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[NBA Project] Results

Result of the Needs Based Assessment

This questionnaire has taken on a life of its own. People posted the link on other lists and used Facebook and other social websites. I have received over a dozen responses from clergy, mental health practitioners and Pagan practitioners. Based on the excitement, I had expected more responses. Some commented that the length and openness of the assessment may have put some people off.

Because the survey was written as a qualitative assessment, and I don’t have enough to give a true sample size, these written results will necessarily be qualitative in content.

Of the survey’s I received, almost half were from California alone, particularly the Burkely area. This is most likely because it got on a local list there, and the Pagan community is very politically active and well-educated. About four survey takers were from the Midwest, one from the South, and only one from my home area of the Pacific Northwest. Of all the lists I sent the survey out to, I only received a response from one person I actually know in real life.

The main concerns listed by survey-takers are job and money related. As predicted, most of our community is affected by the economic depression like the rest of the nation. In particular, our community is stressed about affordable healthcare, getting enough food to eat, and the burden of student loans. For some, these concerns are compounded by their religious affiliation—more than one survey indicated that they could not use the local food bank because they had been harassed by the mainstream religious group running the program. Although no one knew of specifically Pagan programs that could help with this problem, most folks had no hesitation about using government programs like unemployment, food stamps, and Free clinics.

The next most often listed item was a desire for Pagan related services for problems such as alcoholism, birth and death, and dying rites, and general psychological and emotional support. While no one knew of any specifically Pagan programs for this class of issues (unless they are directly involved in one), they did indicate that Pagan clergy might take some responsibility for this, or at least disseminating information on local resources. Yet no one was comfortable going to a mainstream program unless they knew it was Pagan friendly. Many in our community volunteer these kinds of services, but find their resources stressed.

Pagan clergy seem to, in general (that is, in all but one survey), be greatly desired in the community. There is a distrust that clergy are not adequately trained, and that they shouldn’t get involved in things they have not had experience and training for. The survey takers expressed desire to move towards more formalized organizations like churches and 501 c. 3 non-profits. Several surveys indicated an exasperation at the perceived “reinvention of the wheel”—that is, organizations come and go, and maybe if they banded together, they could get more accomplished.

Mental health practitioners and Pagan practitioners both agree that there needs to be more “out” counselors and opportunities for Pagans to receive mental health. Because Pagans have a unique woldview and religious orientation that differs greatly from mainstream ideas of mental health, they are often labeled as pathogenic under a disease model. Pagans will resist complete openness with a counselor if they are not sure that their worldview–which includes magical thinking, fantasy, play, sexual exploration, ecstasy, alternative lifestyles, and mind altering religious experiences perceived as very real–would not be accepted or understood as a positive aspect of a client’s life. Besides having “out” counselors who are accepting, Pagans also need emotional support through hard times, which they believe they can get from well-trained clergy and counselors.

Several people focused on big ideas such as environmentalism, capitalistic greed and large corporations taking over. They suggested that solving these social problems will alleviate a lot of the depression and hopelessness that our community feels, yet they also could suggest no solutions or ways of addressing this problem.

Perhaps the most surprising result found in the survey, is the overwhelming desire to help themselves and help each other. They seem to loathe the separateness we have, yet want to maintain their autonomy and independence. Yet when it comes to social services, they feel a real need for them, but few know how to begin, what is already out there, and how to best serve the community. All but one survey taker said they would help by donating time or money to a Pagan cause, and the vast majority of those who took the survey are already helping the community in some way. In general, even while people identified problems, they were optimistic about the future, and were keen to take personal responsibility for their local community and their own problems.

Plan of Action based on the Needs Based Assessment

I have received a few offers of help from folks who wanted to do more than just fill out the survey. One is offering to publish the results of this project if I can make it sound academic enough. Another is brainstorming with me some things we can do to connect people and Pagan-friendly helping programs. We think a website specifically for this focus, or a section of a website that a lot of Pagans already use, would be most beneficial. It seems clear that we need to connect and get out useful information on more mundane topics, not just magical topics.

