Theosis: Thou Art Becoming

At times I am angry and other times overflowing with joy. Sometimes I'm confused and sometimes I have absolute clarity. This blog will explore our human condition through an investigation of spiritual pain and how to transcend our pain to find peace.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
David Oliver Kling

David Oliver Kling

Rev. David Oliver Kling is a faculty member at Cherry Hill Seminary and a graduate of Wright State University holding a B.A. degree in Religious Studies and a B.A. degree in Philosophy. He has a Master of Divinity from Methodist Theological School in Ohio with a specialization in Black Church and African Diaspora Studies. While in college he worked as Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Yellow Springs and while in seminary he served the Delaware Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as consulting minister. He recently finished a chaplain residency at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, WV resulting in four units of clinical pastoral education. In addition to teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary he currently works as a hospice chaplain in Northeast Ohio. He is ordained by Sacred Well Congregation and his religious background includes esoteric Christianity, Wicca, Druidry, Gnosticism, and Roman Paganism. His academic interests include Black Church studies, comparative theology, and spiritual/pastoral care.
In Support of our own: understanding Unitarian Universalist Idealization

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."  -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last year this time I responded to an essay written by John Michael Greer titled, "A Bad Case of Methodist Envy:  Copying Christian models of clergy is a Pagan dead end."  His essay argued against the notion of payed professional clergy and my response was to argue in favor of professional clergy -- at least having the option of professional clergy.  In this essay it is my hope to build upon the ideas I shared in last year's essay but also share further reflections on the subject of the evolving nature of Paganism in general and Pagan clergy in particular.

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Mariah Sheehy
    Mariah Sheehy says #
    It seems we all have different ideas of what "clergy" means, and I think people here are talking past each other a little bit beca
  • Wendilyn Emrys
    Wendilyn Emrys says #
    Ancient Egyptian priests most often donated their time and assets to the Temples. They might get to share in food offerings, and g
  • Jenni West
    Jenni West says #
    What benefit does a clergy based hierarchy provide for such a belief system? It opens the door to abuse of power and canonization
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Jenni, there have always been clergy within the Pagan movement and there has always been abuse of power within the community by so
  • Jenni West
    Jenni West says #
    With all due respect, if Paganism becomes clergy based, I will slip further from the public path.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Theological Reflection

[Note:  I wrote this piece for my students at Cherry Hill Seminary on the subject of Theological Reflection -- a practice that I feel is essential for anyone undergoing theological studies (in this case specifically in a seminary setting).  In reflecting on this and the seminary experience I think it could apply to anyone who is a serious student theology with a desire to understand how Divinity is moving within their life.  So I share it here for the benefit of others.]

Theological reflection is the process of reflecting upon experiences and responding to that experience based upon one’s values and beliefs.  The goal of theological reflection is to promote personal transformation through insight into the working of the Divine (as one’s sees the Divine) in their life and in the world.  Theological reflection is a good practice for anyone seeking a more grounded and fulfilling spiritual life; however, it is an essential and necessary practice of the seminary student.

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Paganism and Freemasonry

Within the fraternity of Freemasonry there is the designation of "operative and speculative" Mason.  The operative Freemason are those Masons who actually used the working tools of Masonry (level, plum, square, et al) and built structures from stone -- as the mythical history of Freemasonry tells the story operative Masons have their genesis in the building of King Solomon's Temple as well as the medieval stone masons guilds of the Middle Ages.  Speculative Freemasonry is the symbolic use of the operative masons working tools to illustrate a spiritual, moral, and ethical story on how an individual Freemason should live his life -- "meet on the level and part on the square."  Therefore, Masonic Lodges throughout the world are populated by "speculative" Freemasons.

I joined the Masonic fraternity in 1997.  I have also joined other Masonic bodies such as the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite and the Ancient Arabic Order of the Noble Mystic Shrine (Shriners), and even The Order of DeMolay (a Masonic inspired youth organization for boys).  I currently serve my Masonic Lodge as chaplain -- which I very much enjoy.

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jim Goltz
    Jim Goltz says #
    I was very glad to read your article. I too do not attend lodge regularly (for various reasons) and do not have traditional Chris
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    I'm pleased you liked the essay. I was talking with some Masonic friends lately and one of the topics that came up was the foundi
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    The only stipulation regarding religion within Masonry is that a would-be Mason cannot be an Atheist and must believe in God, but
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Merry Meet David. A few years ago a long time Mason joined our coven. His lodge was in Europe where he had served in the US mil

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Commitment to Diversity

Howard Thurman wrote, "Community cannot feed for long on itself; it can only flourish where always the boundaries are giving way to the coming of others from beyond them — unknown and undiscovered brothers."

