Posts tagged ‘Unity Unitarian’

Thanks to Atheists, UUism is no longer a Religion

Does anyone make the connection between the lack of ethnic & socio-economic diversity in Unitarian Universalism and what amounts to a suppression and denial of religious ecstasy, mysticism, and ritual? This seems to get occasionally mentioned, but since we only seem to pat ourselves on the back for our theological/spiritual praxis diversity, but not actually discuss and engage with it. We might have to talk about touchy-feely spiritual “woo” stuff, that would be too gosh darned awkward!

OK, I get that we’re typically “low-church” based on our congregationalist & Puritan roots. And we’re big on Enlightenment-style free-thinking and rationality. But I’ve heard stories about U.U. fellowships/societies that made me scratch my head. A group that insisted that lighting candles at Christmas time was “too religious”. OK, even if it’s a purely humanist observation of the Earth’s axial tilt, you can still light candles to celebrate the winter solstice. Light in darkness. It’s not just a religious thing! And another UU fellowship that wouldn’t sing hymns- yes the even the “Yay, We are Privileged New Englanders and Reason & Religious Freedom Are Fabulous!” type ones. They were too worried that music would lead people to be emotional and be easily manipulated and they’d turn into a cult. Or something. So yeah, my favorites in the hymnal tend to be African-American gospel/spirituals, even though I’ve never been enslaved or anything nearly so bad, I feel a lot more connected to that musical tradition when I’m feeling depressed and sheepishly un(der)employed while trying to filter out perky “Get your pledges in!” speeches. Even when we sing a whole service-full of gospel songs, the minister usually has to cajole the stiff-upper lipped white folks into clapping and *really* belting out the Hallelujahs. And I’m pretty sure we’re in no danger of becoming a cult…

People have told me that Unity is the “conservative/traditional/Christian” Unitarian church in the Twin Cities, which my raised-fundamentalist Lutheran fiance finds especially amusing. Probably because of things like…we have a supplemental hymnal for Christmas for the songs that were kicked out of the official UU hymnal for being too Christian..and even those have some theological adjustments from the traditional versions! Atheists whine to me about being offended by references to the super-vague “Ground of Being”, Spirit of Love and Life and what have you…I have serious doubts that this essence is the same deity as YHWH, if it’s a deity at all…I’m sorry, but if you are an atheist (especially an educated white atheist) in the Twin Cities metro, your license to whine about oppression has been officially revoked. There’s the Minnesota Humanists, the Minnesota Atheists, and MN Atheists for Human Rights, the First Unitarian Society which is pretty staunchly humanist, and if that’s still not ungodly enough, the Sunday Assembly meets there once a month. I believe there ought to be space in UUism for a variety of religious viewpoints, including atheism. Problem is, UUs are too wishy-washy. When a UU criticizes New Atheists (i.e. anti-theists) people get mad and claim we’re “oppressing” all atheists. When I came in here as a Pagan & polytheist, I didn’t complain about the default monotheistic/Biblical language. I studied the history of UUism and understood its origins in deeply religious people. I didn’t expect it to meet all of my specific spiritual needs, I was mostly looking for a broader and more stable community. Now there are other Pagans with religious hangovers that act just as bratty as some of the atheists, and conversely there are plenty of atheists who play nicely with the liberal religious heritage of UUism, while carving a slice for themselves- contributing sermons, rites of passage, readings, etc. that fit with their values and beliefs.

I’d suggest everyone take a good look at the history of creating secular religions- whatever term you want to use- you’ll see that they’ve all appealed generally to a relatively small elite, and withered usually after a generation or two.

The Cult of Reason of the French Revolution is long gone. The Ethical Society/Culture isn’t radical enough for the atheist hipsters.  Humanist Judaism remains a small movement, known almost only in the United States, (Alex de Bouton, a French secular Jew who proposed “Religion 2.0” seemed oblivious to its existence) Reform synagogues, which are also often pretty humanist friendly also face a decline as steep as mainline Protestants. Are secular replacements for religion mostly of interest to people with a religious upbringing? Will Sunday Assembly go the way of the Cult of Reason in another generation? On the other hand, there’s always sports- and fandoms of other types!

