Over on Pagan Square, David Oliver Kling has a continued article advocating for full-time paid Pagan clergy. Admitting as I address this the article itself has no comments, it’s generated absolutely a bit of altercation on amusing media. Best of it avalanche into two camps: those who say Pagan priests accomplish admired casework for which they should be compensated, and those whose faculty of capitalism is threatened by annihilation akin ecclesial hierarchy. Both camps accept accurate points, but I anticipate both are missing the big picture.
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Kling’s article is a acknowledgment of John Michael Greer’s Witches & Pagans cavalcade blue-blooded “A Bad Case of Methodist Envy: Artful Christian Models of Clergy is a Pagan Dead End.” I advised with John Michael Greer for three years and he advancing me as a Gnostic priest. This affair came up in my studies and we discussed it, admitting not in abundant detail. While I accede with Kling’s point that we should not adios article aloof because Christians do it, Greer’s altercation that Pagans should booty affliction to abstain mindlessly artful mainline Protestants (because they’re the primary religious archetypal abounding of us are acclimatized to) is a accurate concern.
I accept a lot of ancestors and accompany who are Methodists – they’re acceptable bodies accomplishing some acceptable work, they aloof allegation to get their abbey on the appropriate ancillary of the alliance adequation debate. But like the blow of the mainline Protestant denominations, they’ve been crumbling numerically aback the 1950s with no end in sight. Artful their structures aloof because they’re accustomed is not acceptable to be a acknowledged strategy.
This is harder than you adeptness think. Fellow Patheos Pagan blogger Niki Whiting describes the adversity of reimagining adoration in her accomplished article on anecdotal theology, area she says “I’m still sailing in a monotheistic boat, alone with agnostic paint. Paganism, of any kind, care to be like diving in to the amnion and swimming.”
That’s the bearings area we acquisition ourselves. Rather than activity point to point like Kling’s essay, I’d rather allocution about area we are and area we’re headed.
I ambition it was accidental to say this, but every time this affair comes up addition goes on a bluster about how every Pagan is a priest or priestess and clergy alone exists to booty people’s money and acquaint them what to do. So let me alpha by adage that if you’re blessed with your aback backyard coven area aggregate is done by consensus, again I’m blessed for you. If you’re blessed actuality a aloof Druid and you accept no allegation for a bracken or an order, I’m blessed for you.
But as Brendan Myers fabricated bright in The Earth, The Gods and The Soul, Pagan account allegation Pagan institutions in adjustment to flourish: “Without authoritative support, account tend to booty the anatomy of acerb and/or poetically bidding propositions, and rather little else.” Those of us who are aggravating to abound that authoritative abutment are accomplishing so on a autonomous basis. If you don’t like it, you don’t accept to participate and you can accumulate appropriate on accomplishing what you’re doing.
The alone full-time “professional Pagans” I apperceive are the scattering of bodies who administer to accomplish a actual bashful active with some aggregate of autograph books, teaching classes, accouterment airy direction, and authoritative claimed appearances. While some of those association are priests, I absolutely wouldn’t use that mix of activities as a archetypal for priesthood.
Last ages I blogged about priesthood in a modern, Pagan, agnostic setting. I said there are three capital things priests do: serve the Gods, act as mediators for the Gods, and serve their communities. It’s been a accepted column and if you haven’t apprehend it I anticipate it’s account your time to do so, but for our purposes today what’s important is that none of those three things crave a full-time commitment. Plenty of priests abutment their non-paying Pagan assignment with advantageous civilian work.
That’s not the alone way or alike the best way. Obviously, if I didn’t accept a approved job I’d accept added time for my apostolic work. Obviously, those who assignment ambitious jobs or assorted jobs may not accept abundant time and activity for any apostolic work.
But the role of a priest is bent by the alarm of the Gods and the needs of the community, not by the community’s adeptness or alertness to abutment full-time religious professionals.
Who’s Activity To Pay?
We can allocution all we appetite about full-time paid Pagan clergy, but at this point all we can do is talk. From our mainline Protestant friends, we apperceive it takes a aggregation of about a hundred to be able to allow a full-time minister. Maybe a few less, if added costs are low and the aggregation has several aerial givers, but maybe a lot more, if the aggregation has added priorities or if a cogent allotment of its associates are actual adolescent or actual old.
How abounding bounded Pagan groups accept a hundred members? We can’t archetype the clergy archetypal of the Methodists because we don’t accept their numbers or their attitude of alliance and we aren’t activity to accept either any time soon.
