There was only one session yesterday, I wasn’t sure I was going to stick around to even have breakfast let alone attend any workshops, but I gave it a go.  I had wanted to talk to the Dean of Hendricks Chapel to let her know my opinion of the conference, I figured these guys could feed me breakfast, and besides I needed to talk to the Air Force again.

Breakfast was quiet, I ate alone but I suppose that might have been due in part to the energy of “leave me alone” that I was exuding.  I wanted no one here to talk to me.  Almost every time someone had spoken to me the day before I had become more and more horrified and I just did not want to deal with that again.  That’s right, it wasn’t just the workshops/seminars but it was everything; especially when I was assumed one thing based on looks rather than actual discussion.  This is where privilege of the majority comes into play and assumptions are made about those by that majority.  You see, I don’t dress in all black long flowing skirts, I don’t drip pentacles that could be used as weapons and hinder me from walking forward due to their weight, I don’t do goth makeup, nor do I drag a broom and cauldron around behind me with a black cat continuously rubbing up against my legs.  In other words I don’t look like a stereotype; I look like a normal member of society.  Here the norm is Christian, therefore I look like a Christian.  Sure, that’s what I look like.  So I shouldn’t have been confused when I was asked if I would like to attend the WSCF meeting.  I had no idea what that was, I smiled and said maybe.

The invitation was extended by a woman who I had talked to the night before for over an hour, in the conversation stating that I was the Pagan Chaplain at the University.  The questions were interesting, like “so what issues do you get to deal with being a Pagan Chaplain”? My answer, the same issues that all Chaplains deal with if they are working with students.  I am not different from any one else.  So it was interesting that after that hour-long discussion she extended this offer for me to attend and get involved in WSCF.  Then I found out what that is: World Student Christian Federation.  I’m not sure on what planet this woman was from.  Either she completely did not listen to the hour-long conversation we had, OR she thought it would be good for me and my kind if I promoted Christianity around the world.  I’m still confused and a little horrified.  It was about then that I really decided not to talk to anyone about my faith tradition or who I represent.

So, the session I decided to attend was regarding Liturgical Hospitality.  It was all about food, setting a table literally that would be welcoming to all without offending any so that different groups could share a meal and get to know each other better.  It was an interesting topic, one that was “safe” to attend because it was about food more than it was about religion or trying to accommodate the other.  Unfortunately the speaker asked that we break into small groups to discuss experiences when we might have seen this go right and also horribly wrong.  The wrong was easy, the assumptions made in a Western cultural context did not pan out for most when working with other cultures or societies.  The comments were interesting in our group.  The “what went right” was also simple.  Accommodation can be an easy task when thought about.  But it was the last comment made by the gentleman in our group that took me back.  He simply stated: “This is good and I don’t mind accommodating, but when is my turn.  I feel like a victim because not accommodates me.”

No one accommodates me?  The voice of privilege has spoken and it asked: as a white, Christian, male when will someone accommodate my needs and serve me.  I was floored.  He had to be kidding, but he wasn’t.  I kept silent; this was not a right conversation.  He was serious.

I left there and had a silent lunch.  I was still debating whether or not to pack my bags and just leave but sometimes we get a nudge in a direction that we didn’t expect.  My friend Patty had sent me a note and then a text.  The pub I had mentioned was the best in New Haven, she would be there in about 20 minutes to see me.  We had a wonderful afternoon which included great Irish food and Smithwick’s by the pint.  We caught up on a lot of things and she gave me some great advice – regardless of the experience if there is one thing, anything, that I can take away that will help me or the students or anyone I needed to stay and find it.  So, about 6 hours and several pints later I walked back to my room, cracked open a book and settled in for the night.

Today I go home and it is an ending that I welcome.  I stayed for the entire conference; trust me that wasn’t easy.  I wanted to leave and just go home but I’ll find that beautiful thing today.  One can only hope.

Advertisements