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Author Topic: Pagan Charity  (Read 708 times)

Donal2018

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Pagan Charity
« on: January 22, 2019, 01:06:12 pm »
So I was wondering if in any paganisms there is any emphasis on charity or good works. I know some folks subscribe to the concept of karma. Anyway, I see local Christian Churches offer free Community Dinners for people who might be struggling, and most of the Food Pantries in my City are run out of Churches.

The Christians also have traditions and institutions to help the sick, disabled, and the elderly. They have founded and run Hospitals, Schools, and Nursing Homes. A local Church runs subsidized housing for people with Intellectual Disabilities, for example.

So, the Christians seem to have a lot of this sort of stuff going on. I am just curious if there is ever a service attitude amongst Folks who identify as Pagan in one form or another.

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2019, 07:35:52 pm »
So I was wondering if in any paganisms there is any emphasis on charity or good works. I know some folks subscribe to the concept of karma.

Plenty of traditions within modern Paganism have an emphasis on charity and good works. However, what we mostly don't have is either population density or infrastructure. That means that the size of the charitable works or good works tend to be on the personal level, not an institutional one.

Let's take an example. "Local organization has a food pantry", say.

A food pantry does not require the people helping with it to have particular skills (teaching, nursing, etc), licensure (teaching, nursing, etc), complex equipment (nursing), etc. It does not require multiple people there to have significant food safety training (like a free cooked meal does) or a commercial kitchen (kept clean to commercial standards). You probably don't need people to pass child care safety checks .

What it requires comes in three parts. Space, food to give out, and people to help.

Space is, in most metro areas, not cheap. (It's cheaper in lower cost places to live, but the people there usually don't have a lot of extra income floating around.)  So you're going to need a fairly significant ongoing amount of money just to provide space and store food (and you need to think carefully about accessibility because people who need a food pantry may be public transit dependent, using mobility devices, need to bring small kids, etc. Because they are also people, and lots of people need those things.)

To give you an idea of a number, I just searched for retail space for rent in my neighborhood. 600 square feet - a modest retail space - on a well-trafficked street with adequate parking for this kind of thing and excellent bus line access but no other particular amenities comes out to about the cost of a one bedroom apartment each month - around here, that's $1500-2000 depending. And it goes up from there.

That is way more money than a small group can maintain month in and month out. Buying property works out better over the long run, in many cases (plus, if you own the property you can lease it out when you're not using it, and make money from it) but requires a much more substantial investment, financial commitment, and support. And if, like me, you live in a city which is already well developed, the places land is available usually have that land available for good reason (like it being prone to floods, say).

You then need food to give out - which means a steady stream of people willing and interested in donating food (or money to buy food) - every time the food pantry is open. You'll need enough space to store that food (which may include foods that have to be kept cold consistently, or not get too hot.) The places willing to donate food may only be interested in donating some things (which may not fit with the needs, or make a balanced diet).

Getting that sorted out is not a simple task. It's probably a significant amount of time (10+ hours most weeks) for at least one person, and smaller amounts of time from other people, plus time to actually sort and give out the food (smaller numbers of hours, maybe once or twice a month instead of weekly, for more people.)

This brings us to people. You need people to contribute (so you can pay rent on the space and utilities, and so on). You need people who can clear the sidewalk when it snows. You need people to help sort food and move it around (which means they need to be physically able to do that kind of work and not all potential volunteers are.) You need people to help direct people. At a bare and sort of terrifying minimum, for safety reasons, you're going to want at least two people on site at all times the space is open, and it really ought to be at least one person in each area where the public will be, plus one more to help cover if extra hands are needed.

Sometimes people will be sick. They'll have babies. They'll have elderly parents who need more help that month or that season or that year. They'll be extra busy at work. They may want to help, but the times people are needed don't fit with the shifts they have to work, or when they can get to the space. They may go on vacation. Many people may be okay helping once a month or once a quarter, but not every week.

And some of these people will have more money than time, and some people will have more time than money, and some people really want to help, but take more time and energy to manage than they give in return. And all of those create a complicated balancing act sometimes.

You can't run this thing on the bare minimum of people you need. IF you have a food pantry requiring ten people a month, you're going to need a base of a hundred people, or even five hundred, to keep that up regularly. You're going to have to spend some time and energy thinking about succession planning and what to do if the first five people you call cancel.