June 30, 2015 at 11:26 pm 2 comments

Is UUism just my Spiritual Safety Husband?

Th term safety husband (or wife or spouse) refers to a friend that you would consider as a suitable if less than ideal partner to marry, should you not meet the spouse of your dreams, especially by age 40 or 50.  (I could comment about the rather messed-up tyranny of couple-dom that this concept promotes but that’s another post!)

Anyway, I have been wondering if UUism is really just my spiritual community equivalent of a safety spouse. After going thru lots of bad break-ups, I thought well, this “person” is nice, we have enough in common, share the same general values, zie owns a house and lives nearby, it’s a stable place to raise a family. I enjoy our visits together, but still wonder if I need a little more passion and good ritual in my life. Am I really being a good enough partner if my heart isn’t it this enough?

In the Pagan realm, I wonder if to find a stable community I’ll need to compromise and join a coven- there are many well-established ones here. Reclaiming shares a lot of my values, and they have a thriving community. But I don’t think my heart would be in that either. Non-Wiccans/Witches seem so scattered throughout the urban sprawl. Meanwhile I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to practice as a solitary.

Frankly in both settings, I have the similar situation of having people whom I’d consider close acquaintances but not really friends. I have known some of the regulars of the Wiccan Church of Minnesota (WiCoM) since I took a Wicca/Paganism 101 class when I was 16. (My dad signed off on it) They all know me by name, will say “Mariah, how are you doing? Haven’t seen in you in ages!” and even give me a (consensual) hug. There were a couple of people I ran into at Paganicon that wanted to get together for coffee chats. One of them was a person from the Cauldron Forum- several of the same folks that were there last year were present- Veggiewolf, HeartShadow (I know at least some of their actual names, just using the screen names for privacy and in case other folks reading this know them) It turned out one of the Kemetic peeps (sorry, she has a long Egyptian name I can’t remember!) lives not far from me so yay. So maybe I will make some new/old Actual Friends. I also think I should get together with folks on the BOP board and get to know them better.

Just generally continuing to Get a Life is good!

March 19, 2015 at 4:50 am Leave a comment

Finding my Path Again

As Paganicon approaches, I find myself re-evaluating my (rather dormant!) spiritual path. I think for the past year, with the depression, it’s kind of like I’ve been wandering through the mists and need to find the path again, only to find it rather hidden and overgrown. I need to do some weeding, replace broken pavement stones and such. Being a caretaker of an old house, these home maintenance analogies come very easily to mind!

My main focus has had to be managing the depression, becoming active and involved with my communities in a sustainable manner that helps me get away from sitting at home alone stewing in my thoughts. One aspect of that has been becoming a Director of the Bisexual Organizing Project, a way to give myself a job (even if unpaid) with responsibilities that helps me develop my self-confidence and skills. The next step is to psych myself up enough to start looking for work again. I don’t have a specific idea of what I want to do, mainly Please Not Customer Service!!! Or at least not certain types. This time I would like to network with other people with disabilities- particularly learning disabilities/autism/developmental disabilities, and perhaps their family members and so forth.

Anyway, I am ignoring spiritual approaches that others do that don’t seem helpful to my situation (the Put the Gods first type stuff) and looking for ones that do seem helpful. I am looking for spiritual practices that might help me build up my confidence, reduce my anxieties, and re-direct negative though patterns in positive directions. I am not sure if I believe in magic, but if I’m not mistaken there are magical techniques that are more about changing how you think than changing the world around you. Without being totally, The Secret and the power of positive thinking can totally solve your problems!!!

