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June 30th, 2008


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05:07 pm - Interfaith, Pride, and Bay Leaves
I have a feeling of inadequacy. Well, sort of. More to the point, I have a feeling that I have more to prove when I walk up onto a stage, behind a pulpit, or to the altar at an interfaith gathering than most anyone else there.

I remember looking around before the service at World AIDS Day and seeing my fellow clergypersons milling about, chatting, and generally being social. I was the only person in the room off in the corner working hard to nail down my part of the service. That was a frightening experience.

I felt at the time like I was the only person who hadn't studied enough to be confident in his words, or to speak clearly, or to convey his meaning. I felt like everyone else there was so darn comfortable with what they were doing, so well-practiced and rehearsed. I really felt like a child who has been asked to sing a silly song among adults. My words were even printed in the program, so there was no way I could ad-lib if I decided to let the moment take me. It was the most strictly ordered ritual I had ever participated in, and ever have since, with one exception recently.

Then the WAD service began, and I watched a couple of people speak. The first few speakers were polished, and I knew I had to nail my part. I walked forth and read it with conviction, fumbling one word out of about two hundred total (though I was apparently the only one who noticed), and spoke with as much force and courage as I could muster. I sat down, generally fretting over the fumbled word and started shaking like a leaf until I could meet seamus_mcnasty and shawneen_bear and ask them their opinion.

As I waited, though, I watched the other speakers. Some speakers were very good, while others were . . . not so good. Some turned their moment at the podium into pure commercialism, speaking more about their church than about their message. I recognized that day that I was not the only clergyperson or lay reader who experienced stage fright.

After the service, I received a number of compliments on my delivery and performance. It felt good to hear that, because I am never very sure of my own ability to properly represent Neo-Paganism or Druidry when I speak among persons of diverse faith.

Having a chance to actively work toward planning the Pride service from this past weekend, however, things were a bit different. Rather than being a "token non-Christian," I was fortunate to have another Pagan there, this one from Green Faerie Grove, which made two voices for Paganism in the midst of a small sea of majority religions. Instead of being shuffled into the service with a part already written that needed to be re-edited to be even a half-truth, I was given the opportunity to not only speak from the heart, but to speak the last words of the service.

I spent time again that morning, while others in the service spent time socializing or trying to organize photos, to work out what I wanted to say. I approached trees and placed my hand on them, feeling the rough bark. I knelt to the ground and felt the grass and the dirt. I listened as closely as I could to the Mother.

I watched the entire service. Some presenters were good, some alright. None were bad. But I still felt that same oppressive feeling: I have to represent, and I have to do it well. I listened to readings from the Bible and things written by Humanists. I heard Buddhist chants and music that was catchy and spirit-lifting. And here I was with no words in my head except a general awareness of the Earth Mother.

When it was my turn, I spoke something like this (this is as I remember it, and nowhere near entirely correct. . I'm hoping that a couple of revisions will make it truer to my words that day):

"I am Rev. Michael J Dangler, of Three Cranes Grove, ADF, a local Druid fellowship. We have always felt it was important to celebrate Pride, for we are all Children of the Earth Mother. Whether we believe were formed from clay and given life by the breath of a deity; made up of the elements of the periodic table; or born directly from the Mother herself, we all share our one Earth Mother. As we prepare to depart, we will ask for blessings from our Earth Mother this day. Thank you for coming to this service, and thank the organizers for holding it. It is our tradition, though you need not follow it, to kneel and touch the ground as we call out to the Earth."

Earth Mother, your children call out to you.
You uphold us as we move through life, with each step we take.
Let every step we take upon you today in pride and unity
Be a step toward justice, understanding, and love.

Let us follow the footsteps of our Ancestors
Who blazed trails long before us and fought for what was right.
Let us hear the blessings of the Nature Spirits
Who play among the trees and upon the wind.
And let us go forth with the strength of the Shining Ones
The deities we follow and love.

Earth Mother, mighty Kindreds,
Bless our steps this day, and uphold us even in adversity.

