Pagan Temples: Dreaming Really Big

Monday’s are awful. This particular Monday is awful as I’m grappling with a situation for which I have no good resolution. I’ve been down all weekend wrestling with this problem, and I’ve been letting myself do a little dreaming. I’ve been thinking about the future and all the good things it holds.

Most of my dreams were very personal, but one dream I allowed myself to dream was a really beautiful dream involving our community. I was going to keep it to myself, but I think maybe other people could use a good and hopeful dream today.

All around the country houses for sale, and so are commercial properties. And so are churches. Properties already zoned for religious use. Properties with parking and event-sized kitchens. Properties with classrooms and large, open worship spaces.

One of these properties is almost ideal for a public temple. Located in the Decatur area of metro Atlanta and sitting vacant, it’s a modern design building from the 60′s that has a sanctuary, a chapel, two fellowship halls, 20+ classrooms, ample parking, parsonage and is just off a major road in Atlanta. And really the removal of a few crosses is all that would be necessary to ready it for another religious organizations use.

I took one look at the sanctuary and I suddenly saw statues of Zeus and Hera gracing the dais, bathed in light. In my mind the building began transforming itself into a modern Greek temple.

Morning light flooding the sanctuary.

I mentally began to rearrange the pews back-to-back, half facing the wall, and half facing the center, and maybe a few left facing forward in the front. The other ten Olympian’s shrines would line the walls of the sanctuary, and the center would be open for various festivals and processions. The only difficulty would be in deciding whether to include Dionysos or Hestia in the sanctuary? Or maybe you place Hestia’s shrine at the entry?

Here in the courtyard, after trimming back the landscaping a bit, you would have an outdoor altar for burnt offerings of grain and incense. At the other end of the courtyard could be a depository for chthonic offerings.

The smaller chapel could be stripped bare and available for local Pagan groups of various stripes to use within reasonable hours and by reservation. It would be a safe, dry, warm and public place for groups to meet, and that would be a useful thing. It could also be used to host concerts for Pagan musicians, with a sound system dedicated to that end.

The fellowship hall could be used to hold a regular agora, or Pagan marketplace, where local Pagan craftspeople could show off their wares and baked goods. Hook up a dvd projector and hold a regular movie night, showing films like Agora and The Trojan Women.

While I don’t know what the inside of this side entrance looks like, from the outside it would appear to make an ideal bookstore/giftshop. Filled with unique statuary and artwork with Greek themes, books, jewelry, incense and household items.

Think about what such a community this could build. Think of the Classical scholars that would come and speak. Think of the weddings. Imagine a week-end lock-in for women to celebrate Thesmophoria. Imagine mountain laurel growing on the property, and being fashioned into laurel wreaths for religious occasions.

Imagine the artwork and statuary not being some of the typical stuff from Design Toscano, but the product of artist-in-residence projects to create new, modern and appropriate images of the Greek Gods. Imagine the cross atop the steeple being replaced with a flickering (electric) torch.

Imagine there being space set aside for classrooms, and regular meetups to discuss Greek myth and religion. Imagine there being limited space set aside that could be reserved for finite periods by pilgrims, so that someone from Montana or Maine could come and spend a week in prayer and study. Imagine a Pagan space that is handicap accessible. Imagine a Pagan space with clean, modern bathrooms.

Imagine there being a place in your neighborhood where you could go and meditate. Somewhere where no one will bother you. Somewhere with no cell phones. Without family or roommates wandering in and out. Where you don’t have to hide your religious jewelry. Where you don’t have to worry about hikers, animals or playing children bothering you.

A place designed just to give you spiritual solace and peace. A place where you can pray without feeling like you’re intruding on another faith, or that you’re somehow betraying your faith by making use of another religion’s temple.

I think this is a lovely dream. Maybe unrealistic. Maybe a pipe dream. I mentioned I was going to write about this to a friend and they laughed at the price of the building. I laughed with them, but then I thought again.

The church that built this building was supported by no more than 350 families, and likely fewer. To make the down payment on the building would require 500 people to chip in $300 each. And if those 500 people pledge at least $50 a month to go towards paying down the mortgage, maintaining utilities, providing services and sticking a little bit back for repairs and emergencies, this suddenly seems like a very possible project.

What prevents us from doing something like this? I’m sure any metro area of size has 500 people who would be willing to pitch in for such a project. And what if there was such a concerted effort? What if Heathens pitched in to build a public temple dedicated to the Aesir and Vanir in Knoxville? What if there was a large public Wiccan temple in Asheville? An Egyptian temple in Raleigh? A Roman temple in Birmingham? An Irish Celtic temple in Jacksonville?

I’m sure each of these cities has empty churches for sale, already zoned and equipped for use by a religious group. These buildings only need slight modification and a re-dedication to Pagan use. It seems really quite easy. Do you think there are 250 people in your city that would be willing to contribute $100 a month to such a project? That’s less than most folks’ cable bill.

Maybe my dream isn’t really a pipe dream. Maybe we’ve just fooled ourselves into thinking that such things are impossible.

[I explore this topic further here.]

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Allyson Szabo

    It’s possible, and a wonderful thought. Part of the problem is that, like every other religious “group” (I use the term loosely but you know what I mean), there will be 10 opinions for every 8 people involved. No one can agree long enough to Git ‘Er Done. But… it’s a great idea. I’d honestly go a bit smaller to start out, though. If it turns out viable in one place, you’ll find other places snatch and grab the idea too. One question I have is, would local city officials *allow* such an “atrocity” as I’m sure it’ll be described?

    • Star Foster

       We had that fight back in the 70′s in Atlanta. We know how to handle that here. We’ve had decades of Bob Barr for practice.

  • Dscarron

    Put it up on Kickstarter… 

    • Star Foster

       I’m tempted. Sorely tempted.

      • Elinor Prędota

         Do it! This is an idea of genius.

  • sunfell

    Why should we imitate the book- and building-bound when we have the ENTIRE PLANET to utilize? Many trads have a portable system of creating holy places on the fly, movable feasts, if you will. Why tie it down? Plus, the second you bring money, physical property and patronage into the mix, you introduce elements that seem to accelerate the crash of the community, including attracting zealots who wish only to destroy it. It is rare to see a truly successful building-bound Pagan community.

    The main thing preventing the success of a property-holding Pagan community is money. That, and any real authorizing body- like a seminary or established body of elders. Because of this lack of in-depth foundation or fellowship, any outsider can- and will- swan in and attempt to take over the establishment, because there is no way to ‘vet’ them. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

    Another thing I’ve noted- and this isn’t a Pagan thing, it’s a general populace thing, is that everyone will be all for something until time comes to put their money or time where their mouths are. Then, they evaporate. Of a nominal population, only 20% will pitch in at all, and only about 10% or less will be consistent about it. This results in burnout and resentment, which I’ve seen way too often. In fact, since I’m one of those 10%ers, I got ‘promoted’ quite often, and found myself in an unwanted leadership position. I got so overloaded and frustrated I had to walk away from all my volunteering.

    The most successful Pagan properties I’ve seen have been privately owned and operated. Some have operated for years- like Circle Sanctuary. Others thrived for a while, then collapsed when a marriage broke up, or there was a schism of some sort. Anyone considering creating such an entity should run it as a business, not as a church, and should make it airtight, including discussion and directions for handling any collapse or dissolution.

    Such things are possible, but they have to be run by thick skinned, experienced realists. Otherwise, they’re doomed to collapse.

    • Star Foster

       What community? Handfuls of people meeting in living rooms? Hugging each other twice a year at festival?

      Circle Sanctuary struggles along on the income of a mid-sized church, and they aren’t public or in a metro area.

    • Star Foster

       Also, I should point out I was attempting to imitate ancient Pagans. The Catholics didn’t just dream up churches, they largely copied what already existed.

  • Devin Overman

    For a selection of religions so set on “community,” we are actually very hesitant to come together communally. I have personally been planning what I have somewhat jokingly been calling my “commune” for a while now, very like what you have described here, only I never thought of buying a building that already exists. I had just thought about buying land and building from there.

