Thursday, April 27, 2017

My First Class at Cherry Hill Seminary



Boundaries & Ethics


Back in an earlier incarnation of Cherry Hill Seminary, the late Judy Harrow and I were recruited to a new course offering called “Boundaries & Ethics in Pagan Pastoral Counseling” – yes, I dislike using the word ‘pastoral’ in a Pagan context because it’s a specifically Christian term relating to sheep and shepherds (“shepherds of men”; however, Judy convinced me that it was the term used for what she did as a member of professional counseling organizations).  Now Judy actually was a pastoral counselor by training, I, on the other hand, have never been one, nor do I have such aspirations.  This course is appropriate for anyone, Pagan or not, pastoral counselor or not.

I think this may have been CHS’s first online class, taught by the inestimable Cat Chapin-Bishop, Chair of the then-Pastoral Counseling Department.  This was during her previous career in counseling.  Our class had its own Yahoogroup for discussion, plus our weekly live online meeting held in a Yahoogroups chat.  This was prior to Moodle teaching programs.  As you can imagine, the chats were clunky and unreliable, with people getting bumped off and having to re-enter.

In any case, I found it to be really useful, addressing a topic that one doesn’t learn in the typical process of a Pagan training.  We discussed such issues as:

«    How much counsel coven or group leaders can reasonably provide (i.e., has adequate professional training);

«    Avoiding burnout;

«    Evaluating the counselee’s situation to determine if you (leader, HPs, whatever) can help or if and when to refer someone to professional therapists;

«    Researching local therapists, and even interviewing them, to see if they’d be sensitive to Pagan spiritualities (i.e., would they think it strange that anyone would consult the Tarot for guidance or do they think it’s is the work of the devil);

«    Researching and reviewing the ethics statements of various helping professions (i.e., American Counseling Association and the like);

«    Ultimately, writing our own personal statement of ethics, which may or may not be like others’ statements of ethics.

This last had the most value to me.  These things are not usually taught as part of Pagan religious training.  And it’s not essential for you to articulate a formal statement of ethics if you’re not the person whom troubled members consult.  However, it is important to review one’s own ethical principles once in a while.

In fact, one significant product engendered by that course is “Spiritual Counseling and Wiccan Clergy: not psychotherapy in disguise,” which remains available to the public among the archival treasures on the Proteus Coven website, founded by Judy Harrow and colleagues and thankfully still available to anyone online.

Cat’s solicitation to take this course recruited both Judy and me in the development of Cherry Hill [Pagan] Seminary.  Sadly, Judy is gone now, but I’m still kickin’.  Drop by to see how you can help and to see what’s being offered.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

MIC Clergy Luncheon on Diversity and Inclusion



If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude.” 
~Neil Lenane

Last week I attended one of Marin Interfaith Council’s monthly clergy meetings.  I learn a lot at these meetings, not so much about religio-spiritual stuff as much as about organization, institutionalization, healthy and dysfunctional groups and how some institutions work towards healing community.  Also about lots of social justice issues – immigration, capital punishment, war, teen suicide, LGBTQ concerns, domestic violence, et al.

MIC is mostly white folks, reflecting the demographic of our locale.  We solicit and welcome as much diversity as our region has.  Yet we are aware of the limitations that our relative homogeneity might present.


 This meeting addressed our assumptions and behavior around diversity and inclusion.  To that end, we had a presenter from the San Francisco & Marin YWCA.  The Y’s motto is “eliminating racism/empowering women.” Human Resources at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation says:

The foundation has come to understand that diversity and inclusion are about the experiences staff members have while they work here and how all of our actions influence the work environment, from learning about and celebrating our differences to addressing structural barriers that perpetuates inequalities.  [Emphasis in original.]

Presenter Laura Eberly brought “a strength-based lens and motivational interviewing technique to group and individual cultural competency development.” 



Laura provided an Inclusion Inventory for us to consider when evaluating our own cultural literacy and attitudes.  She took us through five stages of evolution to help us understand some of our unconscious assumptions that tend to separate us from others.

The first, Denial, applies to missing the differences.  Sometimes privileged people say to themselves, “I don’t have to be concerned about ‘that’.”  She also pointed out that “passing” is a minimization.  Perhaps some seek to “pass” for reasons of safety; however, if they feel unsafe, we need to work towards a society where instead of seeking safety by passing, everyone feels safe and accepted, welcome and included.

The second, Polarization, seeks to judge our differences.  Polarization reinforces and affirms stereotypes, even while acknowledging our diversity.  It can put us in an oppositional stance, which is good for no one.

Minimization de-emphasizes difference.  In my view, this attitude makes our world bland, colorless, lacking vibrancy and nuance.  It’s also trivializing.

Reaching the level of Acceptance means that we understand differences.  This enriches our cultural competence.  We’re not yet where we want to be, but nearing that goal.

Finally, Adaptation bridges difference.   Bridging difference, finding common ground, allows us to work together with trust and respect.  Bridging brings the greater resources of everyone included.  Lessons, customs, talents, ideas from everyone who wishes to contribute give us a richness and pool of resources and ideas we wouldn’t otherwise have.  Working together presents a stronger force with which to resist oppression and foster positive change for everyone.

Certainly as Pagan and Witchen religious expression has diversified, it behooves us to look towards how others address and resolve these issues.  I would like to see us explore this subject in more depth within our own diverse and inclusive Pagan communities.