From Pagan Infrastructure to Structures: Making the Leap
Article Specs |
Article ID: 8952
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,476
Times Read: 5,738
Author: Reverend Karla S. Douglass-Sinclair [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 23rd. 2005
Times Viewed: 5,738
“Pagan unity must come about in the political forum if we are going to be able to continue to enjoy what limited ability we currently have to follow our paths.”
Founder, World Wide Pagan Network
All too often I hear the lament of the solitary practitioner that they “wish there was something out there for them that would allow them to participate in group worship.” Well, Pagan structures consist of people and infrastructure, and often we get caught up in the internal drama and implications of who has ownership of that group. Can’t we just agree to disagree? What? Excuse me, but it is possible to maintain your individual autonomy while working within the collective. This fine country was founded on the concept of personal freedom, and that means the power of freedom lies in the choices that you make. Having recently moved out of the Deep South Bible Buckle (not the Belt!) , I take my religious freedom and safety seriously. Allow me to cite this case in point:
What it started as was innocent enough: a Ft. Walton Beach, Florida drum circle that was posted in the “community events” of the local newspaper. What it ended up being was a re-enactment of the “walls of Jericho” in a community park during broad daylight. Local law enforcement was called in to ensure that nobody was harmed, but the law was only a presence - not a means to keep Christian interference out. What had started as a drumming circle turned ugly with Christians screaming scripture, beating pots and pans, noisemakers, and surrounding these Pagan families, all in an attempt to save their souls by trying to drive out Satan. Now, do you see any Pagans doing that to Christians? I should hope not. Which brings me to the point I am trying to make (since I digress): Until we make the practice safe, nobody will want to publicly participate.
Pagan structures can serve as a “shield” for those who want to participate in public group worship, but how can we make sure our Pagan structures don’t become the target of vandalism and hate-crimes? Security, both human and electronic, needs to be provided, as well as safe lighted parking, but what does the community as a whole want to pay for and what services do Pagans in an area need? That is a regional question and each area needs to decide that for itself.
It is imaginable that some very large, very well funded Pagan communities might be able to pool resources. Indeed, I thought long and hard about prostituting my family and myself on Fox’s Trading Spouses for the 50K in money for my dream of a Pagan community center, but when I realized the “other mommy” got to dictate how the prize money was to be divided up, I realized then that no good deed goes unpunished. As the matriarch of the family did I really need to attend Easter services and hunt Easter eggs while my family went without their “fluffy bunny” goddess on Spring Equinox? Sorry, but I’ll pass the chalice to someone with a stronger stomach for the drama, thank you.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with attempting to improve the quality of our lives by providing services to the community. Pastoral counseling, Pagan reference libraries, community bulletin boards and homeless programs are just a few of the services that might be needed. A charitable Pagan pantry, tied into the local free food network, would be a great way for Pagans not only to do well in the larger community, but also to get public credit for it as Pagans. Even a public lending closet for Pagans to donate lovingly used items they don’t have space to store might be needed, as well as help for individual Pagans who might have the occasional need for - but can’t afford to buy – things like crutches, wheelchairs and the like.
But why a community center and not a church or temple? Well, it takes the religion out of the equation and if you are a non-profit corporation, you become eligible for the grant money that came into being by President Bush signing Executive Order 106: Establishment of White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Ideally, if the structure and infrastructure were set up properly, the experienced Pagans who are in leadership roles in larger Pagan groups would derive greater benefits from the use of a community center as their skills and knowledge and responsibilities increase. Roundtable meetings of the group running the community center would provide a valuable regular forum for Pagan leadership and others to discuss in person things of interest to the entire Pagan community. The advantage of having “fellowship” in a purpose-driven community center should not be underestimated - it facilitates the growth of an internal network that turns a Pagan community from a bunch of strewn individuals into a greater real community.
Additionally, there are the business and personal networking advantages to Pagans who can meet other Pagans outside their own groups and traditions casually as they are using common facilities. More and more today, there are people in the community who can be called "lay Pagans." You see them in the crowd at every public ritual - well-expressed folk who love the Gods, but who have no interest, nor time if they did have the interest, for serious commitment. They attend public gatherings because they find it in tune with their own religious experience and they want to feel that connectedness, but they do not have the bone-deep spirituality that is characteristic of the clergy of any faith. A "lay Pagan" might be willing to devote money and even time on an occasional basis in order to have access to a structure to worship in. A “barn-raising” with party afterward to build or fix up a structure for Pagan purposes might be kind of fun if all the logistics were structured correctly. Some "lay Pagans" might even be willing to help on a regular basis or, occasionally with tasks that don't take deep knowledge or commitment, but do require skills they might have. More will be happy to give money or “PayPal” a donation as long as they believe they are helping something worthwhile and especially if they know that nobody's going to argue the tax deduction.
A Pagan community center funded by contributions of time, money or materials from the Pagan community could provide secure meeting places for all the local Pagan groups. The 21st Century Pagan structure should be viewed as a tool of the collective groups that use it, not as a monument. Each group has their own unique needs, motives, problems and potentials, but in the end, the structure serves a purpose and must NEVER become more important than its purpose.
Reverend Karla S. Douglass-Sinclair
Location: Roseburg, Oregon
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