Friday, February 14, 2014

Manifesting the Dream: On Religious Orgs, Pagan Abbeys and our Order in particular

Pentagram - Church of Santa María d'Azougue,Betanzos, A Coruña, Galicia, Gallaecia

In previous posts, we have already covered: how to join or create pagan communities; and historic and modern cloistered communities. Next up in our Abbey series; more of the benefits of establishing modern religious organizations and how we envision our Order creating those spaces.

Advantages of our non-denominational (and not just different varieties of Wicca) 
pagan organization, and religious institutions in general, are many.

Incorporation and Societies

A legally religious corporation or society in Canada has the ability to:

- Own property. i.e. creating and maintaining safe space. Not just renting. Including ministry work such as permanent churches, inner city safe spaces, etc.

- Ordain, a perform legal ceremonies, such as marriage. Currently, the only forms of Paganism that have organized to this degree in Canada are Wiccan. I'm not Wiccan, and like Spiritual Humanism and other forms of Humanism, the evaluation of one's channelling of the divine should NOT be a requirement for clergy. We can all do that. Or not, depending on your personal belief system and your skill level. Heh. All I need to know is, say, can you MC a good wedding or funeral, or counsel well, and does your community support you? That is mostly enough to satisfy the need.

- Support Native Elders and other professional religious who are having difficulty obtaining legal status or are being otherwise hassled by institutions. It's friggin' hard even to do smudges working with prisoners and guards or in hospitals or schools sometimes, for example. Legal docs can help solve some of those problems by lending legitimacy to fellow professional religious that request it.

- Projects get easier to do, like co-ops, or microloan programs, publishing houses, or abbeys. Also encourages full time clergy, such as nuns, monks, and other priests.

Our problem in paganism in particular has always been organization and communication, and everyone has to re-invent the wheel in every new location. A seriously inefficient, as well as illogical, situation. A national supporting body, providing information and other resources, would save oodles of time, money, and effort. There is also the problem of where those who have different influences from many traditions, like Christian witches or Jewitches or eclectics, go to worship and get together, to organize, and to be validated and do work in the world. Pagan Humanism is ideally suited to provide that space. Paganism have always been tolerant of other traditions, as well as pantheist, and can provide an emotionally and spiritually satisfying experience for those who might otherwise not feel welcome in most other communities, without insisting on following any set of traditions or deities, or even, and this is the kicker, any deity at all. It's always better to be MORE inclusive than less, wouldn't you say?


Our choice, being who we are, is:

- Collective environment, with overseeing bodies to ordinate, provide continuity and support, and solve disputes. Like the entire Green Party of Canada, it's not actually difficult to achieve, especially with modern tech. Groups or individuals can propose projects, expenditures, visions, etc. The entire body can vote on providing funds, support, or other resources. Projects are all volunteer, no assignments. That way everyone brings their entire energy, and they can leave a project or the organization when they wish. A gestalt entity.

- Board of Directors - Emergency and day to day decision making, with ratifications by members where required. And to point directly at someone for holding the bag on certain issues, as it were... Also, required for a non-for-profit corporation in Canada, it turns out...

- Council of Elders - As a body of second thought, for those decisions that need some further consideration, if the Board may have got it wrong, if there is a dispute that the Board can't solve, and for moral and ethical drive.

- Up to three Leaders, largely as Spokepersons. Because you need someone the press can talk to... Movements have a tendency to fizzle out when the Leader(s) leaves or dies, unless they are deified, which is rare. Although it is actually easier to 
encourage members to join with a created Cult of Personality, and group loyalty is higher, it is far more vulnerable to corruption and ultimately more fragile if the Leader dies, leaves, or is discredited. Though harder to get going and generate group identity, I have no intention of having everything we've all worked for dissipate because we lose the face on the stamp. However, it can be handy to have a face as a known symbol and to rally around, so spokesperson Leaders are still a darn good idea. Used correctly, of course...


Donations vs. grants vs. fundraising vs. products and services:

Donations are always lovely, but never to be relied upon. We can't ever count on donations or grants. They are the gravy, not the meal. WAYYY too many pagan groups, for example, have hoped that the community will simply 'help them out'. It doesn't happen. The old abbeys used to support themselves by being as self-sufficient as possible, taking students, making products of use to the community, like medicine. It has to be funded with the same eco-capitalism in mind. The ends definitely does not justify the means in this case. Or most cases, really. 

In a University, there are oodles of disciplines working side by side, and each is finding fulfilment and increasing their own knowledge, but they are all working together. Modern abbeys must, as all abbeys have in the past, support themselves. We can produce items that are in keeping with the spiritual pursuits of our members, such as sacred crafts, but we can also consider services such as a publishing company, group home, health food co-op, holistic healing and retreat business, money lending co-op, pagan and women's insurance org., and an arts group. When we can, of course. Methods to support ourselves and our families in Right Lifestyle: with safety, purity, determination, and honour, should be a huge draw. (Hel, I was fired twice in one year for my religious beliefs alone; rather than my safety and ethics code, which were also too high, apparently. Darn integrity...) I also want more pagans or alternative lifestyle folk to be able to count on financial assistance for insurance, mortgages, etc. (without some idiot passing judgement), financial instructions like co-ops, microloan programs, and eventual credit union and insurance mutuals. It only took the women's mircroloan program in India ten years to go from a few hundred dollars to ten million. This isn't India, of course, but that kind of growth is still possible here. 
Don't let anybody tell you it's gotten better for women in the financial world, either. I've run and started my own businesses, and had a life insurance licence. It has been hell trying to get anyone to deal with me fairly. (And I'm smarter and more attractive than the average bear. Heh.) Apprenticeships will also help attract and train people, if we already got Masters teaching certain skills... We are open to the ideas, passions, and expertise of our members.

