You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2010.

For those of you that don’t know, being a Chaplain does not get you a big paycheck.  In fact, it gets you no paycheck.  That is unless of course you are a Chaplain in a church or denomination that has money to pay you.  Being a Chaplain at the University means not being an employee of the University, rather it means being recognized by them in that capacity.  So to bring a long point to an end I have “a day job” in order to make money and pay bills.

One of the many things that I do for a living is run my store.  It is a little store in an open market type setting.  Retail shops set up permanently in a warehouse, protected from the weather of central New York, where shoppers can come to our establishments three days a week.  The overhead is such that a small business getting off the ground can find reasonable space at a reasonable rate.  Anyway, I’ve been here a while and I love it.  The people who come in are good people looking for quality items at a fair price.  The other merchants are like me, focused on providing good products and in the process making an income. 

Yesterday was Black Friday.  Our market is not necessarily the type of place that shoppers go to on that day.  We don’t have door buster specials; there aren’t large electronics at outrageous discounts; that just isn’t who we are.  But there were shoppers.  In talking with the people who were walking through most were just looking.  Too exhausted from their 4 am shopping spree at large retail chains, they were here just to look. Throughout the day they came, but there was one person that stood out.  I had been waiting for them from the moment that I opened my store. 

It started like every other interaction I have with customers; I said hello to a woman who had stopped to look at something.  She said hello back and turned to her friend to show her what had caught her eye: a witch ball.  They are beautiful, like stain glass that glitters in the sun.  The friend turned and the look of horror on her face said everything but in the end she had to verbalize it.  “It says witch I don’t want anything to do with it.”  I smiled and explained that they could be considered good luck charms, if nothing else they are just beautiful in their own right.  The woman looked at me and exclaimed again, that it said witch and she didn’t like it.  No longer trying to be a shop keeper I asked if she knew the folklore behind witches’ balls.  Her response was cold: “I don’t know, I don’t want to know.” Looking at me she stated “Everything in this shop is wicked.”  I was silent.  It wasn’t that I was speechless, I had things to say and honestly they weren’t very nice.  I’m human and when I’m attacked I want to fight back, but I saw no win in this argument. As soon as she made her declaration they left.

I was wicked, evil, and had just been confronted by a “christian” who made her statement of truth.  I will not capitalize this title when talking about such hate and bigotry; it takes away from all of the examples of what the Christian faith can be in so many of its followers.  In the end I felt for her.  To live in such fear and hatred cannot be easy.  What would cause someone to be that way?  Don’t get me wrong we have just as many pagans that would behave in the same way to Christians.  That makes me sad, if we are truly polytheistic, henotheistic, then we accept Christianity as one more faith tradition.  But I also realized that this person who was out shopping for the Christian holiday of Christmas, has no idea of what Jesus practiced in his own life. 

Yesterday was not my day to educate her.  It was the day that I experienced “the person” that I knew at sometime would cross the threshold of my store and vocalize their fear.  The gods gave me a gift by getting that experience out-of-the-way so that I can move forward and not worry about what that confrontation will be like. 

Today is a great day, wonderful in all aspects.  May you have such gifts given so that you can move forward tool. Live well.

This last Sunday I was given the honor of hosting a table at the annual International Thanksgiving Day dinner at the University.  It is a time when international students and their families are invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in order to experience and learn about a very American holiday.  It was a wonderful evening filled with turkey, pumpkin pie, and everything in between.  I was host to eight people, four students from China and a family of four from Botswana. 

We talked about a great many things, lots of questions asked and answered.  However, the most intriguing question, the one that caught me the most off guard did not come from my dinner companions.  The question came from one of the other Chaplains at the University.  I was asked, “So how do Pagans celebrate Thanksgiving?”  The question truly took me back.

