The Dean of Hendricks Chapel was installed to the position on October 25th, 2010.  This was a grand day, a significant day, in the history of the Chapel.  Tiffany Steinwert’s installation marked her inclusion to a very exclusive list.  In the 80 year history of the Chapel Rev. Steinwert is just the 6th Dean and the first female.  I note that she is female only for the record books; her gender has no bearing on her ability to lead, her ability to listen, her ability to understand, nor her ability to move the Chapel to what it will become in the future.  It is only a point of interest to some.

But there was more to the day than the formality of the installation.  Gathered for the event were members of a multitude of religious traditions.  Muslim, Jew, Christian, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh sat together to watch the proceedings. On the stage each faith was represented with their clergy robed and seated to exemplify the deep commitment to interfaith/interreligious recognition and dialogue that make up the Chapel.  I was proud to represent the Pagan community.  I was even more proud that in the clergy procession Druid and Wiccan representatives were among those present.  I was also proud that there were many other members of the Pagan community in the audience.  Asatru, Solitary, CUUPS, Wiccan, Eclectic and more – all present, all invited as equals on this day of celebration.  But I am beginning in the middle; I should go back to the beginning of the day’s events. So I’ll go back a bit…

As my friend and I arrived at the Chapel I had no idea where to go or what to do.  I was dressed in my finest pagan garb: a sky blue dress, athame on my hip, deep blue velvet cloak, and labradorite pendant.  When we finally figured out what to do I left Tim upstairs in the main chapel where the installation was going to occur so he could find a seat.  I headed downstairs to gather with others that were going to process at the beginning of the ceremony.  Now knowing where to go I felt the day was finally beginning.  As I entered the Nobel Room I spotted Skip Ellison, ADF Arch Druid Emeritus.  It was nice to see a familiar face.  Soon Gail Wood found us and we all waited for instructions on what to do.  At one point a gentleman from another faith commented on Gail’s cloak, a compliment.  Many of those in the room had most likely never knowingly interacted with Pagans.  To have Pagans in the room as recognized clergy was probably a new experience for them.  Our instructions came.  I was to line up with the Hendricks Chapel Chaplains, all other clergy were to line up in front of us and walk in pairs. I saw another Pagan had joined Skip and Gail but could not see who it was. I had to smile; three individuals representing our multiple traditions just as the triple god and goddess represent the depths of their being – how appropriate.

I was in the second row of Chaplains when I entered the room.  Such grand ceremony and ritual this was, and now to reenter the middle of the story… we entered the chapel, and as a collective representation of the multiplicity of faith that is Hendricks Chapel, we took our seats to witness and give approval to the installation of the Dean.  The ceremony was the usual line up of prayers, short speeches and music that you would find in a church service; one couched in an academic setting that is.  But today there was a small difference – the student speaker was Pagan.  She is a member of SPIRAL, the student Pagan group on campus.  She is also the official face of Hendricks Chapel.  Sierra is the President of the Hendricks Chapel Choir, Vice President of SPIRAL, and member/leader in many other groups.  I consider her a living, breathing, walking example of interfaith. Sierra was giving the student welcome to the new Dean and to the guests in the audience.  As she went through her speech I thought of the discussion we had earlier, she was scared and nervous.  What she portrayed was grace and beauty, gifts from the Goddess that Sierra carries through every part of her life.  Her welcome was inclusive, warm and ended with an unexpected note.  Sierra closed with “Peace be with you and Blessed Be.”  Nothing, in my opinion, was more moving or profound than those two statements being said together. 

As the ceremony ended we processed out, continuing on to the reception that followed.  There I was able to talk to friends old and new from the Pagan community.  Friends of mine who were present wanted to meet the Dean and so I made sure to bring her to them for the introduction.  She was pleasant as always and told us something that was a little surprising.  As far as religious groups were concerned, Pagans had one of the largest representations for the event.  We can be proud; we did not hide from being recognized.

I was also able to meet several others during the reception. People who were both Pagan and non-Pagan that wanted to introduce themselves and begin to invite our voice to other locations, other discussions. Transition is beginning, Pagans are beginning to be seen and heard.  We need to be ready to accept the responsibility of telling our stories and moving forward.  Most will never get the opportunities that have been placed in front of me but that doesn’t mean that my voice is any greater than another.  It just means that this part of my journey has put me in this position.  I will continue to work, talk, walk, yell, scream, discuss, get scared, and move forward.  I hope you do to. 

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