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Posts Tagged ‘vocation’

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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I’ve been sitting with my lack of knowledge a lot lately, inspired in part by conversations with Rev. William Ashton, ADF’s newest ordained priest (and someone I’m coming to call a friend, which is pretty neat). There’s just a lot I don’t know, and as someone who is obsessively academic (especially in school-type situations) this bothers me on a deep level. And yet, philosophically, I know that learning and discovery happen on the interface of what is known and what is unknown.

So I have been encouraged to really allow the discomfort of not knowing things to be present, in the hopes of becoming more comfortable with it. Because there’s just so much out there to know, and knowing what you don’t know is the first step towards learning.

In reality, I’ve been a practicing Druid just shy of two years, a practicing Pagan for close to ten. I have completed only the most rudimentary study program that ADF offers and am only just beginning the real coursework of the Initiate’s Path. The ancient Druids were the intelligentsia of their societies, and I’d like my own modern practice to follow in those footsteps (once I’ve done more of it, obviously), but I am still, essentially, a newbie, and there is a LOT that I don’t know. And yet I’m (co)leading a study group – something I think I’m singularly unqualified to do – and trying my best to steer these potential dedicants (and other assorted studiers of things Druidic) into productive and useful practices, and get them acquainted with as much knowledge as they are interested in pursuing.

And on top of that, just this last week, in a discussion about the priesthood and ADF’s clergy training program, one of my groupmates looked me square in the face and said “So are you planning on doing that?” I stammered out something incoherent, and Yngvi replied for me, “Eventually.” I can’t deny I have a calling to it in some form. I know what it means to be a minister (my grandfather is one), and yet I’ve still toyed with ministry (in various forms) in every spiritual pursuit I’ve ever undertaken, from contemplating Methodist seminary, to considering whether I had a Catholic vocation, to pursuing Wiccan initiation, and now to pursuing initiation and possibly clergy training under ADF’s model. In every spiritual path I’ve been part of, I have seriously considered ministry or priest(ess)hood in some form. (I take this to mean that my calling is to serve the folk, not to serve a particular God or set of gods, but that’s just my own interpretation.) Whether that calling will be satisfied with initiation or not, only time will tell. I just don’t know right now.

For some reason that bothers me. I like control, and planning ahead, and knowing where I’m going. I want cold, hard answers to things that just don’t have cold hard answers. The idea that the path will reveal itself as it is walked just makes me inherently uneasy. But the reality is? Two years ago I wouldn’t have ever guessed I’d be where I am (and neither would anyone else I knew, for that matter), so who knows where I’ll be in two years, let alone five or more. (At this rate, still working on the IP; I really need to get moving.)

Until then, though, I can add in the CTP retreat days to help strengthen my spiritual practice, do the coursework, keep my practice alive, and just see where things end up.

And when someone asks me something I don’t know the answer to? Well, that’s just more time to practice this virtue of not knowing.

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