A few weeks ago I was happy to write about the Milestones of being a Wiccan Chaplain in the department of corrections. Today I am equally happy to write about the milestones of being a Wiccan chaplain in the department of mental health. Perhaps even more so this time, for one simple reason.
Getting my credentials renewed with the department of corrections is an incredibly validating thing, especially when you consider at this point, that unfortunately, I may be the only one. However my point is that I am following an established path, a system or "the system."
There is a difference with the department of mental health, it is a completely different department with a completely different system. There is no set path, or procedure. There is no precedence for what I am doing, except the trail I am cutting through the unexplored territory.
Last year I started providing religious services for their patients, under supervision. a few months back someone suggested I submit a proposal for a 12 week course on Paganism, just to see what would happen. So I did, it was approved and added to the facility curriculum as an "Introduction to Earth Based Religions."
I learned in the Army that there is a big difference between the planning and execution of a mission. It always looks so good on paper, Perfect. But the real world offers to many variables and the first try is always the hardest. through the trials of pass or fail we learn by experience. But we never forget the first one, so much energy, anticipation and concern is funneled into it, specially when it was your idea and your plan.
Once on a training mission I was an OPFOR (opposing force) team leader. I was given very broad and general instructions and guidelines for our mission which was basically probe the enemy perimeter keeping them busy and tired all night, then breach their defenses and make their life a living hell to wake up to.
Probing was easy, we slept all night, each of us taking turns firing off a few shots on different sides of the compound. The entire enemy force would come rushing to return fire, they ran back and forth all night and slept like babies while we got ready for the real assault. I had selected a breach point for several reasons, there were huge generators running, so they wouldn't hear us, and no one likes to stand right next to something so much less set up camp there, so I knew there wound be anyone around.
The problem was accessibility, the surrounding area was uninviting. They knew that which is why they put their generators there, the forest was way to thick, way too dark and way to scary for anyone too go through. So when we reached the the treeline of "haunted Sherwood forest" my team was not thrilled by the idea. I lead them in a few hundred feet, it was dark, too dark to see. We stumbled and fell all over the place. I called a time out and told every one to eat their MRE (field rations) in the dark. We sat there for an hour in the pitch black trying to eat, even I spoon fed my cheek a few times. Then we just sat around telling dirty jokes until I made the call to muster.
The meal was perfect. The food stabilized everyone's metabolism and put us all at ease. We had fun trying to feel ourselves blind, and laughed at the noises we made when we failed. The time in the darkness gave our eyes time to adjust. That worked so well that we could see our trash on the ground and who was throwing shit at who. We were like ghosts. We floated through the forest without making a sound, avoiding every root and branch. We became so well adjusted that we could see our own shadows in the darkness as we made contact.
We completed that mission. *Grins*
Now, leading a new team we completed that 12 week course. It was considered a success, so much so that my class is now a permanent fixture of curriculum. I just started teaching my second semester. Same class, new students. I like the picture I used here, leaving milestones in the forest as I go.
Thank you Lord and Lady for the gift of direction and the courage to follow it, even in the darkness. Blessed be.