[The following is a panel discussion in four rounds on the topic of "Pagan Clergy," which was published in our magazine, FireHeart, between 1988 and 1993. Some twenty years later, many people throughout the U.S. pagan movement continue to refer to it as a source of stimulating, provocative, and even prescient ideas which remain relevant for our community today. Since we still often get requests asking for reprints of the panel, we are making it available here for greater accessibility; please keep in mind that this piece --- as is true of all the reprints from our publications --- remains under copyright protection, and that all pertinent limitations still apply. The panelists' bios have not been updated, and as a result some of them may no longer be accurate; we chose to retain their original texts because they are germane to the contents of the discussions.]
PANEL DISCUSSION: PAGAN CLERGY
In the Pagan community, becoming a member of the "clergy" depends largely on the dictates and requirements of individual traditions. Pagan priests and priestesses often receive training in such things as ritual, raising and grounding energy, experiencing the ecstatic, and opening to the sacred aspects of nature -- subjects not ordinarily found in the curricula of mainstream seminaries. But the breadth and depth of instruction can vary enormously from one tradition to another. Training usually takes place through an apprenticeship, which can last from a few brief meetings to study over several years, and then initiation.
Rarely, however do Pagan priests and priestesses undergo any formal training in theology, comparative religion, counseling or group dynamics, and almost never within the context of an accredited educational institution. This dearth of rigorous academic training is seen by some people as the major cause of Paganism's lack of credibility in mainstream religious circles. They feel we should begin to meet the standards to which mainstream clergy are subject -- that those very standards test the commitment and suitability of potential clergy, and give them the necessary training and credentials to serve a growing Pagan laity.
On the other hand, the very lack of a commonly held dogma and hierarchical structure has attracted many people to Paganism. The freedom to create their own rituals and to believe what they choose within the context of Paganism's loosely defined tenets is important to them. They feel Paganism's philosophy of immanent deity means that each individual is innately priest or priestess, and the quality of "priesthood" cannot be acquired by receiving a degree or earning credentials.
Furthermore, many Pagans dislike the idea of highly structured, academic training. Such training is often limited to those able to take the time and pay the exorbitant costs of education. They feel that academic training, with its bestowal of titles and degrees, may foster a "better than thou" attitude among its adherents, and that clergy trained in these ways inevitably seek to mediate between the worshipers and the worshipped.
We asked our panel members to comment on these different points of view and to share their own.
Oriethyia: I keep coming back to the same thoughts: we are writing about a number of important topics, each worthy of its own panel discussion.
Large Gatherings: Anyone with the skills and willingness to organize such gatherings has my blessing and appreciation. No gathering is perfect, and lots of problems with group endeavors get handled better over time as long as we stay as vigilant in the non-ritual aspects (drunken yahooism, child care and child inclusion, economic accessibility, sexual harassment, etc.) as we do to the overtly ritual areas. Should the people who put such a gathering together get paid for doing so? I have no inherent problem with that. The problems with many gatherings (I am most familiar with women's gatherings: music festivals and the like) is the slippery line between organizers and "also workers." Who determines who gets paid for what level of work/risk/time/expertise? No easy answers that I've seen.
Formal "Religious" Education à la Divinity Schools: If you've got the time and the money and the desire, there's no reason not to go. Enjoy. Learn all you can and bring your hard-earned wealth back home. Just don't assume that the degree earned in a mainstream (even an oh-so-liberal) university makes you a better counselor, ritualist, logician or spokesperson than some of those who have not gone. You will have learned a great deal that will be of use to you and your community; but if you, or others with whom you come into contact, let the formalized education belittle the experiential, ecstatic, years-long in the trenches/on the mountaintops learning, then you will have bought into the linearist lies again. We need all of our skills, all of our various ways of learning and knowing. We need to make this a garden salad community: the tomatoes and the cukes and the chives each retaining their own flavor as we "jam" together whenever we can.
Pay for Teaching: No reason not to. Just let's all remember that there are lots of folks out there with no VCRs, no condos, no BMWs, no second car, no first car, no color TV and plenty of desire to learn. Please let us not reinvent capitalism in our spiritual work. I want those of us ready to teach to be able to do so without worrying about lack of health care, savings, etc. If you have enough folks who can pay, mazel tov. But let us not begin to institutionalize payment regimens based more on teachers'needs than on the community's needs. This one's going to take some time. Let us honor all integrity-filled experiments in this revolution. And let's keep each other posted as the years go on.
Standards: If folks from all of our various factions can come together and establish a code of conduct, standards of competence, etc., I would have no argument. I can only imagine the debates; and we would need to be vigilant to ensure that none of us were being bound to a cultural bias to which we do not ascribe. But it would be a debate worth undertaking, and resolving.
I can, however, imagine folks who would have excellent reasons for not climbing aboard this bandwagon. Just as there are people with nothing to hide who refuse to take polygraphs on principle, there may be some who will not align themselves with any standards outside their own. We cannot assume them all to be either fearful or ingenuine. If there are folks who don't want in on the standards, we must be careful not to shut them out of other areas of possible collaboration.
Institutions: Old Witches' homes, cable stations, publishing houses, health care facilities, etc. I'd love to see them all. I have been in on several of the lesbian community and radical feminist community attempts at several analogous creations. All met with success in that we learned a great deal about each of our expectations; about the nigh-overwhelming effects of American capitalism and commercialism on such endeavors; about the degree to which the forces of the
status quo will go to hold the line against any such endeavors. It will be hard work. I have friends whose parents were part of early labor movement attempts: specifically, health care and retirement homes and credit unions. Most of these endeavors did not survive. Some never got off the ground. I do not repeat this out of skepticism. Times have changed. Perspectives change. There may be easier ways to do some of this work now. We may bring components to the projects that our predecessors could not. I only know that it will be long, hard work. I applaud anyone with vision about how to begin and continue such work. Put me on the fund-raising mailing lists.
Massive Influx of New Witches/Pagans: Do everything we are doing, only more of it. If you know someone who is skilled and has lots of integrity and is not teaching, cajole them into doing so. Share class outlines, annotated reading lists, etc. Make use of all those computers out there (it appears a fair number of us have them) and write and self-publish and sell, give away or gift new folks with same. Have you seen some of the New Age and Witch crap out there? We need to get over our glossy, hardcover, mainstream bias (hey, if you can get a glossy mainstream publisher interested, go for it!) and use every means possible to reach the folks that are trying to reach us. In the words of the great Greek Goddess Nike: "Just Do It."