My response was simple. “We do what everyone else does; we eat turkey and watch football or something while gathering with family and friends.  Thanksgiving isn’t a religious holiday, it’s an American Holiday.”  He was a little flustered and then his wife gave him a funny look.  She restated the obvious, this is a universal holiday in America and it isn’t religious in nature.  This made me think, what would possess another to assume that just because I’m Pagan I would have a “different” Thanksgiving tradition. 

I believe it isn’t so much that there was thought put behind the question.  In fact I think that it was someone, whom I make uncomfortable due to my spiritual beliefs, simply trying to make small talk.  But what bizarre small talk.  When did religion co-opt Thanksgiving?  I must say too that this is the same individual who took offense to the besom I wanted to keep in the office.  So, back to the question of what do people do for Thanksgiving?  I think that is simple, we give thanks; hence the name of the holiday.  How each individual does it, to whom they give thanks and why are all personal in nature.  In the beginning it was thanks for an abundant harvest that would allow some extremely unprepared people to survive the winter.  Something that had not happened for more than half of the settlers (Pilgrims) the first winter they were here.  Native Americans helped them by teaching how to live in this strange new land.  What a concept, accepting different ways of thinking and living in order to adapt to a changing environment.  Not trying to change the environment or its inhabitants to adapt to you, but you learning to adapt to it.  They gave thanks to their new-found friends for teaching them new skills and concepts. Now, I’m not sure and you can even call me a rebel here, but wouldn’t be an interesting world if we all continued to embrace that attitude? 

And yes, I am thankful today.  I am thankful for a multitude of things most of which I will keep to myself, but I do want to share a few of the bits of my life that I am most thankful for. 

  1. My health.  I have been ill the last couple of weeks and am finally feeling human again.  We all take for granted the health that we have until it is jeopardized and we see how fragile we are.  In that light, I am also thankful that I have health insurance that allows me to get the medical attention I need when I need it.  Being healthy should not be a commodity that only the privileged are allowed to obtain.  Everyone should be allowed access to health care when they need it and not based on their ability to obtain a job that gives it instead of a living wage.
  2. My home.  Yes, a good solid roof over my head with a wood stove to warm me.  This winter it will be magnificent here.  The snow will pile up outside but I will have shelter to protect me from the forces of the lake.  It gets bitter cold where we live and I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have reliable, safe housing.  I ask the gods to help those that do not have a place of their own to call home.  So many people have lost so much in these tough times that I am thankful for what I have been able to keep.
  3. My hope.  I know things do not always go right, not for me or for anyone else.  I am grateful that I can continue to keep hope alive that things will get better for everyone.  In fact I do believe that it already is.  I know that there are a lot of people whose world’s have been submerged in darkness over the last year or two and they do not understand what happened or “what they did wrong.”  For them I hope that they see that even the darkness can be a blessing.  Out of the chaos of the dark sea new opportunities can be born.  Take the time to “re-invent” yourself, I know in the past I have done just that and it can be very liberating.
  4. My family.  For this I am most thankful.  I have the best family in the world.  They are not perfect and I wouldn’t want them to be.  They are real.  My children (and their spouses) are the most amazing people I have ever met.  As a family we travelled together through good times and bad.  In the end we have found out who we really are at the core and how special is that!  Both my daughter and my son have created beautiful lives for themselves.  They each have amazing little ones for grandma to love.  I am proud of both of them.  My husband is my best friend.  There is nothing false about him; he doesn’t know how to be.  He has stood by me through my dark times and held my hand until I returned to the light.  When I want to start a new adventure he just smiles and laughs.  He has never tried to change me and when I told him that I was thankful for that his response was simple.  He liked the woman he met, why would he want to change me to be someone else?  My family of heart, my family of blood.  I am thankful for both.  They are different groups, each with its quirks and both have helped to shape who I am.  I love you all and thank you all for this journey we are on.

So there are the things that I am grateful for and that I’m willing to share.  Are these things that different from someone who is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other religion?  I don’t think so. I hope not.  No, I don’t believe religion plays into this one, just people being thankful for what they have.

