Annual Spiritual Awareness Celebration
Article ID: 10192
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,079
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Author: Zyalia The Crone [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: October 9th. 2005
Times Viewed: 7,538
Sponsored by: Skylands Unitarian Fellowship, ADF and Inspirations
Location: The Gazebo in Hackettstown
Event Date(s): Saturday 01 October
Last year event organizers were granted a permit to use the Gazebo Park in the center of the business district in Hackettstown, New Jersey for a Spiritual Awareness Event which would include the local Pagan community. This park, formally dedicated to local veterans of the armed forces, is used all summer by various church groups for witnessing and praising. When, however, the granter discovered this group was not a “traditional” religious organization, the permit was rescinded.
It seems that the property the Gazebo is on is privately owned by the building next door, a doctor’s office. The fact that it is leased to the town for recreational use by local residents, however, makes it public use land. This was incredibly difficult information to come by since both the town clerk and mayor’s office kept passing the buck back and forth. In frustration the ACLU was called in on our behalf. After the ACLU corresponded with the town, the group was assured that they would have no trouble with this year’s event.
I am happy to report that today, Saturday October 1 the Second Annual Spiritual Awareness Celebration event was indeed held on schedule! This year we were collecting money and non-perishable food and toiletries for Gulf Coast Hurricane victims.
The day was perfect, with bright sun and blue skies and temperatures warming to the comfortable 70s. Participants of a number of minority religions, had fliers, brochures and books including information on Wicca, Druidry, Unitarian Universalism, Aboriginal and Neo-Shamanism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. At first the cartons began filling rapidly as people stopped by with donations of canned and packaged goods to donate. Then the banners arrived announcing the event. A few people sported I *heart* witches Tee Shirts from the near-by Wal-Mart, and coffee and munchkins were passed around.
That was the first hour.
Unfortunately I can't say the day was an unqualified success, but the police only came three times. The second and third time they had the good grace to be embarrassed at least.
Yes in New Jersey, a little college town 55 miles due west of NYC *someone* felt so threatened by a group of Pagans and *gasp* Unitarians (average age around 75) collecting for hurricane victims that they felt they had to call the cops. Twice (one cop just came cause he heard it on the scanner and wondered if we were the biker gang "The Pagans") .
While it was moderately amusing, all the police activity kept many donors away meaning we have less to send to the Red Cross and Humane Society.
I played the journalist card, hung my press pass around my neck, dragged out my super fancy Nikon and got the whole thing in digital colours! Not sure yet what I'm going to do with the story; op-ed or satire?
I didn't get the name of the person who made the complaint. She did speak to me on her son’s cell- phone, however, to tell me the press had no right to be there asking questions and taking photos. I can’t think why she was reluctant to give me her name, but she identified herself as the office manager for the doctors in the building next door, which was closed. She was calling in her complaint from her home in New York based on information that someone locally on site had given her.
On October 15 Hackettstown NJ will be holding its annual Autumn Fest street festival. We will be on-hand in front of the Inspirations shop across from the Gazebo for a Psychic fair from 11- 4. I hope that all within a reasonable distance can come out and join us, have a reading, and help as we continue collecting for the victims of the Gulf Coast Hurricanes. I will be on hand along with Isaac Bonewits, Neopagan author, ADF Arch-Druid Emeritus and well known curmudgeon. We will be doing readings and signing copies of our books.
Perhaps we can also send a message to the small minds in this small town. This is American, mate! We’re here and we are staying.
Zyalia The Crone
Location: Budd Lake, New Jersey
Bio: Zyalia, AKA Trish Reynolds, is the author of a number of popular novels in the paranormal and fantasy genres.
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