I want to see us bring all of our various talents to these experiments. I want to see us try things that I've never even thought of; things that I've thought a great deal about; things that we've been working on all along. What I don't want is for us to assume that because we are (mostly) pure of heart and strong of vision that we can escape the mainstream garbage in our pockets without lots of hard work, strong dreaming and wonderful argument. It will take all this and more. May we always be up to the joyous task. May we fare well.
Isaac Bonewits: Andras's parable of the Clergs and the Cozies was superb, except that he forgot to mention the folks who were trying to board up the windows and install turn-styles in the doors, and the others who think that the solution is to blow up the house completely and go back to living on the land.
I agree with Andras 110%. The community is growing geometrically (perhaps logarithmically) and our old arithmetic just doesn't work fast enough anymore.
Sam's comments in Round Three are provocatively sound (and soundly provocative). I agree with most of what he had to say especially his pointing to the Hindus and Afro-American Mesopagans as possible examples of how polytheistic religious communities can function in modern America. Let's not let the sexism and cultural conservatism of these faiths blind us to the valuable lessons to be learned. After all, that's why we're Neopagan.
I've never seen such a display of furious backpedaling in my life as the one put on by Oriethyia and Judy (and to a lesser extent Sam) in Round Three. Either Andras and I (and every person I've discussed the published texts of the first two rounds with) completely misinterpreted Judy's, Oriethyia's and Sam's ideas, or else they've switched directions 180 degrees. However, before I respond to their Round Three comments, I'd like to first add a few clarifications about my own previous statements.
Yes, Oriethyia, I'm intimately familiar with the principles of consensus and "leaderless" decision making (after all, I lived in Berkeley for fifteen years). I've seen how feminist and anarchist groups can empower their participants and help them to develop new leadership skills. But I have also seen how such groups can raise mediocrity to ever higher levels of self-congratulation.
Consensus groups, magical or mundane, always create group leaders, whether those people get labeled as such or not. Such groups frequently end by burning out their covert leaders, since lots of responsibility, plus no power to exercise that responsibility, usually adds up to burnout.
Perhaps it's true that everybody has something they are good at doing (the idea certainly sounds nice), but that doesn't mean a) that it's something the group needs, b) that they'll be good at teaching it, c) that they'll be good at leading others in doing it, or d) that they'll show up to lead or teach when (and wherever) the group needs them.
An ideological obsession with the superficial aspects of egalitarianism causes most consensus groups to function at the lowest common denominator of the participants. This isn't a problem if your group's main purpose is to make the members feel good about themselves. Building self-esteem is a legitimate group goal and, for some groups, can be much more important than the quality, quantity, or speed of any magical or mundane results they may also be after. If a group is primarily theurgic -- concerned with individual spiritual, artistic, and/or psychological growth -- no great disasters are likely to occur if people learn by doing (making plenty of mistakes as they go) for a few years.
But if you're a thaumaturgical group that's actually trying to produce observable physical results (like repairing a hole in the ozone layer), focusing primarily on process is self-indulgent and irresponsible. And I have to assume that that's what the Australian group Oriethyia mentioned is being, since the now multiple holes in the ozone layer are getting larger, not smaller. "Radical feminist witchery" and "sacred indigenous femaleness" are wonderful, but as l have said many times before, sincerity is not a substitute for competence.
In many ways, the arguments about professional vs. amateur, or full-time vs. part-time, clergy come down -- as so many arguments do -- to being about means vs. ends. Neopagans don't want our group processes to betray our groups'goals. Yet neither should we want our groups to be so consumed with process that we never get around to accomplishing any of our proclaimed goals. One famous Neopagan consensus group in California used to brag (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that process was their "most important product." Other groups who attempted to accomplish projects with them concluded that process was their only product.
I have seen a consensus coven actually risk the life of one of its members by doing grossly incompetent healing magic rather than deviate from their egalitarian beliefs. The ritual, to use Oriethyia's phrase, fell on its face, and the results were not harmless -- if the woman had been magically dependent upon her coven alone, she would have died. For her, there would have been no "next time" for her sisters to get their collective act together.
Is this what we want? Should we all agree to pretend that we have sufficient "expertise and skill" to do what must be done when people's lives -- and the survival of the Earth Herself -- are on the line, and hope that our pretense will eventually generate the desired reality? Is it so important not to hurt our own or each other's egos that we'll throw away our planet for the sake of doctrinal purity?
As for Oriethyia's Round Three comments, I also find those confusing. Why does she believe that all Paleopagan clergy training was done by apprenticeship? The ancient Druids were known to teach classes and run "seminaries" at which students would study for many years, often leaving their home tribes to travel great distances. The Paleopagan Brahmans, the clergy of ancient Egypt and Babylon -- in fact, all the clergy who dealt with large populations -- were trained en masse to serve their tribes.
Running large rituals at gatherings is not the same thing as having a large congregation you serve on a regular basis. A festival or a weekend workshop is not a congregation. And we all know perfectly well that the majority of large festival rites are awful. Why? Because (among other reasons) a priestess who usually runs small group rituals, no matter how well, simply doesn't learn the dramatically different skills necessary to make large scale ceremonies effective.
Oriethyia's certainly right about how dedicated people in any cause want to work full-time. I'm glad that she's decided to give Andras and Deirdre her blessing (as regionally-based clergy) and will allow them to receive a salary without throwing them out of the community. Those of us who run national or international organizations are still beyond the pale, however, and will have to struggle on without her approval. Be that as it may, I'm pleased that Oriethyia seems to have finally gotten the point that as polytheists we're allowed to have more than one way to accomplish any given goal, even if she's only willing to allow us heretics two or three variations.
Judy's'arguments are, as usual, specious. She lives in a "DINK" (Double Income, No Kids) situation, with plenty of money and time for toys and hobbies. The activities she mentions as spare time commitments (writing a first novel, working on a political campaign, etc.) are mostly youthful or short-term activities rather than a mature commitment to a permanent situation or career. If Judy had ever had children, she would have quickly discovered that doing a decent job of parenting requires an enormous investment of time and energy, and can easily pre-empt all other activities beyond earning a living (at least in the kids'early years). So if being a priest/ess is your hobby, instead of your job, it's going to start getting short shrift once you have a kid or two, unless you have a lucratively employed partner willing to support you as a full-time housewife/husband and parent, and who does not him/herself have a vocation to be a full-time clergyperson. Judy's solution, of course, seems to be for all of us Pagan clergy to simply choose not to have children.
Judy asks, and it is a genuinely vital question, "By what standard is any of us any more entitled to that privilege [of being a full-time priest/ess] than anyone else?" How about competence, Judy? How about thorough knowledge and demonstrable skills sufficient to actually fulfill a publicly known job description? Brain surgeons, concert pianists, crane operators, firefighters, and suicide hotline managers don't get their jobs through "slick packaging." They have to be formally trained to perform specific, defined services for the general public, under the observation of knowledgeable peers who have established standards of competency.
