Where are the church ladies …

when we need them?

Haven’t we all heard someone say, in response to a very human need, “Well, where is the church in all of this?  Should they be stepping up to ….?”

And, of course, my head immediately answers for me, “Which church?  How is this _____’s problem?”

Sure, if you’re a decently-sized, well-funded religious organization and troubles descend on one of your own, you may well have a function established to come to the rescue with food, clothing, shelter, social support, advocacy, and the other things that help folks through a crisis.  Maybe you’ll even stretch your compassion to folks not of your particular belief system or at least who are your own but rarely show up or donate.

But the troubles of the world can fall on any of us, regardless of any other considerations.  There are government agencies and such set up to minister to those needs — complete with criteria, qualifications, paperwork, bureaucracy, delays — and denials.  People in dire need can fall through the cracks quite easily.  And no one or several decently-sized, however well funded religious or charitable organizations can rise in response to every need — although they are less hobbled by rules and regulations than anything governmental.

Where does Sacred Grove come into this rant?

We are exploring the role of the small, informally-gathered religious community filling the various roles expected of a church/ congregation/ circle, given no building, no secure funding source, no fixed membership, and only the choice to join with each other in appreciation of all that is real and personal and important about the divine connections in our lives — where the Divine lives and breathes in the infinite connections of the Sacred Web of Life.

This is a new persona for a church — this amorphous webspinning eclectic group.  It is not confined to a single place or area — we are scattered as widely as the internet, yet we are as personal as individual commitment and action or two people talking it over.

We have a few resources that empower us as a church that we would not have as individuals: We have an identity that has stood the test of time, at least on the East Coast: The Fellowship of the Sacred Grove has been a visible and respected contributor to the Pagan community since 1989. We have a legal and effective association with a larger and more widespread Wiccan organization — Sacred Well Congregation — that has successfully managed the bureaucratic requirements at the federal level for years, through which the IRS knows us as a 501(c)3 religious charitable organization.

In the name of Sacred Grove Community Circle (SWC), we can stand with other churches and participate in community activities, provide clerical credentials for clergy visiting hospitals in our name, accept charitable donations to support our service to individuals and communities, and maintain our Facebook page and this website as the hub of our web.

What has Sacred Grove been doing lately?

I’m so glad you asked.

We are providing social support, spiritual support, and random material resources to several individuals in crisis who have fallen through the aforementioned cracks — and learning more about the plight of the poor, abused, disabled, and homeless with every step.  We have helped a few others out, here and there.  We what we can to help folks over an obstacle or through a critical door, then cheer as they continue on their way.

We support one chaplain volunteering in a Level 1 trauma center.

We are actively working with public safety chaplains in a county chaplain corps and in the Washington-Baltimore area military and civilian chaplains in disaster readiness and resilience.

We are partnered with Rising Sun Outreach Ministry to provide care for the caregivers.

We hang out with the Religious Tolerance group on Facebook and contribute the services of one moderator, helping ease the tensions and build pathways of communication among people of all religions or none.

What can I do to help?

We have a Paypal account which will accept donations, which will be acknowledged with thanks and a receipt.  Other than the minor expenses of maintaining the web presence, our funds are disbursed directly and swiftly where the need is greatest.

Visit us on Facebook — start a conversation!   Express a need.  Share some ideas.  https://www.facebook.com/SacredGroveSWC/

Email me at RedBird@SacredGroveSWC.org

PM me on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/Sandra.Lee.Harris

 

 

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Glittery Bootprints

Sometimes the Goddess whispers gently that we might want to reconsider where we invest our time and energy.  If we shy away from that, She comes back later — and louder.  Eventually, in Her garb as Our Lady of the Silver Boot, She plants a glittery bootprint upon our posteriors. She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes — sooner or later.

Reconsidering Hell

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Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate.

Hell, as the temporary or eternal destination of a soul after this life is ended, has never been a part of my personal religious beliefs — not even when I was numbered among the Christians.  Whatever else awaits — or does not — the Divine of my understanding would not assign such a fate or entertain the existence of a place, state of being, or destination for maximizing suffering.

That said, I am, of course, aware of the role and lore of Hell in our culture.  I have read the Revelation of John, the Inferno of Dante, and the popular media of centuries.  I recognize a need and a role in religion for Judgment, for weighing the effects of a person’s actions over a lifetime for good or for ill.  I do not agree that such a Judgment requires an available penalty such as eternity in Hell.

When questioned about the Hereafter, I must honestly say that I do not know what happens to the soul of an individual when this life is over, when the soul passes through the Veil between this life and whatever lies beyond.  I am quite certain that no one else can speak with absolute confidence, either, because anyone here present and able to speak has not yet made that full transition. We rely on near-death experiences, dreams, stories, messages from Beyond, and beliefs in abundance — as well as firm faith in promises made and embraced.

The best we can manage is confidence that there is Something beyond the Veil — and we find comfort in knowing that Something as the Summerlands, Valhalla, Heaven, the Beyond, the Hereafter, or Paradise.  Its existence is consistent with threads and themes in religions around the world and throughout humankind.  I neither confirm nor deny its existence.  Instead, I encourage expecting peace and oneness with the Infinite and with all who have gone before as the dying approach and finally pass the Veil. In compassion, I can do no less.

Until now, I have denied the existence of Hell.

On the one hand, in seeking to bring about the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, we recognize the goal can, at best, be approximated this side of the Veil, and we can work toward it.  Hell, on the other hand, exists and is manifest in the here-and-now.  Hell on Earth is far more real than any hope of Heaven on Earth — and more so, as time goes on.  We have created Hell, and it shows no sign of disappearing.

And consignment of a soul to Hell does not seem to depend on the merits or actions of the individual during this lifetime.  Indeed, babies and small children are among the innocents most likely to suffer Hell’s torments without hope until an early demise or, worse, a continuing lifetime of pain inflicted not by a punitive God but by their parents, caregivers, peers, teachers, and other humans — sometimes in ignorance, sometimes in neglect, and often with intent.

Until we put as much of ourselves into creating Paradise, we can at least acknowledge the experience of Hell and reach out to free the souls therein to life on Earth.

New theme and new content in Book of Shadows

Just in time for the [insert winter solstice holiday of your choice here], I converted to a new theme that should be easier for me to handle and invested in some customizing capability, relocated the home page to the Sacred Grove SWC domain name (which I have renewed for at least 2 years), restructured the menus a bit, and started filling in the Book of Shadows.

Our liturgy was initially developed by Wilddragon about 20 years ago, and it has served us well ever since.  For a course in liturgy and ritual design at Cherry Hill Seminary I tweaked it a bit and fleshed out some rituals and the Wheel of the Year.  The Wheel of the Year is in place, most parts under construction, but examples of the form are there.  More to come.

Please comment (I haven’t seen how that is working yet) or email me at webweaver@sacredgroveswc.org when you’ve had a chance to look it over.

Blessed be.

RedBird

on Religion — Bishop Desmond Tutu:

“And you have to remember that religion is of itself neither good nor bad. Christianity has produced the Ku Klux Klan. Christianity has produced those who killed doctors that perform abortions. Religion is a morally neutral thing. It is what you do with it. It is like a knife, a knife is good when you use it for cutting up bread for sandwiches. A knife is bad when you stick it in somebody’s gut. Religion is good when it produces a Dalai Lama, a Mother Teresa, a Martin Luther King.”         — Bishop Desmond Tutu