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Archive for the ‘Clergy Training Program’ Category

An excerpt from the lovely pre-ordination rite that Rev. Jan Avende wrote for me, performed by a small circle of close friends and mentors, in preparation that my ordination and my priesthood would be blessed and strengthened:

Blessing and Spirit Gifts

Blessing – one person speaks while another purifies with incense and water

May your feet be washed clean and purified,
as you stand ready to embark on your new path.

May your legs be washed clean and purified,
As you draw strength from the earth in this work.

May your hands be washed clean and purified,
as you prepare to do the work of serving the Folk.

May your heart be washed clean and purified,
as you open yourself to the love of the Land

May your lips be washed clean and purified,
as you sing praises to honor the Gods.

May your eyes be washed clean and purified,
as you see the way open before you.

May your head be washed clean and purified,
As your judgments be just and sure.

Individual gifts:

Each individual places their hand on their heart and reaches a hand toward the individual and states the gift that they give. You may speak these words as written, or use your own that better reflect the intent of your gift.

The work of a priest, while challenging, is fulfilling in many ways. May you find beauty and contentment in your vocation.

You will be challenged in many ways, and by many people in this work. May you be blessed with the confidence to hold your ground and be firm in your beliefs and your work.

Some things have no easy answer, especially in the work of a Priest. May you be blessed with the knowledge that you have a fair heart and strong will. They will serve you well.

You are a Priest, soon to have the blessing and burden of responsibility to the Folk. May you be filled with strength and courage to be surefooted along the path you set out to walk, knowing that we support you in your work, and that we trust in your vision.

Though the road may be uncertain at times, know that the path will reveal itself in time. May you be blessed with patience as you find your way, and may you never stagnate in your growth.

Priesthood can be lonely, and requires sacrifice. May you know that you’ve got allies in this world, as well as in the Otherworld to support you in your work.

As you find yourself changed after this rite of passage, know that your words carry weight. May you be filled with the deep voice that speaks to the spirits and invites them into your work.

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I have done the thing. My hand guides the heaven-bound boat. My feet walk the paths of the earth mother. I am a priest of the people of ADF, and I have sworn my oath before them and all of my spirit allies.

May I always remember how it feels to be this blessed.

New Priest - Jan's photo

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It is with a great amount of celebration that I am able to announce, as of this evening, that I am officially Reverend Lauren Mart, ADF.

I will take my oath in front of the Gods, the Folk, and the Land at a ritual with Nine Waves Grove on April 28.

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When did you hear the call to the path of ADF priesthood? What did it sound like?

If I may offer an answer that is slightly tongue in cheek, it sounded like a phone call to Rev. William Ashton where he asked me why the h*ll I wasn’t doing the CTP. (It was not a subtle call, that one.)

To more seriously answer the question, I need to go back to days long before my even knowing that paganism existed, to the time as a child when I first considered a calling to ministry. My paternal grandfather is a minister, and he is a wonderful example of the beauty and sacrifice that such a vocation can take. When he retired, I spoke at the party – I was eight – and read a poem about being shown the way to do things, instead of being told. I think back on that now and all the things that he showed me how to do that I am now doing in my grove, and I am thankful for him.

I think back on considering Methodist seminary, on considering whether I had a Catholic vocation to holy orders, on my days with a Trad Wicca outer court, and it is very clear to me that I’ve always been intended to be a priest, have always been called to ministry. I just had to find the right religion first.

When I began to study with ADF, it was entirely as a solitary. It wasn’t until I began working with a group – flexing my muscles as a leader – that I started to consider ADF’s priesthood. Over time, as my study group grew, as I was encouraged by other priests who provided shining examples of servant leadership, as my own spirituality grew and changed, I realized that while the path of the Initiate will one day be one that I walk (and probably soon), my little community here needed a priest, and I was willing to step up to fill that need.

ADF is my spiritual home. I’ve studied a lot of theology, and tried on a lot of religious hats, but until I found ADF – and specifically a devotional polytheist current within ADF – I never truly felt like I’d found the tradition I was supposed to plant my roots in. In ADF I’ve found a tradition that values both study and piety, ritual and action, history and inspiration. Reimagining the Indo-European religious practices has given me a depth and breadth of spiritual practice unlike anything I’ve known before – and unlike my days studying Christian theology, the more I study, the more sure I am that I’m in the right place, and that I’ve found the place where my vocation is meant to be nurtured, cultivated, and grown into a full-blown ministry.