I want to thank those that have contributed generously to help out the students.  We still have a long way to go in raising all the funds, but we have a good start and that’s what counts.  If you want to donate but haven’t, you still can; just go to the page “Contribute to Campus Pagans” for directions. I’ll be posting more on our progress as we go along. 

Because of the fundraising I have been doing a lot of “other” work and not necessarily writing, but this morning I was thinking back on the last few weeks and all that has gone on. Yesterday I sat with Father Linus, one of my two office mates, discussing a proposal we are preparing for the Universities Resident Advisor Mid-Winter conference.  In other words, we are looking to grab time to talk to the student RAs for all of the dorms.  These are the students that are “in charge” of a dorm floor, taking care of crisis’, helping with disputes, and generally acting as house mom for students usually younger than themselves.  As we talked our plan came together on what it is we wanted to let students know about faith, religion, the Chapel and the details that come with that.  Seems like a tall order, but after coming home I thought about what Linus and I were doing and began to see a simple pattern that has played out over the last couple of months.

Students that wouldn’t normally come to the Chapel are finding their way to our doors.  They come in and hang out and just want to talk.  Well, honestly some of them just want to see a friendly face and to feel included.  They stop by and say hello, shyly peeking their heads in and asking “are you Ms. Hudson”.  A good portion of them aren’t pagan, they grew up in other traditions and are not looking to change their faith.  What they are looking for is connection with someone – anyone.  They don’t feel as if they belong, they are disconnected from home and all that is familiar to them.  They are feeling a little lost and need some grounding.  So we talk.  Well, they talk – I listen.  They become a little more comfortable and then their questions start. They are confused by what they were taught about life growing up.  It doesn’t necessarily match what they are experiencing now that they are on their own. What they really want is a sounding board to work out the confusion. 

Unfortunately there is a common belief that if they go to the Chaplain of their own faith tradition they will get nothing but rhetoric and dogma; they want someone who won’t judge but will allow them to begin to work out loud the doubts.  I listen a lot. I invite them to come and join the students in SPIRAL so that they can gain a sense of connection to the Chapel.  We have students of differing faith traditions come to the weekly meetings regularly.  Do they continue to come over time? Not usually, they come for a while, make friends, and begin to see people of multiple pagan traditions enjoying their commonalities AND their differences without judgments.  They make those connections that allow them to find a different beauty in their own faith tradition; one they could not see from a “child’s” eyes.  They return to their own faith with new perspective.

This was truly what Linus and I want to do: give a new perspective, an evolving perspective, of what faith, religion and the Chapel are.  Let students know that we are there for them – all of them regardless of “religious designation.” More important, our presentation will be done together. A priest and a pagan standing together to say you really don’t know who we are but we are here to start the conversation and to let you understand, your faith is your’s to own and define and that’s okay.

Several of you have suggested that we use PayPal to accept funds from people for the students.  We took all of your advice, had been working on the account for a while, and we can now accept monies through PayPal.  So if you would like to help out the students in their fund-raising efforts but prefer to use PayPal you can now do so.  Just log into PayPal at www.paypal.com and hit the “send money” button.  Use the email address COTGCampusPagans@gmail.com as the person to send funds to.  This will put the funds directly into the account setup for the student’s fundraising. (It stands for Church of the Greenwood Campus Pagans.)

I appreciate all of the help that has been given so far and all that I know that will be coming in the future. Once again, please pass this along to those you know and those beyond that and may the gods and goddesses bless all of you and your generosity.

Interfaith, an interesting word that can lead to many things; in the case of Syracuse University it has led to recognizing minority religions and value they bring to our world.  But it doesn’t mean just recognition here at the University, it means inclusion.

I have always wanted my beliefs to be accepted. Last year Syracuse University did just that, they accepted Paganism as a faith tradition when they recognized my appointment as a chaplain.  What a wonderful thing, but that could have been the end of it. Nothing else needed to be done other than give me the same space as the other chaplains have and life would return to “normal.”  But that wasn’t the case.  Hendricks Chapel at SU embraced its diversity, it embraced us. It is not just lip service given to placate a small group; it is true acceptance as a member of the faith community. 

