Reflections on Supporting All Sacred Space and Places of Worship

"Life must have its sacred moments and its holy places. We need the infinite, the limitless, the uttermost -- all that can give the heart a deep and strengthening peace." Author: A. Powell Davies

I’ve been spending more and more time with my parents lately. From these visits come small snippets of conversation, their thoughts, memories, and opinions – many times without the filtered words they used in years past. I found the one-page church bulletin from the church he attends – the one I grew up in. I noted the bulletin was just one page. It used to be more pamphlet-like. Most of the current bulletin was prayer requests. My parents’ names were on it, of course. I breezed through the long list. Some of the people I knew, some not. On this particular day, my Dad was going to a meeting at the church. From what I gathered, it was possibly a “budget meeting.” My Dad isn’t a deacon, so it had to be a meeting for all church members. My Mom doesn’t attend church any longer, but she helps to support it financially. She’s tried going back over the years, but ever since that sermon on sinful gay people, she’s had no use for it. (High-five Mom!) Upon Dad’s return an hour or so later, he sat at the kitchen table and shook his head – in the negative fashion. He said, “That church won’t last much longer. Everyone’s going to the big church – Calvary.” Calvary is the church my maternal grandmother attended. In my youth, I attended church with her occasionally and for other random functions. It was the big white church to me. It was louder and brighter – peppier than our church. Our church was more somber, but it was what I was used to.

I asked Dad why he thinks it won’t last much longer. Money. There’s not enough money coming in any longer to keep things funded. Many members with money have either died or moved off. Their children don’t support it and the younger folks obviously prefer the “louder – brighter” church. Not to mention, they can’t keep a preacher. “They keep running the good ones off. “ My brother chimed in. The word “fired” was used and Dad shook his head again. I know of one preacher Dad really liked. I liked him too. He visited Dad in the hospital and at home. It helps that the parsonage is next door, but even so, I knew he was a good man and had a caring heart. He was also good with the youth, from what I gathered. But, apparently, the older generation didn’t like him. I don’t know all the details, but as usual, it had to do with money. Nevertheless, they’ve been through at least two other preachers since him. I don’t think they have one at all now. Dad misses the connection. The one-on-one he felt with that preacher. He was personable. Now he’s gone.

I saw the sadness in Dad’s expression. He loves that church. It’s comfort for him. He knows all the folks there, young and old, and some of his coffee drinking buddies are members. It’s where we were raised as children - my brother, sister and me. I loved the somber quietness of it, the dark paneled walls, the dark red carpet and red velvet cushions on the pews, the beautiful organ. It wasn’t fancy, but it was solid and secure. In years past, as most churches do, they added on an extra building, extra classrooms, an updated kitchen, bathrooms, huge dining area – because they had a growth spurt. Or did they? Maybe it was a “keeping up with the big white church” thing. I felt sad for my Dad and for the situation his church is in now. Even though I know he won’t be around much longer to enjoy it, I know he worries about the future of his church. He cares.

I listened to my Dad and brother talk for a while longer about church issues and their take on the whys and why-nots of this and that. (Side note: My brother is a gay man. He doesn’t do church and hasn’t for many, many years. However, he will tell you in a heartbeat, “I’m a Christian soldier.” He just soldiers on his own and in his own way. High-five brother!) After a bit, I found myself relating those church issues to Nefer and the struggles that some Pagan Circles/Groups have.

Nefer, our Circle, is small. It’s small in every way. I might even consider it somber at times, but it’s beautiful. It’s lush and hot in the Summer and earthly and cold in the Winter. It’s a perfect size place. It’s not acres upon acres, and we don’t have buildings and restrooms, or a kitchen. We have trees and rocks, flowers and sand. It’s comfortable. I’ve always said that those that are meant to be at Nefer, will be at Nefer. No matter how many, Nefer has a way of welcoming and accommodating many – yet if it’s just a few folks, it still feels like home. I do find myself sometimes wondering why we don’t have more folks – do they prefer the bigger rounder Circles? The ones with cushy cushions, drummers, piped in music, floors and ceilings? I’ve been to a few churches in the past couple of years with my daughters. I rarely listen to the sad songs and preaching and instead admire their building. Many of the “new life-type” churches do have great building structures. I think to myself, “What a great temple this would make, the acoustics are wonderful in here!” Then, I rein myself back in and remember how grateful I am to have a sacred area with no walls and no ceiling. The God and Goddess can see and hear us just fine. Our only growth spurt comes in the Spring time and it comes for free, every year. We are SO blessed.

We have wonderful connections. I don’t get to see enough of everyone. And…there are those that aren’t at Nefer anymore, either by the Gods, or by choice. I’ve always tell people the Circle is always open and it is. Just drive past that privacy fence, park and walk yourself right into our backyard – it’s right there. The gates are never locked. Help yourself to as much Mother Nature sacred time as you need. Pull up a concrete or wooden bench and sit a while. So few do. I don’t have much to offer the local Pagans, but what I do have to offer is a PLACE, an outdoor sanctuary and my sticktoitiveness. I am here; no one is going to fire me. There are no budget meetings or crabby tight deacons to tell me how much sand I can dump in the Circle this year or limit my funding on tea lights or donating to other groups. Yet, funds are needed from time to time to sustain certain elements to which we have become accustomed. These girls LOVE to light up the Circle! We are SO blessed.

I always feel like our needs as a Pagan group are minimal. It’s basically the same items every year, every Sabbat, every gathering under the Moon. Tiki torch fluid, lighters/matches, tea lights, tea light holders when Mother Nature gets a little rough, new or used garden statuary, sand, an occasional garden tool or gardening gloves, wine for rituals, offerings to the Gods, donations to charities and help occasionally to tend and maintain our 5 flower beds in the Circle. It sounds simple enough. In 2015, Nefer’s monetary donations were less than $50. Our gates will still be open. We are SO Blessed.

If the people of a smaller Church don’t support their spiritual home and decide to go down the street to the “big white church,” what happens to the old church with its dark paneled walls and its red velvet cushions? These people don’t know how lucky they are to have such a wonderful place to worship. They are blessed!

If people in a Pagan community do not support their local smaller Circles and Temples and only go to the “big name Pagan events,” what happens to those Circles with fresh air, green grass and bale fires to offer? Remember how lucky we are to have these places. It’s important to support them, not only financially, but just by simply being there and giving your time and energy. Visit a local Pagan group, Circle, gathering, or event. Be Blessed!

- Amaya