Pagan Studies

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.

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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.  

What is my point?  I have provided care to hundreds of patients and their families.  Most of the people I provided care for were not Pagan or even close, yet I provided quality (at least I believe I did) pastoral care to the individuals and their families in my care.  Most of the patients I see are elderly and on hospice care.  They are typically some form of Christian, or loosely associated with Christian culture (i.e., Christmas and Easter are holidays they celebrate even if organized religion is unimportant).

It is a naive assumption to think that the only people who I will minister to will be "like me."  Most of the people with whom I serve are very different spiritually from where I am, but I'm still able to provide care to them.  I am able to find points of commonality.

Again, what is my point?  I believe Pagans and those within 'minority faiths' have the ability to be excellent chaplains.  It would be fabulous if more Pagans would embrace chaplaincy as a profession; however, it requires the ability to minister to a diverse group of people in diverse ways.  

I have a feeling that the environment and professional atmosphere of pastoral care and chaplaincy is going to be very different in the not too distant future.  With the rise of the "spiritual but not religious" and as Pagans start getting older Pagan chaplains will be able to "minister to their own," and I believe we can make an impact.  By thinking broadly and embracing theological diversity Pagan chaplains will be able to serve humanity and not simply the Pagan community.  

I have had magical moments with patients of faiths very different from my own.  Being open to these experiences will allow the magic to happen.  The ultimate purpose of this post is that I would like to see more professional chaplains who are Pagan, who are committed to working with all people who need care and who are willing to serve not only their community but humanity.  Hospitals, hospice companies, prisons, et al., need us.

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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.


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