This quote by Thurman is helpful in my own reflection of the work I do as a chaplain.  In the two years that I have worked as a chaplain I have provided care to a diverse group of people.  First as a hospital chaplain in West Virginia and then as a hospice chaplain in Ohio.  In these two years I have had the opportunity to provide care to two people who identity as Pagan.  In both cases it was family of the patient; although in one case the patient was Pagan but unresponsive.  

...
Last modified on

“The very same people who “can’t afford” to donate to a Neopagan temple, community center, website, or other organization on a regular basis have no problem finding the money to buy science fiction books, videotapes, DVDs, game cartridges, music CDs, comics, beer, pizza, cigarettes, movie tickets, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, crystals, robes, capes, etc.  -- Isaac Bonewits.

     In issue #28 of Witches and Pagans magazine columnist John Michael Greer wrote an article titled, “A Bad Case of Methodist Envy: Copying Christian models of clergy is a Pagan dead end.” In this essay Greer recommends against Pagan clergy and specifically full time compensated clergy. I would like to note that I have admired many of Greer’s books especially Inside a Magical Lodge, A World Full of Gods, and Druidry Handbook; however, I can simultaneously admire his work and disagree with some of his thoughts. 

...
Last modified on
Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Anna M.H.
    Anna M.H. says #
    While I am, in general, a big fan of Greer's, I really disagree with his point of view on this, and feel you made many good points

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
A Hospice Reflection

I recently heard about the death of Morning Glory Zell, a beloved member of the Pagan community. My first thought on reading about her death was sadness. So many elders within our community are leaving this world. I never knew Morning Glory but I had heard about her and I have read about her life and contribution to the Pagan community and always held her in admiration. Since her death I’ve read many endearing posts on various blogs about her life and work and I’m not going to attempt to mirror those endearing posts; however, upon reading about her death it evoked within myself several emotional reactions that I wish to share with you today.

Working as a hospice chaplain I experience death and the prospect of death on a daily basis. Before I started working as a hospice chaplain I was a chaplain resident learning the finer nuances of chaplaincy and before that I worked as a consulting minister at a Unitarian Universalist congregation. This reflection starts when I was working as a consulting minister. There was a member of that congregation who was suffering from multiple myeloma a type of blood cancer. Her diagnosis and battle with cancer was all pervasive for her and her husband. When I read that Morning Glory died of multiple myeloma I thought about this woman. What really comes to mind is my own inadequacy in trying to help her process the grief associated with her illness and the ineffectiveness of my attempts to minister to her and her husband. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to bring comfort and I certainly didn’t know what to say or learned the value of silence.

I left serving that congregation shortly after I graduated from seminary and moved to another state to start a chaplain residency program. As is typical when a minister leaves a congregation I distanced myself from the congregation to give them time to get used to being without my presence and seeking their own way (since I left they have hired a new consulting minister). This distancing still haunts me today.

While serving as a Chaplain Resident at a Catholic hospital in West Virginia I worked primarily on an oncology unit and therefore I had a lot of exposure to patients struggling with cancer – including multiple myeloma. I was being trained in the finer points of chaplaincy and I was ministering to people with cancer. A couple of months after I started the residency, at about the time I was starting to “get it” as a chaplain, I received an e-mail indicating that the woman from the congregation I had served had died and she had been dead over a month. Once I found out I immediately called her husband to see how he was doing to which he said to me over the phone, “Oh, now you’re calling me.”

When I was serving that congregation I didn’t know how to effectively minister to the dying. I did the best I could but I always felt it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what to say. What to do, or how to comfort them. I was a bundle of anxiety because I was unaware of just how to provide comfort to the dying. By the time I made that condolence call I knew how to effectively minister to the dying and I found myself much less anxious around death and dying, but it was too late for me to be a source of comfort to him and certainly it was too late for me to comfort her. My opportunity had come and gone. I felt horrible for days after that phone call. I feel like I had failed him while I served that congregation and I felt even worse that he thought I didn’t care and that was why I hadn’t called. I’ve acknowledged these feelings and use them to empower the work I do now since I finished the chaplain residency and now work as a hospice chaplain.

As a society we’re not prepared to deal with death and dying. It’s easy to post “hugs” on Facebook but it’s rough being in the room with someone who has terminal cancer. I learned to be comfortable with silence. To feel okay with not saying anything and to live in that uncomfortable place that the living find themselves in when confronted with the dying. To be able to point out the obvious, “This is a horrifying experience and you’re scared,” with genuine compassion while refraining from saying, “Oh, it’s going to be okay. I’ll light a candle for you.”

I remember an incident when I was a chaplain resident. I had visited with Tom (I will call him Tom, not his real name), a cancer patient, several times and he would often be depressed because his home was over an hour away and his wife had to work and wasn’t able to be with him very often. I had probably visited with him on at least three occasions over the months I was there at the hospital. On one occasion, the last time I saw him, I got a call from the unit’s nurse asking I pay him a visit. I walked into his room and his wife was there. He seemed pleased she was with him; however, she said to me, “The doctor was just in and he said Tom has two weeks to live.” We started talking and I listened to what they had to say about the final prognosis of his cancer. Finally, I said to them, “You have two weeks left. What are you going to do with those two weeks?” She looked straight at me and said, “We’re going to pray for a miracle. We can fight this.”