I am also trying to back away from more intense and extreme versions of activism and social justice stuff. I’ve noticed that I feel good about going to meetings and doing things in person, but online discussions have a tendency to get really negative and depressing, so I am avoiding or at least being more selective about participating in them. In particular, climate change/Big Environmental Problems OMG!! are things I avoid, which is difficult because it’s also a big thing at Unity Unitarian. I have sat through at least two sermons about environmental destruction one of which listed in detail all the types of species that were endangered or going extinct that made me cry. It was like, yes I get it, humanity has messed up, and all this bad stuff is happening, but there wasn’t much space in the sermon for redemption, and oh here’s something small and manageable that you can actually do. It just fills you with despair, not a desire to be active. There’s also a lot of elitist baggage involved which is really alienating to someone who doesn’t have much money.

The other political area that I have to get away from for sanity reasons is the anti-capitalism and anarchism. I am not an anarchist, but I hang out with some of them online, and they can be cool people with whom I agree with some things. But a lot of the stuff they write I have to avoid, it’s like drinking a giant depression dose. I am skeptical of capitalism in many ways, and I realize it has a lot of problems but I kind of need to set that aside and well believe in it enough to go find a job, keep it etc. It seems like we’ve gone to the opposite extreme of Keeping Up with the Joneses, to a contest of who can intentionally live the simplest life on the least amount of money, involving the least amount of working for “The Man” and feeling morally superior to people who have regular jobs. When I signed up to be Pagan, that didn’t mean signing up to be poor. Wanting a decent job does not automatically make me Scrooge. I feel like we can’t have real discussions about these things because there is too much political division. Well that was long enough. More on the path development thing another day!

March 6, 2015 at 11:24 pm 7 comments

What I’ve Been Doing Lately

  • Went to annual Bisexual Organizing Project meeting in January, was thinking of signing up to be on a committee or two. There weren’t enough people running in the board election, so I threw my hat in. I won. At-large director, one year term.
  • This an unpaid position, but it has important responsibilities, and involves training, so I figured it would not only be a way to serve my community, but also gain some skills & non-profit experience, so I’d make it my job.
  • Helping plan the BECAUSE conference, April 17-19th serving as the liaison between board & University of Minnesota Queer Student Cultural Center, who is hosting the event.
  • (Tentatively) Will be on a panel presentation about neurodiversity and bisexual & trans* identities
  • This week was busy.
  • Monday- went to a hearing about minimum wage laws (an exception to it for tipped workers)
  • Tuesday- long awaited therapist appointment (had to do some bureaucratic wrangling to get back on Medical assistance) Depressing & anxiety has been getting a lot better- the increasing sun is helping!
  • Wednesday- Wellspring Weds. at Unity Unitarian, delicious dinner and discussion of a book about Unitarian Universalist involvement in the Civil Rights march to Selma (50th anniversary of this March is coming up)
  • Thursday- BOP board meeting
  • Friday-chilling
  • Saturday- Take Action Minnesota‘s annual meeting, then BECAUSE planning meeting.
  • Today I chilled and cleaned the house.
  • Tomorrow, I will *finally* be doing another Erik’s Ranch tour of the St Paul Cathedral, plus a reporter from the Pioneer Press will be there, so hopefully that will lead to more tours!

March 2, 2015 at 6:46 am Leave a comment

Chalica & Charity

I found a different approach to Chalica that I liked. It’s the newly invented UU holiday, consisting of lighting a chalice (or 7 chalices) for 7 nights in the first week of December in honor of each of the 7 Principles of UUism– in case you just “tuned in” to my blog. This Mom shares many different holiday traditions with her kids, and often will acknowledge the first day of a multi-day observance (Chalica, Hannukah, Las Posadas) and discuss it with them over a special meal. I’ve seen various suggestions of simple things to do that tie in with the 7 principles, but if you are trying to do actual volunteer work that would be tricky to schedule all in one week! So instead she suggests spreading Chalica out– doing four different acts of charity that relate to the First Principle- “We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” in December, and then continuing to do that for the other principles in the following months from January thru June.

