***Disclaimer: I would like to state that this is entirely my opinion and doesn’t reflect the opinions of anyone else. I am not referring to anyone but wish to have an open and honest discourse about the subject. Please let me know why you agree or disagree with me civilly! I would sincerely love to hear it.***
A few months back I stumbled upon a fascinating article on the future of Pagan clergy and a possible direction that it could take over at Penton called “Paganism: No longer a religion of clergy” by Erebos. The article espoused what I considered some revolutionary ideas in regards to differences between what being a lay clergy and full time clergy could potentially be.
The article suggests that full-time Pagan clergy hypothetically should be:
- Clergy serve both the gods and the communities in which they practice.
- Clergy are those who have advanced spiritual training, commitment, service and experience.
- Clergy are the spiritual leaders, teachers and interpreters of their traditions and faith.
- Clergy are those who find that their particular talents and temperaments incline them to assist, nurture and guide the religious and spiritual practice of others.
- Clergy administers and runs, on a day-to-day basis temple/coven/hearth/grove/organizations, etc. business.
- Clergy provide a central point for communication and crisis intervention.
- Clergy act as the public face of the tradition or belief system; they invite interfaith dialogue and information sharing.
- Clergy guide those who are inspired to find their own path to the Divine.
- Clergy work with the Gods directly, but they do not act as permanent intermediaries, but more like guides to help others until they know their way around.
I think and feel that this is a very good representation of what full-time Pagan clergy should be. I know that others may feel that some requirements should be added or taken away, but in general I believe that this represents a good solid foundation for full-time Pagan clergy to model themselves after.
A few months later, I got into a discussion with Lady Charissa of North Georgia Solitaries (and several others) about Pagan leadership and ministerial duties over a couple of articles she shared. One of those articles was Sunfell’s (article link) which has been around since the early 2000′s. This means the concept and desire for change has been prevalent in the Pagan collective (sub)consciousness for over a decade now. From my own experiences, I do not think much has changed from the standard model of Pagan leadership. But why hasn’t it? One reason for this seems to be the diversity of the Pagan religious community. We are a varied bunch and I think at times that this can be both a great strength and a hindrance in some circumstances. Due to this diversity I think the Pagan community is slow to change. Much like ripples in water it takes time for them to expand after the initial cause has taken place. Another reason is Pagans tend to balk at organization and structure. The distaste with their current organized religion is a something that led many Pagans to the religion in the first place. However, I think that the concepts of organization and structure as manifestations of the Goddess (Form) in our lives is something that we as Pagans can get behind. As our religion grows to face the issues that we will and are currently facing we will need to be able to process needed changes in order to grow, adapt, and evolve. I believe that structure and organization are tools that will allow us to do so. Finally, I suspect Pagans desire to analyze and understand the mysteries and questions of life (such as ‘Does God have a wife?’) causes them to want to dissect and evaluate any changes as well. This attempt to garner a greater knowledge and understanding of the change can potentially delay and disrupt transitions.
After some personal reflections on the subject, I came to a conclusion about the model that is currently in place and why I disliked it. This model provides a “one size fits all approach” to modern Pagan leadership and seems to ignore the diversity amongst the practitioners and leaders of the religion. Typically, in my experience, this is based off of the degree system that many traditions practice. The degree systems flaw is that it’s a very binary system. You either are or you’re not. Relying on this type of leadership model causes those that possess leadership skills and abilities but not a degree role to potentially be diminished and down played.Beyond the black and white degree system are many shades of grey which can be valuable commodities that lay unused and untapped.
So where do we as Pagans begin? During my conversation on this subject a concept image of a Venn diagram got lodged in my mind. I sketched this image out, and shared it with my pagan friends and teachers to get feedback. After a lot of discussion and revisions this is the image that I had produced.
The benefit of a model such as this one is that it plays to an individual’s strengths and aptitudes. It would also help alleviate the “one size fits all” mentality. There are many Pagans within the community who would fit this leadership model but who do not quite fit into the traditional model that is currently being used. A secondary or separate system of training, evaluation, and recognition (not a degree system per se, but more of a certification) exclusive to that of the current model would provide opportunity and recognition for those Pagans who wish to serve their community. By implementing a model such as this one, we allow for the growth of the religion while providing a greater and improved foundation, and leaders with wider range of skills for generations to come.
As 2012 is turning out to be a year of massive change for many people and communities, we should all strive to ask ourselves how we can be better members of our community and religion. What can I do to help? What changes can I make within my own life to bring about a better Pagan community? Do I have a skill or the desire to learn a skill that will benefit the community and Paganism? How can I assist my religious leaders? How can I better serve the Gods? I am sure that there are other questions we can ask ourselves to these ends. We would be wise to keep the thoughts about what changes that we desire in our minds and in our conversations. We should tell our leaders what we would like to see from them. We should use this chance to open up an honest dialogue with the leaders and strive to help them make these changes. We can and should work together to help create the future for our religion we all want. After all, now is the perfect time for that talk and action to begin as Imbolc is a time for new beginnings.