Currently, we generate income and promote with:

1) Retail and wholesale herbal and stillroom product business - online and itinerant.
2) Training and apprenticeship
3) Lectures and speaking engagements
4) Food and whole foods co-ops

With capital, those can easily expand into:

1) Microloan programs
2) Physical retail locations
3) Training centres
4) Hospitality ventures
5) Healing and retreats
6) Cloistered communities

The Order is a facilitator for projects and expressions of spirituality. We can back members and non-members, providing space, funding, networking, or guidance.

Membership Criteria

Different levels of involvement will be available for different levels of commitment.
- Cloistered community: nuns, monks, hermits, etc.
- Professional in-the-world members: priestess and priests, Celebrants
- Lay members: beguines, outreach workers
- Volunteers

Different levels of privileges, e.g. voting, and differing resource support for different levels. For the most casual, they must only agree to accept and facilitate everyone's else's path, or be in agreement with our principles and goals, etc. Again, alot like the Greens. Heh. I'm not re-inventing the wheel or anything. I'm lazy. More like a combination of a full church, like Unitarians, plus the broadened focus of a Pagan United Way. For the most devoted, such as nuns, we will offer even more than other Orders of dedicants: room and board for as long as they stay with us, training, sponsorship in formal education and other bonuses for them and their families, and if they chose to leave us, a repayment of their sweat equity and any investment monies with interest, depending on how long they were with us. That way, no one feels they are taking too much of a personal risk, even when dedicating their lives to spiritual pursuits.

- No one can be ousted, except by conviction of criminal act that is in the moral realm. (Parking tickets don't count.) But no one has to work with you either, and if everyone wants to have you transferred 'cause you're acting like a dictator or miss the point of the project or any number of serious personality conflicts, that's final. You can decide where else you want to go or to be solitary, and still supported at your level of commitment. Thus, hermitage can be encouraged, and power plays or groups cliques discorporated.

One of our goals will be to ordain locals, regardless of their affiliation. Humanist priests are usually called Celebrants. One of the primary questions an applicant for ordination have to prove to us is that you can professionally MC ceremonies. Local signatures and maybe a video would easily show that. Nobody can certify you as a Divine conduit, really. I CAN tell if you can give a satisfying performance for a wedding, though... 

Pagan Humanism solves the issue of the different pagan paths very nicely. This is really a boon for those who are having difficulty finding their place in major religions or philosophies, like Christian witches or atheists, or being recognized by government as legitimate.

Abbey of the Green Flame

Imagine: an actual place where one can dedicate one's life to voluntary simplicity, learning and using one's knowledge for humankind's benefit, providing a retreat to those who are ill and helping those who are ill to achieve full health, practising one's art, all without worrying about how to make one's daily bread... Interest has already been expressed for this kind of co-ordination and professionalism several years ago. I would join one if I could find it. If you can't find it, make it, is my motto... 

My abbey will be a modern one, designed to meet the needs of modern nuns and monks, not a re-creation. Collective structure, wholistic design, green tech... The entire abbey will be pagan humanist, with many diverse beliefs and practices able to be accommodated. Rather like the inclusiveness of Unitarians, but more active and In the World, if you will. Different Paths, like Facilities, will allow everyone to study, perfect, and perform the lifestyle of their Calling. The Path of the Spoon, for example, teaches cookery and food as an act of worship, providing Masters and a place to practice in that space, without requiring dedication to Deity. My own speciality is the stillroom, and I train in the traditional manner...

However, I personally need a Celtic reClaimist subset for those of us of that persuasion, so my own sect will be a female Brigantine order in the style of the original kelles, with a focus on the Flame of Kildare as Her manifestation. Music, bardic arts, poetry, healing, the warrior arts and scholarship will be the main focii.  A full religion, not just a congregation and some ceremonies. A Circle, but much bigger. I'm focusing on women because they usually get the circle concept faster, but men and other genders are free to join, of course.

One of the projects I'm embarking on if I move to Newfoundland is a co-ordination with local universities to complete a scholarly work that translates their research of the local folk trads into a practical Celtic magic manual. In Canada, European pagan heritage and beliefs have up until now only be recently recognized as a rich tradition of 'folklore', but it now has whole University departments dedicated to it. Like their music, some of it remains uncorrupted from the 16th century. My partner comes from the Codroy Valley, which is nearly all Scottish, many of whom came from Cape Breton. They still speak with a Scottish accent. There are also those of French decent, English that is linguistically nearly identical to Shakespeare's, and Irish. All remain relatively uncorrupted, as they left before the Removals, or Potato Famine, or Corn Laws decimated their relative folk cultures. Currently, there are in flux of scholars from the UK and other European countries who come to study the more primitive, more culturally complete music, tales, dance, and other folk traditions in Canada. For the Celtic nations, many of these traditions are accumulated in the halls of academia, but not yet reClaimed by Celtic trad witches of the world. A lifetime's worth of work, and many books, await the dedicated cult leader, I mean, spiritual guide. Heh, heh.

Each of our Founders and Affiliates has their own vision for doing sacred work in the modern world, with more inclusion of diverse spiritualities and encouragement of fulfilling lifestyles. One of our affiliates, The Copper Horse Abbey, for example, focuses on wholistic wellness for animals; horse medicine and natural training in particular. Pagan Humanism is a rich, accommodating environment and we very much welcome other viewpoints, input, energy, and spirit. Make suggestions or join us as a member, volunteer or group affiliate! We are here to support you!