Green Priestcraft: A ChristoPagan Pastoralia

"Pastoralia" is a somewhat archaic term denoting the spiritual, pastoral, and ritual care of a community.  "ChristoPagan" is a somewhat emergent term denoting a blend of Christian and Pagan thealogy, cosmology, and spirituality.  So, put the two together, and you have the hopefully intriguing (and, to some, infuriating) description of my own journey as a greenpriest.  I trust that folks of various and sundry spiritual persuasions will find something here to pique their interest, deepen their practice, and feed their souls.  Hear the Rune of Sophia: "God is Love, and Her body is all creation.  She is a Tree of Life, who gathers Her children in Love."  This is the conviction which guides me.  Blessed be.

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Practicing Lent as a ChristoPagan

As part of a small community living off the grid, I often find it enjoyable to try to describe our way of life to others.  When I'm asked about our water situation, I usually quip that “yes, we have running water: I run to the lake and get water.”  

Well, actually that's not exactly true.  I generally walk slowly to and from the lake, pulling a sled filled with water pails behind me.  My “running water” joke is a fun little one-liner, but the reality is that hauling water is, for me, simultaneously a daily routine of survival and a spiritual practice, rolled into one.

In the present season of the turning year-wheel, Christians observe the liturgical period of lent.  Lent is an old word, derived from the Anglo-Saxon “lencten”, or what we might hear as “lengthen”.  It basically means spring, as the days lengthen and the sun's warming power is felt even throughout our snow-bound prairie landscape.  As a season of the Church, lent is a deeply reflective time, reminiscent of Jesus' vision quest in the Judean wilderness.  It is a time for paring down, self-examination, and intensification of spiritual practice.  So as a ChristoPagan, what does lent look like for me?

A major part of my lenten discipline this year (and yes, it can change from year to year) is to bring more attention, focus, and energy to my daily prayer routine.  Since moving to the farm a number of years ago, I have tried to connect my prayer cycle to my chores.  Every day there are certain things which need to be done: light the fire, haul the water, chop the wood, milk the cow.  You get the idea.  Without these daily chores, life literally falls apart.  So rather than see these necessary tasks as a distraction from prayer, I have deliberately yoked them to my druidic devotions, so that my chores are now at the heart of my spiritual practice.

For example, as I pull the sled down the hill and over the snow-covered ice, I chant a creed which reminds me that “we are not alone, we live in God's world ... we are called to live in respect with Creation ... in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us” (from A New Creed, United Church of Canada).  As I approach the open water hole (chopped from the ice daily by my younger neighbour, thank God/dess!) I envision the Lady of our lake, the undine guardian spirit who tends the health and vitality of the water, and all the creatures who live in and from the lake.  And then every day, I pause for a moment, kneeling at the ice hole and communing with the Lady, and invoking a prayer of blessing upon her in the name of the Creator, the Christ, and Sophia, the Holy Spirit.

Part of living ChristoPagan, and being a greenpriest in this particular time and place, involves doing the work of reconnecting my spirituality with my relationship to the Land.  It is about rebuilding respectful friendships with the spirits and creatures who are my web of neighbours in this beautiful place.  So as the days continue to “lencten”, I embrace this season of lent as a time to renew those relationships, in trust that our mutual life will flourish.

Blessed be.

 

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The Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck is an ecumenical priest associated with the United Church of Canada, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He is the author of Christian Animism, and the founder of the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia, an informal online community fostering Christian-Pagan dialogue and spiritual practice.  He lives with his family on an off-the-grid farm community in north-western Saskatchewan (Treaty Six Territory), where he is chaplain to the human and more-than-human wights of the community.  When not writing sermons, chopping wood, or practising magic, Shawn can be counted on to have his nose buried in a book. He can be contacted at greenpriest@hotmail.ca
 

Comments

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Saturday, 09 March 2019

    I am working my way through "Draw the Circle: the 40 Day Prayer Challenge" by Mark Batterson. Have you and your congregation chosen a topic to pray on together during this Lenten season?

  • Shawn Sanford Beck
    Shawn Sanford Beck Wednesday, 13 March 2019

    Hi Anthony! As a community we're just working through our regular lectionary study, but for personal reading I have been returning to the Celtic saints, as well as Madeleine L'Engle's Genesis Trinity. A blessed lent to you!

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