Today's my birthday, a significant on this year -- I got my Medicare card. Of all the people I share this birthday with, my favorite is the late George Harrison; we were born the same day and year.
What I'm going to brag about is the panel I put together for PantheaCon. Titled "When We Call, Who Comes?" we were scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, the first sessions, when most Con-goers hadn't arrived yet. Nevertheless, our room was full to overcrowding.
Nothing by way of set-up that I'd asked for on my application way back in October was in place. No two tables and five chairs for panelists, no two mikes, no pitchers of water and glasses. Just a room with rows of chairs facing one wall. Early arrivals helped set us up as best we could. It's just amazing to me that you are asked to list all requirements for your presentation (no one under 18; chairs or not; closed after session begins; projectors; screens; mikes; etc.) in October, when you get on site four whole months later in February, nothing has been done by of making those accommodations.
I had wanted the panel to be comprised of Pagans I knew to be bright and accomplished, to have depth and vision, and to have thought on matters thea/ological. Not necessarily to have resolved them to their own or anyone else's satisfaction; just to have a broad knowledge of theology, and Pagan approaches to theology.
My dear friend Michael York, having authored Pagan Theology, was an obvious choice for me. Plus it was his first time at PantheaCon, and he happens to teach at Cherry Hill Seminary. When Michael spoke at CoG's annual Leadership Institute (which was also CHS' Summer Intensive) last August, there were those who took issue with some of what Michael says in that book, so I chose someone I thought might offer a stimulating contrast, Gus diZerega, a prolific writer whose Pagans and Christians has proven a useful book for those engaged in interfaith dialogue. Dr. York is a sociologist retired from university teaching. Dr. diZerega's field of study is political science.
Since many Pagans, including myself, are goddess-oriented, I had planned on having two women. Anne Hill, D.Min. from University of Creation Spirituality (now Wisdom University), author, musician, poet and writer, agreed. I was unable to contact Brandy Williams, my other choice, and a pioneer in feminist Thelema,. (I knew she planned to be at the Con, but as it turned out she was only there for her own presentation on Sunday evening and not for any of the rest of the time.) So at the last minute my friend Tony Mierzwicki*, author of Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment, a Graeco-Egyptian reconstructionist whose academic background is in mathematics, gamely stepped in. I knew his perspective would be a welcome one among us mostly witchen-centric speakers.
Three of the four panelists teach or have taught -- and will again -- at Cherry Hill Seminary. In fact, I later heard people speaking of the panel as "the Cherry Hill Seminary panel." Nice, but it was mine. I did it for my own pleasure and enlightenment, and to get us thinking together about thea/ology. Not with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable definition, not to make any kind of pronouncement, not to declare dogma. Instead, to explore, to process our thoughts, feelings and experiences as NeoPagans, of whatever stripe.
All my likely videographers fell through. I was lucky at the last minute to find Steve from the WitchSchool to record it. I'm eager to see what he got.
We were a bit slow catching fire, but catch fire we did. Not as in conflagration, rather more as warm enthusiasm. Once we got rolling, hands arose throughout the audience. I wasn't able to call on everyone whose hand was raised, but we did manage to hear from several people. Another friend, Sam Webster,** in particular challenged and encouraged us. I thank him here for some insights I gained from what he had to say.
I can't say much more and do justice to all the gems that were proffered. We'll have to wait for the video and/or a transcript. Time flew by and the room buzzed with excitement. We all had so much more to say, so much more to explore. I'm hoping to convene more panels when opportunities to do so present themselves. Perhaps at Starwood? Perhaps at Dandelion 3. Perhaps at PantheaCon '09.
All this success reinforces my desire to build the best Public Ministry programs for Pagans that I can at CHS. I do plan to include courses dealing with thea/ology. We already have a course called "World Religions from a Pagan Perspective" taught by Michael York.
My brag? I can put together a kick-ass panel, and I proved it again this time. I love hanging out with smart Pagans!
* Tony and his sweetie Jo were married on Valentine's Day. They exchanged rings made by Priest of Brigit, goldsmith Patrick McCollum, who also officiated. Their marriage was witnessed by Holli Emore and myself. It was a great way to start the long weekend.
** Sam and his wife Tara used to put on formal symposia called Pagani Soteria, where prepared speakers had a limited time to respond to the same question. They, too, were great fun. I was honored to speak at two of them.