Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Congregational Support?

There was an interesting post on LJ today by one of my Wiccan friends who spoke about the contrast between her time in the Metropolitan Community Church (pro-gay Christian denomination) and her experience in Wiccan circles (both traditional and Dianic). When she was involved with the MCC she was part of a congregational care team that was available to talk to troubled members of the congregation. She is going through a rough time presently and noticing that nothing like this seems to exist in the Wiccan or larger pagan community. (It was not clear if she was including recons or other types of pagans in this observation or not.)

I know we've had discussions before about whether there ought to be the equivalent of churches and congregations in the various pagan religions or whether assorted pagans could create something like that. It seems like the small circles and solitary practices aren't conducive to providing the kind of care that members of mainline congregations can expect--even pragmatic things like having meals delivered during convalescence. Yet it seems to me that pagans are not lacking in compassion or a desire to help--look at the prayer request topics here at TC.

Should pagan religious groups incorporate some mechanism for supporting their members in more than a striclty spiritual sense? Does your religion have this as a priority or is this seen as separate from the religious sphere? (A need better met in therapy or by friends and loved ones, perhaps?) Have you ever felt the lack of such support when you were going through a hard time either in terms of health or emotionally? If we wanted to support our co-religionists in some way, how could we structure such supports into our growing religious communities? Can small groups like covens manage this or is it too much to ask?

Feel free to answer any of these or to suggest new questions related to the general topic.

I should add that some of the responses to the LJ post mentioned that the Christian religion specifically requires charitable acts and that perhaps pagans are resistant to forming congregations as a result of negative past experiences or because they are by nature more individualistic in their approach to religion as nonconformists. I don't think we are doomed to be antisocial but I admit I resist joining large religious groups after my own Hare Krsna past. Yet when I went through my heart surgery I found myself really wishing I had a minister of some sort to talk to as well as a congregation to bring me a few meals-beyond what my friends could manage.

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