I will be visiting Pacific School of Religion (PSR) all day on the 30th, and visiting Starr King the evening of the 31st. I’ll be visiting a class for both and taking a tour. For PSR I’m also interviewing with the admissions director, meeting with the financial aid folks, and attending a chapel service.
I’m leaning towards PSR at the moment. After reading their policies of inclusiveness and equality, I’m finding I’m having the same feeling with them when I first heard about Elmira College. I also like that they have a social justice focus. When I was talking with a friend who had also been through seminary (Starr King, specifically), he had asked me if I had looked into PSR. I brushed it off at first because from what I had briefly read, it seemed too specifically Christian (not that I didn’t expect that, but it seemed at first blush more than Starr King). He suggested that I read more about them and that they weren’t as much that way as I thought. So I did, and the more I read, the more I liked it. What has impressed me most is that they have a written policy about using inclusive language (including pronouns) when talking about god and in public speaking.
The other thing is that PSR has been “selling it” to me, where, with Starr King, it took two emails and about three weeks before I got a response. I know I probably could have called in there, too, and I’m sure that they’re busy (since I think one of their application deadlines just passed, or is coming up soon), but it still felt a little odd. I’m sure there’s people (ok, I know some) that could enlighten me about Starr King and what’s a better way to go about it with them.
The biggest hurdle, I think, will be my actual application. I plan on making it pretty plain about my pagan spirituality in my essay and explaining in the essay why I’m applying. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into the more, shall we say, ecstatic practices of my faith, but I will talk about the training that’s lead me to this point in my life.
So, if they are open to having a big, practicing Witch in their student body, then I’ll be fine. If not, well, I keep applying.
I was asked just today why I’m applying to predominantly Christian institutions, being a Pagan with a capital P and all. The main reason is that there just aren’t any accredited pagan seminaries yet. Cherry Hill Seminary will be someday, but it can’t give me the degree I need to do chaplaincy. (I do hope, however, that when I do get my degree, and am doing chaplaincy, work that I’ll be able to help them on the path to accreditation. I think we really need to start making institutions as Pagans.)
The secondary reason is that I am really big on interfaith work. It is, I think, something that’s really important, not only because I think that it will be necessary in creating and maintaining peace, but because it is something that the pagan community needs healing for. Many pagans come towards Christianity from a place of anger, and rightly so. Christianity has not been a friend to those who do not follow the dogma. But there are groups that are trying to change the face of Christianity, and if we can’t bring ourselves to work with them, Christianity won’t have the chance to evolve and move past the Fundamentalists. If we’re screaming at the very groups that we should be working with, and keep telling them how wrong their religion is, doesn’t it make us like the very ones who are doing that to us?
I won’t argue that Christianity as a whole had done a lot of evil in the world. You just have to study history to figure that out. But I think that if given the chance, Christianity will evolve. Paganism isn’t all rosy and good either. Like Christianity, it has its scandals, abuse, and cults. (I’ve experienced that first hand.)
Another thing is that I will be learning a lot of history of religions, and as a chaplain, I will need at least some passing knowledge of as many religions as possible. If there was a person who was dying, I would need to know what to do for them spiritually. If they didn’t want me, I would need to know who to find for them and how to approach that particular religion’s leaders. Being disrespectful while trying to fulfill a dying person’s wish, well, to me, would be wrong.
My basic belief is that all gods are from the same place. Sometimes I imagine that we are all on the edge of a wheel, looking in to a bright white light that is divinity. No matter what one calls this divinity, we are all looking at the same thing. I would wish that more people saw the similarities more than the differences, but we are all human after all.