Children of the Earth,
Go in peace and blessings:
This service is ended.


seamus_mcnasty and I had a conversation later on about why I feel the way I do around interfaith events. A lot of it has to do with a strong desire to prove that Paganism is worth inviting into interfaith events: no matter how much I may dislike it, each time I step in front of a mixed crowd, I am representing our religion to everyone there. I am very aware of that fact, and my natural stage fright and disinclination to speak for any other person at all starts to take over. This is probably why I appear so "together" at these interfaith things: I'm so very aware of how much responsibility gets placed upon me, and how ill-prepared I often feel to live up to that level of responsibility.

In the end, seamus_mcnasty said something that I really took to heart: we in ADF (and Cranes in particular) are not people who are inclined to rest on our laurels. We are always looking to better ourselves, probably because we see just how far we have to go. Zeno's Frog is apt here, for no matter how far we have gone, there is still just a bit further to get.

I suppose that's why I spend my "free" time studying, and why I cut into things I really want to do for ADF: there's just so much further to go. I haven't even scratched the surface. . .

The comment about "resting on our laurels" reminded me of something more, too, and (I think) made our Sunday ritual better. But you'll have to wait until later for that story.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: "Rancho Deluxe", -JB

(27 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:anivair
Date:June 30th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I always feel the same way, as if I have to constantly prove that I'm doing something valid sometimes.

i think it's because I grew up catholic and I know for a fact that they are thinking that. "Well, you're doing the stuff, but it's not a *real* religion!" Hell, i'd have thought that myself at one point and to be honest, there are small parts of my mind that still have that fear in them. I think a lot of pagans have the fear, having come from another faith mostly, that their religion is just made up.

And what gets me past that is understanding that ALL religions are made up. They are all equally silly, they are all equally fantasy and they are all just as full of hocus pocus as the rest. Once you get past that fact, you can relax and just go with what works for you.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
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Indeed, that does help.

Interestingly, I'm sometimes more self-conscious in private ritual, where it's just me. I think that's because I'm not really comfortable with being the only focus of so much attention. It's easier for me when there are a lot of people doing ritual.

But yeah, there's that perception that we're fighting, that we're just out playing pirate for a day. As if we're imagining it all, or telling stories to ourselves, or trying to make ourselves more interesting.

Yeah, we have real relationships, and yes, we have real clergy training, and yes, any one of our Druids could whoop your Cleric's ass any day.

Oops, back I go to role playing, huh?
[User Picture]
From:anivair
Date:July 2nd, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure. I think you'd whoop the pope!
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 2nd, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)
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I don't know about that:

[User Picture]
From:wylde_chylde99
Date:July 1st, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
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I think you are an excellent representative for a variety of reasons!!!
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 03:04 am (UTC)
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Thank you; it means a lot to me coming from you, actually.

And that is a beautiful usericon.
[User Picture]
From:quillon
Date:July 1st, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
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I'm proud of you, especially because you're out there, stepping up and being the face of Druidry and paganism.

Great work!
[User Picture]
From:mischevousblend
Date:July 1st, 2008 01:22 am (UTC)
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Ditto to the last two comments! :) And the fact that you are humble about your gifts makes you all the more wonderful.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 03:06 am (UTC)
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Aww. Dunno about humble. I just do what I do.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)
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A face, perhaps. One among many, and (I wish) more to come. Thanks for that, though.
[User Picture]
From:dubhlainn
Date:July 1st, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
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I haven't yet met you in person but seeing your video it seems to me you have an excellent ritual voice, and I would guess you have some public speaking experience as well.

When i speak for sermons I write what I want to say, as I am going to say it, read it over obsessively for a few days ahead of time and then on the day of the event and evening before do not look at it at all. That may be why you saw some people not re-reading/ re-writing their speaking parts. For me, even when I am saying hello to others and meeting people, the general message of the speech in my mind.