Since I have a lot more free time than money, I was already thinking of trying to do some volunteer work during December as gifts to my communities. Many charities and non-profits also get frustrated that the Thanksgiving & Yuletide generosity burst peters out, meaning very lean times in summer for many families. After you go thru the 7 principles in whatever manner you choose, you can do more stuff and relate to other values you find meaningful- the Kwanzaa principles, the Beatitudes, the Quaker Testimonies, polytheist virtues and so forth. It’s important to clarify that while the 7 principles are guide us, but they are not a creed or an entire system of ethics. Maybe this isn’t really Chalica so much as a plan for how live out your Unitarian Universalist values!

While poking around old Pagan/polytheist posts about Yule vs. Consumermas- I found this very insightful comment from PSVL (Lupus for short) “One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

I do think children need toys- but frankly throughout history, most of the time non-aristocratic children just made their own toys. Toymaking as a craft or industry is pretty recent. Heck, so is the concept of childhood! What is important though, is that children have safe items to play with that stimulate their imagination, creativity and help them learn about and explore our world in a developmentally appropriate way (based on individual child, not the age of the child). Often-times low-tech *and durable* is better. Building toys. Dolls & action figures (for all genders) that don’t need batteries, the kid gets to imagine what they can do *without* batteries.  One of the funnest “toys” when I was a kid was a big refrigerator box! This makes me sound like a mean grown-up, but buying kids what they say they want isn’t necessarily the greatest idea. Is it really what they will spend a lot of time enjoying and get a lot out of? Or is it just the most advertised toy that all their peers seemingly have, so they have to have it!

Unity Unitarian Church has a “Mitten Tree” each year, that people can add articles of warm clothing to (including our Uknitarian club!) We also collect- not just in winter but throughout the year, personal care items (small shampoo bottles) clothing, money for bus passes and other things to help people who are coming out of prison and returning to society to help them out as part of the Amicus Reconnect program. Many other places of worship, schools, non-profits (both religious & secular) have similar programs.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

Covenant Theology & UUism- Intro

Unity Unitarian has a worship theme for each month- November’s is Covenant. This is an important idea in UU history and theology that has its origins in Calvinism and the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Since I was raised Methodist and later attended a Lutheran college, before joining Unity my understanding of covenant was primarily that of the historical covenant between the Hebrew people and YHWH. The idea that in return for following only God (or placing him before other Gods), they would have his special protection as his chosen people. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, God makes several covenants with different patriarchs on behalf of their family or people- Adam, Noah, Moses and David. These covenants are repeatedly broken, and God punishes humanity as a whole, or the people of Israel specifically, but then forgives them and makes a new covenant.

Some Christians believe in a New Covenant between God and Christians as the new chosen people- some see this as replacing God’s covenant with the Jewish people (supersesessionism). This is not the type of covenant that Unitarians believe in, especially considering we don’t believe in the doctrine of substitutionary atonement- the idea that Jesus “stood in” for all of humanity to atone for our collective sin.

Basically to sum up relevant history- Unitarianism arose in Transylvania & Hungary, Poland (the Socinians) and spread to England. Meanwhile Congregationalist churches had been founded in the Plymouth Colony & the Massachusetts Bay Colony by both Puritans & Calvinist Presbyterians. Some of them became influenced by Unitarian theology from England. So how does this connect with covenant theology? The founders of the Plymouth Colony wrote the Mayflower Compact together as an agreement of self-governance. They made a commitment to each other as a community. Really this document is a cross between the secular social contract (a tradition going back to the Magna Carta) and the covenant, because it was seen as an agreement between the people themselves, as well as between the people and God.

However, since Unitarian Universalists as a whole are rather “sorta kinda maybe?” about the existence of God, is the idea of covenant still relevant to us? This question has been raised, particularly by humanist/atheist UUs (one person I’ve been conversing with online claims the use of covenant is reflective of a “fetish” for Christocentric language) I’m not sure I agree with that, but it does raise a valid question. I’m also interested in comparing the idea of covenant to similar concepts in polytheistic religions. Stay tuned for more!

November 14, 2014 at 1:20 am Leave a comment

Black Friday (the Service not the Sale)

Recalling a conversation from several years ago….

