Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Even More Fruits of Labors
Wow, I can't believe it's been a year already. I have been a Wiccan Prison Chaplain for nearly two and half years, but it was a year ago this month that I got my ID card and began my Carcer Via Program exclusively at one Prison. I've been going there multiple times monthly since I got my ID.
It's been a hell of a year, so much has happened.
I remember when I first started there; Mid-Summer was my first appearance on the yard, alone. It's not difficult to pick out the Pagans on a Prison yard on Mid-Summer. When I approached them and waited my turn to enter the circle they "closed the door" in my face, as it turned out they thought I was the Catholic Chaplain, its all a long and very entertaining story.
We had fun re-telling the tale to the newer inmates last Friday as we celebrated our first anniversary. To my surprise they held a formal ceremony, to honor me.
They made me cry, those hardened criminals.
In the beginning there were some minor difficulties, I blogged about them here, here, here, here and here. We have come so far in such a short time, and the tides has changed very dramatically. I have come under fire, I have been threatened, I have been lied to, I have been bullied and harassed. But this probably doesn't surprise you, after all were Pagans, it comes with the territory right?
But what if I told you this has all come from my fellow Pagans? Yes, my would be friends and colleagues. Apparently I am doing to good of a job and others in our field are not happy with my success, which really makes me question their motivations and their priorities, which in theory should be the inmates... right?
Last month I was asked to speak at the Prisons new employee orientation. I gave a crash course in Paganism and Wicca to nurses, counselors and other staff who will have direct contact with inmates. My job was to teach them in thirty minutes what it took me almost a year to teach the administration, that we are not Devil worshipers. I was introduced as "one of his Chaplains", it's amazing how vailidating something so little like that can be.
When I was applying to the Chaplains academy, I was unable to obtain the required letters of recommendation from those Pagans who woulda' shoulda' coulda', instead I was threatened and chastised for trying. As it turned out, I got in, but it was the Prison that wrote me two of the most amazing letters of recommendation I have ever received. "...an asset to the Prison, the Department and the State..."
When I refused the ego appealing offers he made, it was a Pagan who threatened to discredit me. But to who? The Prison? The inmates? To you?
Last Friday they renewed my security clearance and issued me a new ID for another year. I am treated with dignity and respect. I am acknowledged by friendly staff and appreciated by inmates, and most of all, I am openly accepted, as a professional Wiccan chaplain, clergy in a State Correction Facility.
I have done so much, with so little, for so long, that now I can do anything, with nothing.
These are the Fruits of my Labors.
Proof that it can be done.