    There is a Pagan UU here in Dallas (a couple, I believe, but I have only experienced one so far, so I will limit this example to it). It lives in a duplex in a not-so-great part of town and has a really hard time making ends meet. I myself will admit I have stopped going there. Once I started feeling any sense of guilt for missing  a Sunday service or a Moon ritual, I realized that is exactly why I left Christianity. I didn’t like the guilt.

    I am not a business person, but I understand that this sort of endeavor needs a regular cash flow. I’m not really sure where Christian churches get all their money. It can’t all come from passing the plate, can it?

    I’m not sure exactly what my response is meant to do here. I agree with every thing you said and I want it so badly that it’s hard to think of what other career I could possibly be doing, yet I also have experienced first hand how this doesn’t work, so I’m not sure what else to say or think. Save winning the lottery of course. I regularly pray and promise that if I win the lottery, I will build it and they will come.

    • Star Foster

       Who wants to live together? I really have no interest in a commune.

      Yup, tithing is how churches keep the lights on, and it’s actually a Pagan idea. My understanding is that Isian temples promoted tithing 10%. In fact most ancient Pagan temples were supported by the “passing of the plate” or regular monetary and resource offerings by the community.

      • Devin Overman

        Again, commune was sort of a joke. It was inspired by the meditation centers in Eat Pray Love, where people have the ability to spend as little or as much time in the center as they need to, in exchange for services to keep the center working.

        And as far as passing the plate goes, 10% of my income is maybe $100, but after bills, that’s literally all I have left. Sadly, when the choice is between my church and food, I have to go with food, and many people do the same, which is why this is so difficult.

        As much as I love the idea, I don’t even HAVE $500 to donate to this, and I think the max number of people who associated with the local pagan UU was maybe around 100-150, and that’s a rough estimate of every. single. person. who. ever. came. Most events ranged from 5-15, with the obvious except of Samhain and Beltane, which bring around 30-40.

        For the record, I live in Dallas. And I’m not saying this is a bad idea. I’m actually saying the exact opposite. I just can’t help but look at this as less of a spiritual venture and more of a business one, and hoping people will donate seems difficult.

        • Star Foster

          Pagans in general make as much as Americans do in general. For everyone who can’t spare the cash there is a handful who can. And these people do donate to worthy causes, just not Pagan causes.

  • Star Foster

    The Hindus have found dedicated temples help their community to thrive. We have a lovely Hindu temple here in Atlanta:

    • Elinor Prędota

       I visited that Mandir the first time I came to Georgia (my father and step-mom have a shop just a bit up the road!). It is truly amazing, and utterly beautiful. We Pagans have a huge amount to learn from Hindus, as another faith which is actually a selection of faiths under the same umbrella.

    • Cara

      Same in Minneapolis and in talking with the Hindus on how they built their lovely (and large) temple, school, and community center they explained it this way…

      That when you build a temple it is a place for the Gods to live and dwell.  You start small, but make it as lovely as possible.  You start with a small group, in their case it was 5 families.  That was it.  And they all commit to a hard money amount.  Once the temple is built and the icons installed and brought to life, the Gods live there.  And the Gods start to change the area.  They call others to come and live there.  They make things possible that you thought impossible.  5 families became 20.  20 became 100.  A new temple is built and the icons moved.  The Gods keep calling.  100 families become 200 families.  Now a school is built.  Then a community center.BUT … the Hindu community is much more cohesive than the Pagan community generally is because we don’t have much in common, religion wise.  They do.But …I’ll note that the Heathens do have that cohesion and are making Hofs and creating strong communities.  They are organized and committed and stable and are willing to put their money down.  Just a handful of Heathens started raising funds a few years ago in Minneapolis and now they have their Hof. 

  • Zirna313

    I would love see this in the Atlanta area!

  • Clockdug

    It is certainly possible. About 4 years ago I saw a christian church start up in an old abandoned strip mall I drive by daily. This is no big news; it happens all of the time. This one started with only 4 cars parked outside each week and I wondered how they could make a go of it. I did some math and figured if each family was making a crappy 30,000 a year  and gave 5 percent they each gave around $125 a month….enough to cover cheap rent on a run-down rural place around here. The number of members grew until they occupied all 3 storefronts. Last month they packed up and moved to a bigger building that they’ve purchased since they’ve outgrown the strip mall. What you’re talking about is very possible and is done all of the time by other faiths. Our community can do the same types of things if we simply choose to do so.

  • Inanna Gabriel

    Star, you’re making me want to move to Atlanta!

    • Star Foster

       We do have good fried chicken!

  • David Pollard

    There’s a handful of primarily Pagan / Earth-Centered UU Congregations scattered across the US. Check in Kansas City, in Garland (near Dallas). I believe there ‘s also one in Hollywood, FL. Two of these groups own their own building, and Gaia Community is about to become a co-owner of a Community Center.

    • Star Foster

       But they aren’t Pagan temples. They are UU temples. And CUUPS is pan-Pagan, and pan-Pagan organizations don’t have the cultural or religious cohesiveness to create such temples.

      • David Pollard

         Actually, CUUPS has rather little to do with these congregations, it’s primarily focused on the places where there’s a half-dozen or so Pagans in a church of 200.
        As for being pan-Pagan, I would think that any temple would have to be – just to get to the critical mass. The only Pagan orgs I can think of that have raised much capital, the few Pagan Festivals who (like Council of the Magickal Arts) have bought their own land, are pan-Pagan.
        Another example of of a US Pagan temple, would be the branch of Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Washington State. It is the only operating Shinto Shrine in the US. I believe that it *does* receive generous support from the Japanese ex-pat community, so they more follow the immigrant with deep pockets model which American Hindu temples benefit from.

        • Cara

          Small Heathen groups are raising the money and getting temples going.  And they are doing some other amazing infrastructural things as well.  Because they are committed and stable.

      • Kit Peters

        Speaking for Gaia Community, I would say that we are *both* Pagan and UU, so our space is both a UU *and* a Pagan temple. The terms are not mutually exclusive.

        Kit Peters, Vice President, Gaia Community

        • Star Foster

           So you’re not open to non-Pagans? Non-Pagan humanists and atheists arent welcome? Or is any UU member welcome? In that latter case, you are a UU organization that just happens to be Pagan, which could change if the membership dynamic changed.

          Besides, being a UU Pagan isn’t a specific religion so much, but rather simply adhering to openness, tolerance, respect and left-leaning politics. The UU is basically the minimum an organization can do or stand for and still count as a religion. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s hardly similar to, say, OBOD or Gardnerian Witchcraft.

          • Kit Peters

            Gaia Community is open to anyone who wishes to participate, regardless of their beliefs. Does that openness somehow make us less of a Pagan organization?

          • Star Foster

             You are a UU sponsored organization. Which means you abide by UU rules, regulation and beliefs. You are not an independent Pagan organization. As a UU organization you cannot be exclusively Pagan. You would have to be willing to accommodate atheists, Christians, Buddhists, etc as long as they met UU principles.

          • Kit Peters

            Again, why must we be exclusive?

            Are you suggesting that the UUA (the Unitarian Universalist Association, the governing body of Unitarian Universalism) would dictate our theology, even if it could?

          • Star Foster

            You don’t have to be, but that doesn’t make you Pagan. Being required to meet the spiritual needs of Christians is obviously not Pagan.  It’s why we identify as Pagan instead of as Christian.

          • Kit Peters

            We’re not at all required to meet the spiritual needs of Christians.  What makes you think that’s the case?

          • Star Foster

            As a UU organization, you are not required to be inclusive of all UU members?

          • Kit Peters

            Define “inclusive”, please?

          • Star Foster

             Find a dictionary. You talk in circles. I’m done with you.

          • Kit Peters

            I apologize if it seems like I’m talking in circles, but I’m trying to figure out what it is you mean.  If you’re suggesting that we are required to offer Christian services, or somehow incorporate Christian theology into our rituals, then that’s entirely incorrect.  In fact, the UUA imposes *no* doctrinal, theological, or practical requirements upon us as a congregation.  We are required to affirm and promote the Seven Principles (, but I see nothing in those principles incompatible with any commonly-accepted definition (if there is such a thing) of Paganism or Pagan theology.