In the past the Chapel has sponsored interfaith/inter-religious student trips to places of significant religious meaning.  They have always focused on the Abrahamic religions and recognized “three faiths, one humanity.”  This year that has changed, three faiths have turned to many faiths and all faiths are welcome to join the interfaith trip to England.  This year I have been asked to chaperone the trip, what an adventure!  But it isn’t just me.  There are four chaperones: a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, and me – a Pagan.  We will visit seven religious sites including Stonehenge.  I was asked if I had preference for dates to visit the stones and since the Jewish festival of Purim begins on March 20th I asked if we could be there on the 19th – the time of the full moon.  How amazing that the school has worked to include all faiths.  Not only that but to also go out of its way to ensure religious celebrations that may occur during the trip be included.  I am thrilled, and yet there are challenges to making this a reality.

And so for my request of you, of the pagans you know, and of the pagans and supporters that they know.  I need to raise money to help to our pagan students pay for this trip. 

I don’t need funds for myself; my expenses are taken care of.  This trip is an opportunity unlike any other that I have heard of being offered to pagans, especially from a mainstream institution.  But there is an expense associated with going.  Each student will need to pay approximately $3800 for the trip.  That is a lot of money when you are already paying regular tuition along with room and board. But I have four students that have signed up and are willing to do whatever it takes to raise the funds.  So I’m asking you, the pagan community and its friends, to help out.  The Church of the Greenwood has put together a an account to collect any contributions towards this effort. There is an immediate need for $2000 for the students to pay their deposits. The deadline for the deposits is November 12th. We will be working on the additional funding as we move forward.

I’m asking the pagan community to help in this endeavor for a couple of reasons.  First, when Syracuse University recognized my appointment they placed their academic, professional and financial reputations on the line.  The University did not back down from that decision when critics questioned why they would do such a thing; it didn’t cave when donors threatened to pull their monies. Rather it has fully integrated pagans into mainstream life at the Chapel.  Second, as I said before this is a unique opportunity.  It would be a shame to let it slip by and possibly affect whether or not we are invited to participate again.  More importantly we need to step up and recognize that this was not a small thing.  Supporting the new generation of pagans as they move forward and letting them know that there is an entire community “out there” helping to pave the way is unbelievably important.  I am continuously asked by students and parents alike “are there others out there and how do I know where to find them?”  Let them know you are out there, let them know that you want the next generation to move into areas of acceptance that you didn’t get to enjoy but had to fight for.  Pagans have said for so long that they wanted a “place at the table” unfortunately we didn’t know where it was.  Well now we do.  But I have to add to that, not only have we been given a place at the table, we have also been asked our opinion.  It may seem like a small thing to some, but this is no small thing.  These students have the ability to celebrate the full moon at Stonehenge while engaging others in interfaith dialogue to help create understanding of whom and what we are. 

I know that there are a great many causes to support, but I have to say why not show those that have risked their reputations to stand up for us that we appreciate their efforts?  Why not help these students move understanding forward?  You will hear from me again on the subject I’m sure, but for now think of the ignorance that has been moved aside and help us support the continued effort of education and acceptance.

We have a couple of ways to contribute funds.  First is through PayPal.  Just log in at www.paypal.com and hit the “send money” button.  Use the email address COTGCampusPagans@gmail.com as the email to send funds to.  This will put the funds directly into the account setup for the student’s fundraising. 

The second way is to send a check to the church directly.  If you are able to help please send your contribution to:

Church of the Greenwood
P.O. Box 5323
Syracuse, NY 13220

Make sure to mark “Campus Pagans” to route it properly.

I appreciate all of the help that has been given so far and all that I know that will be coming in the future.  Once again, please pass this along to those you know and those beyond that and may the gods and goddesses bless all of you and your generosity.

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