Practice

A couple of times in the last few weeks I have had to explain my beliefs and practice. Have you ever had to do that – explain what your beliefs are from scratch – to those who have no concept or frame of reference that allows them to understand what it is you are saying. And I don’t mean a throw away comment, but a detailed explanation.

It’s tough, let me tell you.

As you know, I have had thoughts for a while about serving my community and how, as a Pagan, that can be quite difficult.

I have a couple of things on that go that are helping to seek to address that and I will explain about them at a further date.

But today, I went to the Chaplaincy at my university for the midday prayer. Why did I do that? You may ask. If you were thinking that it would probably be an Anglican service you would in fact be right. I want to engage with people from within a religious context is the answer. I did have trepidations about going, but I really shouldn’t have – Adele the Chaplin was welcoming, as was the other person there for the prayer. They even welcomed me during the prayers, which was a really nice feeling!

None of them (we were joined by a man later) had had any contact with Pagans and so I had to explain what my beliefs were and what my practice was. To very puzzled and bemused faces in one case – not from judgement, but from a lack of understanding. It was a real challenge for me to explain myself comprehensively.

They asked me why I went to them today – and I explained my reasons – most, you know, but also because I believe that at the root of most religions is love and a belief in a higher power- most of us are heading towards the same point, just with different language, texts and clothes in some cases (looking at the Chaplin’s dog collar). I am happy to worship with other people – my practice is solitary and it is nice to be with other people who are reaching out to the higher power – however they see it.

Worship – now there’s a tricky word for most Pagans, who refuse to have anything to do with it. And I understand – there is a lot of baggage attached to the word. But more and more I am coming to terms with it – it is a word that many faiths can understand. I do not prostrate myself, nor am I obsequious in my dealings with the Gods. Let’s face it; I am not a grovelling person. But I like to look for similarities between religions, let’s find ways for us to have things in common, not differences. And if working with a word is the way to do it, so be it.

As part of explaining my beliefs I explained my daily practice (which I promise I will write about soon). The Chaplin said that it was very grounded. I laughed- what a great summary for my Paganism. It is grounded – as I have said many, many times I am a highly practical, pragmatic person. I am not airy-fairy and my faith is such a huge part of who I am – it is not a mantle that I pull on at ritual time, in the form of velvet and frippery. In fact when I do ritual it is often wearing my jeans and trusty docs.

Before anyone gets offended – people practice how they want and that is fine, I am just trying to articulate, on (virtual) paper, my feelings and practice. And that’s not to say that I don’t like making ritual a special time with special clothes (or not as it were), but my Paganism is such an integral part of me.

So, there we go, a long, rather waffling response to a challenging 75 minutes, which really made me think about myself and my practices. I will be going back to Chaplaincy room for more time there – in amongst the chaos of an Arts university it is a really nice place to ground and think on different things.

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6 thoughts on “Practice

  1. armaitus says:

    Sadly, I am surrounded by people with either little patience for or little interest in personal beliefs.

    I rarely make time to reconcile myself in the way that many do through worship (solitary or otherwise) and should really put an effort into changing that.

    On the rare occasion that belief has sprung up in discussion, I find that the people in my immediate environment are more interested in getting their own views across and less so in listening to the views of others – I just see that as standard human nature.

    I commend your visiting the chaplaincy 🙂 I would have avoided it like the plague, having been burnt in the past by devout christians trying to convert me.

    That’s an unfair viewpoint on my part – the local pagan group (Huddersfield Area Pagans) integrated themselves very well with the local “Multi-Faith” society – initially formed to get the diverse religions of Huddersfield’s residents meeting and talking – they were surprised when confronted with these peace loving “hippy” pagans (my description of them – may not be accurate to how they are now).

    My negative experiences with those who hold more orthodox beliefs have lessened over the years. My partner holds to the Roman Catholic belief system and I’ve attended church with her on many occasions – and contrary to the running joke between us, the font neither bubbled or boiled.

    We’re comfortable with the differences and similarities in each other’s religious make-up… I think this is in part because of the flexibility of my own beliefs but also the resigned (and, despite what non-catholic opinion may say, very accepting) attitude that many catholics have.

    Before his passing, I discussed faith and belief with my partner’s Father and still do so with her Mother occasionally. Politically, her Father and I didn’t see eye to eye – he held viewpoints common to his generation – but religiously we held many common beliefs.

    I think, like yourself, I see the root of things in Love and doing right by your fellows. The difference for me is a flexibility in the higher power that one chooses to recognise. To me, there is a concept of The Divine, omnifaceted, omnipresent and omnipotent – I choose to pay homage to the overall concept and evoke facets in daily life as and when required…

    … and here I am doing exactly what it was you were asking if your readers ever needed to do! You can tell that I don’t often get the opportunity to talk about it. 🙂

    It’s actually a subject I have avoided writing about because of its potentially inflammatory nature. I’ve touched on it in my “Church of Pfizer” posts but never really expanded upon it.

    I’ve offended enough people with my political opinions when posted (in fact I spent time last night revising my facebook “politics” profile to try and clarify why my politics don’t sit well in classical political definition). My religious beliefs are liable to be mocked, questioned, applauded and ignored – in equal measure.

    Maybe I’ve just set myself a new challenge – post more about my religious and spiritual beliefs without offending any of my readership.

    What a great, thought provoking post Jen! Thanks 🙂

  2. I am glad you enjoyed it Ben. I think there are not many opportunites for many of us to talk about spirituality – it’s just not British to talk about these things! And you are right – it is easy for people to take offence. But I think many people don’t care either. I’m not sure which is worse.

    My blog is different to yours though – you are open about your full name and you update your facebook status with your blog posts – I don’t. So I don’t need to worry so much about what people I work with think!

    There is a big section of the Pagan Federation who work with the Inter/Multifaith groups at a higher level and I know that there are those all across the UK who do the same at a local level. I think that this is a fantastic way for people to get involved and to break down some of the barriers between us and them and it get people focusing on the simillarities, rather than the differences.

    There will always be those who try to convert, but we just need to share our views.

    I think I will run a series of posts based on the questions I have been asked and my responses to them……….

    • Juliab says:

      A lovely post. You are very brave! I think ‘devotion’ is a much better word than worship. When people say I am grounded, I regard it as the highest of compliments. 🙂

  3. Thanks Julia! Devotion is a lovely word, I’m sure why that didn’t occur to me…

    And yes, I consider ‘grounded’ to be a compliment too!

  4. EcoYogini says:

    this is a fantastic post. I’ve had a few questions- but they always caught me off guard and were unexpected… so i didn’t feel comfortable answering them (also, I didn’t get the impression these people wanted to have a comprehensive answer).

    I also think it’s very brave of you- and it sounds like you were thoughtful about it. Grounded is the best word I would say- love it!

  5. Thanks EcoYogini! You are right though, not everyone does want a comprehensive answer – sum up your religion in a simple sentence please. Oh right, ok, that’s not at all hard! 🙂

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