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Posts Tagged ‘clergy training’

1.   Why do you want to be a Priest, and what is your plan for making that goal happen?

I have had a calling to priesthood since I was in elementary school, but in each phase of my religious journey, I have hesitated to seek (or been denied) access to the priesthood. This was no different when I found ADF. I devoured my dedicant year, completing the DP in just 11 months, but I fully intended to proceed immediately into the Initiate’s path. I knew I had a calling to clergy, but I also was a solitary druid and had no idea the changes that would come about in my life and my practice over the next year.

Shortly after beginning my work on the Initiate’s Path, I started a study group. I have led that group for three years, and now they are Nine Waves Protogrove and are in the process of preparing to apply for a grove charter. In that time, it has become crystal clear to me that the work that I have spent my life preparing for is this work – the work of building a church, of leading this little group, of being a resource for them and teaching them what I know. I’ve gone from a solitary, introspective pagan to trying to be a public presence in my community (or as close to that as I can get, it’s a work in progress). My calling to serve these people is stronger than ever, and it expresses itself in the oddest of ways. Since I began the preliminary courses, I have become a spiritual resource not only for my in-person community, but for my online community as well. I regularly provide spiritual guidance and counseling to people online (both in and out of ADF), and mentoring those folks is as important to me as the mentoring work I do in my Protogrove.

From my Baptist minister grandfather, I learned how to care for people, how to talk to them, and how to lead them; I learned how to be a minister. From the Methodist church, I learned how to step away from the inevitable drama while still taking care of the people who needed help. From the Catholic Church I learned personal devotion, private prayer, and the effect that private practice has on public service (and a minor addiction to prayer beads). As a solitary pagan, I learned how to create my own, meaningful spirituality. From my Wiccan coven, I learned the power of a devoted small group of individuals, I learned how to serve the gods, and I learned how to learn a new tradition from scratch. From my Protogrove, I’m learning patience, humility, perseverance, and the virtue of building something from the ground up. I’m learning to live the virtues in public and in private.

From all of these paths, I have learned different aspects of what is needed in a priest. It is now up to me to fulfill that calling, and to do the work necessary to become the priest I’ve spent pretty much my whole life preparing to be. From a purely practical standpoint, I intend to complete approximately one course a month until I have finished the First Circle of training.

2. Why do you want to be an ADF Priest in particular?

ADF is my spiritual home. I’ve studied a lot of theology, and tried on a lot of religious hats, but it wasn’t until I found ADF – and specifically a devotional polytheist current within ADF – that I truly felt like I’d found the tradition I was supposed to call home for good. 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.

3. What does being a Priest mean to you in the cultural context of your Hearth Culture?

Sadly, the concept for an Anglo-Saxon heathen priesthood is troublesome and really exists only through secondary accounts. Pollington believes that it is evident that “certain people had to perform specific ritual functions at public ceremonies, but who these people were and how they were chosen is nowhere made clear” (Pollington 116). Perhaps the term “ritual specialist” is more applicable, as presumably people had duties for opening and closing public ceremonies, guarding holy symbols, and caring for sacred groves. Pollington offers the following description of what an Anglo-Saxon priesthood probably looked like:

The notion of a priest as an ‘officiant’ is probably closest to the heathen idea: the leader of the community held sway in religious, legal, and secular matters. He presided at feasts, in acts of worship, at court and in war. He was able to mediate with the gods on behalf of his community. He kept safe the holy objects used in ceremonies. (117)

I should mention as well that all of these “priests” were male. While there is evidence of sacred roles for women in Anglo-Saxon England, they were not typically chieftains and priests, though it is possible that the existence of such women would have been suppressed by the Christian monks writing about them (Pollington 120).

This is not at all the model of priesthood that I intend to follow, merely being a keeper of religious objects and a person who knows how to make sacrifices. I think there is a need for real spiritual leadership in our communities, and that leadership extends beyond simply knowing when and how to have a ritual. Mentorship, spiritual counseling, teaching and sharing wisdom are as important to my definition of priesthood as are things like being able to host a ritual or perform a wedding. A priest also should not (in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group, though leading feasts sounds at least like it might be fun and less like it would be a huge conflict of interest.

Pollington, Stephen. The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England. Little Downham, Ely, Cambs: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2011. Print.

4. How long have you worked the ADF Dedicant Discipline, what has been your experience of the Work, and what do you expect when you begin the Clergy Student Discipline?

