Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why have (or be) a minister? Glad you asked!

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The history of spirituality and religion is a rocky one, fraught with half-truths and misleading information. While we can grasp the big picture about religion's history, it's almost impossible to get a good, solid grasp on where it started or why.

One thing we do know is that, at one time, people connected with the gods on their own. They would call on whatever tribal or local god or goddess they needed, or the spirit of the element they were concerned with, and they would interact with that being themselves. At some point, though, leaders came along who began telling other people what the gods wanted. And things changed...

Fast forward to modern times, and there's a minister, priest, rabbi or pastor on every corner. Some are self-supporting, and others are not. They all follow different rules in regards to food, clothing, shelter, sexual conduct, and worship. What ties us all together is the fact that, on some level, every single spiritual leader acts as an intermediary between a person and the Divine.

This is not to say that people can't interact with the All on their own. I'm a firm proponent of the idea that most of a person's interactions with the All should be on their own. Still, there are some times when having a guide, someone to hold your hand as you experience life's twists and turns, is both comforting and necessary.

Funerals are one of the best examples I can think of when having that intermediary is important. When you are experiencing the grief associated with the loss of a friend or family member, it's difficult to be doing all the necessary paperwork, comforting others, and writing a eulogy all at the same time as crying into your pillow at night. This can be doubly complicated if feelings for or about the deceased are less than friendly, as it can evoke guilt and anger, both which can seem inappropriate during funeral rites. A minister (or other spiritual leader) can gently guide you in your decisions and help you navigate the family and paperwork involved.

Those ministers who feel that they are some kind of gateway to God tend to really bother me. It often feels as if they think they're as important as God, or maybe MORE important! It seems to me that they're more interested in controlling than in helping and comforting. After all, if you've learned that the only way to God is through a single person, that person holds power over you. They hold the power to separate you from your Higher Power.

Cathedral of the Pines
So why have a minister at all? Why not just be a free-lance person being spiritual? Well, that is always an option. Some people do just fine that way. Humans, though, are a social group. We like to associate with others. If you have a group of people who are all priests, trying to lead at the same time, you end up with chaos and no one gets to commune with Goddess.

On the other hand, if you can choose one person to lead, things can improve. Leadership need not be by someone who graduated from seminary or divinity school. It does help to have some training, though, especially if the group is larger than a handful. There's a lot of work to organizing a large group of disparate people into a cohesive unit.

In ancient Rome and Greece, many people took a turn being the priest in the temple. It was considered a public service, something done to show piety, honor to the gods, and good will to the community as a whole. In more recent times, spiritual leadership has taken a more permanent role, with people taking training either one-on-one (as in Wicca and some shamanistic systems) or in groups (such as Harvard Divinity or Andover-Newton).

Worshiping alone
Even people who do the majority of their worship alone, tend to enjoy getting together with like-minded individuals to share major holy days or to grieve in groups. It's a natural human rhythm to seek out others during times of extreme joy or pain. It is not unusual for people to work together for certain celebrations.

No matter how you look at it, though, the spiritual leader is really only a guide. His or her job is simply to walk beside you as you travel the path you've chosen. There will be times when a solitary journey suits you better, and times when you clasp the proffered hand with relief. Needing or wanting that spiritual leader to be nearby is not a bad thing, so long as you don't lose your own connection to the Divine.

Looked at another way, if you had a physical emergency you would not want to be performing surgery on yourself. Spiritual emergencies can be just as life threatening, and having a qualified professional present can make all the difference in the world.

Do you have a spiritual authority or leader in your life who helps you out when times are rough? Are you a spiritual leader for others?

Check back often for prayers, spiritual musings and all manner of religious discussion and talk. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! If you purchase items I have linked through ads or Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
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