The call itself wasn’t something that began or ended at any one time, but rather something that grew and was nurtured in me by my practice and study, by other priests, by my community, and by the Kindreds, until it was something I could no longer ignore. In August of 2014, I officially set foot on the path to become ADF clergy.

What form do you expect your vocation to take?

I expect my vocation to take a few different forms, based on my work so far in the clergy training program. My oath will be to serve the gods, the folk, and the land, and I see my vocation as falling into those categories as well.

I know that my devotional relationships with my deities will remain the central focus of my private practice. I have taken oaths to that service, and though I fully expect to “Serve the Gods” in many and different ways, I will likely always remain both a public servant priest and a devotional priest. I look forward to my vocation encompassing multiple spirits and to my service in the community continuing to be one where I am known as a polytheist priest – someone who will make offerings on behalf of the folk, and who will help people listen to the gods and spirits that are important to them, even if they are largely unknown to me.

I also expect that my vocation will continue to grow one on one, with the people to whom I act as a mentor. I have a strong history of helping people who feel “lost” find their footing again, getting them restarted in a devotional practice and helping them find a new home in paganism. That home may or may not be with ADF, but usually within a few months of working with someone they feel more confident and empowered to step out on their own and be the type of pagan they are called to be. Since I seem to attract these types of people both in-person and online, I will continue to make myself available for both in-person and virtual mentoring, and I look forward to seeing many more folks find their way.

My vocation in my community will, I hope, continue to express itself through the growth and development of Nine Waves Grove. I have tried since my first study group meetings in 2013 to empower the people in my group to lead, to study, to teach, and to perform rituals in such a way that my grove has never become “the Lauren show” – and I fully expect that to continue. With a slowly, but consistently, growing membership, I serve there as a coordinator, as a liturgist, as a spiritual counselor, and as a mentor, and I hope that my vocation to leadership in this group continues to grow along with it.

Serving the land is probably the place where my vocation feels the weakest, at least in the sense of things that are demonstrable outside of my own small spaces. I expect that I will continue to serve my local landbase, to clean roadsides and waterways, support legislation in Houston that preserves our wild spaces, and to grow what things I can in the little bits of earth I have access to. I have always sought to be the “Druid of this Place”, and I want to continue to be that druid.

Do you feel prepared to become an ADF priest now? Do you see further work that you will need to do to prepare yourself for the work ahead?

I don’t feel like the work I will need to do to be the best priest I can be will ever be done, but I do think that right now I have done the work that it takes to be a first-circle priest. In many ways, the work that I do for my gods and my grove already is the work of priesthood, and it is now up to me to “formalize” that relationship through ADF and ordination. I knew what priesthood often looked like when I started, having grown up in a family with a minister, and I knew what I needed to do to prepare for that and practice that, even though much of it has been external to the clergy training program courses themselves. ADF’s study programs have given me the academic foundation for my priesthood, but I expect to be challenged and continue to grow in study even as I mark this one moment of completion in my journey.

But the work of being a better priest is ongoing, and I am fully prepared to continue to study, both within ADF and with other groups, in my goal of serving the gods, the folk, and the land. I hope never to feel stagnant, never to feel like I’ve “learned it all”, because this journey is one that will change and grow as the responsibilities I have change and grow. May I never become complacent, and may I always strive for growth and the betterment of my ministry and service.

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This World is not Conclusion.
A Sequel stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Emily Dickinson, LXXXIII

To call this final, capstone essay “Discipline” is oddly suited to the journey I have been on since beginning the clergy student discipline. In fact, over the course of this work, I have changed nearly every facet of my mundane life, including completely reinventing my personal practice, and yet still maintained the disciplines set before me – to pray, to take retreat time. Even in the fallow times, I knew that this practice would sustain me. It sustained me through a new job in a new field, moving, numerous mental health challenges, the death of my 10 year marriage and subsequent divorce, and the reinventing of myself that is ongoing as I step forward into the world unfettered by my previous expectations of myself.

This is not to say I never faltered – in the darkest days of my divorce, there was certainly not a lot of incentive to pray beyond knowing that I needed to pray. But I did it anyway, and coming out the other side of it I find myself having grown and changed in ways that seem both miniscule and radical at the same time.

