Monday, January 19, 2009

Goodbye First Church of Wicca

<a href="http://www.firstchurchofwicca.org/">The First Church of Wicca</a> got media attention when it was featured on <a href="http://tlc.discovery.com/">The Learning Channel</a>'s "My Unique Family" in an episode entitled "<a href="http://blog.beliefnet.com/idolchatter/2007/02/witches-next-door-are-happy-family.html">The Witches Next Door</a>". At the time I remember wondering why a Wiccan Priestess would want to wear a Catholic Priest's collar. It seems awfully symbolic of a patriarchal system that's not quite what Wicca's about to me, but who am I to judge? I'm not Wiccan, what do I know?

If you go to the First Church of Wicca's website today, you will find the following: (I provide this rather than just a link because I imagine the website will disappear soon.)

<i>Thank you for all of your loving support over the past 5
years and we have enjoyed serving the Wiccan community
and answering all of your questions, comments, and
prayer requests. However, the church will be closing due
to the fact that our minister, the Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan
Hovey, will be opening a new church in May of 2009.

Living Waters Community of Hope will focus on helping
people heal from their experiences of inequity from past
religions and religious institutions, using Jesus Christ and
his teachings in the Bible as the foundation of how to have
a meaningful relationship with God, as well as, holistic
health of mind, body, and soul.

If you are interested in receiving more information about
Living Waters Community of Hope please see our website
at www.LivingWatersCH.org for information as it becomes
available </i>

This may come as somewhat of a shock to some. Though we may have somewhat gotten used to the idea that some people "Outgrow" Paganism and evolve into atheists (I know many personally who have and an article at the <a href="http://wildhunt.org/blog/2009/01/outgrowing-paganism.html">Wild Hunt</a> expounds on the phenomena) the idea of a Pagan turning Christian is kind of a strange one. After all, most of us came from Christian backgrounds and made a deliberate and conscious choice to embrace a Pagan faith instead. Many of us suffered great heartache and did a lot of soul searching. The idea of just waking up one day and saying "all this is bullshit, I'm totally wrong" just to go back to the thing that didn't satisfy us in the first place is kind of strange.

But if you read the "About Us" page on The First Church of Wicca's website you'll see that it's not much of a stretch. Under "Our Beliefs" you'll find, among other things:
<i>3) We believe in the teachings of the Bible and Jesus Christ, and consistently live by His teachings for our spiritual and moral foundation.</i>
And
<i>7) Some of us believe in resurrection and salvation through Jesus Christ.
</i>
It seems that the First Church of Wicca had one foot in the Christian church to begin with.

Under the What We Don't Believe section is:
<i>2) We do not believe in practicing Magick in our church.</i>
And
<i>3) We do not believe in practicing ritual in our church.</i>

Which begs the question: What do they do in their church?
It sounds like the First Church of Wicca wasn't very Wiccan to begin with... Which means we're probably better off without them. There are enough confused newbie Wiccans in the world without people being deliberately confusing. A more suspicious kind of person might wonder if it wasn't some conspiracy afoot. But I'm not a suspicious sort of person so I'll quit that line of thought right now. However, if I were a suspicious sort of person, the letter she sent out to members and supporters of the church would certainly have me speculating.

<i>I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting the First Church of Wicca and its efforts within the Pagan/Wiccan community over the past five years. I have thoroughly enjoyed serving you and answering all of your questions, comments, and prayer requests. However, the church will be closing due to the fact that I will be opening a new church in May of 2009.
Living Waters Community of Hope will focus on helping people heal from their experiences of inequity from past religions and religious institutions, using Jesus Christ and his teachings in the Bible as the foundation of how to have a meaningful relationship with God, as well as how to attain holistic health of mind, body, and soul. If you are interested in receiving more information about Living Waters Community of Hope please see our website at www.LivingWatersCH.org for information as it becomes available or email ReverendKendra@.... Please remember that I am always available to help you with any questions, concerns, or thoughts that you may have about your Wiccan practice.