“They’re having a Black Friday service”, I told my Lutheran boyfriend about my church.

“Wha- but they’re Unitarians, I didn’t think they’d observe Good Friday, and besides, it’s the wrong time of year.” he said.

“No, honey not Good Friday- Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, when all the big sales start. It’s a special service to protest consumerism.” I explained

“As much as I hate holiday consumerism, it’s not really a spiritual occasion, is it?” He furrowed his brow, both puzzled and bemused by those goofy Unitarians.

No, it isn’t. Which is part of why I’m not going. Besides, I don’t need to be lectured about the evils of consumerism when I am actually working the Black Friday sale! After all, it’s the entire reason I had this job at Jo-Ann Fabric in the first place- excess consumerism during the holidays. The extra irony, was Unity encourages people to either make gifts or re-use stuff they have or buy used items, and here I am working in a craft and fabric store. I know they mean well, but this is one of those things they just don’t get.  Voluntary simplicity is nice idea, but I don’t need to go to a workshop to learn about it. Try mandatory simplicity that is my life, that is a lot of people’s lives, even more so than my own.

Last year while working at Macy’s I was thinking it might be nice to have some type of contemplative type service for people who have to work for the Capitalist Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Something to numb the pain- isn’t that what religion is supposed to, at least a little? I didn’t get things together enough to do it, but I think I will make the suggestion this year.

Last year, I got a call from an organization I work with, that was having a protest by Target (right in my neighborhood) for being open on Thanksgiving, and boycotts were called for against the stores that were doing it including, Macy’s where I was working, and had volunteered to work overnight for some extra pay. So, instead of protesting that people are being expected to work on Thanksgiving, just in general ask why are these people not paid more? Why do they not get good benefits- whether from their employers or the state? Why isn’t good quality affordable childcare available in this country? Why do people go to work sick? Why are so many disabled people who want to work unemployed? We love convenience- our 24 hour 365 days a week open stores, when one of them in closed for a day, oh no, how will we survive?

Well, how is it that America’s workers are surviving? So yeah. Live simply so that others can simply live- keep on with liberal do-gooding, I’m all for it, sure. But we can’t all work for non-profits, we can’t all be teachers and lawyers and all the Following Your Truly Meaningful Vocation type jobs that Unitarians and other liberals approve of. When you consider which charities to donate to this holiday season, and the whole year for that matter, consider also investing in businesses that are pay and treat their employees well, value life/work balance, that recruit and train people with disabilities, people with criminal histories that want to be a part of society, single parents, people who may have less education but still have plenty of skills and experience to offer, older workers, immigrants, young people who want a real start in their lives. Help build sustainable jobs and hold employers and investors accountable and we can build a community! Because without good jobs, we can’t donate to the church, or to save the rainforest or do any number of important things. We can only take care of ourselves and our families, and survival is not selfishness.

October 21, 2014 at 1:14 am 1 comment

UUism: Interfaith by default

On Wild Hunt the question was asked of several Pagan/polytheist leaders-

Is Interfaith work necessary or a distraction? 

Both broader interfaith (Paganism + Abrahamic + Dharmic + indigenous religions etc) and interfaith within the “Pagan umbrella” were affirmed by various leaders as being important. A further level is intrafaith, one commenter pointed out the work (he? she?) does among different types of Heathenry. I like what Sannion had to say, that it depends on what work an individual is called to do. 

Unitarian Universalism is of course a interfaith religious structure/value system/philosophy unto itself. I think the time has come for us to stop presenting Paganism a giant blob and talk about individual religions. Paganism’s entry point into UUism was via the feminist movement, specifically in classes called “Rise Up and Call Her Name” and “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” that studied goddesses from around the world as well as rising awareness of ecological issues and their spiritual dimensions. As a result sometimes there is an assumption that it’s a “women’s spirituality” group. (There is a “Women’s Wisdom” group at Unity Unitarian*, but I haven’t gone to it, so I don’t really know what it entails.)

