Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Unique Family

Did you watch TLC’s show My Unique Family's episode about Rev. Kendra Vaughan Hovey and her family last night? I was a little weary as I started to watch the episode as it is usually difficult to say how an individual, family, or group will be portrayed for this type of show. For once, I was actually quite surprised and pleased with it. The family was portrayed as being regular people who had regular concerns within their family and in daily life.

It seems that the main theme of this episode was religious tolerance, which makes sense to me. There are so many people that do not have an understanding of Pagan religions for several reasons, including not having any exposure to it. One thing that struck me was that Rev. Kendra Vaughan Hovey said that she would rather have people say things to her face rather than saying things behind her back. That way, they have a chance for communication and education.

But it wasn’t just a theme about tolerance within the overall community. Both parents talked about how they are open to the fact that their children have the right to decide what religions they want to follow later in life. I think that that made an important point about how open minded the Wiccan faith is regarding tolerance of other religions.

There have been a few questions of the clerical collar that Rev. Hovey wears. Within the first few minutes of the show, this question was answered when she stated that she wears the collar as a way to be recognized as clergy. Which is fine, I guess, but then there were the two towns people who automatically took that as a sign that she was making fun of Christian clergy and were rather disgusted. Wouldn't there be a better way to show that you are Pagan clergy rather than using a symbol of the Christian clergy? Any ideas out there?

Overall, I think that this was a great show. For once, a TV program showed an intelligent, articulate, and normal Wiccan family.


Gin said...

Interesting that you raise the isse of the clerical collar, as I was questioning this very thing on another blog when watching a self-made video that showed an individual dressed in black and wearing a clerical collar, discussing Paganism. It was later discovered that this man was in fact Pagan himself. (As for the quality of his video or comments within, I cannot say...not being able to hear it).

Reverend Hovey makes an interesting point about wearing the collar as a way of showing that she is in fact ordained clergy. However, my question would be this...is this collar in fact decreed by her faith, or a personal choice on her part? Most Christian clergy who wear a collar do so because it is designated by the denomination which they represent - be it Roman Catholic or other faiths. Just because one considers self to be a devout Catholic does not give one the right to wear the collar...you have to have earned such a right under the auspices of your Church.

Granted, Reverend Hovey is an ordained minister, but I know of no Pagan tradition that has adopted the cleric collar as standard apparel for clergy.

I guess I do have to wonder why Rev. Hovey feels it is essential to wear a collar in the first place. There are plenty of religious demoninations that don't use the collar and I don't consider their clergy any less "official" because of such. What makes you clergy isn't the clothes you wear, but the training, knowledge, and leadership that you demonstrate within your faith.

I don't know that I could suggest any particular requirements for Pagan clergy. Of course, we have our robes and such that we wear during rituals and the like, but for everyday purposes, this isn't very realistic.

I don't know...a part of me says that if you are ordained clergy of any spiritual path and you wish to wear the collar and your particular faith has no issues with it...then so be it.

On the other hand, is it in fact a sign of disrespect to Christian clergy? Perhaps that lies in the eyes of the beholder. I suspect that it is not Rev. Hovey's intention to demonstrate any disrespect to her fellow clergy, but to show that she has rightfully earned the same recognition and respect. But I can see others being offended, and even some of those within the Pagan Path itself questioning such actions.

It's a tough call. I myself as an ordained Wiccan minister would not wear a collar, but I don't know that it is proper for me to dictate if it is appropriate for anyone else. Truthfully, I don't even wear a pentacle or any real symbols of my faith on a regular daily basis. Part of that is simply that I am not a big jewelry lover to begin with, part of that is working in a field where we have to be careful about wearing flashy jewelry - not because of faith issues, but because it can sometimes be distracting while you are signing (interpreters are sometimes told to remove rings, bracelets, watches, and earrings for this reason).

Sorry...didn't mean to ramble. I guess my answer would be that while I personally would not be comfortable with Pagan clergy wearing clerical collars, I'm not sure that I can suggest anything better.


~ Ocean
"Deaf Pagan Crossroads"

Sojourner said...

No problem! Feel free to ramble as much as you want.

Ocean said: is this collar in fact decreed by her faith, or a personal choice on her part?

Guessing by what she said in the program, it is a personal choice.

There are plenty of religious demoninations that don't use the collar and I don't consider their clergy any less "official" because of such.

That is kinda what I was thinking too.

part of that is working in a field where we have to be careful about wearing flashy jewelry - not because of faith issues, but because it can sometimes be distracting while you are signing (interpreters are sometimes told to remove rings, bracelets, watches, and earrings for this reason).

That is an interesting point. I guess I would find the collar rather distracting myself. I did find myself focusing on the collar during the show.