            It’s true that we don’t choose to exclude non-Pagans from our rituals.  But that’s hardly remarkable – our rituals are public, and like any public ritual, anyone may attend.  I’ve never been to a public ritual where they administered a theology test at the door.  Have you?

          • Star Foster

            Replying here to make my comment readable:

            As a UU organization you must be inclusive of all UU members. If several Christian UU’s began attending and wanted to celebrate Easter you could not tell them no. If Jewish UU members wanted to celebrate Passover, you couldn’t tell them no. If Muslim UU members wanted to use your space to celebrate Ramadan, you couldn’t tell them no.

            Because if you could tell them no, and exclude their beliefs, then you would no longer be a UU congregation.

          • Kit Peters

            Thanks for repositioning the thread.  

            Your assertion, as I understand it, is that if several non-Pagan UU’s were to begin attending and wished the congregation *as a whole* to celebrate a non-Pagan festival, the congregation would not be permitted to refuse.  That is incorrect.

            Let me describe a scenario: several UU’s of the non-pagan faith “X” were to start attending Gaia, and wanted to celebrate one of their faith’s festivals, “Y”, in place of one of our regular Sunday rituals.  These people would then need to present a proposal to our Ritual Teams Committee.  This committee would be completely free to decide whether or not to preempt that Sunday’s regularly scheduled ritual, and that decision would in no way affect our status as a UU congregation.  However, if they wished to schedule an event of their own *outside* of the normal Sunday schedule, and were willing to pay to rent the space, they would certainly be welcome to do so.

            Nothing in our bylaws, the bylaws of the UUA, the Seven Principles, or the Six Sources (scroll down at requires us to offer religious services of any given sort, or change our religious practice to suit a particular member or members.

          • Star Foster

             So you are telling me that Christians are welcome to join your community as long as they don’t actively practice their faith? Doesn’t sound like any UU church I ever heard of. Then you do exclude other religions from you organization. You simply relegate them to second-class status. Also doesn’t sound very UU.

          • Kit Peters

            Anyone is welcome to join our community and participate in its governance, regardless of their faith.  However, there are some requirements.  A person must become a pledging member before they are permitted to block consensus (our governance model) in our church’s regular business meetings. Furthermore,  to make decisions in the Ritual Teams Committee (anyone is welcome to attend and voice their opinion), a person must not only become a pledging member, but they must successfully complete our ritualist training program and internship, as well as being approved for membership by the rest of the Committee.

            In response to your specific question, Christians are free to join our community should they choose.  They are free to choose to actively practice their faith.  However, we as a congregation are free to choose *not* to practice that person’s faith.  Just as we respect a Christian’s right to practice their faith with other Christians, we would ask that Christian to respect our right to practice our faith.  

            You are right that we exclude people from participating in certain aspects of our congregation.  We don’t, however, exclude them on the basis of religion.  We choose only to include those people who make a commitment to the continued health and growth of the community. I don’t know how other UU churches do things, but this model has served us well for the past 15 years.

          • Ian Phanes


            Have you read the Mission Covenant that all members of Gaia Community must accord with?


          • Star Foster

             Yup, it excludes UU’s of other faiths. These revelations about the UU church are very disheartening to me.

          • Jamie Peters

            I’d like to add what I believe to be pertinent information.

            One of our most recent new members is Lutheran. She has been attending our rituals and other services with her significant other who identifies as pagan. She has not expressed a feeling of being excluded because we do not celebrate a Christian calendar of observances.

            I am aware of our congregation welcoming atheists (including one who called himself a pan-atheist; he didn’t believe in all of them), Buddhists, and yes, many different types of pagans. Our mission covenant asks that people who join us simply share our values, which are not particularly religious.

            We do not attempt to serve the needs of every single pagan or every single UU. To do so would remove meaning from our practices.

            I think that some of what has caused this thread is that your post is very strongly about pagan temples dedicated to a very specific kind of paganism. What we are trying to do is not about building a pagan temple. What we are doing is something that may speak to the feasibility of your dreams and I think that the initial comment about us was meant to be positive and to be an encourager of your dream, not to be educational (in a “hey look! this how you should do it” sense).

            I recognize that we as a community are something of a rare breed. We are both pagan and UU without being CUUPs. As I have read this thread, I have felt like we were being called ineffective (though I do recognize that has not actually been said). I would ask in the most respectful way possible that you allow that we could be effective even though we are not like other UU congregations, other churches, or other pagan groups.

            Thank you.
            Jamie Peters, Gaia Community (wearer of many hats)

          • Star Foster

             Based on recent revelations and conversations I feel the UU is an ineffective organization, in that there is no consistency from congregation to congregation.

            What you are is an anomaly. And if you are not trying to  build a Pagan temple, then the claim that you are, which began this discussion, has engaged us all in fruitless dialogue.

  • James Robert Smith

    I always have wondered why there isn’t a decent actual Pagan temple around. Certainly the Atlanta area could support one. Maybe if enough local Pagans and folk sympathetic to Pagans are around to donate enough money to enable a purchase of such an existing property that would be suitable for conversion.

    • Star Foster

       We used to have a 24/7 Wiccan community center back in the 70′s, but it proved too much hassle to maintain, especially as they had to deal with vandals and scarier forms of harassment.

    • Star Foster

      40 committed individuals who share the same religious/community vision could transform this property:

      • Fern Miller

         For a group to have 40 committed individuals like that …. the group size would have to be no less than 800 people. Pareto principle and all, you know!

        • Star Foster

          The huge Hindu temple in MN began with 5 committed families.

          • Fern Miller

             Five committed families out of a community of how many? 

            Here’s the link for the Pareto Principle

          • Star Foster

             Their organization began as 5 families. They didn’t service all of Hinduism. The families that joined were equally committed and it grew from there. This is religion, not retail.

          • Cara

            Pretty much just 5 Hindu families period.

        • Star Foster

           Besides, that sounds like about 700 people should be cut from your “group” at least.

  • Jason White

    Gods above, if someone did this I would do everything in my power to support it. It might not be much, but I could certainly trim my budget and throw down $100 a month for a real, physical temple — Hellenismos or otherwise, and *especially* if it rented space to other pagan groups.

    I’m a Celtic Recon, and when I heard about the Temple of the River, it made me want to move to Minneapolis so much it hurt — just not enough to drop out of college. When it closed down, I was devastated. I still want to move to Paganistan, but not nearly as urgently without that temple.

    • Star Foster

        I think a lot of hearts were broken when Temple of the River closed,
      because it was such a symbol for the rest of the community.

    • Cara

      We do have a seriously excellent community.

    • Kit Peters

      We’re trying to do something like this here in Kansas City.  Gaia Community, my church, are working with the Emerald City KC project in order to transform an abandoned property in the Troost Avenue area into Ubuntu Village, which will be our church home and community center available to groups of all faiths, Pagans included.  On a larger scale, we will work to revitalize what was once a vibrant, diverse, and thriving part of Kansas City.

      I realize that might not be exactly what you had in mind.  While Pagan organizations will be welcome and encouraged to use this space, it won’t be restricted to Pagan organizations.  In my view, that’s a good thing – it gives Pagans a chance to be a more visible part of the wider human community, and to find others who share their ideals if not their religion.  As part of that wider community, it is my sincere belief that we can help to ease some of the social stigma that still exists for anyone who identifies themselves as Pagan.

      It’s a big job, and we can use all the help we can get.  Whether that’s joining us here in KC, providing financial support, or even just spreading the word about what we’re doing, is up to you.

  • Niki

    I think this is brilliant. The space looks lovely too. What if two different communities shared it? I mean, perhaps it would be less specifically Hellenismos but if that community and another joined forces…. well, then it really becomes possible, and much more of a community center. Jewish community centers are a real inspiration to me, as they support their existing community and also become places for non-Jews to grow culturally, with daycare, fitness or other services. (Those cost millions, but still, we can dream).

