Priesthood without Payment is Like Being a Volunteer Firefighter

Priesthood without Payment is Like Being a Volunteer Firefighter April 5, 2017

About a year ago I was at Trillium, a druid festival on the east coast, and I was talking with a group of druid leaders gathered from around the country. These were people who had successfully managed to keep a congregation running, participated in national leadership roles, written rituals, and been part of the inevitable politics that is involved in running a international organization. Some of them were considering if they wanted to finally start our Clergy Training Program and become ordained as official ADF Druidry Clergy.

They were surprisingly reluctant for people who were so clearly dedicated to their religion.   The thing was, as an ADF Priest, I get it.

Like most modern pagan religions we don’t get paid to do the work we do. We get our training for free too, which is pretty awesome, but no one gets rich being an ADF Priest. We do a –lot- of work. Holy Hel, do we work. The work of priesthood can eat your soul if you’re not careful.  These were the people who were staring down the barrel of a gun wondering if they should pull the trigger.

The thing is, we want to hold our priests to the same standard that other religions do. We want our priests to be scholars and supporters, to run congregations and visit the ill and dying.   Our congregations long for this kind of support and I’ve done all those things, personally.   But the truth is, we aren’t paid clergy and we will kill ourselves trying to be that. In an attempt to create a less destructive model of pagan clergy I came up with this analogy:

ADF Priests are like volunteer firefighters.

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Volunteer firefighters don’t get paid to fight fires. It’s not their day job, and the benefits that they reap are mostly that the community has an essential service performed when that community cannot afford to support full time firefighters.

Sound familiar yet?

It’s helped me a lot to think of myself as a Volunteer Priest, rather than a Priest. I now think of all the unpaid work as Volunteer Hours, and I log them as such. I do paid work as well, through my Patreon account. It’s been very interesting seeing what people are willing to pay for and what they are not willing to pay for. I’m still learning a lot about how to separate and balance both the paid and unpaid aspects of my priesthood, and I still dream of the day that we have a large enough congregation that I could be a real paid clergyperson. I’m a religious Pinocchio, aching to be a real boy, but not yet able to convince the Blue Fairy to deposit funds into my bank account.

As it stands I am happy with the designation of Volunteer Priest and I hope more of the pagan leadership community will use that terminology in an attempt to help create a better work/life balance. I’ve seen too many talented and dedicated individuals sink into their worst selves as they attempt to stay afloat financially while they do their duty to their communities.

Thinking paid clergy aren’t such a bad idea?  Think about paying me, even a couple of bucks a month, over at my patreon account.  Thanks so much, and gods bless. 

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