Her comment about "turning our wish list into a job description" once again puts the cart before the horse. We already have many people fulfilling the simultaneous roles that Andras listed, and they are doing so because their local communities and/or national constituencies need them to (and because of the chronic Neopagan shortage of competent, willing and dependable volunteers). Saying that we should decide if we want full-time clergy (and that ominous "all that would come with it") first and then come up with job descriptions to match our group preferences is, like most of her suggested solutions, too little, too late, and too dishonest. We already know her preferences and she simply assumes that everyone will agree with her.
The "expectation of great breadth" that Judy claims to be so worried about is yet another straw man. Breadth requirements are handled easily by most students at liberal arts colleges and universities, as well as at most mainstream seminaries, and are far from impossible to fulfill.
Her approach to categorizing skills needed by various members of a religious community, however, is a good one, and the idea of "team clergy" (grove liturgist, bard, counselor, mediator, ecologist, etc.) has already been built into ADF's training system (and presumably those of other groups). What Judy doesn't seem to realize is that the same questions she asks about the needs of a typical coven of seven or eight people can also be asked about the needs of a congregation of hundreds. The answers will be different in each group, because the group and individual expectations from their religious experiences will be different. That's okay, it's allowed.
Judy seems perfectly happy practicing her Craft as a hobby, and Oriethyia is content to howl at the moon and call that being a "priestess." I'm really sorry now that Starhawk or Deirdre Pulgram Arthen didn't participate in this panel discussion, since they both have been speaking out recently on the need to support our full-time clergy. The men on this panel seem to agree about the positive value of full-time, paid, professionally trained clergy (though Sam expects, perhaps correctly, that most Neopagan congregations will be too cheap to support him as such). Nonetheless, this is not a feminist/masculinist debate, though dedicated ideologues may dismiss it as such.
Let's drop the theoretical and get personal: I'm currently suffering from a painful and debilitating disease (Eosinophilic Myalgia Syndrome or "EMS"). As a result, I've got six or seven hours per day of real energy with which to accomplish anything creative. So how am I spending those hours? Am I frantically finishing my book on liturgy? Am I getting everything done that I need to get done -- research, writing, teaching, etc. -- to fulfill my Neopagan vocation? Nope. I'm working eight- to fourteen-hour days typesetting for a large bank in New York City, doing absolutely meaningless work, coming home exhausted from the disease and the hours, with my hands in too much pain to type or write more than a few paragraphs at a time (it's taken me months just to write this last round). Why am I wasting increasingly precious time like this? Because my family needs the money to survive, and mundane employment is the only option available.
I'm not telling the readers all of this to ask for sympathy (though your prayers will be appreciated), but to point out some unpleasant facts. I've spent my entire life, as other Neopagan leaders have, struggling for mundane survival with part-time, freelance employment, in order to follow my vocation as a Pagan priest, writer, and teacher. Why? Because the community was so paranoid, cheap, and egotistical about supporting Pagan clergy. Since I have no insurance, savings or pension (those require long-term, full-time jobs), I can't afford even the most basic medical or dental care for myself or my family, and I certainly can't look forward to ever retiring. The final result is going to be that by the time I die, I will not have accomplished more than a fraction of what I could have done, had I been supported at even a minimum wage level by the community I have served.
As I said, I'm not alone in this situation. Several other Neopagan leaders and authors (some of them rather famous) are suffering from burnout, stress, and diseases they can't afford to treat, dressing their children in rags and constantly worrying about being evicted, because their communities refuse to give them the financial support they need and deserve. As Neopagan attitudes are now, all of us "respected Neopagan leaders" can expect to live our final years in pain and poverty, while the rest of the Neopagan community continues on its merry way. Otter and Morning Glory and Diane, Andras and Deirdre, Starhawk, Selena Fox, Z Budapest, and all the other Neopagans who are running large congregations need help now, while they are still in good enough physical and psychological shape to do effective work for the community and for Our Mother.
I believe that the future of Neopaganism can, should and will include an increasing number of large congregations. I believe that we can have knowledgeable, skilled, and compassionate clergy, seers, brehons [Celtic lawgivers and judges] and bards to assist in awakening the Goddesses and Gods and in saving the Earth. I believe that the kind of study program we've instituted in ADF, based on academic study, alternative study, and credit for life experiences, with published standards of competence and a tradition of formal challenges, is the wave of Neopaganism's future. I even believe that a hundred years from now there will be Druid chaplains on board starships, leaving from a planet of peace and plenty.
None of this, however, will be possible until we Neopagans get over our psychological, social and spiritual taboos about money, power, and prestige, and begin to reward our dedicated professionals instead of punishing them with poverty, stress, and insults. Neopaganism has been around for fifty years. If we want it (and the planet) to be around for another fifty, it's time to start manifesting our beliefs on the earth plane, and to stop expecting our priests and priestesses to live on fairy dust.
Sam Webster: Time is both the great difficulty and the great advantage for this conversation. Having months to feel my way through these issues, hearing responses, developing thesis, antithesis and the(a)sis both gets me in trouble and deepens those feelings.
Your criticism, Andras, is well taken in reference to notions of "infiltrating more mainstream traditions" to be able to be a paid cleric. It is rooted in my cynicism about Pagans' willingness to pay their clergy. Further, in feeling the need for a depth of education unavailable in the Pagan community (to the best of my knowledge and in comparison to a university setting), I sought and found in Unitarian Universalism (UU) a context for that education that included the hope of being paid for it after investing the $40,000 it would take to accomplish it. Or so I thought. For a while I found folk with Pagan leanings among the UUs, folk with similar spiritual and ethical values to our own. Yet, I have also felt a profound cultural alienation among them. I guess we are just a little too messy for them. My hope of finding employment leading a Pagan congregation affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, which operates with the institutional -- that is, economic -- integrity of a church, is virtually nil.
My greatest desire is to bring the knowledge and experience I have harvested in the university back to the Pagan community. How can I live doing this, facing payback on the loans I have? I may well take refuge in academia. However, my purpose in bringing this personal matter into this discussion is that it may serve as a realistic assessment of the seminary-style path to a Pagan education. Incidentally, Andras, I feel it unfair to call me dishonest in this seminary endeavor. The Unitarian Universalists know that I am a Pagan, and I have no interest in hiding behind some facade of being a UU minister. I have what you so plainly called a vocation, and being pragmatic, having no adequate resources within my spiritual community, I must seek outside it for education and potential employment. Indeed, the Hermetic tradition out of which I speak is noted for allying with forces greater than itself to accomplish its ends. The UUs are organized. We are not.
