Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Year Greetings from Cherry Hill Seminary

Greetings! We here at CHS hope your holidays were filled with the warmth of shared times with loved ones.

As I move into my year as president of the Board of CHS, I am mindful of the big shoes I have to fill after the year headed by Druid Kirk Thomas. Kirk has helped us become more steady and ready for further growth. During his term, CHS has grown in revenue (although not yet nearly enough to really roll), staff, faculty, offerings, and, most important, enrollment. Kirk worked closely with Executive Director Holli Emore and the Board throughout the year, and I think the results are truly encouraging.

The past year has seen the introduction of CHS’ Master of Divinity and Master of Pagan Studies programs, now numbering nearly 20 matriculated students. Meanwhile, four Board members have taken the course required for CHS to apply to the DETC (Distance Education and Training Council) for accreditation.

In August, after months of hard collaboration, our administrative staff published a comprehensive Student Handbook.

Judy Harrow, who has been such a strong supporter and active participant in helping to shape CHS, retired this year to tend to her health. We were sorry to see her go, and remain ever grateful for her tremendous contributions. Judy continues to assist us at times and will be teaching two short courses this Spring semester. (Judy and I joined the folks at CHS at the same time.) We have named our library, created under the direction of Caroline Dechert, the Judy Harrow Virtual Library created under the direction of Caroline Dechert.

We continue to work with the New Alexandrian Library, a project of Assembly of the Sacred Wheel in Delaware, on establishing our bricks-and-mortar library. (Having a library of a certain size is one of the requirements for accreditation.)

CHS has for some years had a strong presence at the American Academy of Religion (AAR). CHS faculty, students and Board members have been active as presenters and moderators, as they were this year in Montreal.

This year we are joined by two new Board members: Richard L. Hall, CPA, CMA, and Gretchen Faulk. Ryk, who regularly attends EarthSpirit events in Massachusetts, lives in Salem, Virginia, where he has been active in, among other things, wildlife rescue. He has taken over as Treasurer from the capable but overburdened Diane Edgecomb, freeing her to attend to other matters such as applying for grants for CHS. Gretchen, a Dianic Witch and Thelemite who works in the field of cancer research, lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she is well-known in the Pagan community there. I welcome them with open arms and look forward to the benefits of their contributions.

In 2010, I anticipate expanding our Board membership to 16. CHS’ Board, unlike some, is a working board; we who serve on it are collaborating in the creative process of nurturing and bringing to maturity a seminary born in Vermont in 2001.

A few words about my personal involvement: I have been involved with CHS in various capacities, beginning as faculty, for several years. Over the course of that time CHS has grown and changed in unexpected ways. Since our students and potential students expressed a strong desire for a master’s program and eventual accreditation, we had to shift gears a bit in order to design programs that would meet the criteria of accrediting bodies. We have chosen DETC as being the most appropriate accrediting institution for our Web-based school. In the long run, we also plan to gain accreditation by the ATS (Association of Theological Schools).

I have had mixed feelings about adapting Pagan ways to the type of professional training expected in mainstream culture. My concerns have been satisfied by the implementation of the PCELL (Pagan Continuing Education for Lifelong Learning), a compliment to the Master’s Program serving Pagans who are not seeking a degree but who wish to take courses for personal enrichment and more general community service. We are ever mindful of not compromising the unique characteristics of Paganism as we develop the seminary.

So far, my experience on the Board, as well as in other capacities at CHS, has been rewarding. Although we are diverse and many of us have, shall we say, strong personalities, we have always been able to keep the mission of CHS foremost above any personal issues. This speaks to maturity and depth, and bodes well for the future of the seminary and Pagan culture.

I wish for the seminary at large, and for myself, to remain open to discussion, ideas, suggestions, and the thinking of our students and the Pagan public. To that end, I invite you to subscribe to our newsletter, join our FaceBook community, help us publicize our courses and other events, send us your ideas, and, most importantly, consider fiscal sponsorship. Our fundraising committee has designed several clever options for your coven, grove, nest, hearth, church, circle, family or other group (or individual) to sponsor CHS. Contact Holli Emore for details. CHS is our seminary. We design it in harmony with our Pagan culture and values.

We begin the decade with several goals, not all of which have yet been articulated. But one is establishing an endowment fund. Ryk and Holli will be providing more information about this over the next few months. Meanwhile, you help us to keep tuition low and run more efficiently by your regular contributions to the annual fund, plus purchases from our student bookstore, Scrip program, and occasional gift items (like the Yule ornament, and soon to be announced cookbook and auto sticker).

One last thing: you may know me as Macha NightMare. I’m still Macha, but in recent years I’ve returned to using my birth name, and I suspect you’ll agree that Aline O’Brien may open more doors as I represent Cherry Hill Seminary in the mainstream professional world of education, interfaith activities, and fundraising.

Yours in changing culture,

Aline O’Brien

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Katrina Messenger said...

Wow! This is fantastic news!

I am so proud of CHS and of you. I have said for years that your contributions to Cherry Hill were substantial and critical. Now with your ascendency to the top just about confirms my view.


Love you,
Katrina Messenger

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