And so the year begins. Okay so it really started last week when everyone was returning to campus but today is the first day of classes and the first day of seeing students rather than parents. It is a fun time of year, a lot of hope and anticipation going on. Last week was a precursor for what is coming – chaos amid joy. Tonight is the first student meeting of the academic year and our goals will begin to be laid out. I’m not saying that we will stick to the list that is created, but we will make a list. It happens every year this way. I ask the question “what would you guys like to do and what do you want to learn about?” and every year there is a list that would keep us occupied for at least five years. We will get to what we can, toss things out as we go, and add other things down the road. But isn’t that a little like life?

I know that it is for me. This last year has been that way when I think about it. I created a list for the Chaplaincy to do and learn. There was/is lots of things on that list. Stuff from how do I get into my office to how do educate the world? I’ve figured out the first one, I’m working on all stuff in the middle, and in the process I have found out that doing the last happens naturally one person at a time. I suppose I already knew that though.

Anything that creates space for large shifts in understanding takes time. I’ve been working with the students on campus for 10 years – it doesn’t seem like that long. Anyway, I’ve found that the woman in charge of space that was terrified of “pagans” in the beginning thinks we are great and approves all of our requests without question. She now thinks that an “alternate opinion” on faith could provide her counsel. Students in the Magic and Religion classes read the texts that we provide the Anthropology professor when it comes to Neo-Paganism and Wicca. That’s right, practitioners are providing the information rather than academics so that when they come to ritual to observe and learn, the classes will understand more readily what is taking place. Little steps changing attitude and understanding. That is all it takes. But where does it all lead to in the end?

Well, it takes us to the next step, to the place pagans say they wish to be – acceptance. So what does that look like? Well, you get a Chaplain (such a strange title for a pagan) with an office. You also have a voice that participates in discussions, welcoming, pastoral care, planning, and cross department training. This translates to education and the dispelling of myths that surround our multiple faith traditions. It also means responsibility on the part of pagans to recognize our acceptance. I know that sometimes being comfortable in our fight for recognition can be a hard thing to let go of. But letting go and accepting a place at the table with all of the other faith traditions is essential to moving forward.

What are my plans for the pagans at the campus this next year? Well first to say welcome back and how is everyone. But what follows will be an ongoing discussion about changing attitudes towards Paganism. I’m hoping that discussion will not be confined to the boundaries of the campus between academics, students and administrators. I’m hoping that it will include people of all faiths from multiple walks of life, most importantly I’m hoping that it includes pagans.

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