But what, then, are we trying to accomplish here? I, for one, am trying to determine the will of the Pagan community in reference to this notion of Pagan clergy. This is always the starting point for me. What are we trying to accomplish?
Andras torched my straw horse (not creative enough, humph! It elicited a useful reply.) He was responding to my economic analysis of a coven of ten providing a $30,000 per year income for its teacher, yielding a $3,000 per capita input. I think his approach/response provides an important grounding to the problem. In essence, he expands the population into a thirty to one student-teacher relationship at a rate of $6.75 an hour. Not bad if it can be made to work. This asks: Is the Pagan community willing to support this and/or is there a way of motivating the community to do so?
Oriethyia has her finger right upon the polymorphic character of Paganism and the problem before us. Her response -- let each do as they feel they ought -- I resonate deeply with. Let some work covens, some create centers, others other kinds of communities. Let some teach, some study, some counsel and so forth. Plurality, after all, is our strength.
But while Oriethyia's call for Andras to delegate is admirable, the reality is that the list of tasks Andras performs is normal for any Protestant minister: it simply comes with the territory. How is he or anyone to survive if he/she is not paid?
I suspect that the salaried clergy paradigm may not fly with Pagans, but the pay for service method Oriethyia mentions may be another way around the issue. In either case, the custom of payment would need to be established. But what are the services to be rendered? After some training and study, it seems to me that very few would need any of the lesser blessing rites for which many are paid in other traditions (e.g.. house, car, fields, child blessings, etc.). Essentially, we can all do these things (if we can invoke).
This leaves, then, principally training (yes, Isaac, I do think trainers ought to get paid), large and perhaps small group workings and worship, and festivals, all of which have their invisible and indispensable administrative sides. To do this with real beauty takes time. I have a firm feeling for the value of skilled labor. My point is not should Pagans pay for the benefit of skilled leadership (clerical or non-clerical), but whether Pagans will pay for it. How can we inculcate this notion into our culture, so proud as it is of its poverty? Isaac rightly raises the point of the origins of this ethic, and the reality of Pagans'livelihoods. Do Pagans not believe that workers are worthy of their hire?
I feel for Andras in the loss of income suffered by limiting the size of Rites of Spring. Clearly, festivals are real money-makers, and obviously they behave as do any other seasonal economy: cash now, starve later. I, for one, don't see anything wrong with festivals of I,000 or greater still. The issue for me is whether the experience would be a quality Pagan one. I have been to Pentecostal gatherings of 40,000 people that felt profoundly intimate. Although these numbers may be beyond our will here, how can we handle the reality of those numbers that wish to come?
Perhaps the problem is technological, requiring innovative ritual and program design that can accommodate such numbers. The Greeks, Egyptians, Hindus, and Buddhists have dealt with this successfully. Perhaps we can learn from them, I suspect that this will need to include paid staff at these events to help the core planners in the execution. Given the right structure (no easy task), what are our real limits? What is our desire?
And what if we do not respond to the challenge? I am not as confident as Isaac that Paganism will succeed even if we do not change to handle these numbers. Ecological Spirituality will grow, but by no means is Paganism the only way it must develop. The Buddhists (Joanna Macy) and the Deep Ecologists (Arne Naess, John Seed) are doing work that by no means leads one to Paganism. They are well organized and unburdened with our cultural heritage (witches, warlocks, sorcerers and magick stuff), much of which, in their ignorance, folk find repellent.
Yet people are coming to us. Yes. Andras, the house is overstuffed. Since the 1850s, to which I have traced this current wave of magical religions, there have been many boom and bust cycles. Think of the New Thought movement and the Golden Dawn of the 1890s, the Spiritualists in the 1910s to '20s. By my reckoning, and this is something a historically minded sort needs to check, there have been cycles of approximately twenty years of growth and development followed by about ten years of collapse and decay. The feeling I have is that we are near the peak of one of those twenty year cycles. What I have noticed is that there is a great burst of writing and concomitant interest. However, the need that this burst of interest has for quality instruction and nurturing outstrips the providers of same because they are not ready to handle it. With this comes collapse.
I think we all know that the same ritual techniques that work for ten people will not work for 100, nor will those for 200 work for 700. Why should we expect the organizational structures that work for ten to work for 100 or 700? What, then, will they be?
My fear is that if we do not change to adapt to the pressures of the needs of the masses joining us, they will go away. Should they go to the Buddhists or to the Deep Ecologists, I won't be too worried -- just saddened by Paganism's lost opportunity. But if they go back to the Christian evangelical churches (which are swelling rapidly) or if they turn to the Neo-Nazi side of the Deep Ecology Movement (the pure land for the pure race), we may find ourselves and our work in deep trouble.
Can Pagans cooperate? Historically, we have not been able to. Think of what Imperial Rome did to the Druids, Cromwell to the Irish. Think of the various Pagan organizations in this country. and how well this panel is cooperating to find a solution? Some are not even clear that there is a problem.
For some, the problem lies with the potential abuses of a formal or a paid clergy. Frankly, I am not all that concerned about this. Humans will be humans, wonderful and despicable as they are. My experience shows that plenty of abuse occurs in our current structures as it is, mostly remaking family-of-origin abuse in the family-like coven or lodge setting. Changing our structure will merely change the kind of abuse, not its presence. Yet becoming more organized permits more collegial interaction and feedback that can stop abuse where it appears, rather than being hidden in the secrecy of a small group.
For my money, this discussion ends with the question: what shall we do?
There seem to be four major areas of study where this conversation can and, in my opinion, should continue: theoretical study of Paganism (history and theo/alogy), practical application of our Way (ritual and magickal technique), development of our educational skills and resources (socializing newcomers and the next generation), and an examination of our modes of leadership (if not covens, what?). As I don't see in the Pagan community a willingness to directly support its leadership in the study of these issues, I suggest that the leadership -- that is, those for whom these or similar issues are passionate causes for concern -- organize to explore them. Let those who are willing to discuss and experiment with alternative modes of leadership start talking to each other and compare notes. Then they could publish their findings through a Pagan magazine, or a journal of the study group, or simply as a set of notes bound conveniently.
To get this started, and to put myself on the line, I am willing to take the responsibility for facilitating the first two areas of study, the theoretical and the practical. I propose that anyone interested in the rigorous study of our history and theo/alogy, our ritual and magickal technique with an openness to criticism and the application of academic discipline (i.e., giving sources and credits), contact me through FireHeart. I will function as a facilitator in the discussion as we self-organize to meet the task. Further, I suggest that anyone interested in similar issues do likewise. In this way, we can tackle these problems without waiting for the larger community to organize itself to support this endeavor.
