Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pagans at AAR - M. Mueller

I am at the annual American Academy of Religion meeting in Atlanta, GA. There are representations from COG and Cherry Hill Seminary here. Pagan attendants include M. Macha Nightmare, Holli Emore, Michael York, Maggie Beaumont, Patrick McCollum, Wendy Griffin, Marion Mason, Sarah Pike, Grant Potts, Chas Clifton, Doug Ezzy, and others. Many of these Pagans have presented papers, moderated, or responded. 

Sarah Pike presided at and Wendy Griffin and Jone Salmonsen gave papers at the Ritual Studies Group and Body and Religion Consultation. Helen Berger, Marion Mason, and Christopher Chase gave papers in a joint session of Contemporary Pagan Studies Group and Men, Masculinities, and Religions Group. Chas Clifton presided; Douglas Ezzy and Mark Justad responded. I believe Mark Justad plays a role in the Men, Masculinities, and Religions Group.
I went to the annual Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network meeting, where it’s tradition for everyone in the room to introduce her or himself, a less common practice for big sessions here. My former supervisor Mary Hunt convenes this meeting. It’s so important for Witches to participate in this network. Feminist Witches have been leading pioneers in spiritual liberation. I want for our voices to continue to be in the conversation. Grove Harris attended. I’m glad to have been part of a Pagan presence there.

I attended a lunch for queer scholars. I got to sit with Rebecca Alpert, a leading Jewish feminist scholar. I love her stuff! Rebecca was very friendly and approachable and is open to continuing correspondence with me….which is great because she’s in my area, Philadelphia! I have an appointment with Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza tomorrow, another one of my “intellectual heartthrobs” (I’ve been using that term a lot this weekend).

Last night Kitty Sarkozy led “A Chants Encounter: A Pagan Gospel/Jam Session,” a night of singing and socializing.

Sunday night most Pagans will be meeting in the evening for ritual. The “Samhain Ritual Honoring the Dead” is open to guests and is listed in the program!

I caught up with Patrick McCollum firsthand about his experience in Kazakhstan. At this important international meeting, Patrick developed intimate professional relationships with global political and religious leaders. He is doing the relationship building that I find so fundamentally important in interfaith. The convening organization’s objectives are for ecological health. Look for other press releases, the Wild Hunt, or ask Patrick for more information.

As always, there is tons happening around here and many Pagans! This entry is a sampling of what’s happening and what I’ve been doing. It is by no means exhaustive.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

update from New Orleans - M. Mueller

"If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."  --From an Aboriginal Activists Group, wisdom delivered at the Liberal Religious Educators' Association Fall Conference this weekend in New Orleans.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thoughts on Eight Verses of Training the Mind

On October 12th, I was privileged to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama give a teaching on Geshe Langri Thangpa's Eight Verses of Training the Mind (lojong tsik gyema), sponsored by the Gyuto Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhist Center in San Jose. There were about 12,000 people there but I got a good seat in the interfaith section right up front since I was there as Wiccan clergy. It was an interesting teaching, the verse is part of the "lojong" section of Buddhist verses about Mind Training. This isn't the exact translation he used, but it will give you an idea of the theme.

The verse about "To think of myself as the lowest among all" didn't appeal to me when I read it beforehand but his explanation is that it means you come from a place of respecting every being rather than from a superior place of pity it is better.

As a Wiccan this bothered me and I spent several days figuring out why. I think what bothers me is how hierarchical the thinking is... make yourself the lowest so you are giving everyone respect rather than feeling superior and offering pity. I want to engage the world looking for equals and team mates. A circle rather than a ladder. I do agree that respect and compassion are a good place to come from when dealing with others. I guess I just don't see the need for that stance to come out of a place of relative dominance. And I'm not saying that I don't struggle or that I am free of judgements! But I try to come from a place of connection and a heart opening posture.

An interesting note was that his Holiness' translator was on the interfaith panel and he talked a bit about the history of the Eight Verses. One of the huge beneficiaries of its popularity was a colony of lepers because of the verse about caring for the afflicted. That, at least, seems an excellent outcome.

After the teaching there was an interfaith gathering of about 800-1000 people with speakers ranging from Huston Smith (age 91) to a young man who wrote "Dharma Punx" and works with troubled youth. Unfortunately the teaching had run long so that about half the people left about 2/3 of the way through the planned interfaith program. Our new Silicon Valley Interreligious Council was scheduled to be part of the announcements and hoped that good connections would be made, but the lateness meant very few people heard about us.

Bright blessings,
Rowan Fairgrove

CoG Interfaith Rep elected Trustee of international interfaith organization

I have just been informed that, in its October conference call, the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative voted to invite me become an At-Large Trustee.  This is a great honor, which I have accepted.
The URI is the world’s largest, grassroots interfaith organization, with 496 local branches (“Cooperation Circles”) in 77 countries, involving millions of people in interfaith programs around the world (
The purpose of the URI is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation; to end religiously motivated violence; and o ctraete cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”  I worked with many others – including CoG’s Deborah Ann Light - in the writing of the URI’s Charter in conferences in 1998-2000.