If you're in a conventional mainstreamish sort of church or religious community where many people show up every week, and someone who answers a central phone number and can do basic triage, that's a different set of logistics.

In that case, maybe an active teen program that encourages the teens to do community service, and you have a child care program so that the people with small kids can help while someone else looks after their kids, and you have a space in the parish hall or whatever your 'attached building to where we do services' is called where you can store food, then that's a whole lot easier than maintaining a space people only come to when they're helping on the food pantry, and whose religious cycles are probably not every-seven-days. All of which make it a lot easier to get more people to help you than a stand-alone food pantry run by a very small community.

And that is what it takes for a relatively simple project without a lot of specific space needs or professional skills. It gets more complicated from there.

The reasons that long-standing religious institutions have a lot of charitable organizations is because they've had many years to build them up. They can draw on capital endowments, gifts from members of the community, make use of "I've got this rental space that isn't moving, you can use it for six months", and if the congregation is of any meaningful size (say, 500+  probably draw on useful professional expertise in various areas at least at a discount.

So, where does that leave Pagans?

Many Pagan paths explicitly work in small groups (coven style workings are not interchangeable with public ritual modes, even though many people do both) In many places, there just isn't a lot of population density: you have a small group here doing X thing, and a small group there, doing Y thing, and

It's also worth noting that many people contributing to Pagan communities are putting in a lot of community service volunteer time to make *Pagan* events run in the first place.

I can speak best about my own life. I have a tiny nascent coven (me and two students). I spend between 3 and 5 hours a week prepping for classes and rituals, actually teaching and ritualling, and following up with notes (we meet roughly ever other week, so some weeks are more, some are less, but the work is pretty constant) and doing things like answering questions. That doesn't count things I write on here, or in public. (And it doesn't count my own spiritual work, or the reading and learning I do so I can do all the previous stuff moderately competently. I'm just counting the 'time it actually takes to run the specific things we do' in that 3-5 hours.) 

In the past I've helped put on major public Pagan events, and that's run from 2-3 hours a week for most of the year to 10-20 a week the month or so before the event, and full weekends for the events themselves. Putting on a public ritual for a community is generally a full day's effort for the people running the thing, between packing things up, setting up the space, making the event go, and cleaning up, even if the actual public portion of the event is only 2-3 hours.

And in most cases, the people doing all of this work to make Pagan events go aren't getting paid for it - and in many cases, are spending their own money to do it. They're covering costs for rental, and hoping donations will get most of it back. They're paying their own transportation (and supplies, and entry fees) in most cases. Which means there's less of that income and time and resources in general to give to other things.

Many Pagans also make the deliberate choice to work in fields that are related to their religious commitments or focus. But many of those (especially ones that have more service-oriented focus, like education or health care, or social work, or mental health care - either have not-great pay (so it's hard to dump money into causes we care about) or long hours (or unpredictable hours that make planning hard) or all of the above.

A lot of those big institutions you comment about were largely built on the very real labour of unpaid or underpaid help, especially women. (Which is why a lot of them are struggling now that the volunteer community for ongoing long-term projects is mostly 'women who have a few hours while their young kids are in school but who aren't back in the workforce full time' or 'recently retired people who have more time, but generally more physical and schedule limitations'.) I don't think that's a model we want to pick up as Pagans, even if it were sustainable (which it probably isn't.)

What do Pagans do?
First, a lot of people do small things on their own. Donations to causes (of time, money, or both) they care about. I know more than one person who makes a food pantry donation on the day of the month sacred to Hecate (where historically, food would have been left at the crossroads for people who needed it.) Some people pick a particular thing that syncs with the deities they honour or sacred goals they have, and do that. (Volunteer at an animal shelter or wildlife rescue, or whatever.)

In places with a larger density (so, major metropolitan areas, mostly, because you need a certain population density to make group efforts make more sense than individual ones) there are often options for people to collaborate. I've seen highway and park cleanup (which doesn't require particular skills or space and is pretty flexible about who participates). I know people who do holiday food meal deliveries - Christmas may not be their particular holy day, but it's a great way to spend it making sure people get hot food and a little company.

Many Pagan events have a food drive (donations or food) or some other charity they're supporting, a few have hosted blood drives (somewhat complicated, since in most places, many LGBTQ folks can't donate, have to lie to donate, or there are other challenges...) But a lot of it depends heavily on space, time, and the service option not needing a lot of static time or volunteers with specific skills or abilities.