But to address the larger Pagan community, I refer to my suggestions in the previous round of this discussion. There I suggested that Isaac and Andras are in the best position to begin functioning as paid Pagan clergy. If you can get folk to pay you, go for it! All you have to do is convince them that you are worth it (and I believe you are), and then deliver on your promise to fulfill that need. I wish you well.
There is one last thing I see that we, as a panel, can do to facilitate this discussion and move it out into the community at large: call an international council to discuss the issue. Let's get as many people together as possible to sit down and, face-to-face, ask ourselves where and how we want the Pagan community to grow. Can we learn from our experience? Can we cooperate to our mutual support and advantage? If we can, we will grow healthily and endure, and we will take our valuable message out into the world and help it change as it must. If we do not learn and do not cooperate, we will be just a flash in the pan of history, another religious and social movement come and gone.
Judy Harrow: This fourth round is supposed to wrap up all the stray ideas from the previous three. Is anything left unsaid?
Yes, I think so. There's something more to say about our day jobs: they are good for us. I say this even though I am, like most of us, often frustrated by the amount of time mine takes away from Wiccan activities. My poor, abused alarm clock hears as much profanity as anybody's. And I am still planning, as I said in the last round, for early retirement.
Even after I retire, usable memories will remain. For example, on a certain night last month, the Lady spoke through my mouth. Nothing unusual about that. The next morning found me walking through the detention cells in the Brooklyn Criminal Court, checking each toilet to see whether it flushed properly. A pail of ice water in the face. A reminder that my religion, which claims to be about this life on this Earth, here and now, has to address itself to something far deeper and much more whole than the Goddess Rainbow Brite.
Constant contact with the "underside" of my City vaccinates me against facile and superficial spirituality. With such a background, I am hardly likely to fancy myself the Fairy Queen of Inwood Hill Park. I'm grateful that my sense of the possibilities and the limits is grounded in the hard facts of life. These daily, drastic shifts of context have also given me the best possible training in changing consciousness in accordance with will.
Besides deepening and enriching my own spiritual life, I believe that the experience of working an ordinary job increases my effectiveness as a priestess to others. Clergy of any religion guide and advise. Because our covens are small and intimate, each of our members'personal issues are far more visible. And so, we are actually much more involved in one-on-one mentoring than mainstream clergy are. Even if giving our clergy an exemption from mundane demands provides us with a more erudite clergy -- and it probably would -- we'd be likely to lose on a far more important dimension: compassion.
I believe -- and many of the world's spiritual traditions have taught -- that she who shares the ordinary life circumstances of her congregants is far more likely to offer wise, realistic and compassionate advice. Consider the ugly example of a well-known celibate clergy class, who typically base their teachings about human sexuality and reproduction on abstract principle rather than on any real understanding of human experience.
To move on to another issue: it occurs to me that probably nobody was surprised when FireHeart asked me to be on this particular panel. I've been loudly and publicly opposing the drive to dissolve our traditional coven and lineage structures into mass organizations for over ten years now. I began by speaking out against large festivals held on the weekends of Sabbats, because the attraction they create is detrimental to the cohesion of covens.
In Round Two, Andras asserts that size "is not, by itself, the cause for the lowering of our standards. Another equally important factor is the mainstream culture that surrounds us. We live in a fundamentally lazy society -- a society of spectators, remote controls, and instant everything." I agree and disagree. No, size per se is not the problem. Still, for a counterculture like ours, which is struggling to maintain its integrity, rate of growth can be a problem indeed.
The problem is not really that the mainstream culture surrounds us, either. It's that almost all of us were raised and shaped by mainstream culture. When we came to the Pagan path, we had to learn whole new ways of thinking and interacting. What we did was resocialize ourselves and each other. If we now begin to bring people in faster than we can realistically resocialize them, we will inevitably bring mainstream ways right back into our own community.
Isaac finds my metaphor of "cancer" offensive. Fine, so we'll use Andras's "kudzu" image instead. However you image it, the result will be something that has very different trappings from mainstream religion, but still works by mainstream processes and principles. That's what mass Pagan organizations are. Already, these kudzu patches are multiplying.
One fairly obvious way we might accede to mainstream values would be to replace our own old ways of self-help and sharing among kindred with the purchased services of religious "specialists," while the rest of us become congregational spectators. From a Pagan thealogical standpoint, many part-time leaders are not "as good as" a few full-timers -- they are far better. Organizing ourselves that way validates a plurality of perspectives on our religion and models decentralization of power. Both of these are more consistent with the polytheism we profess.
Mass organizations, while disempowering most of us, would also create among us a self-serving, self-perpetuating privileged class of paid clergy. They'd sound much like Isaac, going on at querulous and tiresome length about how many good things we could have if only we selfish pigs were willing to give a mere 1% of our earnings to our religion, rather than spending all of our money on buying ourselves new toys.
Actually, I spend a lot more than 1% of what l earn on religious activities -- my own religious activities. My money buys books and supplies, gets me to gatherings, and finances a phone bill that is usually larger than my rent. Thankfully, I often have some left over for self-indulgent pleasures. Now, tell me again why I should work a day job and then use my earnings to release somebody else from also working a day job. Are they holier, more dedicated, or just a little bit pushier?
In mass organizations -- any of them, not just the Pagan ones -- the individual congregant becomes lost in the amorphous crowd. Typically, all it takes to join such a group is the ability to fill out an application form and pay the dues. Perhaps you sign a statement of ethics, but nobody bothers to get to know you well enough to assess whether you mean it or even understand it. As long as your tithe keeps coming, nobody much cares. On paper, these organizations may look far more democratic than covens, but, equally typically, the faceless members have not much say in how the group is actually run. In how many is the leadership actually elected?
Another symptom is that, in all but one of the mass Pagan organizations that I know of, the leadership is male. If these groups were really egalitarian and participatory, about half should be led by women, right? If anything, among Goddess worshippers seeking to redress an old imbalance, the bias should be toward female leadership, as it has been in CoG (no surprise here that CoG is organized along Wiccan lines, primarily as a confederation of covens). Makes me wonder what other habits of the culture of domination are being carried over into these groups.
And, for all of that, the Round Three pieces by Andras, Isaac and Sam came close to convincing me that the mass influx is now inevitable, that the only real choice left to us is how we will deal with it. Oriethyia's mellow attitude then seemed to make sense. Let everyone do what they feel is appropriate. Indeed, there is no way to stop them.
