My Parliament experience was interrupted by a conflict in my home Pagan community, and since I moderate the Facebook group for our area, the parties in question involved me. Without going into too much detail for the sake of all parties, the conflict was over a bad review left about a business, and accusations that the business in question didn’t support the pagan community. Both parties mentioned the community, and seem to have different expectations about what responsibilities pagan-owned businesses have towards it. But the pagan “community” isn’t really one at all. At best, it is a loose conglomeration of paganish people who come together for social events and share an online group. At least, that’s what it is here.
I’ve spent almost half my life trying to serve this pagan community in a variety of ways. I’ve not always been very good at it – at 33, I hope I’m a better, calmer, more educated person than I was at 18. I’ve not always been the best at social interactions, and I’m still not; sometimes those nuances are lost on me. I struggle with depression and anxiety, and whether these flaws of mine mean I should continue my attempts at service, I’m not certain.
What I am certain about, is that this idea of community exists, but it’s still an incredibly lonely place. As part of my Facebook group admin duties, I post discussion questions twice a week, and my most recent was “What is the hardest part about being a pagan?” Overwhelmingly, the answer was loneliness. We are seeking fellowship and community.
At Parliament, I felt this immensely. One morning, I felt the incredible absence of my friends. I say ‘friends’ in a big, wide way – people I know from ADF, from the US, who I may have only met once or twice in person, but who I interact with online. ADF members, Priests, who I wish were with me but weren’t.
I believe that ADF missed an incredible opportunity to sponsor a chosen delegation of Priests and other leaders to represent our church at this event. We had no official representatives, and unofficially there was just me and my smartphone doing my best to learn and report. There was far too much for one person to take in, and by not having more people there, we missed an opportunity for education to bring back to our organization, and to be a vocal presence among other Pagans and other faiths.
With other Pagans at Parliament, I gladly attended rites, sat with them in workshops and lectures, and there was some common ground. Some rites, like Circle Sanctuary’s Rite for the Earth, spoke to me much more than others, like the Correllian Lustration of the Living. That is not a criticism of the Correllian rite, it just wasn’t for me.
This is the reality of our pagan community. We are from many traditions, with many beliefs. Some of the lonely people who answered my discussion question hope to find open circles, rituals, fellowship, education, led by people with the same beliefs as them. This may not happen, ever. So, there are a few choices: be content as a solitary practitioner; step into leadership and start your own group that matches your beliefs; or find a community of convenience to celebrate with. (You’re always welcome at mine.)
Related, you may want to read Rethinking the Big Tent of Paganism by John Beckett.