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Article ID: 8837
Age Group: Adult
Posted: January 2nd. 2005
Pagan Clergy - Who Qualifies?
by Jon "Athrawon" Edens
Exactly who is clergy? And what does it take to be a member of the Pagan clergy? These two questions have been raised over the years and heatedly debated since they first came to people's minds.
Let’s begin by first defining what clergy is, their duties, and then their qualifications.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines clergy as "1: a group ordained to perform pastoral or sacerdotal functions in a Christian church, 2: the official or sacerdotal class of a non-Christian religion."1 It is obvious that we do not fall under the first definition, so let us look further into the second one.
Sacerdotal means "of, or relating to priests or a priesthood."2 So clergy is therefore defined as someone being a part of a priesthood. When we start talking about clergy, priesthood and ordination, we are talking about people, both men and women, who are thoroughly educated in their belief system, usually have a college degree, and are trained, either formally or informally, in the skills of being a member of clergy.
The duties of the clergy involve the spiritual, emotional and moral wellbeing of their "congregation." They must set aside personal matters to visit the sick, comfort the dying and their the families, provide counseling for spiritual and emotional matters, educate those wishing to learn, provide community support, represent their faith to the outside world, and lead religious worship as required. They may have a set schedule, but more often than not, they can be called off at a moment's notice to perform one of the functions listed above. It must also be noted that Pagan clergy generally perform these functions in addition to working a full-time job and caring for their family.
So what does it take to do all of this? Well, a calling to the clergy is good for starters. Most clergy members have taken on this role because they felt a need to help others spiritually. This calling can occur early in life or after life has beaten them down to a point where they want to help others because of their experiences. Whatever the reason for the calling, clergy must also be mature, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Formal education can blend knowledge with experience, adding to the maturity level of the clergy member.
The most important training a member of the Pagan clergy can have is training in their own beliefs. Too often, in our community, someone will read a book or two and declare themselves a priest or priestess without any thought to what that may truly mean. It is one thing to be a priest or priestess if you are solitary, but declaring oneself such to the public automatically brings on expectations which cannot, and will probably not, be met by this individual. While it is honorable to want to help others, more harm than not can occur if this individual is not well versed in how to perform the functions of a member of clergy.
Does ordination make a priest or priestess? Not really. It is simply recognition of the training and skills of the person, but that recognition does support the claim by that person that they are a member of clergy.
Are all ordained persons good clergy? Look at the news for this answer.
Do you have to be ordained to be clergy? No. In most faiths they have people who are considered clergy and have never been officially ordained. These may be deacons or elders who have studied their faith and have learned through experience and tutelage the functions and requirements of clergy. This is probably where the majority of Pagan clergy are at this time. Many will simply get their ordination through some online, factory ordination church just so they can officially perform their duties in their state. Others will use these same factory ordinations to attempt to show they are official, even without any training or desire to minister.
Can 14-year-old Marianne be considered a priestess? Even if she has had the training through her family or other source, it is highly doubtful that she has either the experience or the maturity level required to perform these duties. Would you like a 14-year-old telling you how to deal with your wife's infidelity or counsel you on the spiritual chasm you may be facing?
While age does not equate to maturity, most would not give a teenager the respect that is required to be a member of the clergy. Likewise, I know of many adults who demand respect and claim they are 8th degree high muckity-mucks of Clan Wasername. I usually tremble in their presence; not from respect, but from restraining my laughter.
One trait I have seen among all good clergy, no matter their tradition or religion, is a spiritual presence. These people exude spirituality. They are able to listen with their hearts, give good sound advice, and are not judgmental. They do not have a desire to be "powerful" or a leader, they simply are who they are and expect nothing else.
Not everyone who calls themselves clergy can actually fulfill the roles expected by the Pagan community and the public at large. Anyone who calls themselves a priest or priestess should look at what they would expect of someone with such a title, examine their life, and then decide if they should continue doing so.
Within the Pagan community there is a lack of clergy who have been officially ordained by a Pagan organization. This is due to the very few "organizations" that are able to provide the training and mentorship required of such a program, or are able to sufficiently test a candidate for ordination who has been informally trained. Since most Pagan clergy are required to hold a full-time job it is difficult for them to travel to the few Pagan seminaries for any formal training.
So, in order to wrap this up, the qualifications required of clergy, and specifically Pagan clergy are:
Probably the best way of knowing if someone is truly a member of the Pagan clergy is if the Pagan community at large recognizes them to be so.
- A calling to the priesthood or priestesshood.
- A very thorough knowledge of their beliefs.
- Life experiences.
- Education, whether formal or informal.
- A desire to help others, and
- A sense of self, or "knowing" themselves.
1 Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 18 Dec. 2004
2 Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 18 Dec. 2004
Jon (Athrawon) Edens
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Jon "Athrawon" Edens
Location: Conroe, Texas
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Bio: Jon (Athrawon) Edens has been practicing Witchcraft for over twenty years and is one of the founders of The Pagan Online Campus. He has supported the Pagan community in various ways as an activist, teacher, and clergy. He lives in Texas with his beautiful wife and their three fur children.
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