I am on a committee (called a guild) at a mainline Christian church. I have been working alongside members of that church on a shared goal – the maintenance of an open to all walking meditation space that has been important to me. The space contains a labyrinth which I have walked weekly on average as part of my private practice for over 20 years. Many of the most important moments of clarity, realization and learning I have had, I have experienced in the labyrinth.
I was asked to join this committee by two friends I’d met outside the labyrinth, who happened to serve on the committee. One was Christian and the other had been raised Christian with a minister father, but is now Sufi. I joined to help protect the space as a space welcoming of walkers from all faiths.
I was closeted, or at least passing. For at least the year, although the one friend knew my faith, the rest of the commitee, which included the church’s rector, did not know I am a Pagan priestess serving the Goddess for well over 20 years. I came out once, but I think mostly they don’t remember it or think of it. I blend in, putting my focus on the work. Pagans don’t try to convert people, it violates their own self-determination and independent connection with the divine. I want them to know me as a good, principled person, and if they later know or remember that I am Wiccan, then that will hopefully make a difference.
This is a strategy I learned as a gay person who is not immediately visible. I have a fairly feminine appearance, and I’m a woman, so I tend to blend in to straight settings. However, I do not hide when it is relevant. If someone asks if I have a husband, I tell them I have a girlfriend (or when I was married, a wife). It’s an effective strategy for some situations, as it allows people to get to know me as a person. Then when they find out I’m gay, they already like me, and if they make a negative fuss about it, it’s them who are causing a problem, not me.
I have done interreligious ceremony at times over the years, or priestessed ritual at events like Pagan Pride, where non-Pagans are likely to be present. During those ceremonies, I make sure to allow people a path to relate to the ceremony on their own terms, without violating their own faith or values. I avoid wording that assumes that everyone believes the same about something, or that includes people in an act of worship that may be insincere for them. I may preface my words with “in my tradition, we say…” If invoking the Goddess, I use ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ – “Goddess I ask you to bless this place and our work today” as opposed to “Goddess we ask you to bless this place and our work today”.
It’s not always easy being the only witch in a group of Christians, but mostly, I stay because the work is important, all sincere direct faith is the same at some level, and that is enough. The Gods have no hands but our hands.
Photo by William Farlow on Unsplash