So what have I done, or come to do over the course of my time as a clergy student?

I have a daily practice – one that has now expanded to include the practice of a daily office. My decision to pray every day, three times a day, has been hugely rewarding to my devotional practices and to my closeness to my gods and spirits. I have a (mostly) weekly practice, where I do a larger ritual that encompasses divination, usually a full core order, though usually improvised. I maintain a once-monthly retreat day, finding solace in my practices according to the clergy student discipline. I keep the high days, often with multiple rituals, both private and with my grove.

I also lead weekly study sessions on various topics, provide care and advice and spiritual counseling to my grove, and provide divination and mentorship to my grove and to a small cadre of new pagans online from all around the world. I’ve given presentations at festivals, written articles for Oak Leaves and for publication in other online spaces, and generally turned from a solitary, sheltered pagan into a public face in my community and online.

In short, I have started “priesting” – to coin the present participle of the noun.

I find it fitting that the rune that has followed me throughout my time as a clergy student is Gyfu – the gift, the rune of hospitality and reciprocity. Through it I have continued to find my space in the community, online, and with the spirits – through the giving and receiving of gifts. I have given good gifts, such as are within my power, and I have received blessings abundantly in return.

My relationship with the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper has grown as well. They are part of my daily devotions, each receiving a prayer every morning, as well as at my monthly longer rituals.

As an Anglo-Saxon druid, I have an easy connection to the Earth Mother, as we know the Anglo-Saxons revered her. I simply call her Eorþan Modor, which just means Mother Earth. She is the ground on which I walk, and I honor her both in the green spaces around my apartment and in the garden that I grow on my small balcony. I find there is nothing so fitting as growing some of my own food and herbs, that I can enjoy – and then give back as offerings themselves. But she is also a challenging goddess to serve. I see in her remnants of Nerthus, from whom she descends, veiled and mysterious, a peacekeeper, but also demanding of sacrifice. I say to her “may I learn the meaning of true grace through your guidance,” but she is enigmatic at times. Other times she is simply the fertile ground of agriculture, which is so prevalent only half an hour’s drive from where I live.

Finding my gatekeeper was more challenging. There is always Woden to ask for the task, but he remains distant from me. Hama – the cognate to the Norse Heimdall – is another easy deity to ask, but though I work with him closely as the patron of Nine Waves, he never felt right in my personal rituals. I went so far as to ask Modgud – the giantess who guards the gates of Hel – but she was completely unresponsive. So I started looking for unconventional gatekeepers, and realized that the essence of a gatekeeper is their liminality – their ability to exist both in one world and the next, to traverse the worlds and cross the boundaries. So I reached out to Eostre – the Anglo-Saxon goddess who is honored in the early spring, usually celebrated by modern pagans at the Equinox. Her name is cognate with many other goddesses – Ostara, Eos, Aurora, Usas, and the Proto-Indo European *Hausos – in meaning East, and in being associated with the dawn. Her reaction to being asked to walk with me through the gates can only be described as joyful, and so with her help, I speak into the worlds. She is the Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, the radiant maiden of the East, who dances upon the boundary between night and day.

My personal devotional practice is, as began in my Dedicant work, dominated by my relationship with Ing Frea (Freyr/Ingui/Yngvi). As much as this path has been one of becoming a public priest, it has also included the trials and tribulations of becoming his devotional priest as well. I do not know yet what that will entail fully, but I trust in him and his guidance and advice. He is the sacrifice and sacrificer, death and rebirth, the golden god of the grain, the harvest lord, providence and the sacrificial king. In him, my practice is rooted deeply. (Though strangely, his rune almost never shows up in my readings, and when it does, it often indicates harvests rather than Himself.)

Journaling has never been a strong suit of mine, and my omen records are extremely intermittent, unfortunately, due to having lost some of my documentation when my apartment was struck by lightning last May, which took out part of my hard drive – a lesson in backing up your documents to the cloud, certainly. I do know that my journals – most of which are published on my blog – have given me a chance to go deeper into this practice, to own it, and to come into my ownership of it.

