Continuing Education for Pagan Clergy

As I crawl out from underneath the summer crud I caught last weekend, I’m starting to put together my continuing education plan for my priestess work. That leads me to ask: what do others’ plans or approaches look like?

For those not familiar with it, continuing education (CE) is a requirement for licensure in many professions. I’ve encountered it primarily in the context of health care professions, where CE credits can be gained from activities like reading a journal article and taking a multiple-choice test, attending a workshop and completing an evaluation, or participating in more traditionally structured classes. A certain amount of CE credit is required for renewal of licenses on a regular basis.

I’m not advocating anything as strict as licensure requirements for Pagan clergy. They’re unworkable in a wide number of ways, not least of which is that ordination or initiation is not something that can be revoked. But I would probably be impressed by an organization that ordained clergy and required them to demonstrate adherence to certain minimal standards in order to remain “in good standing” or current with that organization as long as the standards are reasonable and clearly laid out, etc etc.

Be that as it may, I’m going to try to set some standards like that for myself. Have others done this? How?

In health care, there are a number of goals of CE requirements: keeping up with advances in the field, broadening one’s base of knowledge and skills, and maintaining fundamentals. I think we can analogize most of those to Pagan clergy.

So what should be included? Off the top of my head, here’s a few things that I’m thinking about:

*Advances in the field: Stay aware of current Pagan news through blogs, websites, periodicals; read major new books that come out.

*Broadening awareness: Build my list of resources for people who come to me with problems that aren’t primarily in my domain or that bridge multiple domains, especially things like mental health, violence, abuse, addiction, etc. Attend rituals that are in other traditions or forms and read fundamental texts in other branches of Paganism.

*Maintaining fundamentals: Build on basic skills and knowledge of Paganism/Wicca and related fields through reading and workshops on things like meditation, ritual, magic, etc.

I’m tentatively thinking about creating a set of goals that have a mix of these things that I want to accomplish on a quarterly basis, with some flexibility to allow for the fact that a lot of my face-to-face CE will probably happen at yearly gathering like Sacred Space.

I’m writing about this here because I want to hear about how others have handled this and because I’m hoping that I’ll use my blog as a way to report on my CE work. In health care, a CE credit requires more than just going through the motions or being physically present at a workshop; you have to demonstrate that you’ve accomplished something or acquired knowledge or skills. One of the best ways I can think of to do that is to write about what I’ve studied. And I’m hoping you all will help keep me accountable, too.

So what do you think? What would Pagan CE look like to you?

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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3 Responses to Continuing Education for Pagan Clergy

  1. “… ordination or initiation is not something that can be revoked” raises a good point. If you are making policy for a religious society that issues ordinations, make sure you provide for the possibility of having to revoke one. Initiation is between the initiate and the Gods; ordination is a public endorsement.

    • Literata says:

      Actually, I disagree. I was thinking about this afterwards, and I realized that the better analogy would be that ordination is like getting a diploma; it recognizes meeting a certain set of standards at a specific time. Remaining “in good standing” with one’s organization is more like licensure; it constitutes an ongoing “yes, we still endorse this person” statement. As such it can be withdrawn, while a diploma or ordination cannot be. I think this is a common misunderstanding. At least, that’s my understanding of what ordination means. The relationship between initiation and ordination is a more complex theaological one that depends on the societies involved.

      And I’m not trying to set policy for a group here, actually, although I think a lot of organizations would be better off for having a clearer analysis of ordination and “in good standing” and the requirements for each.

      • I didn’t research Sharia to see what ordination as an Imam looks like, and whether it can be revoked, but rabbis, Roman Catholic priests, and at least some Protestant ministers can have their ordinations revoked. I agree that it’s possible to revoke “good standing” (or, as the Code of Alabama quaintly puts it, “regular communion”) as a lesser step.

        A lot of Pagans would probably roll their eyes at this discussion and tell us that is what we get for trying to be” established. “

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