most important is the opportunity to reach out to Pagans who have felt alone and had no idea there were other Pagans in their area. If you have ever practiced as a Solitary Pagan, you are probably familiar with the desire to find other like-minded people with which to socialize. For many new Pagans, there is often a feeling of isolation, that they are the only ones in their community who practice a Pagan religion. Through offering a regular meeting place for area Pagans, we are not only creating a venue for experienced Pagans in our community to network and build community, we are providing an opportunity for those new to Paganism to meet with others of a like mind and to finally feel that they are not alone in their religion.
- Creating an opportunity for Pagans and Pagan leaders in your area to share information face-to-face. We are in an age of technology, where many people communicate and network primarily through the Internet. Facilitating face-to-face meetings through models such as Pagan's Night Out, Witches Meet-Up, etc, allows Pagans to socialize, brainstorm and network in person.
- Providing an outlet for area Covens and Groups who are Open to make information about their groups available to those attendees who are interested or are looking for a group.
- It is a wonderful way to build friendships and working relationships, which in turn strengthen our Pagan community.
Organizing and facilitating a monthly community-building get-together will require time, effort and perseverance on your part. In addition to arranging the venue and promoting the event, you will need to attend consistently and bring a sign to make it easy for new attendees to spot the group. But perhaps most important, don't expect an immediate response. It may take several months before you begin seeing any attendance - keep getting the word out. To paraphrase an old movie, "If you plan it, they will come."
- Explore venues. When considering venues there are several issues to consider. Almost without exception, you will want to choose a public place. Many other groups, such as various support groups, have found that new people are far more likely to begin attending a meeting/event/get-together, if it takes place in a public venue. Other issues to consider are: parking, keeping to a venue with no required cost for attendees, safety of the neighborhood or area and the overall comfort level for new attendees.
- Once you've decided on a venue, and confirmed with that venue that they will be able to accommodate your group, it is time to set a regular meeting night/time of each month. Keeping a regular schedule will help increase attendance since it will be easy for attendees to remember when the event takes place.
- Get the word out. List your event on websites such as this, make use of the services provided by www.meetup.com, send out press releases and put up posters.
Bio: Heidi Gleber is co-founder and co-clergy of Pagan Church of the Sacred Pentacle in Bloomfield, NY. She is committed to promoting Paganism as an accepted, mainstream religion through her work as Local Coordinator of Fingerlakes Pagan Pride and as President of the Pagan Educational Network of NY.
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Rev. Heidi Gleber
Location: Bloomfield, New York
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