Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Hero

A Week or two ago the friends in my Blog sphere were circulating posts about "Kept" clergy. I managed to keep my two cents to myself until now. One reason was because I personally believe there is a line between professional clergy and professional conjurers, a line I did not see drawn within the volley of posts, a line I myself am not qualified to draw.

As for myself, I have as much right to approve or condemn a person for paying for a Tarot reading or tailored conjure as I do to approve or condemn abortion or same sex marriage, none. But in the area of Clergy I have many firm assertions, specially on the subject of being kept.

I have been a volunteer prison chaplain for over three years, the last two of which I have been volunteering at least twice a month. For the last six months I have added two monthly state hospital visits, at this point I volunteer at least one ten hour day a week in service to the state as a chaplain, for free.

In fact, a while back it was suggested that I submit a proposal for a twelve week religious program. So I did and to my surprise, it was approved and added to the curriculum of a state facility where I have been teaching regularly for some time now, for free. Rest assured, I have no delusions of grandeur. Given the current condition of our local economy I'm not getting hired anytime soon, not while their laying off teachers, guards and many other critically needed staff.

Can you imagine the headline?

I do all of this for a couple of reasons, but the most realistic one is, because I can. I am willing and more importantly I am able. My life style allows me the time, resources and opportunity to do so. But make no mistake, all my bases are covered before I go traipsing off to my prison ministry. I handle my business as a husband, a father, an administrator and so on. Because for all of the reasons I am motivated to be a chaplain, being kept is not one of them.

As a Pipe carrier in a native tradition, your are considered clergy. But there has always been a clear difference in those titles. As a Pipe carrier, I was a servant to the community. I was obligated to perform certain religious services when they where needed. Like many priesthoods, there is a responsibility there, but there was no authority. Unlike most western religious cultural views where the priest is commonly seen as being religiously or spiritually, in charge.

I have brought this concept with me into my ministry, humbly aware of my limitations, a servant, a keeper of the community, not the other way around. Those who can, have the obligation to do. Each of us has our own obligation to fulfill in some capacity. Many contribute, each in their own way.

My personal hero of the month is Heather Deirdre Awen, a few weeks ago she contacted me with questions about donating books and materials for Pagan inmates. We had a great conversation and she ended up donating over thirty books to my Carcer Via program. These books were great, they were in very good shape, they were a very good selection and content, in short, they were valuable.

Now the way things work at the prison is tricky, there are six separate yards, each with their own set of facilities such as library and chapel. So, if you want to donate a book, you have to donate six copies so that each yard gets one or they won't accept it. My way of dealing with this challenge is to create a "church lending library" where my congregants can check them out from me. About six of the donated books went in that pile.

On Friday, the state hospital which currently has two books, one on Wicca and one on "new age spirituality" received the other thirty some-odd books, which they were happy to receive and the patients are even happier to have access to. Its one thing for a Pagan to part with their books, something you don't see much of, but as my wife and I sat on the floor flipping through the books my wife noticed that there was something written in the front of every book. As we continued, we found that Heather had not only selflessly donated her books, not only had she taken the time to drive them to the post office, not only had she paid the heavy price to have the heavy box of heavy books mailed to us, she took the time to write a different blessing inside of each book. Now that's magic. Thank you for your service Heather and all the guys thank you too.

We are the keepers.


Gordon said...

Wow. Good story.

It genuinely did not occur to me to donate pagan/magic books before I left Australia to move to NZ (and then the UK).

They're in a cupboard in my parents room.

I'm going to look into this the next time I am back home.

Lavanah said...

I stayed out of the whole "paid clergy" discussion as well. Not because I don't have opinions, but because all the arguing is exhausting and I just don't need it. But your post reminded me of something. Rabbi does not translate as "priest." Rabbi is "teacher."

And, thank you for a really good idea as to what to do with surplus books!

WitchDoctorJoe said...

@ Gordon, thanks I'm glad you like it. and yeah there are lots of people out there trying to rehabilitate and improve themselves through a magical relationship with the divine, many of which would but any unused books to goods use.

@ Lavanah, oh yeah their is a difference between discussion and debate, and in our neighborhood the lines have become very thin.

It has become exhausting and unproductive to participate in them much anymore. I have come to value my time and energy too much for these arenas.