  • David Pollard

    Fundraising: A fast and steady rule, whether your talking a Pagan land fund, a Green Party campaign, an art museum, etc. You get 80% of your money from 20% of your members/patrons. People differ in income levels *and* in commitment levels, and face it – one of the characteristics of the modern Pagan movement is that it’s founds were people who were openly dismissive of commitment to institutions. Still that was a generation or two back, and we should be over coming it by now.
    Want a place where you can talk to the Gods? Then, pledge your cellphone bill, every month.
    Because in reality that’s what it takes (at the minimum.)

    • Star Foster

       If 80% of your members aren’t contributing, then how are they members?

      There seems to be an idea that projects like this should support the general public pro bono. I think this project should provide some services for the public, but it should be focused on it’s membership first and foremost.

      • Pythia Theocritos

        At least this how the theater is run in this area. Donors get certain perks  etc that just aren’t available to those who don’t give. Volunteers are the lowest on the totem pole; it’s sad but it’s true. We DO have some volunteers that donate also and they are our “all stars” and are treated accordingly. It’s one of the great things about the theater community and it highlights how the dedication of the few can really create amazing things.

      • John Beckett

        The 80% are contributing, but they’re kicking in $5 or $10 a month, or in some cases not even that.  You need their numbers for a critical mass of volunteers and attendees, but they won’t keep the lights on.

        The 20% are writing checks for $200, $300, $500 a month.

        These people don’t view their contributions as membership dues, there’s no cost-benefit analysis.  They see the organization as important  and they give as much as they can to keep it going – even when it doesn’t do what they want it to (though in even the most democratic, altruistic organization, money does buy influence).  They have the willingness and the means to make large donations, and they do.

        There are plenty of examples of how to grow a religious organization.  Cara mentioned Heathens and Hindus.  Evangelical Christians have used the same model for decades.  Start with a small, intensely-committed group.  Build the community first, then build facilities.

        • Star Foster

           But then they aren’t really contributing, unless they are putting in significant sweat equity. That’s why membership dues and minimum pledge limits are useful.

          • Ian Phanes

             If you require equal contributions, one of two things will happen:

            1.  The contributions would all be small, and thus not sufficient to accomplish the goals.

            2  The population of committed individuals will be too small to accomplish the goals

            Both scenarios eliminate the vast middle.  And it’s the middle of both resources and commitment that makes any large-scale project possible.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Well, I’m upset a bit, because you stole my idea read my mind for this week’s “Queer I Stand”…however, you’ve written on this subject in a manner that I wasn’t going to, so I think I can still get away with it…and now, with the added bonus of having what you’ve written here to link to at the beginning as well!

    I think it’s a great idea, and I am excited to see where it goes.  I have nothing to donate money-wise at present, because I just found out that my class for next quarter has been cancelled, so I’m out of income for the foreseeable future, unfortunately…

    A few procedural matters, though:  if it was a Hellenic temple, why not have it be “open Hellenic”?  Why not just let whatever of the deities people are willing to sponsor and tend to be honored in the main cella, as it were, rather than setting an arbitrary number and deciding which “Twelve Olympians” that applies to?  (The list varied from community to community, and the whole “Dionysos vs. Hestia” thing is a made-up Robert Graves matter…) If someone wanted, for example, to have a part of the shrine be for Persephone, and could put up the money for it, as well as committing to (at least monthly, I’d think) rituals for her, why not allow that?  Or, if someone wanted to put Antinous in there, and could do likewise, why not let them?  And so on and so forth…It would also save on start-up costs.  If you were able to raise the money for the down payment and keep fundraising active each month to pay the mortgage, that doesn’t cover refurbishment and renovation costs (and there would be some, at least), nor the materials and labor costs for artists’ images to enshrine, etc.  However, if a thiasos dedicated to a particular deity took on-board the fundraising and upkeep of that deity (and the temple more generally, of course!), then that might alleviate that problem. It may mean that only one or two deities are enshrined there initially, but it could grow as time went on.  And, it wouldn’t even have to be Hellenic-only at that point:  if some CR folks wanted to enshrine Brigid, or some Kemetics wanted to enshrine Anubis, etc., then it could be possible.

    But, I’ll have more to say on this in my own post in the days to come!  :)

    • Star Foster

       Because a project like this will only work if the members share a religion and values.

      I considered Antinous, among other Gods, and hadn’t resolved how to honor them properly. Although it is a large property and I’m sure there are more possibilities than can be imagined from a few pics on the internet.

      • Faofeng

         I agree entirely with P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’s idea of having different Gods available for everyone. I would love to be a part of a real Pagan temple, and I would likely adopt the practices of a Hellenic temple if one was erected, but my Gods are Kemetic. I would go to a Kemetic temple before a Hellenic one, no offense intended. The variability involved in Paganism and Pantheons creates a lot of issues where this is concerned. The question of Hellenic or Kemetic or Celtic or whatever depends mostly upon the community itself and the people involved in funding it. I hope eventually we’ll find a wealthy Pagan who will, perhaps, in their dying will, intend for their home or their money to be used to create a Pagan temple. Or maybe someone who wins the lottery will do it, who knows? ;) I guess if I ever hit it big, I’ll start calling Pagans in Atlanta.That being said, I still believe that, if a city had a large concentration of Pagans within the city and its surrounding areas, people would come. I see a lot of people mentioning “sacred space is anywhere and everywhere” and that people want to get away from churches. I can tell you that a lot of Pagans I know don’t. They have their circles in nature when the weather is nice, but they yearn for the temples that our ancients had. Some traditions didn’t have temples, and for them outdoor worship is the only thing that makes sense. Still, I would move to another state just to be a part of an ongoing Pagan community. Along with my own practices, I am also a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and we do have our own temple (Tawy House) in Joliet, IL, though unfortunately due to unconfirmed reasons it is not usually open to the public (that’s only as I understand it. I personally have never been there…yet ;) ).This is actually a topic that has been brought up on multiple occasions among different Kemetic Orthodoxy practitioners. My perspective is that Kemeticism (and most especially Paganism) is on a slow but steady increase. More and more people are gradually becoming Pagan, in some way, shape, or form. I don’t know when it will happen, but I believe that one day there will be sufficient temples for our masses. I hate to say it, but I think that if we are patient, the Gods will make their wishes known. Just as the Hindu Gods in the post, if our Pagan Gods want a temple, then they will inspire the right people to build it.Blessings and Senebty,~Faofeng

        • Star Foster

           So create a Kemetic temple. find a handful of other Kemetics willing to start with a storefront and build from there.

          We don’t have to be a one-size fits all. While I lean a certain way, I would certainly pitch a couple of dollars towards a Kemetic temple.

          • Faofeng

             As far as I know, I only know one other Kemetic Orthodox member in my home state, one other non-KO kemetic in the state, and only 7 other Kemetic Orthodox members in neighboring states. I don’t think I could gather 10 people, let alone enough for a temple. If it weren’t for the fact that I am unsure of where I will be living after college, I would consider starting a group from scratch and working my way up over 10ish years, but right now I’m a poor college student working to pay for my own rent. I don’t have even $100 to throw into a temple just yet, but maybe one of these days I will.

            XD If only I was some kind of famous artist/sculptor, I would paint or sculpt Pagan Gods and sell them off as a fundraiser. Guess a girl can dream :) Also, sorry for the wall of text. I don’t often comment, and apparently my paragraphs got jumbled together.

          • Star Foster

             Yeah, the key is that people trying to create a temple would have to be rooted in their local community for years, if not decades.

      • Helmsman Of-Inepu

         ” Because a project like this will only work if the members share a religion and values.”…

        Maybe… or not. A roof can be non-denominational. Especially if Sunday-morning services aren’t the only time people are willing to use the church.

        You could go with modular altars on casters. Thursday evening the Canaanites wheel theirs to front and center, then move it back to the alcove for the rest of the week. The Kemetic naos comes out for their service some other night. The area behind the altar could be painted so it could be used as a projection screen, so everyone could have a mural backdrop to suit them.

        To maintain the building, you’d need a serious pledge drive, and things would probably work out that the group bringing in the most support would have first choice for when to hold their services.

