This is my keynote presentation from the CUUPS Convocation, condensed and reformatted for a blog post.
Revisioning surveys gathered data from over 300 CUUPS members, Pagan-friendly UUs, and UU-friendly Pagans.
- 13% are current CUUPS Continental members and 12% have been members in the past. 75% have never been members.
- We aren’t doing a good job of presenting the value of membership in CUUPS Continental.
- 29% are affiliated with a local CUUPS group, 71% aren’t. However, 77% have some affiliation with a UU congregation. Over half have no affiliation with a non-UU Pagan group.
- If you’re looking for potential members, they’re probably already in or around your congregation. Are you publicizing what you do within your church? Within your local community? Are you doing it well? Are you consistent with your events?
Age and family
- The median age of respondents is 45.
- That makes us an old religious group, and old religious groups aren’t long for this world. How do we bring in younger people?
- 71% have no children living with them. Of those that do, about half don’t bring their children to events.
- Should we appeal to families with young children or appeal to young adults with no children? A family oriented CUUPS group is going to look and feel very different from an adults-first CUUPS group.
- Denton CUUPS was founded by college students – we’ve always taken the adults-first approach. Your situation may be different – do what’s right for you. But you can’t do both – pick one or the other.
Identification (multiple responses permitted)
- 60% Earth-centered, Environmentalist, Eco-pagan
- 50% Pagan
- 38% Witch, Wiccan, Magician
- 28% Goddess Worshipper
- 27% Polytheist, Heathen, Ethnic Reconstructionist
- 21% Naturalist, Humanist, Non-theist
- 18% Pantheist, Animist
- 17% Druid
- What does this mean for your rituals and other programming? If you’re not doing some Nature-related stuff, you’re missing a lot of folks. If you’re only doing Wicca, you’re missing some folks. If you’re afraid of the word “witch” you’re missing some folks.
What do we do? What are our daily spiritual practices?
- 84%: observation of the natural world
- 65%: meditation
- 50%: prayer, visualizations, reflection and writing,
- 40%: devotional reading
- 40%: energy work
- 30%: spell work and divination
- 30%: libations and offerings
- Most of us do the easy stuff and the familiar stuff.
- A significant minority do the more advanced stuff.
- Can our more advanced members teach our newer members?
- You don’t need CUUPS to provide content – there’s tons of stuff already out there.
Pagan holidays / high days / holy days / sabbats
- 94% of us observe the Wheel of the Year.
- 5% observe tradition-specific holidays.
- 1% don’t observe any holidays.
- Only 9% say they observe holidays by themselves out of choice.
- If you do nothing else, hold a public circle on the eight major holidays of the Wheel of the Year.
- Do them all, do them consistently.
- Denton CUUPS holds our circles the Saturday closest to the event, although we’ve done a couple of Friday circles when Samhain or Winter Solstice fell on a Friday.
- What do we do on the high days? What do we do when our group is composed of Witches, Druids, Heathens, Nature lovers and Goddess worshippers?
- Don’t try to satisfy every member every time!
- Rotate circles: do a Wiccan circle, then a Druid circle, then a Heathen circle. If you’re going to be a Druid, then be a Druid.
What other (non-ritual) things can you do as a group? A list of everything that got at least 40% positive response:
- sky watching
- attend festivals (Pagan and music etc.)
- visit museums
- handwork (knitting, jewelry making)
- attend public concerts
- attend fairs (Renaissance etc.)
- bird watching
- drum circles
- gourmet/vegan cooking
- nature photography
- 90%: we promote our events through our church newsletter and/or social media
- 55%: we have a Facebook page
- 45%: we participate in Pagan Pride Day as a group
- 41%: we have a listing on WitchVox or other Pagan sites
- 38%: we have a YahooGroup / e-mail list
- 31%: we post flyers for our events in the community
- 21%: we do community service as a group
- 21%: we advertise in local publications
- 14%: we have a stand-alone website (not part of a social media site)
- We’re doing the easy stuff. We need to do more of the harder stuff to reach more people.
- Is this starting to sound like work? It is. But so is just about everything else that’s worthwhile.
Of Gods and Spirits
- What is magic?
- 2% say there’s no such thing.
- 14% say it’s not important to them.
- 84% is split between psychological programming, manipuliation of energy, and Crowley’s definition of “the art and science of causing change in accordance with will.”
- Our members are open to magic, but they disagree on what it is and what it can do.
- How many Gods and Goddesses are there? Split almost evenly three ways: 3 or more, I don’t know, and this isn’t important to me.
- 60% have had direct experience with spirit or spirits, and another 22% say they’ve felt the presence of a spirit but had no direct communion. That’s 82% of our members and potential members.
- Freeform responses: about 60% interpret their experiences theistically, 40% non-theistically.
- Many respondents don’t have vocabulary for discussing their experiences and they’re very unsure what they should make of them.
- How do you feel about the level of discussions and teachings among UU or CUUPS on how different peoples conceive of and work with Gods and spirits?
- 3% say there’s too much.
- 35% say they’re getting enough
- 62% say they want more
- An anonymous survey is safe – coffee hour is not.
- A CUUPS group needs to be a safe place to discuss spiritual experiences. We don’t have to agree on what they are or what they mean – we shouldn’t agree. But we should be able to talk about them without worrying that somone is going to laugh at us for believing “woo woo stuff.”
A suggestion and a challenge
- You can say “we can’t know” and then stop. Or you can say “we can’t know but I’m going to see what I can learn.”
- Talk about your own first hand experiences.
- Remember: religious experiences are real. We can debate what that reality is, how much is internal and how much is external, but people have had them for as long as we’ve been human. Religious experiences are real.
- Explore Gods and spirits.
- Read people who are working with them now.
- Faciliate the experience of Gods and spirits.
- If you must, do it in a closed circle.
- If you can, do it in a public ritual – show people some real magic and some real spirituality.
- How do you know if you’re right?
- Are you happier for your practicing? Less fearful? More connected and less alone? Do you sense a purpose where before there was none? Are you contributing to building a better world here and now, and a better future for our descendants?
- Good religion will not make your life easier. If you take it seriously, it may very well make your life harder. Walking through life half asleep is a lot easier than living wide awake, aware of the world’s problems and committed to doing something to make them better.
- Good religion won’t make your life easier, but it will make your life more meaningful.