I am but a bug…

Musings of a Wiccan Christian Heretic Pastor

“No.” is a complete sentence.

Here is a radical notion: you have the right to say “No” to a Deity (or any other Spirit) and/or tell them to bugger off.

No, really.

You can tell Yaweh, Jesus, the Dagda, Morrigan, Diana, Cerridwen, Hecate, Pan, Cerrnunos, Aradia, Baphomet, Melek T’aus, Ganesh, Buddha, or any other deity or spirit “No.”

You can say no to them even if they are being really pushy and you’re feeling like you can’t say no.

Now, here’s the thing:

If you trust the Deity you are working with, and your will and moral compass line up with what the Deity is asking of you, then by all means, follow the path if you wish to.

Or, even if you don’t completely trust the Deity, you’re allowed to work with them anyway. But as a someone who works with Deity, you have a responsibility to decide if what is being asked of you, or if the messages you are being asked to relay, is something you should either do or relay.

There have been many times that I’ve gotten information from Spirit that the Spirit in question really wanted me to tell the other person. However, there have been times where I didn’t relay the message because it would either be damaging for the person to hear it, or it was something I knew they wouldn’t “hear”.

Sometimes I’ve had a Deity want me to do something when I’ve been ill, or been in a place where it wouldn’t have been good for me to do the work. I’ve had to tell the Deity “No, I can’t do that now.” I’ve also had to tell some Deities “No, I don’t feel comfortable working with you.”

A lot of times we talk about how we are “in relationship” with a particular deity, and I think that’s what it is: a relationship. In any relationship, we have the right to say “No” when our needs aren’t being met, or if it’s doing us harm, or if we need to take care of our own health and safety.

And sometimes, we take a chance, in faith, to do what they ask.

But that’s how relationships work, right?

Holy Saturday Service — April 19, 12-3 pm at City of Refuge UCC

Originally posted on Between the Worlds Church:

Between the Worlds Church presents: Three Hours Agony — Holy Saturday, April 19, 2014, 12:00-3:00 pm at City of Refuge UCC

Come meditate, pray, and sit vigil for Jesus in the time between His Death and Resurrection. Each hour will have a visual meditation on the Stations of the Cross and time for silence, with Sarah Thompson performing live, meditative music. This service is come as you will: stay for as long or as short as you need to. What will you leave in the tomb?

If you have any questions about the service, please contact us.

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Between the Worlds Bulletin for April

Hope you’ve all had a good Equinox and that Lent is going well for you! I gave up chocolate for Lent, so it’s been a bit rough in patches, but overall, very interesting.

Before I get to the announcements, I’d like to thank everyone again who came out for my ordination on March 15th! It was truly amazing! And also thank you to everyone who was there in Spirit! You all are awesome, and I’m grateful for your blessings and support!

Between the Worlds is moving to City of Refuge!

Starting this month, the 3rd Saturday services will be held at City of Refuge UCC, 8400 Enterprise Way, Oakland. If any church members would like to help with set up or take down for services, please email me and I will send you more details. We could definitely use help, as we have a lot of equipment to set up, especially for the Holy Saturday service!

Call for Deacons:

I’m still looking for 1 or 2 people to fill the Deacon role. For now, being a deacon mostly means helping with set up and take down of the space, organizing the social hour after service, and assisting in rituals as needed. This is an official position of the church, and if you feel so called to serve, please let me know!

Three Hours Agony — Holy Saturday, April 19, 2014, 12:00-3:00 pm

Come meditate, pray, and sit vigil for Jesus in the time between His Death and Resurrection. Each hour will have a visual meditation on the Stations of the Cross and time for silence, with Sarah Thompson performing live, meditative music. This service is come as you will: stay for as long or as short as you need to. What will you leave in the tomb?

Beltane and Resurrection: The Sacred Body — May 17, 2014, 3:00 pm

Come celebrate the sacred body with dance, drum, and song! We are the temples that the Spirits dwell in! Bring your drums and your comfortable clothes! Service starts at 3:00 pm, with social time afterwards. There will be gluten free Eucharist.

