Almost a year ago, I organized and led a panel at Paganicon called “Pagan Clergy: How to Welcome Sex Offenders and Ex-Felons into Our Communities.” The overall convention theme was Through the Looking Glass: a Journey to the Underworld, so shedding light on marginalized communities within the larger Pagan community seemed appropriate. We do not always see what is beneath in the underworld until we begin looking. As a religious group leader and prison minister, I wanted to see how the larger community would respond to the most frequent question posed by the incarcerated: where can I go to ritual, or where can I find a group once I get out? The panel was a rudimentary attempt to bring together in an unofficial capacity representatives from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), clergy who serve in prison ministry, and the larger community at Paganicon for a long-overdue discussion on what the reception of formerly incarcerated would be in our community.
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Modern Paganism has matured to where we now have rituals and specialists to help us deal with many of life’s changes and challenges from a religious standpoint. The happy events were first. We have clergy ready to help us get married or handfasted; midwives to assist us in giving birth, and perform naming ceremonies for babies. We also have rituals and spiritual specialists for the tough times. There are ceremonies used for divorce; and we have specific funeral rites. We also have prison and military chaplains, and a growing number of death midwives to help ease us from this world to the next.
Building a Pagan temple or employing full time clergy may be easier, and more difficult, than people think. It appears that if you have a core group of three to five devoted people willing to dedicate at least ten years of their life and to make monthly donations, your dreams of Pagan infrastructure can come true. In this two part series, The Wild Hunt will look at several successful projects in order to see what they have in common. And, we’ll also look at a failed Pagan community center to see what went wrong. Today, in part one, we’ll focus on the larger projects, such as a temple and an archival library.