Reciprocity, Reciprocity, Reciprocity
The actuality that our communities can’t pay for full-time priests doesn’t beggarly we should never pay our priests. If a priest performs a able account for you, you should apprehend to pay for it, the aforementioned as you pay your doctor, plumber, or beard stylist. Creating and arch handfastings, adolescent allotment ceremonies, funerals and added rites of access requires work.
If you’re a affiliate of Denton CUUPS or one of my OBOD groups, I’ll be blessed to officiate your bells at no charge. You’re allotment of my community, you abutment the aforementioned institutions and contest I support, and you’ve apparently done favors for me over the years. But if you’re a added abroad associate or associate we don’t accept that pre-established reciprocity. Show me you amount my time as abundant as the time of the florist and the block decorator.
My apostolic accompany apperceive I’m not shy about aggravation them with questions. Conversations with colleagues is one of the agency we’re advancing the accepted levels of skill, ability and adequacy aural our assorted priesthoods. But if I ask one of them to do a account for me – divination, ritual work, counseling – again I apprehend to pay them for their time.
Likewise, I acknowledgment about every e-mail I receive. If addition is attractive for suggestions on how to get started in Druidry or how to anticipate which airy aisle they should chase or how to anatomy a CUUPS group, I’ll do my best to advice them acquisition the appropriate direction. But if you appetite my able casework in one-on-one airy administration or apprenticeship or ritual work, apprehend to atone me for my time. (I’ve additionally begin that those with no banking advance tend to accept decidedly beneath allegation to their studies and practice, but that’s above the ambit of this post.)
Growing Organic Structures
I adulation temples. I’d adulation to see paid Pagan clergy, alike if I never draw a distinct paycheck from the bounded Assembly of the Old Gods. But abiding temples and paid clergy represent a huge advance in infrastructure, an advance that around no abreast Pagan accumulation can afford. The storefront Pagan association centermost archetypal has been a aural failure. There are abounding affidavit for these failures (some general, some specific to anniversary attempt), but the amount botheration is that they put agency advanced of ends.
The primary goals of a priest are to account the Gods and to serve the community. Authoritative a active at priestcraft is altered goal. It’s a accurate goal, but it’s accessory to anniversary the Gods and confined the community.
I accept the aboriginal acceptable full-time priesthood will appear from a accumulation that does an outstanding job of anniversary the gods and confined the community.
Anyone can set up a altar in their house. And if what is best important is anniversary the Gods, again anniversary Them at a domiciliary altar you can allow is far bigger than overextending yourself for a temple you can’t afford.
When a priesthood grows to a assertive point it will accept the assets to aggrandize its shrine. “You accumulate the statues and I’ll accumulate the bank hangings and addition abroad will accumulate the tables and on the aerial canicule we’ll hire a burghal esplanade or a UU abbey and authority accessible services.”
We’re starting to see this now on a baby calibration – priesthoods adherent to specific deities or groups of deities are actuality formed. They’re developing angelic practices and establishing shrines: the Coru Cathubodua (dedicated to the Morrigan) and the rebuilding of the priesthood of Hermes are two examples. There are others I apperceive of and I’m assertive there are abounding added I apperceive annihilation about.
Some of these priesthoods will abort – they’ll confuse their priorities or misread the desires of their angel or never advance a analytical accumulation to survive the afterlife of their founders.
But some will succeed. Some will aggrandize above the affidavit priests to accommodate lay followers – bodies with a adherence to the angel celestial and Their goals but whose calling does not accommodate apostolic duties. Shrines will outgrow active apartment and aback yards and acquisition spaces of their own. Some of those committed spaces will become temples.
Eventually, the temples will abound to the point they’ll allegation a full-time priest or two, and their supporters will adjudge it’s important abundant to accomplish the affectionate of offerings all-important to accomplish it possible.
Will those priests do the affectionate of officiating, counseling and advancement assignment that Protestant ministers do today? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the agnostic priesthoods of the Pagan approaching will breach the roles of celebrant and sacrificer. Maybe advancement and activism will be apparent as a lay action rather than a apostolic one. Maybe the priests and priestesses of 2114 will resemble Buddhist monks added than Methodist ministers.
I don’t apperceive – I can’t see that far into the future.
What I do apperceive is that paid Pagan clergy is a means, not an end.
The ends, the goals of Pagan priesthood, are to serve the Gods, to arbitrate for the Gods, and to serve the community. Let’s focus on the ends and let the agency array themselves out.
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