The trick with all of these, though, is that except for the stuff that happens at other events, you probably won't hear a lot about them if you're not directly a part of the people doing them. (And there are also plenty of Pagans who will do these things, but not necessarily ID as Pagans while they're doing them. Being out as Pagan is still a really complicated thing for people in a number of professions, people with difficult custodial battles, etc.)
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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2019, 10:50:13 pm »
To give you an idea of a number, I just searched for retail space for rent in my neighborhood. 600 square feet - a modest retail space - on a well-trafficked street with adequate parking for this kind of thing and excellent bus line access but no other particular amenities comes out to about the cost of a one bedroom apartment each month - around here, that's $1500-2000 depending. And it goes up from there.

Not relevant to the topic at hand, but... Jesus!

There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of bad things about living in Kentucky, but cost-of-living isn't one of them! The idea that a one bedroom apartment might cost $1500 a month seems totally alien to me, like something out of a fictional setting almost. You can rent a house, in town no less, for about $800 a month here in central Kentucky.

Granted, it wouldn't be a new house, it would probably be a mid-century house with a few cosmetic issues, but still far better than a one-bedroom apartment! That's like... $300-400, depending on the landlord and what part of town?
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Donal2018

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2019, 01:36:53 pm »
Plenty of traditions within modern Paganism have an emphasis on charity and good works. However, what we mostly don't have is either population density or infrastructure. That means that the size of the charitable works or good works tend to be on the personal level, not an institutional one...

...It's also worth noting that many people contributing to Pagan communities are putting in a lot of community service volunteer time to make *Pagan* events run in the first place...

...And in most cases, the people doing all of this work to make Pagan events go aren't getting paid for it - and in many cases, are spending their own money to do it. They're covering costs for rental, and hoping donations will get most of it back. They're paying their own transportation (and supplies, and entry fees) in most cases. Which means there's less of that income and time and resources in general to give to other things...

...Many Pagans also make the deliberate choice to work in fields that are related to their religious commitments or focus. But many of those (especially ones that have more service-oriented focus, like education or health care, or social work, or mental health care - either have not-great pay (so it's hard to dump money into causes we care about) or long hours (or unpredictable hours that make planning hard) or all of the above...

...A lot of those big institutions you comment about were largely built on the very real labour of unpaid or underpaid help, especially women. (Which is why a lot of them are struggling now that the volunteer community for ongoing long-term projects is mostly 'women who have a few hours while their young kids are in school but who aren't back in the workforce full time' or 'recently retired people who have more time, but generally more physical and schedule limitations'.) I don't think that's a model we want to pick up as Pagans, even if it were sustainable (which it probably isn't.)...

What do Pagans do?
First, a lot of people do small things on their own. Donations to causes (of time, money, or both) they care about. I know more than one person who makes a food pantry donation on the day of the month sacred to Hecate (where historically, food would have been left at the crossroads for people who needed it.) Some people pick a particular thing that syncs with the deities they honour or sacred goals they have, and do that. (Volunteer at an animal shelter or wildlife rescue, or whatever.)

In places with a larger density (so, major metropolitan areas, mostly, because you need a certain population density to make group efforts make more sense than individual ones) there are often options for people to collaborate. I've seen highway and park cleanup (which doesn't require particular skills or space and is pretty flexible about who participates). I know people who do holiday food meal deliveries - Christmas may not be their particular holy day, but it's a great way to spend it making sure people get hot food and a little company.

Many Pagan events have a food drive (donations or food) or some other charity they're supporting, a few have hosted blood drives (somewhat complicated, since in most places, many LGBTQ folks can't donate, have to lie to donate, or there are other challenges...) But a lot of it depends heavily on space, time, and the service option not needing a lot of static time or volunteers with specific skills or abilities.

The trick with all of these, though, is that except for the stuff that happens at other events, you probably won't hear a lot about them if you're not directly a part of the people doing them. (And there are also plenty of Pagans who will do these things, but not necessarily ID as Pagans while they're doing them. Being out as Pagan is still a really complicated thing for people in a number of professions, people with difficult custodial battles, etc.)

Yes, thanks for the thorough and good response. There is a lot there to unpack. I appreciate the fact that these Christian groups have much more in the way of numbers, resources, and infrastructure. They also have a long history, whereas contemporary paganism is a more recent movement, despite connections to historical paganisms. So, yes, Pagans do not have the same set of resources and infrastructure.

