Yesterday was day one, well, not really, but yes, really.  I might have “officially started” on February 1, but yesterday was truly my first day working at the Chapel.  It was an odd day to say the least because it started off without having an office.  Now I do have to explain this – I have an office that I share with two others but there is only one desk and a bunch of stuff.  As it turns out the three of us use the office at very different times.  That would be all good, but the “stuff” is all over the place rendering the office fairly useless for anything but a storage closet. I felt for the Chapel staff, they were working to get my one office mate’s assistants to get clear out at least some things, but space is at a premium so it will take time.  I could live with that, there is always space to sit with a laptop in one of the open rooms and I had other things to deal with that were a little more pressing. You see, my recognition as Chaplain finally hit the media. That’s right, the media, and I really don’t like being the center of attention; at least not that kind of attention.

On Saturday we were one of several pagan groups to host a fundraiser for Haiti, the event had gone well but I had been asked by a student reporter for an interview. My time was pressed so I agreed as long as she met me at the fundraiser which she did.  I must say that her article was nice, very nice, but it also was published prior to the official University press release that they do for these types of positions.  Well, that article was on the web and as soon as I knew it I was being told that reporters from the local news station would be there in 30 minutes for an interview – I was news.  I have to say that I am not a naive person, not at all.  But I found it profoundly sad that the news would not cover a fundraiser for the earthquake victims (yes they knew pagans were putting it on) but could find the time to come and find out about pagans on campus even though we have been practicing here for almost a decade!

The normal questions were asked: “what is a pagan” and “are there really witches” were followed by “there are only 11 registered pagans so why have a chaplain”.  The interview was truly a wonderful conversation which culminated with a well constructed news report being aired.  One of the questions that had been asked had been about the number of pagans that this chaplaincy would serve. In fact both the student reporter and the news reporter both had inquired about the numbers.  In my opinion it isn’t about the amount “registered” but more importantly about those not identifying because they feel they have a resource to turn to.  They are closeted, they might have been prior to coming to the University, maybe they weren’t, but there are many who never knew they had a place to go to. 

I went back to work in the Noble Room, a place open to all and where I had been in the morning.  After a while I saw Michele, one of the Office Coordinators, coming towards me with a message in her hand.  It was someone in Public Safety, they wanted to speak to me.  I couldn’t imagine what happened, my mind first went to negative reactions towards my being recognized as Chaplain but I dismissed that quickly.  Then I knew, we were trying to figure out what we needed to do to have an additional fundraiser on campus and were looking into the rules regarding collecting money and security requirements.  That had to be it!  I called the number and found out that I was wrong on both accounts.  The officer on the other end of the phone was excited that I called back – she is pagan, so is her Sargent who showed her the article and she wanted to know if we held ritual and could staff participate!  I couldn’t believe my ears. The very issue that I had said existed was presenting itself  in less than two hours; people who had no idea there was a resource in Hendricks Chapel were beginning to call.  But the other side of this was also starting, the negative comments regarding my faith, regarding me.  That was inevitable.

Monday nights the pagan students on campus meet, this has been the case for the last nine years. Last nights topic was the article in the Daily Orange and the report on the local news cast.  They are excited.  The news has spread, the web is an amazing thing, and how appropriate that a “web” be woven of information and news spreading across the globe.  Grandmother Spider I thank you and I also look to you for guidance on this one.  From New Zealand to England the news of my Chaplaincy has been posted.  Twitter is tweeting, or whatever it does, Facebook is posting, and people are talking. It makes no difference to me what they are saying because this is a beginning of discussion to acceptance and understanding.  I think in the end that is really I all I want – acceptance and understanding.