[Today we welcome our newest columnist, Mary Shoup. Mary lives in Washington State, where she volunteers for the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. She recently graduated from Western Washington University’s Huxley College with a degree in Environmental Studies/Journalism and currently works full-time as an editor. Her monthly column #Pagan will focus on the youngest sectors of our collective communities, with articles that highlight their work and discuss their concerns. Welcome, Mary.]
Millennials have grown up in a constant state of change. With the seemingly never-ending release of the newest and biggest gadget, and the steady influx of information, we have become accustomed to changes that appear to come out of nowhere.
Having grown up in that near-constant flux, we have learned that it’s not hard to push for change one way or another. It only takes a few people standing up and saying “This isn’t the way it should be” to get others moving in a new direction. Through our history books, we saw this happen with Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X – cases in which a few strong voices motivated a nation into action.As a generation, Millennials have started to address issues of money in politics, empowering the homeless, and much more. We’ve been vocal in the big issues and not backed down, demanding change in response to tragic events, such as the events currently in Ferguson, Hong Kong and Mexico.
Change has become an integral part of the millennial generation through embracing it, much like how Wicca, as I learned it, embraces change as a core tenant.
With the recent deaths of Margot Adler and Pete Pathfinder Davis, many Pagan communities have been forced to see the changes that they have gone through over the past few decades. We are no longer made up of the same groups of people that were once fighting for the right to exist. We exist. We are, in many ways, recognized. Now we need to look forward into the future, and see what more we can do.
And that’s where we are headed. The newest generation of postulants and dedicants are Millennials, those who have embraced the ever-changing nature of our world and have tried to fill whatever needs are seen. My own college group Western Washington University Pagans holds quarterly fundraisers, donating half of what is raised such as, Planned Parenthood or the Whatcom Humane Society. The group also has representatives sitting on the WWU interfaith panel, Ask Us Anything. We saw a need to reach out, to donate and to have more representation, and we fulfilled it.
At the same, Millennials have never known many of the early leaders in their prime. People exploring, dedicating or beginning clergy-training now will never have known Isaac Bonewits or Morning Glory Zell-Ravenhart, or if they have met them, it wasn’t quite in their glory days.
I met Pete Davis a handful of times before his death. And, from all accounts, I never really met him. By the time I did, he no longer had the energy to talk for hours on the phone with community leaders. I will always be left saying, yes, I knew him, but not as well as I would have liked.
However, these elders and leaders of the past have left behind a legacy, one that will write their history. Millennials will learn from that history, through the rose-colored glasses of their students. While we’ll never know exactly what they would have said in response to current events, we can speculate. And, the generation in between, our current leaders, can be both our greatest ally in this or one of our biggest hurdles. Hopefully they will bridge the gap and enable Millennials to make their dreams possible.
It’s a daunting prospect, to be moving forward not quite knowing if the direction we’re taking is the direction that those early leaders intended.But that’s okay.
Because while we should never forget what those early leaders struggled through to get us to where we are today, there is a time to move forward. Millennials will bring the concept of change, one that we’ve grown up with, into our spiritual practices. We will form our own ideas, and voice our own opinions with regards to the present. When we’ve done that, we will grow and expand beyond our founders’ and leaders’ wildest dreams.
Belladonna Laveau, the archpriestess of the ATC, has a saying, “When you see a need, it’s the Goddess’ way of saying it’s your duty to fill that need.” Millennials, as a generation, have already internalized this. We’ve come to realize that change is possible, and that if we want it to happen, we need to step up and fill that need.
So what needs do Millennials see? There are so many, varied and determined by the community around us. We will find the needs specific to our own areas, like WWU Pagans did. We will be that change we wish to see in the world. And we should never forget – it’s our world, our religion, now.