So in my last two posts I talked about the Church building that we visited for Danielle's funeral and the type of people we met. This post is going to be a bit of rambling of some of the conclusions I came to in the course of this visit.
First of all I loved the building, I loved the way they had made sure it was welcoming to everybody who comes in. The boards with the names and photographs of the members would make any newcomer feel more at ease, he celebrating of new members helps to affirm their connection tot he community. The newsletter with tidbits of personal stories from the pastor and the favorite recipes enhanced the feeling of community and made you feel like part of an extended family. I loved the sacredness of the space. At most Pagan events we seem to set up in meeting rooms and community halls, which are awesome, but lack the energy of a place where people come together regularly to honor that which is greater than themselves. I would love for there to be more spaces like that, perhaps ones that cater to multiple faiths, to exist.
Secondly I am glad I had the chance to listen to the Pastor’s sermon. I don't know about the rest of you but sometimes I find forging my own spiritual path hard. There are no certainties, your beliefs never exactly match up with other people's beliefs and while there are teachers and guides along the way, there is no roadmap. Listening to the sermon I got the chance to experience the beliefs of an established roadmap, and it totally did not agree with my inner compass.
Don't get me wrong, he was a good pastor and spoke well of the Gospels and the teachings of the church. For people who believe the same as he does I could see the comfort in the message. For somebody like me, who has been walking her own path for some time I found it left me cold inside and did not match what was in my heart. It reminded me of the groups I have been involved in, both non Pagan and Pagan that did not match what I felt and why it was in my best interest to follow my own path.
However it also made me realize how hard walking one’s own path can be. At the passing of friends and family it has been challenging at times. Those who belong to a church have a built in community of support, with a laid out script to follow. For example, a while ago I found out about the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva after somebody passes. What a wonderful affirmation of faith while brining a community together to support the family. And in times of great sorrow and heartbreak these rituals provide a comforting anchor in a time when your whole world has fallen away from you.
When my Mother passed away I was a new Pagan, with no established tradition or group whom gathered around me. I had an amazing group of friends and family who were there whenever I needed them to be, but no faith community. The people who spoke of my mother’s passing came from an assortment of faiths and each spoke from their own belief system. I often felt alone while surrounded by people who spoke of either her soul going to Heaven, those who didn’t use the word Heaven but said “a better place” and those who did not believe the soul existed. There was no narrative that I could turn to for comfort while I let myself mourn and heal.
Naturally it would be a hard thing to accomplish with Pagans in general (go ahead, get a Druid, a Wiccan and a Heathan to agree where we will end up when we pass on…). With so many different paths and traditions and deities finding a common narrative for times like mourning will be a very challenging task. Add to the fact that getting a pagan group organized well in advance is somewhat challenging, let alone a spur of the moment sudden gathering and you are just making the task more difficult (insert cat herding jokes here). To organize something like this would take the patience of a Saint combined with a will of Iron, and yet it would be so valuable. While some of us have been blessed to find Covens, Circles, Hearth’s, Kindred, Groves and any other form of Pagan Group that cares about them and supports them, many have not. Think about how wonderful it would be to have a group of Pagans, who may not share your actual belief system but have some similarities, stop in to check on you. A group to let you talk, pray with you, light candles with you and support you as your world crashed to a halt (even as the rest of the world marches forward). Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Finally… I love little old Church Ladies! Granted I have never had a bad experience with any of them, so if you have I am sorry to hear that. I love the feeling of all of these Grandmotherly types coming together to care for the community. They were warm, friendly and attentive, and yet I'm not sure anyone really took notice of them. There was no standing ovation for their hard work, nobody stepped into the kitchen and said "Thanks ladies, take a break". These women who all looked like they were in their late 70's and quite honestly their energy put me to shame. They ran from table to table, carrying food out to people, laying a quiet hand on the shoulders of the people who were standing alone in the corners. They made sure everyone who was there was well taken care of, using a combination of grace and humor to ensure we were all well fed. They did not preach, they did not chastise, they just were there, serving those whose hearts were breaking. We need more people like that in this world.