  • Pythia Theocritos

    I really do believe a pagan temple would be a wonderful thing, and I always said I would support an endeavor for a pagan temple to be constructed, especially in the Washington D.C. suburbs of Maryland or Virginia.  While I would gladly pitch in for this effort with fellow Hellenists/Religo-Romana/and Mycenaean worshipers, I will not do so with Wiccans or Eclectics; we have totally different ideas of what “religion” and “worship” actually means and, far too often, in an attempt to be “all inclusive” the actual religions of others are simply Wiccanized and shoe-horned into New Age relativism just to cater to the lowest common denominator.

    Unfortunately, we Hellenists and sorts are too scattered;there may be a handful of us in one region at a time;it’s often easier to find Heathens and many are so jaded by their forays into the “local community” they refuse to put money towards any kind of pagan endeavor.

    If someone came to me and said “K.T. We have this plan for a great temple where people can study the myths, religion, and language of a our forefathers as well as worship and participate in the mysteries.”  I would be all over it. I’d gladly donate monthly, as I do for other charities and organizations that are non-pagan, but as of yet I have come across nothing like this.

    Someone send me an idea, a solid blueprint/plan, and they can get my money/elbow grease. It’s as simple as that, but our ethics HAVE to match.

    • Star Foster

       That’s the key. This has to be based on a specific religion and ethical code to work. A mish-mash would fall apart quickly.

      • Dscarron

         Well, there is not many reasons for a specific denomination of a pagan group to not permit others to rent and use the space.  So I would hope that folks would get together and pitch in for the greater good.

        • Star Foster


        • Pythia Theocritos

          The greater good of who?  I have nothing against other pagans, but for the sake of giving “others” a place to worship, I will not put my money into something that doesn’t mesh with my values.

          Yep, I said it; values.

          They are staunch, strong, and while they bend; they do not break and while I can tolerate blasphemy- I’m not a fan of sharing space with it or pretending as if I consider it ‘valid.’

          I think that’s one of the biggest issues with neo-paganism; this desire to serve some “greater good” that, in the end, primarily serves one group of, mainly, ungrateful  willfully ignorant, people. 

          Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining; contrarily, don’t take my money claiming to be pagan inclusive, when in reality it’s just Eclectic Wicca with an unwarranted sense of entitlement and a supreme case of narcissism.

          That’s where I coming from. It’s not popular and that’s fine. I don’t pay anyone else’s bills and they certainly don’t pay mine.

    • Faofeng

       I can really sympathize K.T. If I had money for charity, I would put it straight into a temple. It’s just so hard to get sufficient numbers of people that share our religious affiliations. It’s times like this that I wish Pagans politely and non-intrusively proselytized–but only slightly. I’m strongly against the proselytizing you get with a lot of religions, but I kind of feel like so many people don’t realize that Paganism is a realistic religious option.
      But yes, if anything happens, my college Pagan Student Association would gladly sponsor a fundraiser for at least the down payment :)

      • Star Foster

         Some Pagans do, but they are a tiny minority. I think a Heathen group even had pamphlets made up once towards that end.

  • kenneth

    I wish you the best of it if you decide to pursue it as a serious project. That said, I don’t know that one can find 500 people, even in a large metro area, who would support such a thing over time. This is not a matter of finding 500 people who are kinda sympathetic to a community center. It’s 500 people who are willing to tithe a real chunk of their paycheck every month, in perpetuity. 500 people who are all part of the same coherent tradition acknowledging the same leadership figures.
        I live in the Chicago area, which has a pretty sizable pagan population, and I’m not sure I could put together 50 such people. Pagans are not big institution people. If we were, most of us would not have left our birth religions. I don’t know much about Hellenic tradition, but in Wicca, most of us are not terribly fond of indoor temples. We consider them a shabby if sometimes necessary alternative to the natural world for our workings.
        At a more basic level, I don’t think pagans in general in this country at this time are looking to recreate the ancient world or to duplicate the infrastructure of what they had in Christianity. In order to sustain temple buildings, you need a congregational tradition, a tradition mediated by a clergy caste and attended by congregants. Most strains of paganism that I am familiar with have a very different idea of how we relate to the gods.
        For most of us, it is an intensely personal interaction. It may be facilitated to some degree by ritualists or clergy, but its an intimate thing best shared with intimate associates – ones own family or coven mates. It’s nice to do a Beltane or Litha with a few dozen or few hundred people, but not every full moon. As much as I like a big communal ritual now and then, a gathering of the tribes as it were, I find the real magick, the deep workings and communion with God and Goddess happens in small circles – no more than a dozen at the very most, with half that number ideal. 
       Take it for what it’s worth, just one guy’s read of the current landscape. 

  • Adrian Hawkins

    I see every reason why this is a feasible idea! It would take effort, will, and money. But it can and should be done. 

  • Pythia Theocritos

    And I’m a HUGE fan of tithing. I tithe to Hermes, hell I tithe to NPR. 

  • Byron

    Star et al, Mother Grove Goddess Temple is in Asheville but it isn’t a Wiccan temple.  We are a multi-faith Goddess Temple. We’re now in our second space–slightly larger than our original one but still small. But it is a Goddess temple in the southern highlands of Appalachia.  We do extensive programming, have a board of directors and are a non-profit 501c3 church. We will be ordaining our first class of ordained priestesses in August of this year. We’ve started small and are spending time on our foundation but our plans are to build our own building.  It can be done anywhere there is passion, vision, organization and a willingness to work impossibly hard for a common goal.

    • Star Foster

      Y’all do some amazing stuff up there. I ope to visit one day!

      • Byron

        You come on up.  We’ll find you a place to stay and treat you well. :>)

  • LittleWitchMagazine

    Do it! If I lived anywhere near there, I’d pitch in for the down payment but as I live in the Netherlands that seems a bit steep. Count me down for a reasonable monthly payment, though. Seriously.

    Our community is getting to the point where we start needing temples. I have just about the exact same dream to start a temple here. It’s something that needs to be done. Why couldn’t we do it? 

  • michaelelsen

    I have been dreaming about something like this for years. It is totally ‘do-able’. With large pagan events such as Pagan Pride day, the rental fees from these events would help pay a majority of your payments. Non-denomination weddings are another group of people which rent out spaces. I am so down with this. What about a library or even a museum area? Classes, healing, ect. Let me know, BLG has many resources for just this type of thing!

    • Star Foster

       You Unicorn folks are certainly enthusiastic! lol

      • Adrian Hawkins

        From the sacred water, the lotus opens and manifests new things. :)

      • michaelelsen

        Its us folks at Blue Lotus. Thats what happens when energy is balanced.
        Much like
        the anima/animus of Carl Jung’s work. Men are associated
        with Force (Energy) and Women are associated with Form (Matter). 
        Harmoniously Balanced. We are at our greatest on
        an individual and community level when this is the case.

         I am not trying to give a class on this, just saying IT WORKS!

  • LezlieKinyon

    Do you know about 
    It’s a lovely idea – an *endowment* to get it going would put such a center on the same footing as other small fellowships.  It’s also a great place to house a seminary, BTW. (Ova-rary…?)  Get your BOD together and remind them – regularly, often, and with great enthusiasm – that the primary job of a BOD (or, on a different model, a Board of  Trustees)  is  to (in the words of a former president of Saybrook): “Go to lunch and ask for large sums of money.”
    It isn’t the “start-up” fund s that kill small fellowships, it’s the day-to-day operating costs. As a local UU fellowship is struggling with even as I speak.

    May this manifest in a beautiful and positive way for one and all!

    • Star Foster

       Yeah, I don’t think startup capital is the hard part at all, it’s getting a group of people to commit to maintaining the temple once built. Which means the temple needs to provide something for them they can’t get elsewhere. Which is why it has to be based on shared faith and values.

      • LezlieKinyon

         Dunno what I just did… a flag appeared– so sorry! :(( — when I was hitting the like button! 
        I know that the “office” is often filled with people who aren’t volunteers. One small fellowship here hires GTU students on a work study grant.  It’s the office fol (booking & rentals, filing, mailing lists, etc. etc.) who do the day-to-day work. They aren’t always members of whatever spiritual tradition the building is owned by… 

        Just remember that a project like this, while it appears to be a high spiritual calling (and, it is!) is also a business and requires good management and a plan in place to succeed.  I’m told that the folks at Circle Sanctuary are really good at giving advice… (have no idea of the verity of that statement or personal experience with them).

