The Pagan Experience’s Monday Musing: Any writing for the letters C or D: As with the format of the Pagan Blog Project that The Pagan Experience has replaced… this week, write about any topic that starts with the letter C or D.
I was going to write up Druidry, but I started to and realized that I couldn’t think very well due to having the flu this week, and since it’s dear to my heart, I’d like to give it the attention it deserves. So I will most likely be writing about that later. For today, I think I’ll take it easy and riff on C for Community (and circle/choir/church/coven/coterie, hehe).
For the past year I’ve been attending the Pagan-friendly and non-creedal Unitarian Universalist church in order to connect with community. It’s like church and also not. I am practically allergic to the word church, but to me this is really more of a social club for intelligent and compassionate people. The “sermons” (at least where I attend) are more in the realm of philosophy and social justice, and the music is always fantastic and uses inclusive language. I love the sorts of people it draws (professors, librarians, activists, liberal Christians, Pagans, Buddhists, humanists…people who love knowledge and love the world), and I love the organization’s ethos, so I chose to seek community there. There used to be a chapter of CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) in the area, but currently there is none. I know some of the other UU Pagans, some of whom ran the local Spiral Scouts circle that my kids went to.
I grew up in a strongly communal setting, where my neighborhood was kind of like an extended family, and I was aware that my entire state (Utah) was full of such neighborhoods (wards) that were all affiliated with our church and shared the same religion/culture. And my family itself was huge… clans of six kids (or more) who all had six kids… I have somewhere around 70 first cousins and 36 nieces and nephews. I am used to existing in large groups (even though I’m an introvert.) The way they practiced community often didn’t include healthy boundaries (and the patriarchal authoritarianism…) but it doesn’t have to be like that.
So I was really starting to miss having a community, at about 15 years into my new path. I’d had some smaller groups that served that role, like a group for Ex-Mormons and a Pagan discussion group that was close-knit, but they had dissolved with people moving away and such. My polyamorous family has become a small community, in itself, but I need more. Community… friends… a coterie or circle of close friends as well as a broader circle of people who care about each other. I still find such community valuable.
I’m attending the Women’s Sacred Circle at the church (Goddess/Pagan), as well as a non-violence study group and the Chancel Choir. I’m on the Environmental Ministry’s e-mail list (this is Tim DeChristopher‘s home congregation.) If they don’t already have a comfort shawl ministry (making shawls for people going through suffering/grief), I would consider starting one (I don’t think it would be as involved as starting a CUUPS chapter.) There are all kinds of groups and classes to choose from. It’s pretty great. I might even officially join someday, though I’m not much of a joiner after getting out of the large, non-optional cult I grew up in. I love my freedom. Not that UUs exercise that degree of control (or any at all) or forbid you from joining other organizations, as well. I would need time to get comfortable with membership in an organized religion again, even if it’s an open and liberal one. Then again, I could easily see myself going to a seminary and serving as a UU minister, along with or instead of going to Cherry Hill Pagan Seminary, which I’ve had my eye on, lately. (Which also starts with C, as does clergy, hehe.)
Choir has been making me quite happy, as it’s incredibly good to have music back in my life… to be making music with others again. The broad range of types of songs from around the world and through the ages that we sing are all so beautiful! We even got to do more Pagan types of songs for the Winter Solstice program. It has reignited my interest in the possibility of a Pagan choir and perhaps writing or adapting songs to have Pagan lyrics. The Bard in me is very excited about this possibility! I’m considering making an online group for Bards/Awenyddion so things like that could be facilitated.
I hope to someday live in an ecovillage or other intentional community, so my community can be secular and civic as well as having people of similar interests and hopefully spirituality to connect with (kind of like I grew up with, I guess). I really love the work ecovillages are doing to develop sustainable models for human societies, and I want to contribute to that work. The hyper-individualistic American society is too fragmented and every nuclear family or individual functions as an island adrift in the world, and has to attain and maintain/consume their own set of tools and resources, and can only offer limited support, whereas villages or neighborhoods can share equipment/resources and form supportive networks and interconnected relationships with each other and the wider ecological community. Indigenous communities have lived this way for tens of thousands of years. It is sustainable and healthy for humans, since we evolved in such settings. We’ve only relatively recently begun to live differently, crammed into city-states, or nation-states so big we can’t possibly hold space for each other or share the same bioregional or cultural interests, beyond a few overarching themes.
So I think humanity ought to scale it back down, while I hope Americans will scale it back up into localized community, which we’ve lost in many ways, and which causes plenty of our problems. We need to balance the interests of the individual with the interests of the community. America overemphasizes the former, and some other countries (and cults) overemphasize the latter. I’ve lived in different parts of that spectrum, and I believe we can balance them.