A New Look at Clergy Basics

When I first wrote this piece in its original form, it was in preparation for a small book.  I presented these points in a workshop at Michigan Pagan Fest in the June of 2015.  This is basically a word for word copy of the requirements as this writer saw them at that time.

Your friendly neighborhood Detroit Paganism Examiner has been a practicing ordained minister for a very long time. Being clergy has had its ups and downs, and being Pagan clergy has certainly been challenging. The ride has been long and bumpy enough that Betty Davis would appreciate the seat belt usage involved.

That being said, since having committed to teaching an outer court grove over the last year, it has come into conversation what the basics of being clergy are. What are the commonly held standards, and who sets them? While Cherry Hill Seminary, and others, are model schools, they are not the only route to being living, practicing, clergy. Academic training is marvelous, but it does not invalidate the coven based traditions or other modalities of training.

So, in the interest of sharing some of this person’s views, as well as protecting their formatted listing from plagiarism since they are going to be published in an upcoming book this summer, they will be listed here under Mistress Belladonna’s guide to Pagan clergy basics.

1. You should have at least attained the age of 21. Why? Because you should be able to enter a bar and pick up your damn covener/parishioner from the damned floor and take them to the car.
2. You should also be able to enter into contracts and be able to understand them.
3. You should know the laws on Confession. And be able to use them to protect yourself and your client.
4. You should know the laws on Mandatory Reporting in your state.
5. You should know the laws and requirements governing marriages and weddings in your state. Also, in this same matter, you should know the requirements to perform a marriage for someone who has divorced and what paperwork you need.
6. You should know the protocols, procedures, and laws on Hospice, Medical Advocacy, Medical Directives, DNR orders, and rudimentary statutory will forms so that you may assist your client to get these resources.
7. You should know the laws on Birth, Paternity, FosterCare, Kinship Programs, and Adoption so that you may be a source of information and advocacy for your clients.
8. You should know the laws on Prison Ministry, even if you do not perform this service, and maintain knowledge of Prison Chaplain requirements in your state.
9. You should know the laws on Burial Rites, and have a resource guide for those making end of life decisions that you can access to assist them.
10. You should have at least a rudimentary knowledge on Substance Abuse Education and Treatment Programs. Even better, at least some training in this area.
11. You should have access to mental health service providers, and be experienced enough to know when SOMEONE’S PROBLEMS LIE OUTSIDE OF YOUR SCOPE OF LAY SPIRITUAL COUNSELING. You should know the laws on referring someone for treatment.
12. You have studied, or at least familiarized yourself with the basics of, military chaplaincy and the rights of the people of your faith group
13. You have earned the respect of you, yourself, and others in your peer group as someone who is of good character and consistency
14. You have cultivated the qualities of leadership in yourself and can undertake hard decisions with fairness and firmness, yet be able to temper them with mercy and discernment
15. If you are of a martial bent, you have the mettle and the character to be a spiritual leader, and a channel of inspiration and bravery in battle
16. You are recognized as a Judge in the community, impartial and fair, with Wisdom
17. You should have a set of basic rituals on hand that you can perform in the event you are called into service. These include, but are not limited to

  • I. Wiccaning/Baptism
  • II. Wedding/Handfasting/Commitment Ceremony
  • III. Divorce/HandParting Ceremony
  • IV. Memorial Services
  • V. Funeral Service/Rites
  • VI. House Blessings
  • VII. Blessing a Person
  • VIII. Rites of Passage Ceremonies
  • IX. Saging/Croning
  • X. Warrior Rites
  • XI. Queening/Fathering
  • XII. Surgical/Medical Pre Prayers
  • Others

18. You should be able to explain what your beliefs are and some of their history.
19. You should be able to not have to engage in shock and awe, but engage in quiet, polite, civil theological conversation in general with other ministers of their faiths about matters of spirituality and life
20. You should know the meanings behind every tool you use, every ritual, and every hand gesture you use in YOUR practices
21. You should have some sort of First Aid Training (this includes Mental First Aid)
22. You should be able to walk into a room and hold your ground, soundly, in the face of those who would ridicule you
23. You should bring no disgrace to those who associate themselves with your ministry
24. You should bring honor to your faith, and associate nothing false
25. You should be able to be an advocate for the weak, no matter the faith
26. If you are of a martial bent, you should be able to be at the forefront of social causes to the best of your ability if your conscience moves you so
27. You should have no fear, nor eat your heart, when you witness something evil or wrong and call it out

In addition to these, there are some experiences that make really good clergy. Not all, but at least some of these are necessary for a balanced view of real life.

1. You have lost someone close to you to death
2. You have had a major medical procedure
3. You have had a brush with death
4. You have had a child
5. You have dealt with someone with a substance abuse issue OR had one yourself OR both
6. You have volunteered to help those less fortunate and/or have been helped because you were less fortunate
7. You have attended the practices, rites, and ritual services of other groups on your path and on other paths and examined them objectively
8. You have led at least one person through a personal crisis
9. You have been in an accident
10. You have been married or in a long term relationship where you lived with the other person
11. You have done military service
12. You have someone in your circle who is in the military

Is this an all encompassing list? Not at all. Does it mean that academic studies are invalid? NO. They are a part of the process of growth and give the ability to convey they inner depths of understanding. However, these markers are a good way to test if you are lay clergy or are actually a representative of your beliefs through that office. It is a self test, and a community test that can be used to evaluate where you are in your practice.

Now, an important addition to this piece comes today.  After being interviewed by Goddess Rhonda, and Goddess Starr,  of the The Priestess View Show last evening, I was blessed with an more expansive view.  Something that truly is the Powers That Be working.  Hearing the insight and eloquent sharing of Rhonda, and experiencing the comments of the contributing listeners, there came a Eureka moment.

Add to this list something that should have been at the beginning.  Add to this list that which is essential.  Add to this list a simple, yet monumental thing:

When acting in any leadership position, this is important.  But in Priestly, or Clergical, matters, the need for this is critical.  It is beyond vital that we appear, unadorned and free, in our dealings with others and our communities.  Our successes, our triumphs, our challenges, and yes, even our failures, must all be able to be used and put on the table as necessary.  Why?  Because by presenting the whole human experience, it it another form of ministry.
Often times people can put folks on pedestals.  Those in the helping professions and callings often are there when the night is long and dark.  This can place a glamour of sorts around the mind’s image of those seen as rescuers and comforters and confidantes.  It is only by making sure we present as fully imperfect that we can go a long way towards assuring that this does not only go to their heads, but to ours as well.  Thank you, Goddesses  Rhonda and Star, for this teaching.  

Originally published Tuesday, December 29, 2015

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