I was glad that the production team was savvy enough to have that question answered within the first few minutes of the show otherwise I would have been wondering throughout the whole show. I'm guessing that they picked up on the fact that people would be curious and (along the lines of your comment) thought that they needed to answer that particular question right away so it wouldn't be a distraction.

Autumn said...

I personally thought the collar was a bit much. I think if anything it made her stand out to others, perhaps drawing attention she other wise would not have had. If the attention was positive then I would see no problem but unfortunatly as most of us know when a Pagan, Wiccan, Witch ect draws attention it is usually negative. While I can understand her right to wear a clerical collar, If it were me I would save it for special occasions and not everyday wear.
(this of course is my opinion which means nothing to anyone byt myself)
As for the show in general I was very impressed and felt they did a good job.

Sojourner said...

While I can understand her right to wear a clerical collar, If it were me I would save it for special occasions and not everyday wear.

I agree, Autumn.

Bernulf said...

You ask a solid, relevant question here, Sojourner :-)

I don't think that Pagan clergy, unless also ordained and serving as Christian clergy, should be using Christian clerical symbols. Although I can understand the logic in using a well-known symbol, it is a symbol that belongs to another religious system and I think it's inappropriate for a Pagan to 'borrow' the Christian collar as it represents someone who has undergone the training and ordination standards of Christian institutions.

If a symbol from the past doesn't exist or isn't known, then I think the logical alternative would be to create one, and this responsibility would rest with whichever organizations were offering clergy training programs.

Ligeia said...

I didn't get to see it, but, I read about it on your blog, Autumn's blog and one other that slips the mind.
I think that wearing a Catholic priest collar is not appropriate. Perhaps, if she really wants to wear a collar, make it purple - for religious tolerance - and maybe a different style.
I guess my biggest question would be: Why does she need to wear priestess garb at all? I never understood that; it seems to me those of Christian faith do it to set themselves on a pedastal.
p.s. Would email you, but, lost your email!

Dawnpiper said...

If it were me I would save it for special occasions and not everyday wear
I'm a preacher's kid, and generally speaking we only saw the "dog collar" when he was on duty - the rest of the time he wore street clothes.

Sojourner said...

Ligeia -

My email is in my profile. I would email you, but I've lost yours as well (shame on me!) and you don't have your email in your profile.

You said: it seems to me those of Christian faith do it to set themselves on a pedastal.

Respectfully, I do not agree. Just like those who are Jewish have dietary laws (not to mention many other things) to show their commitment and reverence to their faith, so do Christians. In some Christian faiths, I am guessing that the collar is one of those tools.

It comes from years of traditions and years of practice. I don't think that it will too long before Pagan religions will be able to talk of some similar traditions and practices. When we have some of these practices that help us to remember our faith and our commitment on a day to day basis, will that mean that we are just setting ourselves up on a pedastal?

I hope not. That's like the people who used the arguement that "You are just looking for attention" when I had dreads down past my butt. Naw, I had my reasons, but attention wasn't one of them.

Things like the use of the collar are expressions of their faith; symbols of their faith. And that is one of the reasons why I don't think Pagan clergy should use it. I guess I see it as somewhat disrespectful, even though I'm sure that is not the intention in this case. And I'm sure there is more to her decision to wear it, but the show only has an hour and can only explain so much.

Sojourner said...

Dawnpiper -

Thanks for that information. I think that is good for the Pagan community to know, considering that this has become a bit of a hot topic.

And thanks for stopping by and commenting! You are welcome to stop by anytime.

Gin said...

I'm curious - I did not get a chance to see this program, and don't know if it was captioned for the benefit of deaf viewers...

Did anyone come away from watching this program feeling this family was perhaps a bit..."Christo-Wiccan" for lack of a better term?

I don't want to pass judgement, since I didn't see the show and don't know this family. But I do find it interesting that they use a "congregational" approach rather than a coven, the Reverend wears a clerical collar, and it seems they have adopted something of a "Christian twang" to their brand of Paganism.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have anything against Christianity, per se. But as one who has been practicing the Craft for over 20 years and trained by many who do maintain some perhaps "Old School" philosophies about Witchcraft, I have seen a growing trend in the last couple of years of Paganism being shaped and bended to suit one's own personal preferences and beliefs.

While this is all fine and good, I can't help wondering if in fact we are bending this faith out of shape, and thus straying further and further away from its original intentions to make it more palatable not only to our own tastebuds, but to meet the comfort levels of society at large.

There has been a big debate about this growing population of "Christian Pagans" who claim to be merging the two religions together in order to get the best of both worlds, and argue that such IS possible. I'm not totally sure if I can buy into that.

But getting back to my original question...did anyone feel that way about this family, or am I way off mark and perhaps being a tad paranoid here?