This discipline has become a part of my practice of sovereignty, and through it I express myself in the world. I stand at the precipice, having finished the coursework, but not yet applied for ordination, and I find myself returning to the words of Emily Dickinson – this has been a great adventure, one that has been hard, at times exhausting, but always rewarding. It is with much anticipation that I step forward into the sequel, and get to see what lies beyond.

VSLM

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So I’m not a priest.

Yet.

But I’m kind of a priest? I’m a devotional priest, but you get that through a relationship with your deity, not through an ordaining organization.

I do a lot of priest-work. But I’m not an actual priest in a way that anyone outside of my grove would really ever recognize. They see me as one, but I don’t have the credentials yet.

Anyway. My final essay, the capstone Discipline course, is currently being graded for ADF’s first circle Clergy Training Program.

Which puts me in an odd, liminal space right now where I’m not really sure what I am, or what to do. I’ve finished all the work, but my ordination won’t be for another six weeks or so (shooting for April 28, if all goes well). It’s exciting – I turned in my first CTP-Prelim course in August 2014, three and a half years ago. So much of my life has changed since then, so much of who I am has changed since then.

I’m really proud of what I’ve done, of who I’ve turned into, and yet this process is only just beginning.

After all, I’m not a priest yet. There’s an ordination, an oath, a change of status for me with respects to my religious organization and to the world. I get to add “Rev.” in front of my name (though I have to figure out where and when I’m going to want that, if at all). It’s a beginning – of a lifetime of dedication, of work, of service.

“I pledge to love the land, to serve the folk, and to honor the gods. To this I dedicate my head, my heart, and my hands.”

It’s a simple oath, really. But a heavy one.

Planning an ordination is not unlike planning any other large event. You send out invitations, you figure out who is bringing what. You make arrangements for friends coming in from out of town. But somehow there’s a lurking terror beneath the excitement and busyness and planning.

What if I can’t hack it? Of course, I think I can, or I wouldn’t be trying, but what if I can’t. What if I bonk out of priesthood? What if I can’t live up to that oath, or the virtues and ethics I’ve set for myself? Thinking about it is intimidating.

I have two great priests coming to my ordination (at least). Rev. Jan Avende will hear my oath upon her sickle, and do the official work of ordaining me. And my good friend and spiritual mentor Rev. William Ashton will be there to witness it, to guide me, and because I came onto this path at his urging and wouldn’t want to formalize it without him there. (I have invited another priest, but he is unsure if he will be able to attend.)

But I haven’t met either of them in person before. Neither of these priests have seen me do ritual. Neither has seen my grove in action. Heard our songs and liturgy. Watched us work like the family we’ve become. And so I am nervous – what impression will we make. What impression will I make on these two who are coming from so far away to confer this ritual upon my head, to witness my oath.

And so as I enter into this liminal space – where my coursework is done, but I am not yet ordained, I find myself turning inward. To ritual, to trance work, to my allies and the spirits that surround and aid me. I’m doing more full rituals, because it feels right to do them, even if they’re the 5 minute kind and not the elaborate kind.

There is preparation to do, both in this world and the other, and it just feels right to amp all that up as I get ready to make this step into a new role in my life and in my grove and in my community.

We call through the mist to the Ancient Wise,
To Poets, Magicians, and Priests.
We, too, keep the fire of the Ancient Ways,
We have honored you well at our feasts.

Wisdom and love we have gained in the work,
But greater from you we now seek.
The voice of the wise has been stilled for too long,
And with it we now hope to speak.

So lead us, and speak to us, open our eyes,
Guide us in mind, heart and hand.
Teach us, we pray you, the ways of the wise
For the Gods, for the Folk, for the Land.

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This course is a further study of mythical themes and events in several Indo-European cultures. The goal is to deepen a student’s knowledge and understanding of I-E cultures’ mythologies such that s/he can understand elements and themes beyond the basic level, as well as usefully compare and contrast them. Some application of knowledge learned is required in this course.

The primary goal of this course is for students to conduct a detailed exploration of specified Indo-European mythic elements and events and apply this knowledge for the creation of original liturgical elements for ADF ritual.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will increase their knowledge of specified mythological themes and events by researching and analyzing these themes and events within several different Indo-European cultures.
  2. Students will utilize knowledge attained through research to compose an original piece of liturgy for the creation or (re)creation of the cosmos appropriate for use in ADF ritual and a piece describing the “winning of the waters” appropriate for use in ADF ritual.

(more…)

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