In my opinion it is possible to over-think it. You know your stuff, you have a great feel for people, just trust in your hard work, knowledge, and ability to connect. I am sure you were great!
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
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I suppose different people have different ways of preparing. I never would have thought about that. I'm virtually unavailable prior to ritual because I'm constantly going over and over things in my head or on paper, trying to make them the best possible. I'm no perfectionist by any stretch, but I do have a strong feeling of responsibility when it comes to ritual, particularly for folks who have never seen a living, breathing Pagan before.

Around my Grove, it's less an issue, but even there, I often get caught up in preparation.
[User Picture]
From:romandruid
Date:July 1st, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
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Dude, I'm so proud of you... I do wish you wouldn't be so very hard on yourself, but I also see the value in always challenging yourself to be the very best representative you can be.

Be yourself and relax... what lies beneath the surface is even more beautiful than the facade, y'know.

(Missin' you a lot lately... *hugs*)
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
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Missin' me? Just last weekend, you were under a tent with me, next to a tree, in a damn thunderstorm, holding the thing's metal frame down so it didn't blow away! ;)

And thank you for being proud of me. It means a lot to me that you are.

I challenge myself primarily because I have such a long way to go. "Twenty-four hours, maybe sixty good years, it's really not that long a stay." I have a lot to do in that time. I'm consciously hard on myself, too: I don't want to get over confident, arrogant, or just become a jerk about stuff. I'm deathly afraid of those things.
[User Picture]
From:romandruid
Date:July 1st, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
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*hugs* Luv ya... lightning and all.
*sniff*
[User Picture]
From:romandruid
Date:July 2nd, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
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Please note, you should read my SAWP writing from today. It's largely about you and this theme. :)
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 2nd, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)
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Got it read :) I appreciate it :)

I think I'll have to show Maggie, if you don't mind.
[User Picture]
From:romandruid
Date:July 2nd, 2008 03:30 am (UTC)
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Please do...
[User Picture]
From:romandruid
Date:July 2nd, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
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Erm... does she have a similar issue with chaos magic by any chance?
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 2nd, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
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Dunno. Guess I'll find out?
[User Picture]
From:ariansdreams
Date:July 1st, 2008 06:04 am (UTC)
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It sounds to me like you did an awesome job. :)
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. It's always hard to tell how these things will come out. I worry about them a lot.
[User Picture]
From:dragynphyre
Date:July 1st, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Damnit, Michael, your transcription just made me get all teary-eyed. I would have been sobbing if I'd heard it in person.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 1st, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. I really need to get a digital audio recorder for events like this.
[User Picture]
From:shawneen_bear
Date:July 1st, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)

Interfaith, Pride, and Bay Leaves

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Michael,
As one of the people who was actually present at the interfaith service, I must tell you that you gave one of the most poignant, on topic and beautifully delivered portions of the service. (Not only that, you looked marvelous in your druidy whites!) I was tearing up feeling so well represented as a member of a real faith, with real values and virtues, that didn't have to parse the meaning of its scriptures in order to come up with a text that they could share that wasn't homophobic. You rocked!!!
Everyone said so including the Christians, You move us from the shadows into the antiseptic sunlight. I am proud to have you as my priest!
Shawneen
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:July 2nd, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)

Re: Interfaith, Pride, and Bay Leaves

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Thank you, Shawneen. It's much appreciated.

And the disadvantages of not having scripture are far outweighed by the advantages of relying on awen :)
[User Picture]
From:caelesti
Date:July 2nd, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
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Good for you, stepping out there! I have often found when doing public speaking I may be a bit nervous but it ends up turning out better than I thought it would. I think GLBT activism is a good starting place for Pagans to do interfaith work- after all if people are open-minded enough to accept queer folks, generally they should be able to deal with Pagans.
I find that acting confident and unapologetic (like of course I'm supposed to be here!) It's very true that like it or not, we are individually representing our religions in a way that isn't the case for others. Often we are the first open Pagan the people have met. But that's the way it is with any minority to some degree.

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