While I recognize that I cannot personally address all the needs identified in this survey, I am doing my best, and plan to focus my career in service to this community. When I get my license, I will be an “out” mental health practitioner, and work to do academic study and writing about our community for others who may be working with them. I am also writing a book for Pagan clergy on service to the community, and will use these survey results as information to help clergy focus their service and get training without “reinventing the wheel”.

It was my intention to get people who filled out the survey to think about what they could do to help each other. I would not be surprised if programs and organizations started popping up locally. One on the survey said she will re-open a local food bank, with the help of the ACLU to avoid religious persecution. My sincerest hope is that people will be inspired to bring their thoughts into action, and respond to their community without trying to control or judge it. Even getting people back into the mainstream programs as volunteers would be a step in the right direction.

[NBA Project] About the Needs-Based Assessment Project

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

(I have no idea what is up with the formatting. Please bear with me as I play with it and try to not make it look like poo.)

I belong to a unique religious community that is starting to become more focused on service to the community. In Paganism and Wicca, there is no central organizing structure, indeed no outlined rules for inclusion or support in the community. People from all walks of life and beliefs tend to gather geographically in groups for socialization and networking, and do smaller coven and religious work separately from the main social group. Many practitioners do not belong to any group. As our community grows, many are becoming elders, having spent much of their adult life learning and teaching the ways of the Craft. As a religion that requires no intermediary between an individual and Deity, many are working hard to become their own Priests and Priestesses—some more successfully than others.

But there are many who do not have the time or dedication to become a well-trained Priest/ess, assuming good training can be found. These people desire ritual service (which elders are happy to provide) but this laity also wants pastoral counseling and help with real life problems, which the majority of our elders are not equipped to handle.

Members and elders of the community take great pride in their individuality and their group traditions, and despise being told what to do. A community based project or program would be the only real way to help them directly. My idea for a program would be to sit down with leaders and elders in the community and work to solve this pastoral counseling problem. I think we can all agree that there is a lack of education here, but some good experience. Because Pagans and Wiccans come from diverse professional backgrounds, it is likely that there are skills in the community that can be shared and catered to the Pagan population. The goal would be to create a clergy education program that is sustainable, applicable and accessable.

Principles

  1. Strengthening families in our time must be done mostly by families themselves, working democratically in local communities.
    1. For our purposes, Pagan and Wiccan groups, groves, hearths and covens are often tight like family. Some groups are close to other groups, while others seem disconnected from everybody. The challenge will be to reach out and get representatives from all these disparate groups.
    2. The greatest untapped resource for strengthening families is the knowledge, wisdom, and lived experience of families and their communities.
      1. Because of our diverse professional and religious backgrounds and educations, we have much we can teach each other. Pagans are among the best educated religious groups today, with a strong majority holding bachelor degrees or higher.
      2. Families must be engaged as producers and contributors to their communities, and not just as clients or consumers of services.
        1. In our case, the community has an active dislike of being told what to do. Additionally, these groups often do not have monetary resources to consume many services.
        2. Professionals can play an important role in family initiatives when they learn to partner with families in identifying challenges, mobilizing resources, generating plans, and carrying out public actions.
          1. Pagans sometimes do not trust professionals because it is believed that their academic knowledge disagrees with the Pagan gnosis, but there is a recognition that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The community would want to know that the professional was familiar with Pagan thinking and living paradigms and not trying to somehow “convert” them to a certain way of thinking.
          2. If you begin with an established program, you will not end up with an initiative that is “owned and operated” by citizens. But a citizen initiative might create or adopt a program as one of its activities.
            1. There are already several Pagan seminaries of varying qualities. Many are expensive, aren’t aimed at the local community, or are somehow academically elitist. One that is “owned and operated” by the citizens would not feel that way.
            2. A local community of families becomes energized when it retrieves its own historical, cultural, and religious traditions about family life–and brings these into the contemporary world of family life.
              1. During planning phases of this project, we need to make a space for all voices to be heard and somehow come to a consensus about what to do. Each group will want their tradition respected in the process.
              2. Family and Democracy initiatives should have a bold vision (a BHAG–a big, hairy, audacious goal) while working pragmatically on focused, specific goals.
                1. They will need to be taught how to do this, and decide what the local level of involvement will be. The hardest part will be getting a commitment from people and then having follow-through.