        • Star Foster

          Circle Sanctuary is amazing. Love those people dearly.

  • LezlieKinyon

    As an added thought, your local arts community might be of good service in finding all kinds of alternative ways of both funding and in designing your sacred space(s).  And- when creating, don’t forget those of us in sacred/ritual theatre! (If you build it, we – Labyrinth Circle – will bring you something *magic*.)

    Just as an aside: My dream isn’t a building, but something like a Center with lots of nature – a circular (roofed) shrine of sorts outdoors as the primary focus of the space.  (I always see – and even smell, faintly – lots of roses and bay when I think about this space.)  Such a place include other indoor and outdoor spaces to house workshop spaces, places for scholars to do their work,  a library and a historical archive (indoor) to conserve the history of this movement, a place designed for Handfastings and other (larger) gatherings, and other kinds of gathering spaces. 

    Putting my mind into a different kind of consciousness other than a culture-specific “temple” all kinds of doors opened…  It’s actually harder to do that than it sounds.  The Presidio Interfaith Center in SF had a competition sent to designers around the world to create something like this … the results are fascinating: 

  • Marienne Hartwood

    Having been part of an organization that housed a temple space in the DC area like what you suggest that was privately owned, but available for the public for minimal or no cost (depending on many factors), it is a wonderful blessing to have, and yet not something that seems to be sustainable long-term. Without opening old wounds, when push came to shove, there really wasn’t enough resources for the upkeep of that sort of area. Financially, keeping the buildings themselves going could have been a viable option with a bit more passing of the offering plate at local events and such (although the idea of “strongly suggesting” tithes or passing an offering plate around the circle doesn’t sit well with many people, myself among them), it was other resource issues that really brought an end to the one around here. You had insurance costs, maintenance costs, trying to get everything back together after a hurricane and several years of rough winter weather, property assessments, and an aging membership who physically couldn’t get out there to push the mower for 4-5 hours a week (and terrain that made a riding lawnmower, if one could have been afforded, not a good option). The pagan world seems to lack tradespeople who would be willing to put sweat equity in. I’m sure we have pagan plumbers and pagan electricians, but they are remarkably few and far between when you’ve got an overflowing septic tank at 3 AM.

    If you really want to pursue this, the best way to do it would be through an endowment where the income would be used to provide for the upkeep and the hiring of staff to maintain the place (because volunteers are wonderful…but volunteers are not guaranteed the way a paid employee can be brought to bear). But watching this same idea come up over and over again over many decades and have a failure rate higher than that of small business starts (which is a miserable rate in and of itself), I’d love to hear your suggestions on how you (speaking towards the greater “you”of anyone who wants to take on this project, not to Star specifically) are going to do things different from everyone who has been through this experience before and has the scars to show it… and if it appears to be sound, although it isn’t something I have desire to go through again, I’d have no problem contributing to it.

    • kenneth

      Bear in mind I’m the guy who doesn’t much want such a thing, but I do have some solid thoughts on how someone can avoid flying the plane into an onion field for the 500th time. Don’t ever, ever ever buy into the delusion that “If we build it, they will come.”  That is a 100% time proven path to bankruptcy and years of your life wasted on broken dreams, and all of the bitterness and disillusion that will follow. I can’t stress this enough. I know the temptation is there to follow that “wisdom” but don’t do it. It’s like running on rooftops when you’re drunk on spring break. It sounds like a brilliant plan, but it never ever is. 
         If you build something cool, yes, people will come. But you’ve got to work on the assumption that no one will come for several years, at least. You need to be able to put together a few thousand dollars, at minimum, not for a down payment on the first cool place you see, but for a business plan, done by someone who knows how to do a real business plan.
           That means not cooking the numbers like Christopher Columbus to blow it past skeptics. It means a plan that says, with some degree of scientific certainty, who you will be serving, if there’s actually enough of them in the area you plan to serve, and what the best, worst and likely scenarios actually are. It means a realistic assessment of the zoning laws and the political climate on the ground where you plan to open. If you have just enough money for a one-month turnaround at the zoning board and the local Bible thumpers put you through five years and a massive lawsuit, you’re sunk before you ever left port. 
         Most of all, it means knowing, in advance, where the money is coming from. That means real money in real bank accounts, and written pledges from people who have the juice and the track record to make good on them. Not the well-meaning “I’ll get you next month, dude” or as soon as my settlement for that car accident pays off, or whatever the case is.
          You can’t just squeak by either with enough congregants to make the mortgage and light bill each month. You need extra to cover the inevitable shortfalls when people move, or drift away, or get cheesed off by the drama of the month and leave en masse with their friends and allies. That WILL happen. It happens in the most staid old-line Christian denominations, and pagans are like mountain men. They don’t sit and work things out if they get really mad. They’ll pack their swag and move over the next mountain range. You also need a budget that allows for capital replacement – roofs, parking lots, furnaces,  the 50-year-old sewer line that decides to burst and costs 20 grand to replace. 
         You also need to have at least a couple of big money folks in the mix. Not Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg rich, but doing well, quite well. You need them for reasons beyond their ability to write bigger personal checks. You need them because they are power hitters. These people have connections. They know where to get the best legal help, and architects, and insurance, and have an in at city hall and state government. They also know how to organize, and delegate, and get results. They have a sort of gravitas as well. If they run a fundraising committee, people will work hard to get results and get in good with such folks for their own reasons. Of course, they also tend to leave nice endowments and pay for building additions named after their spouses etc. 
        In short form, that’s the way to do it. Contrast that with the usual way most pagan venues have been set up so far. For purposes of discussion, we’ll call this the “wrong” way, because it is. Some very well meaning and dedicated core of folks scrapes up enough cash to get their foot in the door in some cheap real estate in the ghetto or the boonies. There’s a big splash, but not enough people can get to the place often, and most of those who do are free-loading Emo kids and hippies who maybe drop $5 now and then on a “love offering” basis.
          Between concert rentals and the sale of some books and incense, the place turns enough cash each month to cover “some” of the costs. So the core volunteers pour their own life savings into the joint and hundreds of hours of their own time until it breaks them in money and spirit. Then you get the “OMFG we need $5,000 by next Tuesday” appeals. After the second or third of those in a year’s time, people naturally ask “what the hell is going on”. The place rolls over on its back and dies, accusations fly, and some number of people go on in life wishing they had never become or met a pagan. 
         I wish Star and whoever the best in this, but I don’t want to see her or anyone else crushed under the wheels of this familiar scenario I just described. If you’re going to do it, have your eyes wide open and do it right. 

      • Star Foster

        There are roughly as many Hindus in the US as Pagans and our incomes are on par with mainstream America. When you say our community can’t do it (wanting to do it is another issue), you are essentially saying we suck. I find that unacceptable.

        • kenneth

          I mean to say or even imply that pagans “can’t” do it. I do think there are some serious cultural and demographic issues which make us less inclined to do it and pose some unique challenges to us that Hindus and others may not share.
              I also mean to say that most previous pagan attempts have been heavy on idealism and short on hard-nosed realism. That’s not unique to pagans either, but we are somewhat newer at this game since Rome fell, and pagans are (often) idea and not detail people. Churches and non-profits are labors of love, but if they are untempered or unaided by hard-nosed business thinking, they will be crushed into powder every time. 99% of what I said above holds true for any religion or ethnic group. So it’s not that we “can’t do it.” We can’t do it the way we have been doing it, and no amount of stick-to-itiveness or communal pride will overcome that.    There’s another dimension to this that has been largely un-explored. Most of what made old-line Christian churches work for generations in this country is dead or in decline. Many of the problems you will face are not even pagan problems. They are American problems.  People don’t do civic engagement and institutions the way they once did in this country.    When people got off the boat at Ellis Island 100 years ago and went to, say, the Lithuanian Catholic church in Chicago, it wasn’t just for the worship. It was THE main way to plug into both the expat and mainstream community. It’s where you went to get hooked up with a job, and a suitable marriage partner, and housing, you name it.    People were willing to make the huge time and capital investments because it was the center of gravity of their world. The one institution that was made by and for them in a world that didn’t otherwise give a crap about them. That ran on momentum through the second and even third generations. Once those folks were fully assimilated and moved out to the suburbs and built their own community on Facebook or wherever…not so much. If you have time, check out Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” to see what I’m talking about. It’s now a somewhat dated book, but basically valid, I think.    I think if you look at the example of the Hindu temples you mention, you’ll see some of this at play. They’re not just places for Hindus to worship unmolested. They’re networking centers for Indian Americans as well.    The point is, I think you’d need more than the simple desire of pagans to have a quite worship space where nobody looks at them funny. You need a sizable core of people who see in a temple something they can’t get anyplace else. You need a fairly cohesive religious tradition which values large communal vs solitary or small group worship. A tradition which considers it very important to have one’s key life passages celebrated in large public fashion. I don’t think these things are impossible for pagans, but I also don’t know that they’re in place in sufficient depth in any one area to make it fly. They may be in the Hellenic community and/or in your region. If they are not in place now, we may see that culture evolve as we get into more second and third generation pagan families who are looking for more structure. 