The good news is that here is where the metaphor breaks down. The kudzu will never overwhelm the orchard. The existence of mass organizations will not impede covens from forming, working and hiving. Slow, organic growth will continue. If anything, the mass organizations will keep "wannabe Witches" happily amused and off our backs. Better yet, although such groups are in no way the real thing, they may bring some folks close enough to see who and where we are. Mass organizations will be, for a few, one stop along the path by which they find their way home. One such Pagan "church" was recently described to me, by its leader, as "the wide top of the funnel." If this is so, so be it.
Okay, so let them do their thing. But let them also take responsibility for their choices. Inevitability is a lie. Here's the reality check: I also co-founded a festival in 1979. With a name change, it's still going. None of us ever counted on it for our family income. We thought keeping it to a comfortable size was common sense, not some kind of sacrifice. We never engaged in mass promotion for it. I just got home from the twelfth one. It was about the same size as the first.
We are Witches. We have choices. Nothing is forcing us to give up our small, intimate Circles to become a faceless mass. Nothing is forcing us to turn our faith into a market commodity. These things are not inevitable. Whoever does them, does them by choice. I chose otherwise on a warm September night in 1977. I choose the same again.
Andras Corban Arthen: First of all, I am glad to see that Sam has clarified his position and that he is actually in support of professional Pagan clergy. I, too, had misunderstood you, Sam, though I hope you realize that statements like "I do not think it wise that we institute clergy among ourselves as Pagans" (Round One) can easily lead to such misunderstandings.
Speaking of clarity, it strikes me that the issue we are discussing is a particularly muddy one, since it touches on so many diverse, yet related topics. For clarity's sake, then, I would like in this final round to examine this issue in the light of four basic questions: What? Why? Who? and How?
What would be the function of a professional Pagan clergy? In Round One, I suggested that we define clergy as those who perform a specific and direct spiritual service to a community. By professional Pagan clergy, I think we are talking about people who not only would have some kind of extensive, formal training and proven skills in a variety of areas, but would also, presumably, work full-time and be paid for their spiritual service to the Pagan community.
This is by no means a hypothetical notion: we already have, and have had for quite some time, a relatively small number of people who fit this description. I am one of them, and in Round Two, I described my work in the EarthSpirit Community as a concrete model of what professional Pagan clergy might look like. We can find further examples among the leaders and organizers of other large Pagan churches, such as Circle, the Church of All Worlds, Ar nDraiocht Fein, and the Church and School of Wicca.
In discussing what a professional Pagan clergy might entail, it would serve us better to examine the models we already have than to indulge in speculative fears about oppressive spiritual "mediators" or money-grabbing shysters à la Jim and Tammi Bakker.
From what I know of them, the leaders of the various Pagan "churches" that I mentioned perform similar functions to the ones I listed while describing my own work in Round Two: they are teachers; they are community organizers; they are coordinators of Pagan gatherings; they are editors or publishers of newsletters and magazines; they are ritual leaders; they are administrators; they are counselors; they are advocates. All of these are clergy functions because, in one way or another, they provide a spiritual service to the Pagan community. Indeed, ask any clergy of a mainstream religion what it is they actually do and you will likely get a very similar job description to this one. These functions provide the basis for the work that professional Pagan clergy would do, and, to carry them out successfully, an individual would need to have a substantial degree of training, experience, skill, commitment and maturity.
Conspicuous for its absence among these many functions is the role of "spiritual mediator." Unfortunately, when many Pagans hear the term "clergy," that's the only thing they think of, even if this type of mediation is only applicable to certain specific religions. They then succumb to the fear that Pagan clergy will set themselves up as an elite of oppressive intermediaries between their congregations and the sacred.
As far as I know, however, none of the professional Pagan clergy in our community have assumed such a role, and I imagine that if any of them tried, they would probably be laughed out of the community. Hence, the fear that Pagan clergy will become as overbearing as many of their Christian counterparts is a very red herring. It hasn't happened yet, and, as the Pagan movement matures, it is even less likely to happen in the future.
Why do we need professional Pagan clergy? When I became a Witch in the 1960s, there wasn't really such a thing as a "Pagan movement." There were a number of groups -- primarily Wiccan covens -- spread throughout the country, and even a handful of fairly small organizations and publications, but these groups were mostly isolated from each other. There certainly was little or no need for "professional clergy" back then.
But we are now in the 1990s and we have a very different shape. Current estimates place the size of the Pagan movement at over 200,000 members (more than the Quakers or the Unitarians). Although a growing number of these people seem to be solitary practitioners, there are, nevertheless, hundreds, if not thousands of groups in every part of the country. There are dozens of regional gatherings, publications and networks, an increasing number of them with national and even international scope. At the rate we seem to be growing, it is not at all far-fetched to project that by the year 2000, more than half a million people will define themselves as Pagan. As our shape has changed, our needs have changed, and the main point I have tried to emphasize throughout this conversation is simply this: one of our present needs, if only for reasons of sheer size, is for the Pagan movement to develop and support well-trained, full-time, paid clergy.
Of all the panelists, Judy opposes this position with the greatest vehemence. Judy speaks of our having "a polymorphic priesthood for a polytheistic faith." That's an elegant way of saying that because we mostly see the sacred as manifesting in many diverse forms, so should we embody this pattern by having many different types of clergy. This is only right in a community that prides itself on its enthusiastic acceptance of diversity. Except that, in Judy's definition of acceptable diversity, the polymorphy of our priesthood is not "poly" enough to include those who would like to work at it full-time while getting paid.
The majority of Judy's arguments against supporting professional clergy, as I see it, are framed from the perspective of the small coven model that has been the mainstay of our community thus far. I actually find myself mostly in agreement with her rationale from that particular context. Unfortunately, Judy seems unwilling to even consider the perspective that Isaac and I have consistently stressed -- that the question must be looked at, not from the point of view of the small coven, but from that of the overall Pagan movement.
For example, Judy's response to Isaac's suggestion that we discuss these issues in terms of spectrums of breadth and depth of skill is to raise several questions of her own (italics mine): "What skills is it necessary for every single coven member to have? What skills is it necessary for a coven leader to have? What skills is it necessary to have somewhere in the coven?" While I'm sure that all of us would be very glad if every coven and coven leader in our community was highly skilled in many different ways, that is really not the point. As both Isaac and I have already noted, in the vast majority of cases, a coven or group with ten or even fifteen members doesn't need a full-time, paid priestess.
Rather, we need professional clergy to address those needs we have developed that are better fulfilled by the large Pagan "church" or organization having hundreds or even thousands of members, than they are by the small, intimate coven. This is by no means to suggest that we should ditch small groups and concentrate solely on creating large Pagan institutions: we require both to fulfill different types of needs.
