Someone asked me recently, however did you gain acceptance in South Carolina as a Pagan interfaith leader? Honestly, the story is not much of a mystery, but I’ve learned some things along the way which you may find useful.
1. Show up. Patrick McCollum was asked once what is the key to successfully building Pagan community. His answer was, “Show up.” If you want to be part of something, you have to be there when the action happens. That may mean visiting religious services, meetings, discussion groups and the like. It’s how you get to know people.
2. Indulge your natural curiosity. There’s a world of spirituality and religion out there, many of them being not-so-distant cousins from modern Paganisms. Go enjoy a meditative space while your Muslim friends say their prayers. Share the meal following a Sikh service, clap and sing at an African American worship service, and drop by the Sunday School class of a friend to hear what they are talking about. People really appreciate your sincere interest, which opens the doors of their interest in your religion.
3. Offer to help. Unexpected friendships are born while setting up chairs, putting out refreshments, serving on committees, and generally demonstrating your value as a partner.
4. Listen with interest. Show others that they matter to you. Before long, they will be asking you to tell your own story.
5. Be patient. It took me six months before the group stopped listing my religion as “Other” and they are now mortified to realize what a faux pas they made. What a difference a little time can make. After all, many of them, if not most, had never heard of Paganism as a religious group.
Last month I attended an interfaith open house, prayers and discussion at a local mosque. During the talkback someone asked about reconciling terrorism with Islam and the imam replied, “We all know there are crazy Muslims.” He glanced my way in the audience and continued, “And we know there are crazy Pagans, too. But we know that Paganism isn’t crazy, because we know Holli, and she is a lovely person.”
Go out there and give people the chance to find out how lovely you are. More in my next post.