~ Ocean
"Deaf Pagan Crossroads"

Sojourner said...

Ocean asks: Did anyone come away from watching this program feeling this family was perhaps a bit..."Christo-Wiccan" for lack of a better term?

I didn't pick up on this as a possibility at all. Just based on what the kids were saying, (cause kids are way more honest than adults, sometimes) they seem to be Wiccan without Christian influence. But that is just my take on it.

But I do find it interesting that they use a "congregational" approach rather than a coven

It is difficult to say exactly what they do (coven-wise vs. congregational), because the show didn't really emphasis this aspect too much. They showed little of the actual group meetings.

I have seen a growing trend in the last couple of years of Paganism being shaped and bended to suit one's own personal preferences and beliefs.

I, too, have wondered about this. I think as Paganism "grows up" (so to speak) you will find less and less of this and the smybolism will become more cohesive. It has something to do with defining spiritual experiences and we are in the middle of doing just that.

In the words of Abraham Maslow (a psychologist), we currently don't have the common "words" to explain our experiences. So we find that people are using words and concepts from different traditions and faiths currently because that is something we all can relate to. It is difficult to come up with a common vocab. that indicates what we are talking about. It will take some time, but it will happen eventually.

Kendra said...

Hi Everyone,

I was invited by Sojourner to read this blog and comment. I try very hard to avoid commenting on blogs, but it is becoming clear to me that the Pagan Community deserves to know the entire reason that I wear a clerical collar. Along with the following explanation let me say that the only time I take it off is when I am sleeping or declare a day off (which is extremely rare), on in which I am not available at all.

First, let me say that the collar -although it is most widely accepted in the Roman Catholic faith - is not a Christian item at all. It was brought to us in the 1700's as a form of clothing worn by all clergy at the time. Since then it is very common to see a collar worn by Methodist ministers, Unitarian Universalist ministers, as well as Non-Denominational ministers. Incidentally, Raymond Buckland(The Father of American Witchcraft) himself wore a collar for an extended period of time and was also often criticized for it.

My reasons for wearing the collar are quite simple:
1) I am an ordained Non-Denominational minister that believes I should be available to all people at all times. You would be amazed at the number of people who actually stop me wherever I am to tell me their problems and ask for advice. I am thrilled that I can help.
2) I have a pentacle embroidered on the left cuff of every sleeve - so when people stop and ask me what type of minister I am I show them the pentacle - say Pagan, and look at it as an opportunity to educate one more person - emphasizing of course, that we do not proselytize.
3) Currently I am making huge strides in being accepted into several Interfaith Councils and working as a hospital and prison Chaplain. The collar gives me instant recognition as clergy and of course, brings a level of much needed respect to the Pagan community from the Community at Large.
I hope that helps and I am truly sorry to hear that the Pagan Comminity finds it offensive when all I am trying to do is offer us much needed recognition as a viable faith.
It's a Good Life!
Blessed Be!
Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey

Sojourner said...

Thank you, Rev. Hovey, for responding and for clarifying. I am sure that this will help to clear up some misconceptions.

Congrats on taking the steps to being accepted into several interfaith councils. That will be a big step for both you and the Pagan community.

Bernulf said...

"It was brought to us in the 1700's as a form of clothing worn by all clergy at the time."

Rev. Hovey, this is the one point of yours on which I'm still unclear. If it was intended as something to be worn by all clergy in the 1700's, and 'all clergy' from that time frame can be reasonably assumed to mean Christian clergy, how does that support its use by modern Pagan clergy? This statement of yours would seem to contradict your preceding remark, that the clerical isn't a Christian item at all, and is the source of my confusion regarding both your comment here and your use of the clerical as a Pagan.

Also, for those who are interested, Wikipedia has a short, but informative article about the clerical collar.

Lady Keir said...

Thank you Rev. Hovey for all you are doing for all of us.

I think worrying about a collar is a bit off point. This show showed a Pagan family as careing, intelligent and good people. It showed Rev. Hovey as a busy minister to her people...a loving wife and mother and a plus for that town. It showed Pagans in a great light...and it showed ONE Christian saying something about the clerical collar. It also showed a Christian saying that the Witches were damned. It also showed one saying how the Witches were good people and that their religion harmed no one.

But what do some Pagans grab onto..the collar.

Nuns wear robes and capes...should I give up mine? I refuse. Rev. Hovey wears black with a little white strip on her collar..so what?

So we clergy should stick with what Pagan priests did to proclaim their status? Ok just what male Pagan clergy will first castrate themselves? Or which Priestess with long glorious hair will shave it off? Which happily married Priestess is going to give up sex? Is that what we shjould do as modern Pagan clergy?