Key Strategies for Implementing Action Initiatives

  1. Employ democratic planning and decision making at every step.
    1. Consensus is essential so that no one feels hurt and tries to sabotage the project. Perhaps utilizing Roberts Rules of Order will help formalize the process.
    2. Emphasize mutual teaching and learning among families.
      1. We will have to identify the strength that already lies in the community.
      2. Create ways to fold new learnings back into the community.
        1. Perhaps through a dissemination process, where representatives from groups are taught certain skills and take it back to their groups to teach others. It should be a very hands on process.
        2. Continually identify and develop new leaders.
          1. Pagans have problems with power struggles. We will need to utilize a procedure that is democratic and fair to prevent coups.
          2. Use professional expertise selectively–“on tap,” not “on top.”
            1. Professionals should make their expertise known to the community, rather than offer their services. The community should invite the professionals to talk or teach on certain subjects.
            2. Generate public visibility through media and community events.
              1. This will help disparate groups get involved, and build credibility for the religion in the eyes of the world. We will need a skilled person or team to coordinate this.
  1. Forge a sense of larger purpose beyond helping immediate participants.
    1. The group should create a mission statement that includes improving the community beyond the groves and covens. For example, service projects that are aimed at the public at large, and not just the Pagan population.

[NBA Project] Questionnaire for Pagan Clergy

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Questionnaire for Pagan Clergy

Please fill out this questionnaire to the best of your knowledge and ability. Please email your response to JamieFreemanTarot@gmail.com. Put “NBA response” in the subject line so you do not end up in my junkmail folder. Your name and email will be kept confidential, but your responses will be gathered and reported on http://www.witchfulthinking.wordpress.com.

  1. First, please identify your training, experience, and area of ministry. For example, I am on the path to ordination through a large Wiccan organization and currently work as a mentor to some in my tradition.
  2. What problems do you see your Pagan community and friends facing right now?
  3. What top three problems are the most urgent, severe and pressing?
  4. How do you, personally, address these problems in your group or ministry?
  5. What problems need more attention, resources and programs to alleviate?
  6. Do you recommend clients use federal, state and local resources to help address these problems?
  7. Are you aware of any specifically Pagan organizations that address these problems?
  8. Why do you, or why do you not, use these resources? What advantages or disadvantages do you see with these programs?
  9. What professional services would best address this problem?
  10. As Pagan clergy, do you feel you are adequately trained and prepared to handle these problems?
  11. What would be the ideal way to address the problems you see and experience in your community?
  12. Would you be willing to volunteer or donate money to support a program like that? How could you support such a program?
  13. May we contact you about program or service to the community in the future?
  14. Any other ideas, information or advice surrounding this issue?

Thank you for your voice and participation in this study. A preliminary report will be on the website by May 2010.

[NBA Project] Questionnaire for Pagan Mental Health Counselors

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Questionnaire for Pagan Mental Health Counselors

Please fill out this questionnaire to the best of your knowledge and ability. Please Email your response to JamieFreemanTarot@gmail.com. Put “NBA response” in the subject line so you do not end up in my junkmail folder. Your name and email will be kept confidential, but your responses will be gathered and reported on http://www.witchfulthinking.wordpress.com.

