It is a Sunday morning and my entire being is resistant to the situation I find my self in. This Pagan who has circled thousands of times in celebration of divinity is sitting in a pew, row after row of individuals surround me. I see a hymnal in front of me and all the memories of why I left organized religion flood back serving to further enhance the temptation to flee.
This Sunday morning I sit in respect for the local UU congregation that makes space for the CUUPS chapter I have joined. It seems only right that I grant a measure of respect to those manifesting a space for my community to circle. I have done hours of reading about the UU church and intellectually am in agreement with their ethics.
My Pagan identity is so strong that I wonder if this is the place for me, how can I engage in this service that looks and feels so much like that which I rejected in my youth? As the service starts a chalice is lit and a song is referenced, I reach for the hymnal and am awash with memories of my youthful disconnect with divinity and meaning.
In this moment something happens, I focus on the words of the song and recognize the earth-based theology at its core. As the congregation sings, my hardened heart softens and I find my self singing , the sense of divinity is palpable, I am confused, here among the trappings of organized religion I am connected to divinity.
As the service progresses it is evident that the words spoken from the minister value diversity, compassion and social justice. I am engaged, the sense that the Goddess is present is nearly ecstatic, and my confusion deepens.
As the service ends and I enjoy coffee and snacks with the membership, I am warmly greeted, informed of the many efforts the church is engaged in and made to feel welcome.
As I walk away I have one of the moments that I so cherish in my life, insight into my own preconceptions about religious identity flow from my core self. The questions are profound. For how many years have I excluded the worship practices of others from my personal practice? Why has my engagement in interfaith activities always centered on “working with” people of other faiths instead of “worshiping with” those that simply call divinity by another name?
After a number of services I now feel part of this church, something I thought I would never say. I cherish my Pagan circles but I will no longer see exclusivity of sacred space as a refuge but rather an artificial construct erected by my own desire to establish a self-limiting religious identity. Secretly in my heart I consider the entire congregation I have joined as “Secret Pagans” embracing divinity with the same fervor and focus on social justice, as do I. They simply have a different vocabulary for celebrating all that I hold sacred.
Today I embrace both may Pagan identity and my membership in the UU church. It has always been my belief that all paths lead to divinity, I was just never aware how walking more than one path at a time can so clarify the divine’s intention to hold all humanity as sacred.
Peter Dybing is an eclectic Pagan who is involved in many social justice issues. He also is a Chief Officer on an national disaster team. He believes that service is the most profound expression of divinity in his life.