I looked at Tom. He was stoic. He had been battling cancer for ten years. The miracle was that he had ten years of life after his initial diagnosis. At this point their pastor walked in and I shook his hand and we exchanged pleasantries. I didn’t want to “step on his toes” so I said my goodbyes and passed the proverbial chaplain’s torch to their pastor. As I was washing my hands I heard Tom’s wife say, “Pastor Steve, the doctor was in and said Tom has two weeks to live.” To which Pastor Steve said, “What’s the Lord have to say about that?”

I walked out of the room feeling sad. I knew that Tom was conflicted and wanted to just spend quality time with his wife before he died and didn’t want to focus all of his efforts in prayer for a cure when he knew that wasn’t going to happen. But his wife’s anxiety was too much to accept and there was nothing they could do and that the fight was over.

About an hour after I left their room I got a call from the nurse to visit with them again, they requested my presence. I went back to the room and Pastor Steve was still there and Tom’s wife said, “The doctor was in again and suggested Tom go onto hospice care.” At that moment there was some silence with all eyes looking at me to which I said, “Two weeks. Make that time count, how are you going to spend that two weeks?” Pastor Steve jumped in and said, “We’re going to pray for a miracle. The Lord answers prayers so we’re going to pray.”

I felt powerless in this situation and I felt sad. I felt sad for Tom. He wanted to just spend quality time with his family. He was tired and didn’t want to fight the inevitable. But he was surrounded by highly anxious people who didn’t want to accept his death was coming soon. At this point in my interaction with Tom his pastor turned to me and started making small talk. He was uncomfortable with Tom’s condition that he didn’t want to enter into it with him so he made small talk with me. Eventually, I realized there wasn’t much more I could do so I said my goodbye and that was the last time I saw Tom.

In my work as a hospice chaplain I’ve said many final goodbyes. Each patient and their family are unique and it is a blessing to be able to minister to people at the end of their lives. Recently, our community has had a lot of deaths. Death is a natural transition and yet it has given me an opportunity to reflect upon life in general and my own life in particular. From what I have read on-line it appears that Morning Glory Zell had a “good death,” surrounded by people who loved her and at peace with her illness. I hope this is true because this is my hope for the patients in my care, that I can help them have a “good death” and to be at peace.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Thank you. It is my hope that I did some good for Tom, but his wife was having difficulty with her own grief and that became a ch
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    What a beautiful piece. Thank you for your honesty about your struggle to come to terms with dying, which is a part of life. I am
The Pagan as Professional Chaplain

Imagine the following scenarios…  

  • You have recently finished your education at Cherry Hill Seminary and you’ve been hired as a healthcare chaplain at a local hospital.  The Director of Pastoral Care turns to you and says, “Well, since you’re the newest chaplain you get to preach at our bi-annual memorial service for all who have passed away at the hospital since our last service.” 
  • You are sitting at an interview for a position as a staff chaplain at a prison.  The warden who is interviewing you says, “I expect my chaplain to be the pastor of the whole prison community.”
  • You get a call in the middle of the night.  A Catholic patient of yours is near death and the family can't find a priest to anoint the patient.  You've been asked by the nurse at their bedside to attend to them. 

Good advice for anyone interested in chaplaincy would be to suspend your sectarianism.  Institutional settings that have chaplains need their chaplains dedicated to interfaith ministry.   Chaplains need to be of service to all of those within their institutional setting. Suspending your sectarianism doesn’t mean sacrificing who you are as a minister, priest, or cleric.  It means being open to diversity and being able to embrace that diversity to be of service to others where you find them.  This means being strong in your own religious conviction.  Your identity as a Chaplain should flow from your theology and that theology should be expansive enough to embrace the needs of others both within and outside of your tradition.  Suspending your sectarianism means your agenda is one of service and compassion; and the person with whom the Chaplain serves sets the agenda. 

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Carol Kirk
    Carol Kirk says #
    Valerie Cole is my thesis chair, and David Oringderff is also on my committee. I'll be glad to share the thesis with you when it
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Very interesting topic. Who is your thesis advisor? I'd be interested in reading it. I'm a Gulf War veteran myself.
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Carol... congratulations on your studies! That must have been a lot of hard work. What are you writing your thesis on? I imagin
  • Carol Kirk
    Carol Kirk says #
    My thesis got started because I became interested in the rising rates of suicide among combat veterans...which led me to the topic
  • Carol Kirk
    Carol Kirk says #
    Great post! Like Sandy, I am working as a volunteer chaplain at our local hospital where I primarily do grief work with families

Additional information