I remember reading somewhere that the number of people identifying as Pagan in America is roughly the same number of Presbyterians in the country. I think this fact might seem to imply that Paganism is more monolithic than it actually is. So, there are some numbers there, but more diversity. As such, I think it might be harder to generalize about Pagans than say Presbyterians.

I have gotten the impression that people who are neo-pagan tend to be more educated than the general population (I wonder if there are any studies or statistics available on that ?). That said, a lot of the Pagans that I have met have been professionals (engineers, etc). So, I think that Pagans who go into Human Services out of a sense of mission might be an actual "thing".

I would also distinguish between beliefs and practices. There may not be an explicit value or set of values in different pagan traditions regarding charity, but I think from the examples you wrote about there is at least an implied ethic and a set of helping behaviors amongst some Pagans.

Also, I appreciate that you mention that pagan folks might be doing things more on a personal scale versus the larger institutional scale that some of the Christian Churches have. So clearly there is a charitable motive amongst some pagan people, but the scale is different.

Anyway, thanks for the response. I will re-read it and see if I have any more ideas in response to it.

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2019, 01:40:03 pm »
As such, I think it might be harder to generalize about Pagans than say Presbyterians.

Well, yeah, it's harder to generalize spiritually about a group of people containing dozens, possibly several hundred, different religions than about a group of people that is defined by one theologically specific strand of a single religion.
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Donal2018

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2019, 01:58:06 pm »
Well, yeah, it's harder to generalize spiritually about a group of people containing dozens, possibly several hundred, different religions than about a group of people that is defined by one theologically specific strand of a single religion.

Yes, clearly. I think I got that stat about Pagans and Presbyterians off of an article on Patheos. I think that someone reading that article without much knowledge about Paganism might assume that "Paganism" is as monolithic as "Presbyterianism" when it is clearly not. The diversity and variety of different paganisms is clear to anyone who knows even basic facts about it, which some people do not.

Donal2018

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2019, 02:40:47 pm »
...Plenty of traditions within modern Paganism have an emphasis on charity and good works. However, what we mostly don't have is either population density or infrastructure. That means that the size of the charitable works or good works tend to be on the personal level, not an institutional one...

...Many Pagans also make the deliberate choice to work in fields that are related to their religious commitments or focus. But many of those (especially ones that have more service-oriented focus, like education or health care, or social work, or mental health care - either have not-great pay (so it's hard to dump money into causes we care about) or long hours (or unpredictable hours that make planning hard) or all of the above.

A lot of those big institutions you comment about were largely built on the very real labour of unpaid or underpaid help, especially women. (Which is why a lot of them are struggling now that the volunteer community for ongoing long-term projects is mostly 'women who have a few hours while their young kids are in school but who aren't back in the workforce full time' or 'recently retired people who have more time, but generally more physical and schedule limitations'.) I don't think that's a model we want to pick up as Pagans, even if it were sustainable (which it probably isn't.)...

I am particularly interested in the idea that some Folks are working as professionals at least in part due to their religious beliefs. I have worked in Human Services and done Peer Support for people with Psych Diagnoses. I bring it up because part of my motivation for doing that is Spiritual. I would also note that in the Peer Support work that I have done I have used something called "The Eight Dimensions Of Wellness", one of which is "Spirituality". Anyway, the relationship between Spirituality and Work/Profession interests me, particularly in regards to Human Services work.

Also, I think that you make a good point about the fact that historically some Church institutions have been built by unpaid or underpaid work by women. I was raised Catholic in a post-Vatican Two environment and most of my Teachers were either Nuns or Catholic Lay Women. My local Food Pantry is part of a Catholic Church, and is largely run by women, usually older women. I think that the demographics of the Catholic Church has changed radically in recent decades. Anyway, I agree that as Pagans we would not want to emulate this sort of model even if it were sustainable, which it probably isn't (which you point out).

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2019, 05:44:52 pm »
I am particularly interested in the idea that some Folks are working as professionals at least in part due to their religious beliefs.

So this https://ecauldron.com/forum/faith-in-everyday-life/does-your-job-relate-to-your-spiritual-practice/ is a thread which you may be interested to read (and perhaps revive with a new reply, but that's optional of course, especially since you already talked about your roles in this here thread).

