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Author Topic: Do you miss church?  (Read 14458 times)
Mama SummerWind
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« Topic Start: March 22, 2008, 10:37:56 am »

Hello everyone.

I have considered myself a pagan for about 16 years now although I didn't formally leave the Catholic church until about 10 years ago.  I was raised by a Catholic family and attended church very regularly.  When I decided to stop attending church I was living in Los Angeles and thought I would take advantage of my location and seek out people like me to replace the community of people I lost when I left the church.

In the following years I drifted in and out of online groups, meet-ups, covens, regular workshops, etc. always looking for the sense of community I got with the Catholic church.  I found that generally the pagans I met were a bit flaky, unreliable, not grounded, fake, and just not really the sort of people I could depend upon.  Not to say that all the Catholics I knew were perfect but my experiences with Catholics were that if you needed help in your life, you went to the church and they would help you.  Not so with the pagans I met in Los Angeles.  I never felt at home with any of the groups or covens I joined and I eventually became discouraged and disillusioned and decided to be a solitary.

When my husband and I moved to the small town in Oregon that we currently live, I started an online group to form a pagan community here in town.  There are about 80,000 people in and around this town so I thought there would be some pagans among them.  Sure enough, about 65 people joined my group.  I was thrilled!  I decided to have monthly potluck gatherings to socialize, network, and to build a pagan community that was akin to the community I had when I was Catholic.  But lo and behold, three gatherings in and people started to flake out, talk trash about other members, disappear, and soon the group fell apart.  Once again, just like my experiences in Los Angeles, the pagan community let me down.

So now here I am, searching for community once again, missing the community found at church, and wondering if I'll ever find that kind of strong support I have been looking for.  For the pagans here who were church members in their past, do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?  What has been your experience in the pagan community of having that same support system?  Any advice for helping me deal with this?

Thanks!
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« Reply #1: March 22, 2008, 11:04:50 am »

For the pagans here who were church members in their past, do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?  What has been your experience in the pagan community of having that same support system?  Any advice for helping me deal with this?

I don't miss church because I always found it boring and I can't say that I remember feeling anything spiritually wise.  I'm not involved with any local pagans because I try to distance myself from society as a whole.  I'm not the type of person who needs to rely on others for a "support system."

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« Reply #2: March 22, 2008, 11:57:28 am »

Hello everyone.
For the pagans here who were church members in their past, do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?  What has been your experience in the pagan community of having that same support system?  Any advice for helping me deal with this?

Thanks!

Do I miss church?  NO.  Having someone else dictate my beliefs and how to execute them I don't miss.  Do I miss the sense of community?  Yes.  I don't miss the culture.  Mormons have a serious sugar addiction as a whole and they do not necessarily know how to have fun at a party/gathering. 

I do miss the sense of belonging.  Of course, one never knows if it is genuine because some associations are assigned and become your duty to the church.  But they certainly know how to keek track of you.  We haven't been to church for 10y and still have a 'home teacher' come visit (thankfully he's a cool guy) and we had some other guy call us from another location asking about us.  I realized he had duplicate records (mormons are big on record keekping) from the time that we moved.  He was a nice guy.  *shrug* 

We have no arguement and a lot of our family is heavily involved in the mormon faith.  It is probably horrible but I would call on the mormons if I ever needed.  That way, they could get their missionary points 4 trying to bring me back to the fold and I could get the help I needed and everyone could feel warm and fuzzy.   ...so shoot me.   Roll Eyes
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« Reply #3: March 22, 2008, 12:41:10 pm »

So now here I am, searching for community once again, missing the community found at church, and wondering if I'll ever find that kind of strong support I have been looking for.

I noticed there's a UU Fellowship in Klamath Falls.  Have you considered checking them out?  They're not pagan exclusively pagan, but most congregations have a pagan component.

Brina
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« Reply #4: March 22, 2008, 12:54:32 pm »

Hello everyone.