For those of you who are wondering why I am closing the First Church of Wicca, understand that in my several years of studying Wicca and working as a Wiccan High Priestess, I have come to see the serious failings of the Wiccan faith. A major problem with the faith is that there is no unity among the followers of the faith which makes it very challenging to define exactly what Wiccans do and do not believe in. Wiccans have a very open "do what you will" or "live and let live" perspective in life which very easily can cause harm to oneself and others without one actually knowing it until it is much too late. Additionally, there is no unified moral code of ethics. This puts up huge red flags for society-at-large because no one can really be quite sure of what any group's intentions are. Society would have no way of knowing, for example, if you are a Wiccan that practices the Great Rite or polyamory, to name only two examples. Also, they would have no way of knowing just what "Do what ye will and harm none" means, and quite frankly, neither does each individual Wiccan. We are left to make moral and ethical decisions for ourselves rather than realizing that by human nature we are going to do anything that feels good to us, not what is best for us, and also not necessarily what is best for society as a whole. This makes for a very dangerous and faulty moral code of ethics. In addition, Wicca teaches primarily about how we can change the world and have all that we want. Spells, magick, etc. all prove to cause us to think selfishly instead of putting others before ourselves and more importantly instead of putting God before anyone else, including ourselves. It is very understandable that one would be close to nature and the earth, as well as, feel a need to call "God" the "God and Goddess;" however, the actual rote and complicated spells involved in Wicca can prove to be a huge distraction in one's spiritual growth. We do not need all of the "ritual things" in order to have a relationship with God - all we need is a sincere and thankful heart.

I personally have learned that through a true and deep understanding of Christ and his teachings, I can have the relationship with God that I have always wanted and more importantly, I am better equipped to teach how others can also have that relationship. Leaving Wicca was nothing lost for me, but turning to Christ has been everything gained! If you have any interest in learning more about my relationship with Christ I will be happy to share it with you.

Meanwhile, if you would like to remain on the mailing list for Living Waters Community of Hope, please reply to this email stating just that. Otherwise, I will assume that you do not and you will be permanently removed from our database prior to May 1, 2009.

I wish you many blessings on your spiritual journey!

It's a Good Life!
Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey</i>
(Note: I took out information identifying who the letter was sent to, but did not alter the letter in any other way)

The remarks she makes about the ambiguousness of Wicca are strange. For example, that "An it Harm None Do What you Will" is difficult to understand- is it not the job of the Priestess to help the seeker to understand? Or that there is no way of knowing if the group practices Polyamoury or the Great Rite. Yes there is, you ask. Wicca teaches us to change the world.. no it teaches you to change yourSELF and to take responsibility for yourSELF. Does not that Charge of the Goddess say something about "What you can't find within you will never find without"? Her discussion of our need to have things spelled out for us to keep us from hurting ourselves shows a serious disrespect and lack of faith in humanity as a whole. That's just sad.

She also gives us a hint of explanation to the confusing stuff in her "about" page. She apparently believes that the "God and Goddess" are simply names for "God", Jehovah. Has she been teaching Christianity under the guise of Wicca all along? Is she like those people the Christians scream about teaching Paganism under the guise of Christianity all along by saying that Nature is sacred to God? I sure as heck don't want to be a Pagan screamer. So I'll just stop speculating out loud right now!

But okay I can't. Why does the church have to close just because she left? It sounds like it's not really a church at all but a Cult of Personality. Is SHE the Church? Can't they just get a new Preist/Priestess? If I were a member of the church, I would be pretty damn furious. That's like saying "Hey, First Presbyterian Church is closing because your Minister decided he wants to be Pagan." It wouldn't happen. A church isn't about a minister, it's about the congregation. So... What's up with this lady anyway? How long has she been pretending to be Wiccan, all the while loathing Wicca? Has she been receiving donations from her congregation? I agree that the fact that Pagans and Wiccans would be better served with a little unity, but abandoning your entire congregation for greener pastures without making arrangements for them to be served in your absence is not the way to do it. It's irresponsible, rude and somewhat dishonest. It's even somewhat unethical -particularly if you've been getting donations from your group- to my guidance-less screwed up moral compass.

Okay. I'm done now. For real.