I began writing this with the intention of describing my experience of a local multi faith women’s group, but then it occurred to me that I have been part of many multi-faith groups.
My first experience of a working multi faith team was in the Prison ministry.
One of the first Prisons I worked in as the Pagan Chaplin was a woman’s Prison.
The Chaplaincy team manager was a Christian minister who hated Tarot cards, she did not accept them as a devotional tool and had banned them from the Prison before I had arrived.
I will be honest, my first thought was that I wouldn’t be welcome and I would have my work cut out.
This thought couldn’t have been further from the truth of the situation.
I was warmly welcomed into the Chaplaincy team, I was included in all meetings and training opportunities.
The whole Chaplaincy team were very interested in Paganism and open to my ideas.
I wrongly presumed that a Christian minister would have a problem with the Tarot because of prejudices about links with evil spirits and Devil worship. I was completely wrong. It was due to previous misuse amongst the Prisoners with some using the Tarot to manipulate other prisoners.
The risk assessment system for Tarot decks in other Prisons was introduced and a very easy compromise was made.
I was also warmly welcomed into the Chaplaincy team of a Men’s Prison where I shared the same duties as other members of the team including facilitating the Catholic Mass on the weekends that I was on duty, and escorting local priest and volunteers into the Prison.
The Prisoners happily came to me as a duty Chaplin regardless of their own faith, and they were always interested to know “what do you actually do?”
One of my proudest moments of being part of a multi-faith team was at the celebrations of Broadmoor hospitals 150th anniversary
Each Chaplin represented their beliefs by saying a word or perspective or prayer about their beliefs.
I was also asked to take on the additional responsibility of saying a Pagan blessing for the time capsule that was to commemorate the 150th anniversary. The time capsule was a beautiful box make from Ash and filled with pieces representing Broadmoor’s 150 year history. As a Pagan chaplain I was an honoured to do this, and I was treated as an honoured guest throughout the day’s celebrations.
Fast forward to 2019. The Pagan Federation had received an invitation for a representative to sit on a local interfaith women’s group.
Again I received a warm welcome and I was made to feel like a valued member of the group.
The faiths represented in the group are varied, but we have discovered that women’s issues are women’s issues regardless of your faith, and it is a great support network.
Written by Joan Bell