In the following years I drifted in and out of online groups, meet-ups, covens, regular workshops, etc. always looking for the sense of community I got with the Catholic church.  I found that generally the pagans I met were a bit flaky, unreliable, not grounded, fake, and just not really the sort of people I could depend upon.  Not to say that all the Catholics I knew were perfect but my experiences with Catholics were that if you needed help in your life, you went to the church and they would help you.  Not so with the pagans I met in Los Angeles.  I never felt at home with any of the groups or covens I joined and I eventually became discouraged and disillusioned and decided to be a solitary.

When my husband and I moved to the small town in Oregon that we currently live, I started an online group to form a pagan community here in town.  There are about 80,000 people in and around this town so I thought there would be some pagans among them.  Sure enough, about 65 people joined my group.  I was thrilled!  I decided to have monthly potluck gatherings to socialize, network, and to build a pagan community that was akin to the community I had when I was Catholic.  But lo and behold, three gatherings in and people started to flake out, talk trash about other members, disappear, and soon the group fell apart.  Once again, just like my experiences in Los Angeles, the pagan community let me down.

So now here I am, searching for community once again, missing the community found at church, and wondering if I'll ever find that kind of strong support I have been looking for.  For the pagans here who were church members in their past, do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?  What has been your experience in the pagan community of having that same support system?  Any advice for helping me deal with this?

Thanks!

I really hear what you are saying, and I was raised pagan. That flaky, selfish silly quality you so often find when pagans get together in community turned me entirely off to the pagan world for many years. It was only my Ladies calling me back that made me try and find some other folks to share faith with, and it has been hard and lonely, definitely. I think some of us, especially eclectics, don't really have a community, and are just meant to be solitary for the most part. All that said, I do belong to a Shac'can teaching circle that I get a lot out of and the people are generally really great, and I am learning a lot. I also go to our local UU CUUPS circles sometimes, and while they are not entirely my thing, they are nice people and it is great to have a place to go with my family, where we can all get something we need. So maybe it's just a matter of accepting your own path and the realities of it, and whatever community is really there will make itself known to you, on it's own terms.
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  And the power of Earth,
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« Reply #5: March 22, 2008, 01:28:32 pm »



Nope, never been a member of a church, visited a few, wasn't impressed.  Most of the time it was just a social gathering anyway.  I can do that anywhere.

As for community amongst pagans, not around me, long story why I won't associate with the pagans in my town.  But I do like going to other places and meeting and talking to others. (I'm a very friendly/social person) As for the 'flakes' in the community, their everywhere, not just amongst the pagans.  I just smile at them and go my merry way.
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« Reply #6: March 22, 2008, 06:21:11 pm »


So now here I am, searching for community once again, missing the community found at church, and wondering if I'll ever find that kind of strong support I have been looking for.  For the pagans here who were church members in their past, do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?  What has been your experience in the pagan community of having that same support system?  Any advice for helping me deal with this?

Thanks!
Do I miss the church? NO. For me, it never had a sense of community. I was raised Catholic in a very small town, anything or anyone that was different or actually had a brain was considered an outcast. At the age of 12 I was told by the local priest I was going to Hell because I didn't think I need to tell him my sins and that I could tell God all on my own. I was again told I was goin to Hell when I became a vegetarian because they said God put animals on this planet to eat and I was going against God.... so no, I don't miss the church.

Do I miss what a church represents... sometimes. I wish as Pagans we could gather and talk over things, have real discussions about the world, our beliefs, what is going on around us. Sadly though, when this does happen, differences of opinion take the center stage, instead of embracing our difference, they argue over them. Most of us are Pagan because we are different, we are different from the everyday norm... so why we can't have large groups and enjoy them, I don't know, but I wish we could.
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« Reply #7: March 22, 2008, 07:33:42 pm »

...do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?

I definitely do.  I was a part of a church for several years when I was a teenager, and I really miss the community of support.  Even though the group I practice with right now is lovely, they are the flaky sort that has been mentioned.
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« Reply #8: March 22, 2008, 08:00:10 pm »

For the pagans here who were church members in their past, do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?

