It has been a whirlwind around me for what seems a long time. Fund raising, working at store and home, Chaplain projects, and winter weather have all combined to make time fly by without notice. But today I honor the passage of time. February marked my first year as a Chaplain. It doesn’t seem like a year has passed nor does it feel like I’ve accomplished much, at least not on the surface. And so I pondered the question: what exactly has been achieved? Well, a lot of things as it turns out. Things that I forgot about or at the time didn’t seem that important as individual moments. But in the long run a great deal has changed. So what has happened in the last year? Let’s see, how about this:

  • My appointment was recognized
  • My best friend and the one who appointed me passed through the veil
  • I’ve found common ground in a shared office with a Priest and an Evangelical minister
  • Language has become a focal point of discussion at the Chapel to try to bring about new ways of understanding between the different faith traditions
  • The students have become public about the fact they exist
  • Churches, educators, and conference organizers are requesting speakers to talk about “being pagan”
  • Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans and Muslims together work in welcoming parents and students to the campus
  • The “mainstream” traditions have “discovered” that they are lacking knowledge regarding the minor faiths
  • I’ve been invited to give blessings over university gatherings
  • We were invited to participate in interfaith dialogue with Daisy Kahn and Brad Herschfield
  • Pagans for the first time are included in the interfaith trip sponsored by the Chapel
  • A psychic fair/fund-raiser was held on campus (that was fun)
  • Rituals of understanding have taken place to help facilitate learning between Pagans and other faith traditions
  • All religious holidays on campus are now equal
  • We have been given a voice or should I say we don’t have to shout anymore because people are listening.

There have been a multitude of changes but the last two on that list are significant. I mean really significant.

First: all religious holidays on campus are equal. The University announced today they are discontinuing the practice of dismissing class for Eid El-Fitr, Yom Kippur and Good Friday – three main Abrahamic holy days. The religious diversity on campus is recognize and because of that the University has a very in-depth policy on allowing students, staff and faculty to take time off to practice their faith. That policy has not changed; however, now all faiths will need to follow the policy rather than being given privileged time off. Faith traditions of all kinds, both major and minor, are now being treated equally.

A student can request time off for Samhain, Ostara, Mabon, and it must be given without penalty. In the same manner Christian, Jewish, and Muslim students must go through the same process when wanting to participate in their religious holidays. No one is “more equal” than anyone else when it comes to faith traditions. The University will extend the Thanksgiving holiday time for students by three days, shifting the three religious holidays to a universal time off. The change is acknowledging the need for students to travel at this time of the year and the importance of staying connected to family. If you want to read more about this change you can do so at http://insidesu.syr.edu/2011/03/09/academic-calendar/.

The second change, the Pagan voice is requested, listened to, heard, and taken into account in the same manner as any other group. I’ve been asked to participate on the visioning committee for Hendricks Chapel. This committee will form the strategic plan for the Chapel which will lead its direction and vision for the next several years. The request outlined the following reason for asking that I be on the committee:

As a chaplain and former staff member, you bring a wide view of life on campus. As a Pagan, you also bring a critical voice to a conversation that has in the past been dominated by a Christian lens. In addition, your ability to critically reflect, dream and envision new possibilities would be a tremendous gift to the committee.”

A shift in how Pagans as a group are viewed has changed. We are no longer considered the “strange group on the quad” that needs to be tolerated. We asked for a place at the table and it has been given as a fully respected partner in change.

I compliment the efforts made and honor the winds of change that have gently blown across this little campus. I look forward to the changes that lie ahead and all that it will bring.

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