Summer Solstice —June 21, 2014, 3:00 pm

Our June service is on Litha, or Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. More information to come!

Possible South Bay Venue

This week I met with the fantastic vicar of St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Cupertino to explore the possibility of using one to their rooms for a South Bay service. If it happens, these services would be on the first Saturday of the month, and be pretty much the same at the 3rd Saturday services. There’s nothing definite yet, but once I have more news, I’ll let you know.

Please give!

Your cash donations allow us to hold services and do the work we need to do! Even a dollar will help towards our costs. So, when you see the donation bucket during service, please give what you can! And if you can’t give, you can give of your prayers or service! Thank you for all that you do!

So, that’s all for this month! I will post these via email and on our Facebook page. You can also subscribe to the google calendar here. Also, in June (after graduation!) I’ll be launching a new website for Between the Worlds Church! Also keep watch for service opportunities at City of Refuge!

Many Blessings and hope to see you all on Holy Saturday!

Proof is Irrelevant nor Required

I got into a bit of a thing on Facebook the other day. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to do such things as they usually are like talking to stones, but after my initial response, my verbal sparring partner asked:

Fair enough, now is there any sort of evidence for the existence of the Christian God?

I’ve heard this question a good deal, particularly from atheists. How do we know that God, or the Gods, exists? Where is the proof that there is a being, greater than ourselves, that does anything?

My question is: why do I have to prove it to you? Do you want to learn why I believe as I do? I could certainly talk about that. But they are my beliefs about the Gods. I can’t speak for the whole of Christianity or the whole of Wicca, nor can anyone else, really. The Gods are real enough to me. If you don’t believe in my, or anyone else’s, idea of God, it doesn’t worry me one bit.

As a pastor and priest, it’s not my job to prove the existence of God, or Jesus for that matter. It is my job to help people find their own ways to follow their own path. If that path leads to atheism, that’s fine. If it leads them to Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other path. That’s all to the good, as far as I’m concerned.

The thing, I think, that a lot of people forget is that religions are not monoliths. No religion has only one “pure” form. Most religions have many different traditions. According to Wikipedia, there are an estimated 41,000 denominations of Christianity. There are probably hundreds of traditions of Wicca. There are several different traditions of Buddhism. There are so many different traditions of Hinduism, that no one really knows them all. There are many different traditions of Judaism. And that’s only a handful of the world’s religions.

All of these traditions see God or Gods differently. No two people see Deity the same way.

So, no, we can’t “prove” the existence of Deity.

But my Gods are real enough for me, and I don’t have to justify that to anyone.

What I Took With Me

(This is an excerpt from the paper I wrote about my time with the sisters of the Community of St. Francis in San Francisco in January. -G)

The end of my time with the sisters was bittersweet. I was ready to go home to my life with my wife and school, but I knew that I was going to miss the sisters and their way of life. Indeed, that has been the case. I miss the structured prayer times and praying together with the community. I also miss the service work we did, particularly at Martins soup kitchen. I especially miss the sisters because they welcomed me into their lives and told me their stories when I asked. In many ways, how they came into religious life is pretty much that same as how I followed my call into ministry: one part intention and one part providence. Every one of them, while being lead into religious life by different paths and for different reasons, would not give up their current life. I understand their dedication, because it’s similar to my own dedication to my call to ministry.
        
The realizations I came to during my stay, that I mentioned previously, have already made an impact on my ministry. Part of realizing that I am contemplative has made me really think about how I express myself publicly in ritual. While most of my mentors and friends are good preachers and public theologians, I realize that I my public ministry is much different. I am more comfortable to be an example of Jesus in the world, and to show, not tell, about the love of the deities and of Jesus. Much of the public ritual that I have designed is contemplative, and that it is all right for the rituals of my new church to reflect that. In some ways, my viewpoint is Franciscan. St. Francis admonishes in his Rule that the brothers should remember that they gave of themselves to Jesus and should act as Jesus did the world.
        