I do miss that. The community, the community activities, the support. Singing with the choir. Sometimes I miss Sunday evening Bible study - but I think that falls back on my group being small and for some reason we don't really dig into the dirt and grit of the Core (if that makes sense). So, to make up for it, I do like my grandmother and her mother always did - I sing hymns when I work in the kitchen. Wink
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Mama SummerWind
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« Reply #9: March 22, 2008, 09:39:43 pm »

I noticed there's a UU Fellowship in Klamath Falls.  Have you considered checking them out?  They're not pagan exclusively pagan, but most congregations have a pagan component.

Brina

I don't think they're open anymore.  I remember driving past there a few times and they have always looked closed.  Thanks for the suggestion anyway.
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« Reply #10: March 22, 2008, 09:41:20 pm »

Thank you to everyone who replied.  I feel better I'm not the only one out there who feels the way I do.  I appreciate your support.

Blessings!
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« Reply #11: March 22, 2008, 09:48:45 pm »

I don't think they're open anymore.  I remember driving past there a few times and they have always looked closed.  Thanks for the suggestion anyway.

Oh I would call them, or email or something. They are probably around. UUs are also quite flaky Wink
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  The power of Fire,
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  The power of Air,
  for the ability and wisdom to know the difference.

  And the power of Earth,
  for the strength to continue my path.

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« Reply #12: March 22, 2008, 10:24:08 pm »

Oh I would call them, or email or something. They are probably around. UUs are also quite flaky Wink

I second that. Our UU church always looks empty - but it rarely is.
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« Reply #13: March 22, 2008, 11:42:59 pm »

I don't think they're open anymore.  I remember driving past there a few times and they have always looked closed.  Thanks for the suggestion anyway.

According to the site, they only have services a couple times per month.  You might try giving them a call.

Brina
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« Reply #14: March 23, 2008, 01:18:04 am »

For the pagans here who were church members in their past, do you miss the community feeling of belonging to a church?  What has been your experience in the pagan community of having that same support system?  Any advice for helping me deal with this?

I do and I don't - mostly, I manage by being *really* practical about some of it.

I was confirmed in a Catholic parish which had 2000 families and 7,000 odd registered members. Not only were the space resources tremendous (you could have confirmation classes, adult education classes, choir rehearsal, and an AA group or confidential counselling all meeting in the same hour without interfering with each other in the slightest), but you also had a sizeable number of people (primarily but not entirely women) who were either SAHM or retired - so they could reliably turn out, and help. It's these people who show up for parish council meetings, who teach religious ed classes, who do hospital and nursing home visits, who help get the bulletin together, casseroles for someone who's had a spouse or family member die, and so on.

It's a great system when you've got the numbers to make it work. (My mom still does all these things: I have a very good idea how much time she puts in, and it's substantial when she's at home  - easily 10-20 hours a week, between being a eucharistic minister, helping get people to medical appointments, and so on.)

But take a look at your average Pagan population.

1) Age:

Many of us are younger - while we have some folks in their 50s and 60s (and older), many of them are still working, and many of the ones who aren't have medical or other limitations that mean that they can't just show up at Hospital Across Town easily on short notice - younger folks are far more likely to have other obligations they can't just drop.

2) Children:

Many of the women my mother does stuff with are women she's known for decades: their kids went to school with me, or with my older siblings. In contrast, many Pagans, being on average younger, are statistically more likely to move (often multiple times) for jobs - fewer long term connections to a community (a problem a number of Christian churches are also starting to see).

Many of us don't have kids by choice - meaning there's one less layer of community connection going on (we don't have kids in class with other people's kids.)

Many of those who do have kids are having them later in life, when they have less energy to raise kids *and* do vast amounts of community interaction that isn't kid-raising centered (i.e. if folks are going to volunteer, they're doing it for Scouting, or things their child is directly interested in, not visiting a nursing home or bringing a casserole to someone they don't know well.)