        • kenneth

          I mean to
          say or even imply that pagans “can’t” do it. I do think there are
          some serious cultural and demographic issues which make us less inclined to do
          it and pose some unique challenges to us that Hindus and others may not share.

            I also mean to say that most previous pagan attempts have been heavy on
          idealism and short on hard-nosed realism. That’s not unique to pagans either,
          but we are somewhat newer at this game since Rome fell, and pagans are (often)
          idea and not detail people. Churches and non-profits are labors of love, but if
          they are untempered or unaided by hard-nosed business thinking, they will be
          crushed into powder every time. 99% of what I said above holds true for any
          religion or ethnic group. So it’s not that we “can’t do it.” We can’t
          do it the way we have been doing it, and no amount of stick-to-itiveness or
          communal pride will overcome that. 

           There’s another dimension to this that has been largely un-explored. Most
          of what made old-line Christian churches work for generations in this country
          is dead or in decline. Many of the problems you will face are not even pagan
          problems. They are American problems.  People don’t do civic engagement
          and institutions the way they once did in this country. 

           When people got off the boat at Ellis Island 100 years ago and went to,
          say, the Lithuanian Catholic church in Chicago, it wasn’t just for the worship.
          It was THE main way to plug into both the expat and mainstream community. It’s
          where you went to get hooked up with a job, and a suitable marriage partner,
          and housing, you name it. 

        • kenneth

             People were willing to make the huge time and capital investments because
          it was the center of gravity of their world. The one institution that was made
          by and for them in a world that didn’t otherwise give a crap about them. That
          ran on momentum through the second and even third generations. Once those folks
          were fully assimilated and moved out to the suburbs and built their own
          community on Facebook or wherever…not so much. If you have time, check out
          Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” to see what I’m talking about. It’s
          now a somewhat dated book, but basically valid, I think. 

           I think if you look at the example of the Hindu temples you mention,
          you’ll see some of this at play. They’re not just places for Hindus to worship
          unmolested. They’re networking centers for Indian Americans as well. 

           The point is, I think you’d need more than the simple desire of pagans to
          have a quite worship space where nobody looks at them funny. You need a sizable
          core of people who see in a temple something they can’t get anyplace else. You
          need a fairly cohesive religious tradition which values large communal vs
          solitary or small group worship. A tradition which considers it very important
          to have one’s key life passages celebrated in large public fashion. I don’t
          think these things are impossible for pagans, but I also don’t know that
          they’re in place in sufficient depth in any one area to make it fly. They may
          be in the Hellenic community and/or in your region. If they are not in place
          now, we may see that culture evolve as we get into more second and third
          generation pagan families who are looking for more structure. 

          • Star Foster

             Your comment isn’t so time sensitive that it can’t sit in the spam folder for 5 minutes while I’m in the kitchen. It’s almost 1 am here. Maybe you could relax instead of reposting the same comment several times. Chill.

      • Marienne Hartwood

        Your “wrong way” scenario is profoundly spot on from my (albeit statistically limited) experience. Thank you for the other insights.

    • Star Foster

       Easy. Families, not individuals. Paganism in general is geared toward the individual, but as Hindus have shown, it is families that building lasting communities.

      • Marienne Hartwood

         In the situation that I was mentioning, it was split pretty evenly between families and individuals providing the support. Perhaps one of the key differences is that it’s much harder to convince a Pagan individual than a Hindu individual to spend 10-20 years (or more) making their life a living hell by having to give all their time, money, health, resources, comfort, joy, happiness, etc. into a project on the hope that something great can come of it in the future (and if not, at least you’ve stacked the deck for an awesome life upon reincarnation). When you try and convince a family unit to do that, even if the cost is harmful to their offspring, it becomes a very hard sell.

        • Star Foster

           Working with other Pagans makes your life hell? I’m sorry you’ve had such experiences, or that you bring such low expectations to the community.

          My understanding Hindus tend to find participation in temple fulfilling, but perhaps that is because they expect it to be fulfilling.

          • Marienne Hartwood

            It isn’t *just* working with Pagans that can make one’s life hell in an experience like this (although that can be part of it–when more than one type of Pagan gets together, it’s called a Drama, not a Community, IMO). It’s the little things that really eat away at the soul of the caretakers of an undertaking like what you are suggesting. While you are getting the facility established, ever bit of your money and time must go into the facility. Enjoy eating three well-balanced meals a day? Forget it–if you go to just ramen twice a day and cold cereal with no milk for the third meal, you can afford to buy a couple folding chairs for the facility by the end of the week. Within a year of doing that, you could get all the chairs you need. Want to go on vacation or to a Pagan festival? You’ll need to skip it. First, the money needs to go into the facility, so you’re being self-centered and greedy if you spend it on yourself for something like that. Second, you don’t have anyone who can take over the facility when you leave–or if you do, you’re constantly waiting for the 3 AM emergency phone call that something has gone wrong and you’re needed back on site right now. When you open something up to the greater community, no matter what you do, someone will tell you that you’re doing it wrong–usually in a very public forum where it falls into personal attacks. (I’m sure that you are painfully familiar from that experience from running a blog!) If you’re going to be running the facility yourself, you experience all the joy of being self-employed. That means that unless you have a spouse-partner who can give you health insurance, you go without…and without all the benefits that health insurance provides (for instance, if you are on any sort of maintenance medication, you go without because you can’t afford it anymore and don’t have insurance to cover it). Everyone’s going out to see the newest movie, or going to a concert for a popular band, or buying a book that came out–and you can’t because all your money and time goes into this facility. Eventually people just get tired of asking you because they know what your answer will be–your life is that pile of bricks and electrical wires and sewer lines. If you’ve had a house to begin with, you may have had to double mortgage it to cover “emergency expenses” that always seem to crop up when owning a business property like this. Even if somehow you manage to scrape together the money to cover the bills and aren’t having to deal with creditors and collectors, the stress of having those bills (and knowing that you better not die because there’s not enough money to cremate you) takes a toll on your health. If you don’t own a house and instead are renting somewhere, because you need the most cash available to go into the facility, you go in the cheapest place you can find and your quality of life goes down.

            I think that anyone who goes into a project like this does so from a sort of idealism that this will be an amazingly positive experience that provides spiritual fulfillment in the long run. Given that, unlike Hindus, Pagans do tend to have their path change every 7-10 years or so, any project that would require a longer term commitment to get off the ground than 10 years becomes mentally unsustainable. So at about year 5 of having this dream become a personal nightmare with no light at the end of the tunnel, that’s when it starts to fall apart.

            Is it doomed to always be this way? I have no idea… but there does seem to be certain skill sets and certain mindsets that are not often present in Paganism that are vitally necessary to getting different results from the same idea that comes up every couple of years. There’s also some “cultural” ideas that run tangent to this–we don’t have paid clergy, we don’t support our local businesses the way other niche faiths do, we don’t provide care for our elders, we don’t provide opportunities for our youth, and we don’t have a mandate that one must “pay to pray” the way some larger faiths do. Perhaps those are the things that would need to be addressed first to get people into the right mindset for institutionalized religion? I have no idea. (For me personally, I couldn’t ever get into the “pay to pray” mindset for any religion, but especially not for my own. The other stuff I might be willing to negotiate for.)