I have been an ADF Dedicant since October 3, 2013. As part of my dedicant oath, I drew the following omen:

  • Jera: Year, the harvest, hard work
  • Fehu: Cattle, Wealth, Generosity
  • Algiz: Elk-sedge, Offensive/Defensive Balance

Though I no longer read with the Elder Futhark, I have always taken these runes as both a blessing on my dedicant year and as a prediction for the work I will do as an ADF Dedicant. It has been a path of hard work and also great reward– I have started a Protogrove, and am actively leading them toward Grove status. That work has involved a great deal of my time, money, and energy – time, money, and energy that I give generously, because that is part of my calling. But it has also been a work of determining boundaries – like the elk-sedge determines the boundaries between dry land and marshes, and protects both. I cannot give everything – I must refill my own cup before I tend to filling the cups of others.

I have kept to regular daily and monthly practices for the last two years, as well as recently adding a weekly devotional. I fully intend this work to continue as I set forth to do the Clergy Student Discipline. I expect that the demands on my time and energy will continue to grow as I grow toward my ordination, and I hope that these runes that have defined my dedicant work– rewards for hard work, reciprocity and generosity, and setting appropriate boundaries – will continue to bless me as I move along this path.

*****

Hello, Lauren,

Several questions have arisen concerning your application to enroll in the Clergy Training Program. Please respond back to me and I will pass the answers back to all the Clergy Council Officers.

You stated: “A priest also should not(in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group…”

  • Comment #1: I would like to see her clarify what the conflict of interest is to her with a priest assisting to “make legal decisions”.
  • Comment #2: I would like to know what “war” means to her in a modern context as well as how she interprets “making legal decisions”.

We look forward to your clarifications.

Blessings,
Drum

*****

Hi Drum –

I’m happy to clarify, though I think I can answer both questions at once.
My main point with this sentence had to do with the way that priests functioned in the Anglo Saxon society – where they were not just religious leaders, but also political, legal, and war leaders. In an ancient tribe, that breakdown certainly works – the tribe is small and culturally homogeneous (for the most part). But I think in a modern context, the separation of church and state is a good thing, and we should encourage that. I would not want my position as a priest to be anything other than a spiritual leadership role – leading a spiritual group.
As an extremely hypothetical example, should I somehow become Governor of Texas, I would not want my position as an ADF priest to be in any way related to that role. Certainly my values would be influenced by being part of ADF, but as a political leader, I expect that leader to make decisions for all Texans, not just the ones s/he agrees with spiritually, because political leadership in the United States is over a large group of ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse people. This is where I think the conflict of interest is a problem in the ancient model if we apply it to today – the religious leader of group of people also being the political leader leads to a lot of opportunities to abuse power, and I think that’s a bad thing (and, in fact, that sort of situation is exactly what brought many people to the United States in the first place).
As a leader in ADF, I fully understand that there are administrative roles that priests fill. And, in fact, I am a grove organizer, and expect that I will begin to serve as Senior Druid sometime in the next six months or so (as Nine Waves finishes up our bylaws and applies for our grove charter). But that leadership will remain in a spiritual organization to which it is related, and Nine Waves is also structuring our group so that if I become an ordained Priest, I will be able to step into a separate leadership role (which is yet unnamed), and allow someone else to take on the administrative duties of a Senior Druid.
As far as war leadership goes, I think that again is a different skill than priesthood. Certainly chaplaincy is related – but a chaplain doesn’t lead troops on the battlefield. That job is left to battlefield leaders. (And, in fact, the Geneva Conventions specify that chaplains be non-combatants, and in the United States military, chaplains are unarmed.) I expect that, should I be asked to do chaplaincy work, that I would do my best to counsel in that situation, but I don’t feel like that is a war leadership position, at least not in the sense that the Anglo Saxons were talking about it. I also don’t feel like “leading the charge” in things like social justice work is comparable to the type of war leadership that the Anglo-Saxons were talking about. Certainly it’s powerful, important, strategic work, and you could argue that it is definitely “fighting a battle”, but I think we’d be talking about two different kinds of leadership and two completely different skill sets (only one of which involves killing people).
Hopefully that makes my answers a little more clear. Perhaps I was too literal with my reading of this question, taking much more from the Anglo Saxon model and not expanding it into what is realistic for a modern-day priest?
Let me know if you need me to clarify anything else.
Blessings,
Lauren
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“Cat hoovering (also Cat vacuuming) – 1. any excuse to avoid writing, even vacuuming the cat (Gerri); 2. A pointless exercise used to avoid real work. (HughSider)”

I was reading this article by John Beckett (if you don’t read his blog, you should) on what priests are and aren’t. He said the following:

A priest serves as an exemplar.  He should model the behaviors and lifestyles he advocates.  He is human and will not be perfect in any of this, but he should strive to live a life in alignment with his highest values and in the spirit of the Gods and Goddesses he serves.  Or, to borrow a phrase from my Baptist childhood:  “practice what you preach.”

