Thursday, June 20, 2013

Midsummer behind bars

I facilitated several Asatru Midsummer rituals in several prisons the last couple weeks, but this one in particular will stay with me, because of the efforts and creativity of the inmates. Check out these pictures:

The top picture is one side of the altar; the top row is a wooden box and two paintings, both by inmates. The bottom row is a copy of the readings done in the ritual, a wooden bowl, and a wooden Thor's hammer.

The next picture is the other half of the altar; top, another view of the painting of Odin, and a Sunwheel with a bag of runes in the center. The Sunwheel was made by each of them folding points from bits of paper, and then joining them all together. Top right is an oath ring. Bottom row; another view of the Thor's hammer, the drinking/toasting horn, a triangle, and a grotesque but religiously symbolic piece of art: Mimir's Well, with the Eye of Odin.

The bottom picture is the piece de resistance: the bonfire. The logs and flames are cardboard; behind them was a fan with red and yellow streamers dancing in the breeze- a startlingly effective illusion. 

The creativity and focus of the offenders never ceases to amaze me... and make me wonder if they'd be there at all if society had drawn these qualities out earlier.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Love is persistent

It cannot be locked in, or locked out; this has been something I've learned in the course of prison ministry. Colleen (founder of Indianapolis Pagan Prison Ministry) and I experienced that once again last Friday at at new prison we've just started at- this was our third visit. I cannot improve on Colleen's telling of it, sent out to all of us in IPPM:

Just wanted to share this with you guys ....

A friend wrote to me (about prison ministry he is doing):

"Our offenders are beginning to understand that there is a little more out there than what they thought and some of them are confused about the potential love that awaits them in the world."

And I replied: Yesterday I saw the same light of possibility on the faces of a couple of the long term inmates in my Asatru group. Their assignment was to pick one of the 9 Noble Virtues - one that they particularly need to work on ... write at least one paragraph on the virtue, why they need to work on it and how they plan to implement change.

When they shared and others did not judge them ... but the group (not me) offered support and suggestions ... you could see hope in some of their eyes.
Hope that a brother understood them, hope that there were hands reaching out to offer support and hope that they could and would be accepted.

It is that kind of miracle that changes lives (mine and theirs) for the better. It restores my hope for mankind and gives me energy to continue the work.

This is why people like me continue to do this work  ... Colleen 

I thank each of you for your sacrifice of ministry and for the hope you bring with you every time you enter a facility or follow up with someone who has gotten out and is fighting the good fight. You make a difference in the world.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

I said I was back, but...

It's been a month since I said I was back, and no post. I had laid out times to write, and taken notes on a hundred subjects, but every time I sat down with pen in hand, I kept encountering analysis paralysis... I found myself sympathizing with Rev Wells who wrote "I think I know why I’ve had such a hard time getting back into blogging. I just can’t convince myself there’s much I can add that would help.". I've been at it for years, with little evidence of progress. 

There's two ways of looking at the long term- first, that the difference is being made whether you see it or not; no one person sees the eroding effects of their own footsteps, but the ancient stone steps do get worn away in time. The other is that continuing to do the same thing over and over without observable change is the very definition of psychosis.

I'm not worried about being perceived as a psychotic, or about being one; I suspect the psychotic has no trouble with motivation. That just leaves the question of whether continuing is a meaningful exercise or an ego driven waste. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

I'm back

As you probably figured out, I've been taking a sabbatical from UU, both church and blogging. After all I'd been through in two different congregations, I needed time to get back to my spiritual roots. While I'm not ready to commit to another congregation, I am ready to pick up the pen again, and talk about the things I get from UU- even if only from a distance, for the nonce- and my life.

I thought I'd begin my return by bringing your attention to a blog post that made me laugh because it reflected perfectly how intertwined the two major influences in my spiritual life are. Though written by a Pagan, any UU will recognize the writer's dilemma- the difficulty devising an "elevator speech". He comes up with an elegant solution he calls The pagan sensibility "Not a statement of the True Pagan Nature or an explanation of the Pagan community, but a description of what kind of thought and action makes things pagan flavored. I think that one can describe that briefly and clearly, including everything one wants while excluding everything one doesn't.

The pagan sensibility sees the divine in the material world ... and so regards the human as sacred. 

The pagan sensibility apprehends the Cosmos as composed of a multiplicity of different interconnected forces ... and honors all of those forces.

This naturally got me thinking... is there a UU sensibility? If so, how would you describe it?