For example, many organizers of large Pagan festivals have found that a ritual that works wonderfully with a fairly cohesive group of twelve in somebody's living room fails miserably when it is performed with 500 Pagans from many different traditions and levels of experience out in an open field. Such a setting requires a very different type of ritual, and such a ritual requires different or more highly refined skills than you would normally need in a smaller, more intimate setting. The large, open ritual and the small, intimate one provide different experiences, fulfill different needs, and do not negate each other.
Similarly, large Pagan organizations and churches are able to provide certain services and fulfill certain needs -- such as public education, networking, advocacy, outreach and, most important, community building and coordination -- in a way that the small coven or grove would be hard pressed to match. These Pagan churches and organizations, however, require well-trained, full-time, professional clergy in order to be effective.
It is often difficult for Pagans who are not involved in such a position to really understand the amount of work, time, energy and resources (financial and otherwise) that go into being a full-time Pagan "minister" or into running a large Pagan organization. Oriethyia, for instance, speaks of having done a lot of her work in large congregations of women. I believe that all of us on this panel, to one degree or another, have led large rituals and workshops. There is a huge difference, however, between coordinating activities for large groups of people on an occasional basis and doing it full-time, as Isaac and I and others do. The degree of overwork, stress, responsibility, frustration and personal sacrifice that those of us who carry out such a role constantly have to deal with is not necessarily inherent to that role. It is largely there because most Pagans lack a clear awareness of what is actually involved in the work we do, an understanding of the needs fulfilled by this work, an appreciation of the people doing it and a willingness to support both the people and the work.
Judy wonders what all the "whining" is about. She suggests that the "thirty or so hours a week" that she assumes people like Isaac and me spend on clergy activities is comparable to having a hobby, and is simply "a much more rewarding way to use... leisure." Well, I have news for her. My wife, Deirdre, and I participated in a study coordinated by Deborah Hamouris of the Church of All Worlds to assess "Pagan clergy burnout." For us, this was a welcome opportunity to attempt something we'd been meaning to do for years, but had never had a good enough reason to spend the time doing: namely, to figure out how much time we actually spend on our religious activities.
This may come as a shock to Judy, but, after poring over our appointment books and carefully recreating our typical schedule, we realized that we had been spending from sixty to eighty hours a week each on the "clergy" work we perform for the EarthSpirit Community and the Glainn Sidhr Order. If Judy thinks this is an exaggeration, I invite her to verify it with some of my nearest and dearest. Indeed, from the conversations that I've had over the years with the leaders and organizers of other large Pagan churches, I know that we all spend a comparable amount of time in the performance of our clergy work.
I should hasten to add that the majority of these Pagan leaders and organizers do not strike me as fitting the stereotypical workaholic, "Type A" personality. Rather, they are people so deeply committed to their particular visions for the Pagan movement that they have chosen to devote their lives to the evolution of that movement. Contrary to the cynical attitudes of some Pagans, these people are not so much living off the Pagan community as they are living for the Pagan community. In the process, most of them have been willing to make very difficult personal choices and sacrifices for the sake of their ideals, and the Pagan movement has greatly benefited from this.
One can only sacrifice so much for so long, however. Many of these people are severely overworked, overstressed and underpaid. I know several of them who are contemplating ceasing their Pagan clergy activities to dedicate themselves to less stressful, more financially secure and stable occupations while they are still young enough to do so. Some of them are chronically ill, with stress-related conditions. Others have had their marriages break up, in no small part due to the constant pressures they experience through their work.
The history of the Pagan movement over the past 25 years is strewn with the remains of organizations, gatherings, councils, publications, etc., which didn't last more than a couple of years. In most cases, these activities were undertaken by idealistic, well-intentioned people who had the best interests of the Pagan movement at heart, but who lacked experience, or training, or resources, or money, or some other kind of support. In many cases, others have stepped in to try to fill the vacuum; more often than not, however, they've found themselves having to "reinvent the wheel" and have quickly fallen prey to the same stresses and burnout that beset their predecessors.
How can Paganism evolve into something substantial and enduring if we remain stuck in a pattern of impermanence? How can we, as a community, get beyond the "Wicca 101" mentality that Sam and others deride, if our most experienced public teachers and leaders succumb to burnout?
It would not at all surprise me if we began to see, over the next few years, the demise of long-standing Pagan organizations or publications, the cessation of some major gatherings, or the "early retirement" of experienced Pagan leaders due to burnout and lack of support. I think most communities would consider such a situation to be a source of concern and embarrassment. If we want the Pagan movement to mature and flourish, we need more solid, experienced and visionary leadership, not less.
Who should qualify as professional Pagan clergy? This question inevitably raises fears about hierarchy, elitism and unfair privilege. These are very legitimate concerns, inasmuch as many of us have come to Paganism from dysfunctional religious backgrounds where oppression is the institutionalized norm. Surely we don't want to replicate such abuses in the Pagan movement. A large number of Pagans, however, seem content to spout the language of fear without really examining the meaning behind their words, or challenging the validity of the assumptions inherent in such language.
Judy wonders, for example, "By what standard is any of us any more entitled to that privilege than anyone else? Are we supposed to compete for the few full-time priestess openings?" Well, I guess that if you asked those of us who already are full-time Pagan clergy, most would agree that it is, indeed, a privilege to be able to devote ourselves completely to what we hold most dear in our hearts. In the same breath, however, I think most of us would emphatically deny living a "privileged life" as commonly defined by mainstream society -- wealth, idleness, fame, material possessions and security. I certainly don't know any of us who are living high on the hog. Anyone deluded enough to think that becoming a full-time Pagan clergyperson is not going to involve a great deal of work, stress, self-sacrifice and frustration is in for a very rude awakening.
The standards by which anyone becomes "entitled" to such a "privilege" are quite simple: training, experience, skill, maturity, commitment, vision and proven track record of service to the community. Who determines whether someone meets these standards? We all do -- each of us has the power and the freedom to decide whether or not we feel somebody merits support as full-time clergy.
How shall we make such a decision? Currently, we lack Pagan "seminaries" that could provide some form of accreditation. We can, however, interview people, listen to their ideas, examine their backgrounds, ask for references, give them a chance to persuade us. This is not very different from the way a Unitarian congregation will assess Sam when he applies for a ministerial position. The main difference is that, unlike us, the Unitarians actually have "full-time priestess openings."