A priest will be a counselor.  Show a little competency in leadership and begin exemplifying the Divine to any extent and people will begin telling you more than you want to know about themselves.  One of the most valuable services a priest can provide is simply to listen and be an unanxious presence.

While a proper mixture of divination, prayer, ritual, and counseling can be helpful, a priest can’t solve people’s problems for them.  What he can do is to be with them and support them until they can solve their problems themselves.  A priest must also recognize the limits of his expertise – is what you’re hearing a spiritual problem or is it mental illness?  A priest must know when to say “I can’t help you – you need to see a mental health professional.”

A priest serves as an organizer.  He should make sure the trains run on time:  rituals are performed, offerings are made, classes are held, this-world actions are taken.  A priest doesn’t have to do all that himself (nor should he, in most cases), but he should make sure his religious community does the things it needs to do.  People can – and should, and at least occasionally – be allowed to fail.  Communities can never be allowed to fail.

Now, to start all this off – IANAP. I am not a priest. (or a priestess.) I am a Druid, and an ADF dedicant, and a student working towards Initiation. After which I intend to do at least the first circle of clergy training, so someday I will (maybe) be a priest.

However, I’m doing a lot of things that are similar to the work of priests right now (as would anyone who is in a position of leadership in a pagan group), and gradually getting more and more familiar with that role. But it’s a hard one, and one that I contemplate a lot. I don’t know if I have the personality or the credentials to do this “right.”

And I’d be lying if I said that my mental illness didn’t sometimes factor into my worries about my future in ADF. There’s a reason I started with the IP – Initiates are called to individual service, where Priests are called to community service. Individual service lets me set more boundaries to my own availability and time.

Plus? I’m a human being. I screw up. I get frustrated and say angry things that I don’t mean, or use a tone of voice that makes people feel defensive and hurt. I’ve only been working in an ADF community role for about 9 months, and I’ve already done that at least once that I am aware of. I haven’t had the chance to make amends about it either. (Having done so makes me feel doubly unqualified to do this work.)

I know this is what the virtues are for. They are guides, things to strive for, things to judge my actions against. Have I been a good host? Have I been a person of integrity? Have I shown wisdom? What is my vision? I know I did a bunch of essays on this in my dedicant work, but somehow I still feel like I’m redefining and reimagining those things in my life. As a solitary, the virtues were very personal, and were thus much easier to write about. In a position of leadership (even of a small group), the virtues get stickier. How do I maintain my focus and still be open to others? How do I maintain the traditions of the group but allow for change and growth? How do I respect that my local group has been around for 10 years (but not had much/any growth) but still convince them that growth is possible?

Yngvi would say (and has said) “We do the best we can with what we have, and the rest will follow.” And he’s right, but there’s a lot of in between to that kind of thing. Plus it’s getting hard to juggle supporting the protogrove, planning lessons for the study group (which includes dedicant mentoring), my increasingly complex daily practice, and my own studies on the IP. I’ve completed two courses, and I’m tackling the journaling portions of Liturgy Practicum and Divination II right now, plus the reading for I-E Studies (which will probably be my next submission). Things have changed rapidly from my writing some essays over a year into Druidry taking up a big chunk of my life – which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something to think about. (And maybe think about ways to maintain my identity as a person who is more than just a Druid.)

I’m probably thinking too hard about this, but it feels like I’ve gone from being someone who can do as she pleases with very little or no ramifications to anyone else to someone who is now *responsible* for stuff. And I dunno if I always like that feeling. But then, I also know I get a lot of fulfillment out of the work I do for the study group and the protogrove, so perhaps it’s a trade off. It’s one I think I’m glad I’ve made, but sometimes it’d be nice to not have to think deeply about every action, and just fly by the seat of my pants for a bit.

Lots of thoughts, not all of them productive, I’m sure.

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