Being with the sisters has also renewed my need to be of service to others in need. It is difficult at the moment because of school, but I know that service to others will always been an important aspect of my ministry. I have always believed that as much as work on oneself is important, serving others is equally important. Service was also important to St. Francis, and that if someone were to ask a brother for help, they should give it. It is also important to the deities I work with, particularly Jesus and the Dagda. In the pagan community, many groups are very inward focused, or when they do outward service work, it is limited to the pagan community. While I don’t begrudge the inward work, I think that if it is not balanced with general service work (regardless of community), people can get stuck in their own heads and lose sight of the greater community of which they are a part. I plan to encourage service in my new church to help mitigate this, especially since the churches that are hosting my services could use the help.
        
The last thing that I am taking with me from my experience is that I have a need for structured, monastic style personal practice. Steady and constant personal practice has always been difficult for me, especially since there are no Daily Office books for Wiccan-Christians, or set prayers, or much of any written liturgical infrastructure. My time with the sisters has shown me that it can be possible, and it has inspired me to create some sort of liturgy structure for myself. I have already written a Wiccan Christian liturgy, but I am now inspired to add more to it around daily prayer, monastic living, and actual written liturgical scripts. While I am not called to join a particular established order, I’m also inspired to maybe, some day, establish a monastic type community. Much of this, however, needs to wait until after I have finished school, because I would wear myself out if I tried to do everything that I was inspired to do by my experience!
        
I really appreciate that the sisters were able to take me into their lives. I have learned a great deal from them about how to live a religious life in the general sense. It has greatly changed my ideas about what “religious life” is. As the sisters told me, the religious life, whether cloistered or not, is not where one goes to hide. It is where you find out who you are and what plans God has for you. In prayer, you cannot hide from your innermost self, and that without that prayer doing the work of God will be difficult. The sisters showed me how to live and work in community, and that living a monastic life is both simple and difficult, but not impossible. Their love and friendship during (and after) my stay is something that I will always treasure.

God/dess’s Love and Compassion is Not Reserved for the Good

See on Tumblr:

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This is a topic that people get really weirded out about, especially when I tell them that I would still sit vigil for someone who people considered evil if they were dying. Not because I particularly like them, but because they are a human being.

Because even the worst of us deserves compassion, especially when dying.

I know there are many people who will disagree with me on this. There are many people who are very much revenge minded when it comes to criminals, especially criminals who do the more heinous types of crimes. I can’t really argue with that sentiment initially. There’s anger and a need for some sort of justice. This is a normal reaction, and really, is part of the grieving process (and I define grieving really broadly here, since there are many types of losses and pain other than just death).

But, if I fully believe in, and intend to practice as clergy, radical inclusion, then that has to include the criminal and evil do-er, too. If I believe that God/dess loves everyone just as they are, and that God/dess’s love is unlimited, then why would people like Fred Phelps be excepted from that love? I believe that God will have some hard lessons for those who have done evil in this world, but that’s for God/dess to judge.

In US society, in particular, we tend to leave people who have committed crimes behind. They rarely are seen as people deserving of spiritual guidance or attention. They are also rarely seen as people who can change. People who spout hate are not seen as deserving of compassion because of their hateful words. We also conflate compassion and forgiveness with having to like the person being forgiven. I can have compassion and forgive someone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I like them, or will want them in my life on a regular basis.

What makes me so special to decide who God/dess will or will not love? This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be justice, or that people don’t need to be called to account for their actions, but if I am telling someone else that they do not deserve the love and compassion of the Holy Spirit, what makes me different from them and their hate?

I firmly believe, especially at the end of life, that no one, not even Fred Phelps, deserves to die alone without someone there to be the witness to his passing. If God/dess can give that much love and compassion when the gates are open, so can I.

I am ordained! :)

I am ordained! :)

Photo By Denise Cicuto

You’re all invited!

If you are in the SF Bay Area you are invited to come to my Ordination and Installation ritual tomorrow, March 15, at 6:30 PM in the Chapel of the Great Commission at Pacific School of Religion. For more information, see the Facebook event page.

I’m still all excited, nervous, and all of that. Eeee!

Ordination

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about power and authority. Not only because of the classes where I’ve been taking where we’ve been examining how power and authority is used in our society, but because of my own relationship to these concepts. And especially because I am being ordained next weekend as a Christian priest, and being installed as the pastor of my new church.