Where shall we find clergy who can meet our standards? First of all, we have the people that both Isaac and I have previously used as models of professional Pagan clergy -- the leaders of large, long-standing Pagan organizations and churches. These people are legitimate "elders" of the Pagan movement, most of them having been actively involved in Paganism for twenty years or more. Their "job qualifications" are self-evident in their proven commitment to serve the Pagan movement, their many tangible contributions to our community and the longevity of the organizations they lead -- if they didn't have something substantial to offer to Pagans, it's not likely that their organizations would have lasted five years, let alone fifteen or thirty. Again, though, many of these people are not getting the kind of support that they deserve and that could enable them to be of even greater service to the Pagan community. So the first step, as I see it, is for Pagans to recognize the needs met by these organizations and their leaders and to give them greater support.
This is hardly enough, though. We need more people and organizations like these. We shouldn't have to -- as Judy frets -- "compete for the few full-time priestess openings." We need, instead, to create the possibility of more such openings, to expand the range of service providers to our community. And who would fill these positions? I think the most likely candidates are those who've already been providing part-time service to the Pagan movement for many years: the experienced group leaders, the editors and publishers of newsletters, the festival coordinators, the teachers, the writers, the organizers of open circles, who've squeezed as much as they could out of their spare time for the benefit of the Pagan movement, and who could and would do a lot more if they were able to work full-time at it.
People like Oriethyia and Judy, for instance. I have known both of them for a long time, greatly respect their experience and skills, and marvel at the contributions they could make to Paganism as full-time clergy. Despite their professed antipathy for the concept, I would pose to each of them a question: suppose you were able to work as a full-time priestess with exactly the same salary, benefits and job security you would expect to find in the job market -- would you do it?
Judy has already answered the question, if a bit rhetorically. "Sure," she says, "I'd love to be a full-time priestess. Wouldn't most of us?" The thing is, this doesn't have to be a rhetorical question -- we can find ways for more of our experienced elders to be in full-time service to the community. In so doing, we will be much better able to develop clergy training centers -- Pagan "seminaries," if you will -- so that other members of our community who aspire to be professional clergy can acquire the necessary knowledge, experience and skill.
Finally, how could the Pagan movement support a professional clergy? Pagans have not begun to deal realistically with the economic issues involving a growing community that, despite its widespread aversion to and mistrust of the mingling of spirituality and money, exists, nevertheless, in the milieu of a money-based society.
If we were to go back into the closet -- if we disbanded all our organizations, stopped publishing all our books and journals, cancelled all our classes and ceased all our festivals -- there would be no need for Pagans to deal with money in the context of our religion. I very much doubt, however, that most of us would want to make such a drastic change.
Clearly, then, unless our society undergoes a radical change in its economic structure (and it couldn't change fast enough to suit me) or we as a community grow strong and stable enough to implement our own economic models, we must find ways to fulfill our economic needs in a responsible, fair and ethical manner.
Isaac asks, "Is our community poor?" Not really. For instance, in each of the past three years, the Pagans attending our Rites of Spring festival have spent between $20,000 and $30,000 buying crafts in the merchants'area. A survey of the EarthSpirit membership that we compiled in 1986 revealed that most of our members earned between $20,000 and $35,000 a year. Sure, we have our share of unemployed students, but we also have our $75,000-a-year single professionals.
Let's talk simple economics. Suppose that the average income of the membership of a given Pagan church is $20,000 a year. If each member were to donate one percent of their yearly salary to the church, that donation would amount to about $200 a year (tax deductible) which, prorated, comes out to $3.85 a week. That's not very much. Four dollars a week, in most cases, is not going to seriously hamper someone making $20,000 -- most Pagans I know think nothing of spending considerably more than that on any number of extraneous things.
Yet if only 100 members donated that one percent, the church could afford to pay for a full-time clergy position at a salary comparable to that of the average member. If the organization had 2,000 members, each donating one percent, it would have a yearly budget of $400,000. It could then afford to carry eight to ten full-time, paid clergy and still have an operating budget of about $200,000 with which to carry out any number of programs.
While this may seem like an awful lot of money (and, therefore, a scary proposition) to many Pagans, it is not really very much from the perspective of most small, nonprofit corporations, nor is it unrealistic for a Pagan organization to deal with such figures. Our annual budget for Rites of Spring alone, for instance, exceeds $100,000 (most of which, of course, goes right back out in expenses). A larger organization, such as Circle, must have a considerably larger budget.
Although most large Pagan churches are coordinated by volunteers, when such an organization reaches the point where it is providing services at the level that I'm talking about, it cannot very well be run by volunteers alone. There is too much work, and the organization has become complex enough to need full-time leadership and specialized skills. Volunteers cannot be reasonably expected to do more than they can in their spare time without experiencing burnout. If the church were able to support full-time paid clergy and staff, it could accomplish its work much more effectively and increase the scope of its services to the community. Most Pagans, however, seem unwilling to contribute even one percent of their earnings to further such work.
In contrast, mainstream churches generally expect five to ten percent donations from their congregations, and they get it. It is small wonder that they can afford to own property, carry out charitable and advocacy work, and even influence political agendas. Many Pagans complain about religious discrimination and lack of credibility, and dream wistfully about Pagan schools and burial grounds, about legal defense funds, about Pagan sanctuaries, conference centers and communities. Yet few seem ready to come to grips with the economic realities involved in bringing these things into manifestation.
Margot Adler has raised perhaps the most important question for Pagans to address over the next decade: Is Paganism a movement with a future, or is it just something that people do for ten or fifteen years, and then "grow up"? It seems to me that, in many ways, the Pagan movement is in a state of adolescence. We are not the "children" of the mid '60s and early '70s any longer, but we have not yet matured into full "adulthood." As a community, we are struggling for identity, fiercely assertive of our independence, mistrustful of authority figures, proud of being "different," resistant to change, craving a good time, not so interested in working, overconfident in our abilities, unwilling to rock the boat of our "peer group," mired in petty jealousies and gossip, obsessed with the present to the exclusion of the future, and mostly clueless about just how much we take for granted.
This is as necessary a stage in the development of a community or a culture as it is in human development. Yet just as we, as individuals, must grow beyond adolescence to attain a greater degree of maturity and fulfillment, so must we, as a community, grow and mature beyond where we are.
Developing a widespread and well-supported professional Pagan clergy is a concrete and necessary step in our attaining greater maturity as a spiritual movement. It will enable our most experienced elders to dedicate themselves more fully to the work of building and developing our community: improving our standards, promoting greater cohesiveness, solidifying our position in society and creating ways for others to perform similar work. Without a doubt, this step will also bring us greater responsibilities and problems -- growing up usually does -- and we will need to deal with them in a mature, adult fashion.
Judy is, of course, completely and painfully right -- Mother Earth is in desperate trouble. Adolescent children are usually much less well-equipped to help their ailing mothers than adult children are. We need to grow up soon, if only for Her sake.