3) Size:

On a totally practical level, a community of 2000 families, with many smaller subcommunities (people in the choir, teaching religious ed, whatever) has many more resources than a community of 200. At least half, and probably more like 75 percent, are going to be people who like what they *get* from the community, but who either aren't in a position to give help directly or don't want to. (in a general sense)

Trick is: 75 percent of 200 is 50. 75 percent of 2000 is 500. You're a lot more likely to find people who can reasonably help with a specific problem (X needs rides to chemotherapy, Y needs people to bring over food and make sure she gets help with snow shovelling, Q needs someone to watch the kids for a few hours so she can run errands) if you start with a pool of 500 than if you start with 50 - not everyone has the same skills. Or the same schedule.

I haven't done a full blown extensive set of analyses on this, but I *have* done a fair bit of asking around: the people I've asked point out that *any* small religious community (say between 100-300: a typical small Christian church) doesn't provide much in the way of ongoing support unless and until there are other tightly-connecting factors. (One of two churches in a small town, and everyone pretty much goes to one or the other? Lots of interconnections. Small church with a 'niche' community in a major metro area, where there are lots of other support networks, community interactions, and relationships that don't involve the church? Likely to have less church-centered help.)

4) Activity:

My father died when I was 15 - we got *tons* of help that I know that not everyone in my community got when that kind of thing happens, because my mother in particular had been *very* deliberate about her networking and building interrelationships. (Not with the assumption this would happen, but in the general sense that it's an important thing: this is one of the ways in which her being a refugee from Hitler shapes our entire family history.)

But I also know families in my town who also went to large, generally welcoming Catholic parishes (though a different parish). They had kids my age. But they'd been less active in other ways. Where people offered to do things like drive me to activities my parents really didn't want me to miss out on, other people didn't do that for them. Where people quietly handled a whole bunch of details for us, other people didn't always do that.

It brought home to me - then and now - that community support is an exchange. I don't have to give the exact same *kind* of thing I hope to get. But if I'm not putting *anything* much besides my presence into the system, what I get back is going to be really unreliable in any practical sense.

So, is there community support?

I'm my mother's child: I pay attention to this. I have very deliberately built support networks for myself in the 9 years I've lived in Minnesota. But I have also put quite a bit of work into it, and I have a very good idea what I can ask for (and reliably get) and what I can't get.

For various reasons, many of my closest friends locally have driving limits - one car households, or they don't drive for medical reasons. If I need a ride somewhere, expecting a friend to give me one is *really* tricky - it assumes that one of the people who can drive is free when I need that (all the people I know who drive readily work full time.) I'm probably better off finding a cab or some other solution.

But if I were home sick, and unable to go out, I know I have friends who would help arrange a food delivery from a service that does that. Or would figure out some way to run errands once a week for me. It's not an easy "ask and you get it" solution, though.

Need help moving? Much better - it's a plannable event that the people with cars can schedule for. Need a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk something out with? Lots of options locally, and even more non-locally. And so on.

I do get tons of support from my community - but it's a coven-sized community, with people I have worked with regularly. (And I just hived from that community: there are now things I would not ask them to help with first/if there were alternatives, but would in a true emergency.)

The people I do broader Pagan community things with (Pagan Pride, open rituals, etc.) are not my primary religious community: I will ask them for help with things related to keeping those events going, but not for things in my personal life. (And likewise, they do the same to me: I will happily take over for our board's pregnant President when she's off having her new baby, but I am unlikely to offer to babysit for her, and I don't think she'd ask me in anything short of a crisis.)

One really good question here is "What kind of support do you mean, and is that a level of support you're willing to proportionately give back?" It is possible to create those networks - but you have three choices. You can filter tightly for mutual commitment, you can have a more open group with some people offering support (and some gaps in support), or you can have a very large group, some of whom can help at most points, with most likely needs. Trying to get fantastic support from a relatively small community (but larger than coven sized) is the Grail - and about as unreliably achievable.
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