From what I’ve noticed around Unity, a lot of people have very loose spiritual identifications beyond UU, they are just sort of generically spiritually, or agnostic, or tentatively exploring different religions and philosophies. I’ve noticed that when an opportunity comes up to learn about a specific religion many people are very interested and curious, including my partner who doesn’t normally attend services. I came to Unity with more of an expectation that different religions would be discussed each Sunday, and perhaps passages from different holy texts might be used, but for the most part music, sermons and readings are chosen to fit in with a monthly worship theme. Specific religions are referenced here and there, but for the most part it’s kept pretty general. 

I’ve never been that interested in trying to form a CUUPs group at Unity because I didn’t want something that was super spiritually generic. I’m already at a Unitarian church, and I also have the luxury of a good-sized Pagan community and I can celebrate Wiccan style Sabbats with them if I want. (For some folks, the UUs are the only Pagan-friendly option in their area) I would be interested in a discussion group of some sort- heck I’d be interested in that in a general Pagan context too, but I suspect I’d have an easier time getting UUs to actually show up! However if I were to start such a thing, I could certainly advertise within the broader community. It doesn’t help however that there was at one time a CUUPS leader in the Twin Cities who developed a bad reputation among the general Pagan community. I don’t know how much I’ve heard is rumor, and how much is truth, however. I’m also not sure if the CUUPs chapter is still active. If they are, I haven’t noticed much outreach from them to the broader Pagan community.  Oddly enough, the church is based in is known for being really humanist. (Whereas at Unity people seem capable of using God-talk without flinching)

I’ve met a couple of people at Unity who identified as “Earth-based” while not going into specifics and plenty of others who express a general spiritual connection with nature. Heck plenty of people feel that, no Pagan community is required! There is one lady who is very into the Goddess/Divine Feminine, I suspect in a more psychological Jungian New Agey sort of way. Another lady is really big into astrology. So yeah, I’m not sure where to start here!

*Note Unity Unitarian Church in St. Paul, MN not to be confused with Unity Church, the New Thought Christian denomination!

August 29, 2014 at 10:40 pm 8 comments

Goals for 2014

Goals I’ve already started on:

*Communicating/getting together with Gaeltacht MN classmates to study Irish. After several weeks of cancellations due to weather, holidays etc. my classmate Sue & I picked a day, time and place for our first meeting, as well as topics to focus on.

*Kickstarting devotional practice- I began participating in Sassafras Grove, ADF’s annual “Brighid along” in which they share prayers and devotional practice for 9 different aspects of Brighid in the nine days/nights leading up to their Brigantia ritual. I heard about this on one of the ADF lists and signed up for their Facebook page to participate. So far I’ve just been reading prayers from my tablet, but that’s a start. My long-neglected altar is decorated for the harvest season, and I need to take down my Yule tree downstairs before I can really celebrate Imbolc properly.  I also am sporadically reading prayers from Book of Hours: Prayers to the Goddess by Galen Gillotte. A new group devoted to Brighid has emerged called Clann Bhride– some folks from the Cauldron forum are involved with it. I’m really interested in taking part in it, and I downloaded their Book of Hours- beautiful prayers and lots of really neat ideas!

*Doing creative stuff- I’m regularly writing on this blog, but would like to get back into crafty-ness. Would be great to combine this with devotion to Brighid. Went to the Crafty Geek meetup a couple weeks ago for the first time, and did a little work on making greeting cards.  That one also connects with the goal of connecting with friends/family. But Crafty Geek meets on Thursdays, which is when we’ve scheduled the Irish study. However, there is a knitting group meeting on Wednesdays, and it is also much closer to where I live & work. I was planning on going to both of them this week, but ended up needing to be at home to show the house to potential tenants (we have the room filled now though!)

Other goals:

*Connect more with family & friends locally and long-distance.  CuteHobbitBoy & I both have relatives that live either close by close enough for a day’s visit, we also have friends that we’ve lost touch with.  Come up with a plan on how to do this (birthday get-togethers, Skype, phone, texting, greeting cards.