There comes a certain authority and power when one takes on the mantle of a priest. What I mean by that comes from the dictionary definition of “priest” as one who performs the rites, rituals, and other sacred duties ascribed to a particular tradition. I’ve known, especially in the last year and a half, that people see me differently than they used to. There is a certain expectation of the work that I do in a religious context, and a certain respect for my training and education.

What’s been difficult is really accepting that I am worthy of actually claiming that authority. I’ve been comparing myself to much more experienced priests and pastors, especially since I’ve started the church. It’s hard to think of myself as a peer to those that I have learned from and respect. Part of that is still being in seminary, but part of that is my own internal Adversary telling me “Who the hell are you to be doing this work?” I’ve recently realized that comparing myself to them is almost an apples and oranges thing: I am different, and that’s ok. My ways of priesting don’t have to match their ways of priesting. It doesn’t make my priesting less than or ineffective, just different.

There’s also the part of me that is scared of this power, too. I’ve lived (literally) under the example of a corrupt leader. His example makes me scared sometimes because I know there can be a thin line between the correct use of power and authority and going over to the Dark Side. I don’t think anyone can deny that priesting can be a heady experience sometimes, and the spiritual power can be just as addictive as earthly power. I’m adamant about making sure I do have the support in place so that I don’t go down the bad road, and that if I’m heading in that direction, I have people who will tell me.

Going into my ordination, all of these things keep running through my head. It’s a humbling process, and there was a part of me that thought, before I wrote out my ordination ritual, that maybe I should just not have one. I’m doing the work anyway, so…? My wife reminded me that the ritual isn’t just for me, it’s for the community, too. In witchcraft, we say that to name a thing is to make it real. This goes for things at a personal level, and at a community level, too. When I say the vows I’ll write next Saturday, I am creating a reality where I will state how I will serve my community, and accepting the power and responsibility that comes with that service from the people I will serve.

It’s awesome in scope. And when I remember to think about Jesus’ ministry, I find comfort in the fact that Jesus faced these questions and doubts, too…

Dear fellow Pagans, Witches, Fey, Polytheists, Reconstructionists, and others:

I’ve seen many posts over the last few weeks (especially after Pantheacon) complaining about various things such as: Wiccanate Privilege, building institutions, labels, polytheism v. monism v. panentheism, etc etc etc. It’s brought up a lot of good discussion about privilege and all the -isms which, I think, is badly needed in our community. But it’s also brought up a lot of tired old complaints of “I didn’t become a Pagan for this!” or “I don’t want us to become like THEM!” (“Them” being Christians usually.)

When I started on my witchy journey 15 years ago, we were just starting to become visible and creating things like Pagan Pride Day. The Witches’ Voice was the hub of much of the neo-Pagan news and internets (at least, it seemed that way to me). Most of the discussion was focused on getting official recognition through the military and fighting for first amendment rights in public places, schools, and other places. We complained about Hollywood’s portrayal in TV and movies. In other words, we were still looking to be considered a legitimate spiritual path.

But we’re in a very different place in 2014. We’ve gotten to the place where arguing about theology, labels, privilege, and -isms are the big topics. Not that these topics shouldn’t be discussed, but if you think about it, it shows just how far we’ve come. We have the luxury of talking about them now. Even the the American Academy of Religion has included a pagan track in their proceedings!

We’re not in the shadows anymore, no matter how much people would like to think we are. This is where we wished we were 20, 30, 40 years ago!

The other thing we’re learning now as a movement is that, just like all of those other religions, we have all of the same crap to deal with. We have our fundamentalists, our bigots, our fringe elements, our mainstream paths, and our own issues with race, gender, sexuality, and class. We’re seeing that, while we like to think otherwise, we’re no better than any other religion on the planet and that we’re just as human as the rest of them.

The truth is, we have always been like them, we just haven’t had the time to really look at it until now. We still have plenty of work to do, but it’s the same work that every other religion is working on.

So congratulations, my fellow Pagans (or whatever you’d like to call yourselves)! We’ve become what we wanted: just like everyone else!

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