I was going to post a longer reply and discuss neo-druidry but have rather run out of time this evening - I'll try and make a mental note to come back and post again when I get a chance.
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Donal2018

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2019, 08:25:01 pm »
So this https://ecauldron.com/forum/faith-in-everyday-life/does-your-job-relate-to-your-spiritual-practice/ is a thread which you may be interested to read (and perhaps revive with a new reply, but that's optional of course, especially since you already talked about your roles in this here thread).

I was going to post a longer reply and discuss neo-druidry but have rather run out of time this evening - I'll try and make a mental note to come back and post again when I get a chance.

Thanks for the link to that Thread. Good stuff. I saw your post there about Neo-Druidry and a service ethic. I would definitely be interested in hearing about that more. Does neo-druidry encourage that much? I wonder what are maybe some sources for that, Druid service work, if you have anything about them.

I am basically a Celtic Diaspora person in America and that informs my spiritual interests, amongst other things. I like Irish and Welsh mythology. I did mention in another thread that the theme of hospitality shows up in some of those myths, so I guess that hospitality might be viewed as a charitable behavior.

Anyway, I need to maybe read up more on Druidry. How does it differ from other Celtic Spirituality, etc? As far as spirituality and professions go, I have done Human Service work that helped me by helping others. I see that some people on the Thread you linked up there mentioned Brigid a lot in the context of healing professions. I might look more into that. I have been focusing a lot on the Welsh myths lately, but maybe I should get back into the Irish materials, esp. Brigid.   

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2019, 11:06:07 pm »
I was going to post a longer reply and discuss neo-druidry but have rather run out of time this evening - I'll try and make a mental note to come back and post again when I get a chance.

I would look forward to reading anything that you might write on the subject, especially from a neo-druidry perspective. I have been looking at the Neo-Druidry SIG a bit. My Solitary Celtic Practice is somewhat influenced by what I know about Druidry, but I think I need to study more in-depth than I have.

The Neo-Druidry scene seems more organized as a Society with different Organizations than maybe some other types of Paganisms. As I said, I am a Solitary, so I might look more into these Orgs for some inspiration (Awen).

I have never interacted with a formal Grove but I have read about them. I did used to go to a sort of Eclectic Pagan/Wiccan group for Rituals and such, but never really got into the social scene there.

Anyway, interesting stuff, thanks for posting here.

[edits for readability]
« Last Edit: January 23, 2019, 11:07:38 pm by Donal2018 »

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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2019, 06:25:02 pm »
Thanks for the link to that Thread. Good stuff. I saw your post there about Neo-Druidry and a service ethic. I would definitely be interested in hearing about that more. Does neo-druidry encourage that much? I wonder what are maybe some sources for that, Druid service work, if you have anything about them.

Firstly, please do bear in mind that I'm still learning, myself.

Two of the best known modern druid organisations, which you may or may not have already come across, are ADF and OBOD (I'm not actually a member of either, as neither felt like entirely a good fit for me at this time - like yourself, I'm mostly a solitary right now).

ADF has their high regard for service to the community (and the land, as well as the gods and spirits) listed right on their homepage, among other values.

The OBOD site, in a section on ethics & values, quotes Philip Carr-Gomm who talked, among other ethical concepts, about responsibility and community.  There's also a charities section, where you can read about their support for Tree Aid projects in West Africa (among other charities).

Links to the websites, in case you haven't already come across these, are below:
https://www.adf.org/
https://druidry.org/

I hope this was of some interest  :)
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Re: Pagan Charity
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2019, 07:36:48 pm »
Firstly, please do bear in mind that I'm still learning, myself.

Two of the best known modern druid organisations, which you may or may not have already come across, are ADF and OBOD (I'm not actually a member of either, as neither felt like entirely a good fit for me at this time - like yourself, I'm mostly a solitary right now).

ADF has their high regard for service to the community (and the land, as well as the gods and spirits) listed right on their homepage, among other values.

The OBOD site, in a section on ethics & values, quotes Philip Carr-Gomm who talked, among other ethical concepts, about responsibility and community.  There's also a charities section, where you can read about their support for Tree Aid projects in West Africa (among other charities).

Links to the websites, in case you haven't already come across these, are below:
https://www.adf.org/
https://druidry.org/

I hope this was of some interest  :)

All good. Thanks for the response and the links!

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* In Memoriam

Chavi (2006)
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