I think it shows a heck of a lot of bravery of that whole family to be out, to not hide who they are. Those were great kids in a happy, loving home.

And all any one can talk about is collars...

Rev. Hovey, many blessings to you, your family and your coven.

Keir Gazelle, HP's
Wisteria Temple

Bernulf said...

Lady Keir, I take the fact that Pagans are talking about historical accuracy and public identity after a show like that, rather than "Oh, we got misrepresented again," as a good thing :-)

I also see no harm in questioning the practices of clergy in a civil and constructive manner ... and I think trying to shame people for this is the wrong approach for clergy to take (referring to the twice-used subject in your comment about people just talking about collars). If I misunderstood your tone, then I apologize (although I still think Pagan leaders should be encouraging people to think critically and ask questions).

I would also point out that your logic, that Pagan clergy should use non-Pagan methods of distinction because the Pagan way is simply not preferable, is hardly a vote of confidence in Paganism. I thought Kendra's perspective, that it is simply a more easily-recognizable symbol to the general public, made much more sense (I've known Pagan women who shaved their heads just to signify the start of a new path, and not every Pagan path from the past required castration or abstinence from its clergy; while castration was at one point advocated for Christian monks who had a hard time maintaining their vow of abstinence).

Otherwise, I agree with your sentiments about the bravery required to go public, and the service done to the Pagan community by sane people who are willing to share their lives with the general public; and I'm more than content to agree to disagree on the other points.

Sojourner said...

Lady Keir -

While I would agree with all the points you made in your first paragraph (with the exception of the first sentence), I think you are missing the point about the clerical collar: People are curious and are therefore asking questions. As Bernulf stated, it is okay to ask questions. And these questions started before the show even aired. These questions, which I couldn't answer as there was only one person that could, were the reason why I invited Rev. Hovey to respond in the first place.

All of your examples of castration, shaved heads, etc. that you use to prove your point are extremes and nowhere near the ballpark of the one simple question that was asked. People are just asking how it effects the larger Pagan community, which I think they are entitled to ask. I don't think you have the right to make anybody feel bad for asking questions.

And no, the collar is not all that people are talking about regarding this show. If you look back at my main post, you will see that I mainly focused on the theme of religious tolerance, which btw I feel is a very important aspect of the contribution that Rev. Hovey and her family have made by being a part of this show. It came through very strongly on the program.

You focus on the fact that it was brave for them to do the show, and to some extent I would agree. But they were already "out of the broom closet" (I don't like that term) and were available for the world to see before the show. The difference now is that the world will now have an easier time "finding" them because of the show.

Another thing that you mentioned has to do with the children. Almost all of the reviews I have seen of the show mentioned how happy and loving the family as a whole seem. No one would argue with you on that point and for you to state it in the way you did implies that you think that people didn't notice. Guess what? We did. I loved the fact that the kids were able to tell their mom just how they felt when she was spending a lot of time on the phone. It showed just how wonderful the family dynamics were.

With all this said, I ask that you, please, not come into my blog and start a flame war (the first time you post a comment, I will add) because I do not take kindly to those who put people down in any way, shape or form. No hate, no "shame on you" remarks, and no bashing other religions. I just won't tolerate it. (This comment is meant for you as well as other people. However, not all parts of the comment are necessarily directed at you in particular for this circumstance. I just feel that I need to add it due to some recent comments that have been made.)

I am not one for silencing voices because people have the right to say what they need to say, but please, say it a way that is respectful and doesn't try to make people feel guilty for their inquiries. People have the right to learn and through that learning, the right to grow. You, being a HP, should know that.

Please, don't smash the seeds of inquiry in a manner in which they can no longer grow.

Sojourner said...

On a general note to those who are reading this post and the comments (as it has become very popular), please be respectful of people's rights to ask questions.

If you find someone's point of view different from your own, and would like to point it out, do so in a respectful manner and invite conversation regarding the matter. Don't shame people into silence.

We all have different points of view, and we should be able to learn from them, as we were able to do with Rev. Hovey's response as addressed some of the questions that have been posted as well as dealing with some of the controversy behind them.

And it was done in a respectful manner.

Rez said...

It's really just a lot of discussion about nothing in my opinion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Pagan clergy wearing the collar. Please don't take Wikipedia results as absolute accurate truth. It is far from it.
As has been said, the collar was introduced for all clergy & no restrictions we ever mentioned. No mention of time of changing religions/beliefs.

Also, it should be remember that the Christian faith has 'stolen' a lot of Pagan 'ideas' throughout time.

I would also refer you to article 18 of the UN human rights.

This is all the very reason that there is so many problems between faiths. There is enough trouble between this or hat belief, do we really need to add clothing to the problems?