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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’ve been reading Kathleen Norris’ (wonderful) book The Cloister Walk, about monastic spirituality, as a sort of side piece to all of the work I’ve been doing and to kind of keep me sane as I prepare for ordination and all the rest of the hoopla that is my religious life right now. And one of the things she talks about is the idea that, at least for Benedictine spirituality, formation is endless – the conversion of the self is a process that takes a lifetime.

So I sat down and looked at a typical formation process for someone in the Catholic faith vs what I’ve done, and realized there are some similarities. With apologies for generalizing, as each community really does have its own rules, and because what I’ve done is nowhere NEAR as dedicated as true monastic life, it still struck me that there were things that I could relate to.

My dedicant year was the equivalent of basic religious education – it gave me the tools to get started on the path, and set me up with a spirituality that I could practice satisfactorily for the rest of my life. This only took me a year, but for others it is the work of a lifetime, and that’s more than okay.

The 2 years I spent working CTP-Prelim were my postulancy – where I figured out whether this whole priesting thing was really going to be for me. It was a longer process, but like all processes – like all formation – it takes however long it takes. I did a lot of work, internally and externally, between August 2014 and August 2016, and I don’t want to shy away from that. It involved a lot of confirmation that what I was doing was really the right thing, and set me up with a lot of the spirit relationships that have continued to nourish me through to today.

From August 2016 to March 2018, I was a novice – not yet having taken any formal vows, but having applied and been accepted to my community of faith and living as best I could the life and spirituality of a priest in my community. I did the clergy student discipline, I spoke with mentors who assisted with my formation and my growth. I studied hard, got handed a few massive life-lessons in the process. I served my community in such a way that they could see my building ministry and vocation, and they allowed me to learn and grow.

And now I sit in the liminal space before taking my oaths as a priest – before being vested with the stola of a priest (which is given to me by the folk). I will step into the role of a junior professed, whose path is renewed every year through continuing education. I wonder what this life will look like in a year, or two, or five. Or twenty. I’ve been “in formation” since 2012. In five-odd years, I’ve come an awful long way, but yet there’s still so much that I don’t know. I’m still so new at this.

What will my life-long formation as a polytheist priest look like?

Because I am not done. If anything, the wheels of change in my life are spinning at a rate that is almost dizzying. New doors are opening up for me, with new opportunities to study and practice my spirituality. This is a watershed moment that I am preparing for, yes, but it is only the beginning.

To coin a phrase, this isn’t even my final form.

I wonder what that will look like.

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1.   List nine (9) laws, or as many as possible if less than nine, concerning clergy that you have found by searching your nearest municipality laws. By municipality, we mean on the village or town level. If there are none, then tell us how you found that out.

(more…)

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A year ago I applied for and was accepted into the Initiate’s Program as my next step upon finishing the DP. I set out to do the IP work as a placeholder and a way to continue my studies and start to suss out whether I really did have a vocation to doing the Clergy Training Program. (I have questioned whether I have a vocation to clergy in every religion I’ve been part of, from mainstream Protestantism, to questioning if I would have a Catholic vocation, to seeking initiation in a Wiccan tradition.) I was solitary when I finished my DP, and initiation seemed the most logical step. To those ends, I completed (or partially completed) a portion of the study work in that time (Namely Divination I (posted here), Liturgy I (partially posted here) and Liturgy Practicum 1 (partially posted here)).

Over the last year, however, a lot has changed. I took up leadership of a study group, mentoring DP students and acting as a spiritual leader – writing rituals, providing divination and basic spiritual guidance, and acting as a guide and mentor. I also began participating with the local protogrove when I can (my job makes rituals on work nights nearly impossible in a city as large as Houston). They’ve been supportive of our study group, and it’s been an interesting experience to see how a more Neopagan protogrove operates (versus our more devotional polytheist leaning study group).

As well, I’ve struck up a friendship with Rev. William Ashton, who has been mentoring me in my steps toward leadership. This leadership, as well as the work with the local protogrove and my conversations with Rev. William, has dramatically reduced my fears over being a public pagan face in my area, and the spiritual leadership has done nothing but cement that I have a vocation to service on a clergy level.

In short, I am not sure the Initiate’s Path is where I need to be anymore – I think I need to be working towards becoming a part of ADF’s clergy.

As such, I have enrolled in the CTP-Preliminary coursework (6 courses, followed by an intention letter). I expect it will take me about 6 months to complete this work – or at least, that’s my goal. My Liturgy 1 work already counts toward the completion of CTP-Prelim, though it is being re-reviewed currently, since Clergy students have different expectations than Initiate students, and must be reviewed by a Clergy reviewer.

As such, I won’t be posting any more of my Liturgy 1 work until I have received word that it is up to snuff. My Divination I course will need to be re-reviewed as well, if I am accepted into the first circle of clergy training (henceforth CTP1). I was counseled to finish working on Liturgy Practicum 1 for now, simply so that it wasn’t a waste of 3 months of journaling, but to revisit the journal after I’ve finished the preliminary coursework for clergy training and decide (possibly with the help of my reviewer) if I need to re-do things.

Fortunately I do not have to abandon the Initiate’s Path – the courses that cross over will still cross over, and if I should seek initiation in the future, that path is still open to me.

I won’t lie and say that making this decision was easy. Well, that’s not exactly true – it was easy enough to sign up in the study program tracker, and easy enough to talk to the Preceptor about transferring my work over. But I’m more than a little intimidated by this step, both for the amount of work involved and the amount of scrutiny that I will be subjected to. Still, I’m fairly certain this is what I need to be doing, and the path I need to walk.

I’m going to leave this post tagged with both the Initiate’s Path and the Clergy Training Program. I’m leaving my coursework tagged on the page at the top of the site, and will be starting a second page for my CTP work. At this time I’ve completed Cosmology 1 as my next course to submit, and I’m working on IE Studies. (IE Myth is the course that intimidates me the most right now.)

I’ll continue to post my progress here though, as well as things I’m learning and struggling with. After all, journaling is a big part of this program, and while I can’t share everything publicly, I’ve come to appreciate comments and links that I get through this blog.

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