Yesterday I moved in t my office, or at least I began to move in.  You may wonder about that since I’ve been at the Chapel for over two months, but I think you will understand.  I have been in my office, the desk is there, the ability to use my laptop is there, I have a phone number, and my name is on the door along with my two office mates.  But I have never truly “moved in” with the tools of my trade – the books and tools that I make available to the students.  For the last two months the beautiful bookcase that was designated as mine has remained empty.

Because I share my office with two gentleman who do not walk the same faith tradition as myself I wanted to make sure that there was no offense made when I brought my things in.  We had hit some bumps in the road early on; we needed to work those issues out.  It had very little to do with religion or a conflict of belief.  This was cultural differences.  The different interpretation of an item based on the cultural background and upbringing of two individuals, however, I didn’t know that in the beginning. 

I was hurt, very hurt and my first thought was that as much as I am welcome in the Chapel it is only on a superficial basis. I was wrong, have to admit that.  The Chapel has always been supportive in every aspect, in every way both before and after my becoming Chaplain.  So what to do to get over the “bumps” of cultural differences.  We talked.  Yes, that was it; a simple solution to a complex problem.  I sat and listened to the gentleman sitting in the chair at the end of the coffee table explaining to me what he had been raised to believe a broom represented.  That’s right, a broom – a besom. I was amazed it was so contrary to what it represents for me, for most pagans that I know, that I was a little dumbstruck.  When he was done I explained what it meant to me, its use in ritual, and its symbolism in handfastings.  Our views were/are diametrically opposed to one another.  If this was the only issue I could live with that, I wasn’t here to insult anyone but rather to serve and to educate.  Sometimes that means learning on our part so that we can figure out how best to fit in with the rest of the world.

I explained I hadn’t brought anything else in because I had not wanted to make his students uncomfortable with the texts, tools, and other items.  He didn’t see an issue with anything else.  I laughed inside, no one had seen the books that I was talking about to truly make that determination. I explained that I have been talking with students about respect of other religions.  In other words that we must give the same amount of respect to others as we wish to have given to us.  That one statement cut through all of the fear (yes fear) and tension in the room and resonated deeply with my office mate.  Respect gained and given was something that he could see we both strived for – our common ground. He mentioned that he kept his texts on his bookshelf – multiple copies of the Bible in various languages and he thought that I should be able to bring in mine books as well.  I spoke of the words that would be in the titles of the texts: witch, witchcraft, spellcasting, magick, magic, and a multitude of others.  Would he be comfortable with this.  The answer was yes; he would explain to those he worked with and ministered to that it is simply another religion in the interfaith home of the Chapel and that they must respect all faiths.  The words rang through my mind “I could now move in.” 

The largest challenge to feeling completely at home was met and removed to the satisfaction of all involved.  My office mate understood that I respected him and his faith and that was all that I was looking for in return.  I think this will be a good melding of faith traditions in close quarters.  We will learn from each other beginning with the simple fact that the Evangelicals have nothing to fear from the Pagans.  That’s right, the Evangelical Christians are my office mates.  They will see the books, the chalice, and various other items and work to explain and teach tolerance to their followers.  I on the other hand, will continue to accommodate what I can and explain to my students that lumping and stereotyping groups is never good and we should work to understand the individuals in order to gain acceptance of our own faith.