          • Star Foster

             I’m so disheartened at all these comments that say Pagans can’t do this because they essentially suck. WTH?

          • kenneth

            I don’t know that it need be read as an indictment that we “suck” as pagans. It means more that a critical mass of our culture, at present, does not feel the burning need for brick and mortar institutions and consequently does not fully appreciate the enormous (but not impossible) barriers to creating them. That culture may well change, but patience is in order. Bear in mind, we are only about a decade and changed out of the cultural and literal underground. Christians themselves spent the first couple centuries in house churches and outdoor spots (ie covensteads!). I would argue that they lost much of their best quality as a spiritual movement when they moved up and out to big temples. 
               I don’t think anyone means to say that pagans inherently “suck” to much to ever do this. It simply may not be the focus of our community and values at present. Some of our organizational strengths that DO mesh with our culture at present include things like PSG and Burning Man. I don’t think any Christian congregation anywhere could pull those off the way we do. That doesn’t mean they “suck”. It means the things that set their souls and imaginations alight inspire them to different things.

          • Star Foster

             I’m hearing people say we can’t, not that we don’t want to. Because if you don’t want to, then why waste your time discussing it? It’s like me arguing against attending prayer service at a mosque. I have no intention to attend a mosque.

          • kenneth

            Whether I want to is beside the point. What matters is whether there’s a critical mass of people in the area you or others want to do this. If there is, or might be, then it becomes pertinent to discuss what does and does not work. 
               The fact that I may not want to join such a temple does not, I think, mean that I have nothing of value to say about it. I spent many many years in close association with people who ran both successful and unsuccessful not-for-profits, religions or otherwise.    I’m really not trying to inject cynicism into this, just some realism. I’m saying, with some good evidence I think, that desire for a pagan temple is necessary, but it is not sufficient to make the dream come true. I don’t think that makes me anti-pagan, or even anti-temple pagan.    I don’t, at present, want to join congregational paganism. BUT, I very much do want to see it succeed for those who do want it. I’d rather see them do it right, even if that means taking years to lay the groundwork or more years to get the cultural and financial ducks in a row before launching. I don’t get any pleasure at all seeing these things fail, and then seeing a new bunch of well-intentioned folks walking into the same meat grinder. 

          • Marienne Hartwood

             I’m not so sure I’d go and say that Pagans essentially suck, but rather the certain things that people have in their personalities  and experiences cause the GPC (Greater Pagan Community) not to work like the mega-religions out there, which is probably why most people who come to the GPC left one or more mega-religion.

            Case in point…I’ve got a copy of Helen Berger’s “Voices from the Pagan Census” in front of me at the moment, and although the data are out of date, I don’t think things have changed so much that the demographics are that different. On the “Occupation” table, an overwhelming majority of the occupations listed by Pagans are low-paying (or in the case of two of the top 10, no paying) careers with “unemployed” coming in at #16. (Keeping in mind that the publication date of this book was 2003, so it isn’t the currently tanked economy to blame!)

            When you start asking about confidence in social institutions, 26.7% of the Neo-Pagans in the survey have no confidence in major companies and 45.8% have no confidence in organized religion. To have a dedicated temple space be successful, it would need to be run with some of the core skill sets of a major company and an organized religion. When you look at donations, 27.9% of those Neo-Pagans surveyed give no money in religious donations. Whether that’s because they don’t have money to give or because they’re unwilling to give, I’d wager it is a bit of both. Even with the idea of “fairly take and fairly give” being prevalent in many Neo-Pagan traditions, the idea that money can be part of that equation can be a hard sell (pun intended).

            What Pagans do different from the mega-religion out there is done very well–connection to divinity on a personal level, adaptivity to various situations, creativity in the structure of rites (although I have noticed a slide in some of that at public events and in books towards “we’ve done this thing before and it worked great so we’re going to do the same thing over and over again”–for example, the ol’ write something down on a piece of paper and burn it ritual, which is the ultimate fallback ritual experience, IMO).

            What mega-religions do different from Pagans, they do very well and the GPC doesn’t–building congregations and physical facilities to house the congregants, encouraging donations (both in terms of sweat equity and in terms of cash and in-kind donations), training clergy in skill sets beyond leading worship services (although it is my hope that the start of Pagan seminaries will alleviate some of that gap), having members who have blue collar skills (that can be useful in the maintenance of physical facilities) instead of just college educated professionals or perpetual students who often don’t have those skills.

            So it isn’t that Pagans suck…it’s that Pagans are Pagans and are very good at being Pagans. To me, that’s awesome, with the understanding that it does mean that there are some things that the GPC isn’t currently cut out to do. I think the greatest challenge is that the changing face of Paganism isn’t changing as fast as the growth of the dreams of those within the GPC. I have no doubt that happens in all religions, though.

  • pagankitten

    This sounds lovely :)

  • A. C. Fisher Aldag

    We as a community must get past our disdain for / fear of money for this dream to actualize.

  • Ywendragoneye

    Star – I love this idea! And I find it interesting in light of all the Pagan Temples that were converted into Christian churches, that the reverse may begin to happen.

    • Star Foster

      I had the same thought!

  • Marienne Hartwood

    This is a reply to Star’s comment of “Because if you don’t want to, then why waste your time discussing it?” (but I’m taking it out of thread because the boxes were getting too itty bitty to read. :)

    Although I personally don’t have need for temple and ritual spaces beyond the ones I frequently visit and make use of, I recognize that some people do. I also have no idea what my child will need in the future. My concern is that when people bring up the same idea over and over again, and then bring up the same methods that have failed in the past to achieve that idea, it becomes a waste of resources, burns out lovely people, and it strengthens the idea that it will never happen. I hate seeing resources wasted that might have done good elsewhere. I hate seeing wonderful people get so burned out that they are unable to function for years in any sort of spiritual capacity. That’s why I put some of my time resources into discussing it–in the hopes that it might be different the next time around, and even if it doesn’t succeed, it might fail less and be a step towards that ideal goal (whatever that ideal goal is).

  • Ian Phanes

    Personally, when I think of a pagan temple, I do NOT imagine a large building for communal worship.  I imagine a small building for one or more images of gods, with an upright altar out front for making offerings.  It would be lovely if there was some kind of fountain that one could use for ablutions before entering the sanctum.  This would be a space I could stop by for meditation or devotion at my convenience.

    Alternatively, if a community wanted to go the community center route, there could be shrines to various gods mounted on walls of corridors, etc., leaving the “ritual space” neutral enough that any group could bring in their own sacred symbols.  (Which could be moved from the wall shrines I mentioned before.)

  • Kit Peters

    Repositioning thread.  In reply to Jamie Peters’ (full disclosure: Jamie is my wife) comment and Star Foster’s reply:

    Upon reflection, perhaps what we’re doing is not a Pagan temple.  It will certainly be a sacred space for Pagans, but that won’t be the only purpose it serves.  It will be a space for artists to come, work, and display that work.  It will be a place for drummers to come and create rhythms sacred in and of themselves, regardless of the drummers’ individual faiths.  It will be a place where people can learn to live and grow in harmony with their environment while still living in the heart of the city.  It will be a place where Pagans and non-Pagans alike can work to heal the city.  A more sacred task I can’t envision, but whether or not you choose to call that a Pagan temple is entirely up to you.

    • Star Foster

       So it’s an interfaith temple.

      • Kit Peters

         Yes, I think that’s a fair assessment, although at the moment the only faith formally represented is our particular brand of UU Paganism.

  • Shea Thomas

    An “open to everyone” urban Pagan community center just recently opened its doors in Washington, DC (see: Despite the creation of a special nonprofit 501(c)(3) to get it going, and a relatively large local Pagan population, it still took over ten years of fundraising, event planning, and community building to make the center a reality. It’s possible, but such things take lots and lots and lots of work. :-)