This is my third term on the URI’s Global Council.  In 2002, I was elected to be one of three Trustees from the North American Region on the URI’s first elected Global Council.  In 2006, I was asked to be one of two At-Large Trustees on the URI’s second elected Global Council.  This time, on the third elected Global Council, I am again one of two At-Large Trustees, the other being Swami Agnivesh of New Delhi, India.

The current Global Council is made up of 30 individuals from 19 countries.  The Global Council includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, representatives of Indigenous traditions, Hindus, Sikhs, a Buddhist, and now a Witch.  Many of the Trustees are clergypersons, monastics, and elders of various sorts.

While most of the Trustees come from and represent geographic Regions in the URI (Latin America & the Carribean, Middle East & North Africa, Europe, etc.), my efforts in the URI have been focused on what is called the “Multiregion” (  This is the Region for Cooperation Circles (“CCs”) whose members are in more than one geographic Region or whose focus spans more than one Region.

I serve as coordinator for two Multiregional CCs: Expressing the URI in Music & the Arts (EURIMA) and the Spirituality & the Earth CC.  EURIMA created and published the first Intefaith Songbook ( and hosted the first Interfaith Sacred Space Design Competition in 2004, inviting participants to imagine what genuinely interfaith sacred space would look like.  The competition resulted in 160 designs from 17 countries (, which were published in the book Sacred Spaces.

The Spirituality & the Earth CC is a network of various Earth Religionists (Heathen, Hindu, Indigenous, Shinto, Taoist, Wiccan, etc.) on four continents.  Our cooperative efforts have included arranging computers and English lessons for Indigenous interfaith representatives in Latin America and hosting an annual People of the Earth conference in San Francisco, bringing together Neopagans, immigrant Pagans, and Indigenous practitioners around issues of common concern (

I look forward to once again serving the URI on its Global Council for as long as they need me.

Don Frew
National Interfaith Representative

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Carry the Vision conference 2010

On October 2nd, I went to the annual Carry the Vision conference at Santa Clara University. NCLC CoG had decided not to be a Participating Organization this year but I was in the clergy procession and welcomed people on behalf of the Wiccan community and Covenant of the Goddess. There is always someone who seeks me out to say how wonderful it is that the Wiccan community is present in this interfaith gathering which brings together faith and civic organizations with the aim of making a positive difference in our community and our world.

At the vip/clergy breakfast I had lots of good conversations  with folks. I met Jim Beall, Assemblyman from the 24th Dist. When he found out I was Wiccan he told me he is descended from Scottish Druids and his name is related to Beltaine. I was charmed. The level of acceptance that our community has earned with our interfaith presence is heartening.

After the blessing and various welcomes, Fr. John Dear gave the keynote talking about his work in anti-war and peace movements. He was quite an engaging speaker.

In the afternoon I went to a session on Modern-day Satyagraha Gandhi Jayanti given by Nipun Mehta, founder of CharityFocus and his colleague, Pancho. They showed the Power of One video and talked about making a difference. Their model for organizations was (1) Be volunteer run. (2) Don't fundraise and (3) Think small - assume value in every part of the process. Their philosophy is that "Wealth lies in contributions, not possessions. Reward lies in density of interconnections via circulation of gifts." The four shifts that have to be made are (1) Consumption to contribution, (2) Transaction to trust, (3) Isolation to community and (4) Scarcity to abundance. They have restaurants called Karma Kitchen where people pay what they feel it is worth... and whether there is a meal the next week depends on whether this weeks folks pay. Another project is Daily Good, a newsletter that gives a quote, a related story and an action every day.

The ending keynote was by Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, a a longtime civil rights activist.

This conference is a wonderful cross-section of the many faith and civic organizations in the South Bay community. I hope that next year NCLC will consider participating in a deeper way again even though our general focus is more in the North and East Bay.

Bright blessings,
Rowan Fairgrove

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New Silicon Valley Interfaith organization in the works

For years interfaith in the Santa Clara Valley has been fragmented with an ecumenical Council of Churches and various groups focused on peace, labor issues, feeding the hungry, etc. Since the early 1970s there was also been a clergy dialog group, most recently sponsored by Silicon Valley Faces. As SVFaces is now bowing out, the Interfaith Steering Committee that grew out of the dialog group and which spearheaded the efforts to become a Partner City of the Parliament of the World's Religions, felt the time was ripe for a new organization to emerge.

On September 28, 2010 at Temple Emanu-El in San Jose, a meeting of about 50 interfaith reps from all over the Santa Clara Valley got together and voted that we would create SiVIC, the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council to be a new networking hub for engaging all local faith communities, civic organizations, nonprofits, and educational institutions of the Silicon Valley, California.

Our work is cut out for us! There are about six committees roughing out bylaws and incorporation, outreach and advertising, fundraising and infrastructure. An inaugural board will be nominated and take office at the first Assembly to be held in February 2011.

Rowan Fairgrove, of Covenant of the Goddess, has been a member of the Steering Committee for several years and is now on the infrastructure committee helping with social networking and web outreach.

Information on SiVIC can be found at and on Facebook at

Bright blessings,

Rowan Fairgrove