*Keep moving in direction of health/finance-wise being able to have kids

*Figure out how I want to be involved in ADF & Unity, and  create plans on how to make it happen.

*Social justice activism- what do I want to do/how do I want to be involved?

I have so many hobbies & interests it’s tricky to figure out how to balance them!

February 2, 2014 at 12:11 am Leave a comment

(Don’t Stop) Believing

As I look back at the past year and a half, much of it seems like a blur. I do have to say though, now it does seem like my life is actually going somewhere, I do not feel as stuck as I did a couple years ago. I realize now that it was a choice to see myself as stuck. My employment status does not define my life, but I was letting it. I put aspects of my relationship on hold, my spiritual life on hold while I meandered thru endless job-hunting.  The Gods didn’t seem to answer my prayers when I asked for help, so I stopped believing in them. But what I really stopped believing in was myself. The funny thing is, after I had really drifted away from my spiritual path, doors started opening for me. I found a position doing research for an organization, and while the project ended in December 2011, I was invited to become an Experience Guide for a new program they were trying out, beginning in May 2012. I’ve been doing that work ever since, and and the social skills I’ve learned help me in the additional job I found in August. I’m working about 20-30 hrs a week at a department store, and I’ve been enjoying it pretty well. So perhaps an atheist would say that all this shows that I don’t need Gods after all. Maybe, but that’s not the message I’m getting out of this. I do believe that we all need to make our own efforts, the Gods don’t just rain down blessings on us when we don’t do anything to help ourselves.  I needed to learn to become more confident and believe in myself, before I could really believe in powers beyond myself.

For the past couple years, I’d become involved with an independent Druid grove. It seemed a great fit, I felt comfortable with the people, and even took their introductory class, along with two other students. We were hoping to eventually become dedicants and initiates, but that was not to be. Winter 2012 if I recall correctly now, each of us were told that we would no longer be a part of the grove. This was really disappointing. I was kind of expecting it, as I knew the leaders were planning on moving too far away to be leading a Twin Cities based grove. But the way they talked to me about it was strange, something about how my magical energy “wasn’t right”. I got this phone call on a Sunday morning and considered skipping church because I was feeling too down about it. My fiance convinced me otherwise, and indeed I did feel quite better after I went to Unity. I may have doubts about Unity sometimes but one thing I do feel certain about them is that they are there for me when I need them. Pagan groups come and go, (depending on how you count it’s my 5th one) but Unity has been around a century and isn’t about to disappear in a puff of air.  I’ve been struggling to figure out why most of these Pagan group-organizing attempts haven’t worked, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a lack of commitment on the part of the participants. Unfortunately, I fear the people who are more committed keep getting burned by slackers and give up, even after many attempts. Unity on the other hand, does have many committed volunteers and donors, but they also expect that as part of membership. If Pagan groups have no real expectation of commitment, then they will continue to fail. We can be understanding that some people have more time to offer, and some people have more money to offer, or good ritual space, or vehicles to share transportation, or skills in ritual planning, performing, media relations, counseling, spirit-work, finance and legal skills, and so forth. We all have something we can contribute, we should not be afraid to ask for contributions of many kinds.

I think sometimes Unity is a little heavy-handed about asking for money, and I feel like I’m forced to think about my pocketbook more than I’d like to when I go there, but they do emphasize that other contributions matter, and I give a little a month and try to remind myself that the pledge-nagging is more for people that actually can pay taxes.  I could certainly volunteer more, though a barrier for me is that I can’t plan out my work schedule very far in advance.  So long as I’m an “extra hand on deck” rather than a committee head, I can still sign up for things.

So I think we can find a happy medium between the Pagan-means-no-strings-attached mentality and the Must Give Everything to Church mentality (which Unity does not have- I am probably more sensitive based on my socioeconomic status relative to many other people in the church) Way more thoughts on community organizing but that’s it for now!

January 29, 2014 at 9:24 am Leave a comment


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September 2022
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