Saturday, July 25, 2009

The New Seminary

40 cans of dilly beans, put up yesterday afternoon.

I've spent this morning going through the two applications for The New Seminary which I need to have ready for my attendance at their Open House on August 12th. I'll be interviewed then, for my "fit" in their two year ministerial program.

The questions aren't all that surprising, but they have definintely been challenging to answer. What attracts me to the seminary? I could fill entire books responding to that one question. I'm thrilled with their interfaith viewpoint. I'm excited to see that not only are other people like me "out there," but they've formed a school, and I might get to attend it.

What took me the longest was writing the description of my religious and spiritual experiences to date. How do I put that into one page? I managed to do a Reader's Digest version of about 3 paragraphs, but it leaves out the important parts. Of course, when one is talking about spirituality, they're ALL important parts.

It's taken me many years to get to this point. As Farnham says, I've finally decided what I want to be "when I grow up." I don't know if I'll ever grow up, per se. I like who I am right now. I still have things to work on, but then again, I always WILL have... I'm human. I'm not always struggling now, though. I have stretches of peace and relaxation. I have whole days when I can look at myself, not as a completed project, but as a work in progress that's damn good. There are things that I've done in my life that make me very proud of myself.

It has taken me about three hours, total, to finish my application questions. I am fairly sure that I will be accepted, considering the kind of questions they ask. However, there's always a chance that I won't make the cut. If they have a lot of applications for the fall semester, it might take me a while to get in. I am confident that eventually I will be attending, though.

I look forward to the new challenges. I look forward to classes that are mine, and mine alone. I look forward to learning about different religions and new ways of doing things. Most of all, I look forward to talking to other people, students, who share my beliefs about the need for ministers who aren't tied to a single faith.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sermons and preaching

This is the sanctuary of my church. It happens to be a United Church of Christ, which might seem a bit odd, because I'm a Hellenic polytheist and not much into Christianity. However...

When I looked for a church, I was looking for somewhere that shared my beliefs on the spiritual (though not necessarily religious) end of the spectrum. I was searching for a community of like-minded and open-minded individuals. I wanted a spiritual home that both challenged me and supported me. I hoped that it would be a place that sis and I could worship and work together in, which is not so easy. I also wanted it to be a place that shared my ideals for helping others, both in and out of the country I live in. This church met ALL those criteria. It surprised me. A lot.

A lot of it has to do with that lady in the picture up there, Rev. Alison. We joke about each being "the other Rev. Allyson/Rev.Alison" and everyone at church thinks it's a giggle. She and I share some remarkable background (abusive mother, alcoholism, struggling with learning the hard way, etc), and I feel very much that she is an excellent spiritual mentor.

She is the definition of "minister as a verb" which is a pet peeve of mine. She works her butt off for the community in this area, and her efforts are seen all around, not just in the church building. I appreciate and applaud her efforts!

One of the things I just did was to cover for her while she was away at a family reunion. I stepped up to the lectern, and I preached. I've done it before, although never from an actual lectern - the Unitarian Universalist church I used to attend was much less formal, with fold up chairs and such. I was surprised at how comfortable I felt. I'm also very pleased at how well the sermon went.

If you're interested in reading the sermon, you can find it here, on my website. I was heartened by the number of people who approached me after the service, to tell me that they felt that my message had been specifically for them. That was a good feeling, the feeling that I had reached people, and made their lives just a little bit easier.

This sermon was just a little part of the decision that I've recently made. I'm going to seminary. This isn't a Christian seminary, though. It's called The New Seminary, and it's an interfaith ministry, designed to meet the needs of interfaith communities. I will be attending the open house on August 12th, and at that time I hope to be accepted into the September program. I can't properly voice how excited I am.

I have felt called to this kind of teaching and leading for many years, and it's been difficult to explain to the pagan friends, because we don't really have "a church" at which we preach. I think I am finding a comfortable place in helping out other ministers and pastors, though. Perhaps one day I'll work at a church, or then again, maybe not. At the moment, the most important thing to me is to follow my heart, and my head, and get my formal ministerial training to match my "paper mill" ordination. It'll be nice to have documents that reflect the 20 years I have put into ministry!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preserving the Harvest

This is one of 14 packages of our green beans, all sealed up and in our freezer. We made them one pound each, and these 14 lbs represent the bulk of our green bean harvest so far. The first fruits of every plant (radishes, green beans, peas, and turnips so far) have gone to the gods. The rest has either been eaten or preserved. It's a good feeling to see all those veggies in the freezer. Today we preserve peas.

Preserving food is a spiritual thing for me. I mean, it's common sense on one level, but I feel very connected to my gods when I am doing it. I love that I am taking something the gods have blessed (our veg) and keeping it in stasis so that I can enjoy it throughout the year. Nothing makes me feel more like giving thanks than having fresh fruit, veg and meat from our own farm come Thanksgiving. When I can look at the ladened table and see the fruits of our labors, the gifts of the gods cooked and displayed, I have an overwhelming sense of thanks and joy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Over the Hump

Well, I'm on day 5 of my fast. I'm over the hump, so to speak, and have made it through the day of water only. I had moments when I thought I would give up, but I bulled through, thanks to family support, and now I'm coming out the other side.

Today is fluids only, but I can have a bit of broth soup later, and I'm back to drinking grapefruit juice and tea with Splenda. I'm feeling a lot more energetic today, than I did yesterday. I just wish it wasn't so darn wet outside, so I could go do some gardening.

Doing this fast has made me really think about food, and what it means to me. I noticed yesterday that it was not easy to come up with something to do with Farnham, when we were between his doctor appointments. Normally we'd go and have lunch, or sit and nosh on nachos at Armadillo Burritos. Even my television shows, when I sat to watch them, had people eating all through them. Food touches our lives in so many ways, sometimes even in ways we don't think about.

Fasting has made me face up to some of my personal food addictions. Craving food on a fast isn't wrong, per se, but I was craving all manner of things that were bad for me: chocolate, pizza, burgers, fried foods... I have a garden full of fresh veg outside, and I craved carb load. Bleh. Now that I'm out the other side of this thing, I'm looking at the fresh peas and bib lettuce and the second batch of radishes coming up, and thinking OOH YUM!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not giving up my occasional burger. I just need to get back to a place where a burger is a treat, not a daily occurance. I've pretty much had the dessert monster tamed for a while now, and it's not something I want or expect every night. Once a week or so, it's nice to have a sweet something after supper, but not every day. I just need to extend that so that the bad things become treats again, rather than staples.