  1. First, please identify your level of training and how you interact with the Pagan community. For example, I am working on a MA in Professional Counseling and interact with Pagan clients on an individual level for mentoring. I plan on opening a private practice aimed at the community.
  2. What problems do you see your Pagan clients and friends facing right now?
  3. What top three problems are the most urgent, severe and pressing?
  4. How do you, personally, address these problems in your practice?
  5. What problems need more attention, resources and programs to alleviate?
  6. Do you recommend clients use federal, state and local resources to help address these problems?
  7. Are you aware of any specifically Pagan organizations that address these problems?
  8. Why do you, or why do you not not, use these resources? What advantages or disadvantages do you see with these programs?
  9. What professional services would best address this problem?
  10. Would ordained Pagan clergy be helpful in this matter? How could they best serve here?
  11. What would be the ideal way to address the problems you see and experience in your community?
  12. Would you be willing to volunteer or donate money to support a program like that? How could you support such a program?
  13. May we contact you about program or service to the community in the future?
  14. Any other ideas, information or advice surrounding this issue?

Thank you for your voice and participation in this study. A preliminary report will be on the website by May 2010.

[NBA Project] Questionnaire for Pagans

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Questionnaire for Pagans

Please fill out this questionnaire to the best of your knowledge and ability. Email it to JamieFreemanTarot@gmail.com with the subject line “NBA Project” so it doesn’t end up in my junkmail folder. Your name and email will be kept confidential, but your responses will be gathered and reported on http://www.witchfulthinking.wordpress.com.

  1. First, please identify the communities with which you mainly socialize and worship. For example, I work with a local social community, a large Wiccan church, and a small initiatory tradition.
  2. What problems do you see your Pagan friends and neighbors facing right now?
  3. What top three problems are the most urgent, severe and pressing?
  4. How do you, personally, address these problems?
  5. What problems are you working through right now?
  6. Do you use federal, state and local resources to help address these problems?
  7. Are you aware of any specifically Pagan organizations that address these problems?
  8. Why or why not do you use these resources? What advantages or disadvantages do you see with these programs?
  9. What professional services would best address this problem?
  10. Would ordained Pagan clergy be helpful in this matter? How could they best serve here?
  11. What would be the ideal way to address the problems you see and experience in your community?
  12. Would you be willing to volunteer or donate money to support a program like that? How could you support such a program?
  13. May we contact you about program or service to the community in the future?
  14. Any other ideas, information or advice surrounding this issue?

Thank you for your voice and participation in this study. A preliminary report will be on the website by May 2010.

[NBA Project] Needs Based Assessment of the Pagan Community–Gathering Data

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Pagan Community,

I am a student at Amridge University in the MA in Professional Counseling department. I am conducting a qualitative Needs-Based survey that I need your help with.

In brief, our diverse community is growing and changing. We have gone from secretive coven groups, to solitary practitioners and even organized ourselves into churches, groves and informal local communities. We are becoming strong in our identity and lifestyle as Pagans, Witches, Heathans, Wiccans, Eclectics, or however we choose to identify. While some of us interact with the “mundane” world for our needs, others of us have broken away entirely, finding it hard to negotiate between the magical worldview and the prevailing American monoculture that surrounds us. For many of us, we have beliefs and activities that we choose to keep private, lest our employers and neighbors find out, while others are out and living openly in service to the community.

What we lack are places to go and get help when we need it. The economy has hit us just as hard as it has hit the rest of the population, and many of us are struggling with the basic essentials of food and shelter. Still others struggle with mental illness, depression and health problems. The need for community has never been greater.

In an effort to help support each other, I am conducting a Needs-Based Assessment of this community. The results will be accessible to the community so that we can work together to solve these problems on a local and national level. This is the first step to organizing helping services that meet the unique needs of our spiritual community. Not only are we identifying our needs, but our own strengths, and bringing them together to solve our own problems. We are the change we wish to see in the world!

Please fill out a brief questionnaire and return it in the body of an email to: JamieFreemanTarot@gmail.com. Please put “NBA Response” in the subject line so you do not go in my junkmail folder. Feel free to pass on this link to those who might be interested.

Sincerely,

Jamie Freeman