Each summer, Richmond hosts the annual training conference for Pagan clergy from around the country. Unlike other conference in which religious leaders discuss the theology or trajectory of their particular denomination or association, the National Pagan Leadership Skills Conference teaches Pagan clergy the very practical organizational and professional skills necessary to operate a successful religious group. This conference is particularly important since there is a dearth of professional training facilities for Pagan clergy; to date, there is only one Pagan seminary in the world.
Paganism is an inclusive term that includes Wicca, Earth Religions and Shamanistic practices. Most practitioners believe that attunement with nature heals not only the Earth but individuals as well. These groups historically have been the object of persecution; as a result, believers have often practiced in solitude or in very small and loosely affiliated groups. Often these groups have been very different from each other in their beliefs and practices; attempts to bring unity to the movement have been largely unsuccessful. In the last decade, however, that has begun to change. The small sectarian groups are being replaced by community organizations that encompass a range of beliefs and ritual practices.
In 2001, leaders of the emerging Pagan Community Organizations began meeting to identify and to seek solutions to mutual problems. During these meetings, it became apparent that the challenges of leading a successful twenty-first century religious group were great and that meeting those challenge would require the pooling of resources, talent and most especially knowledge. Individual leaders had expertise in pastoral counseling, event organization, marketing and group dynamics, but no forum in which to share their knowledge. Leaders also needed input from other professions such as lawyers and accountants, since they lacked information about the legal issues faced by religious groups, procedures for incorporating as a non-profit, and the IRS regulations for churches and accounting requirements for non-profits. In 2004, four Pagan Community Organizations co-sponsored a conference dedicated to teaching such skills. The event was an unprecedented success, but it left most leaders realizing their need for additional knowledge. The conference became an annual event, and the following year it was permanently located in Richmond.
The National Pagan Leadership Skills Conference meets every year for three days. Each participant chooses from one of several in-depth lectures. The offerings at the last conference included Fund Raising and Principles of Adult Learning. On the second night of the conference, participants have the option of attending a Bardic Circle, a ritual forum for poetry, dancing, stories and music. The ritual is a much-anticipated event since some of the most talented members of the national pagan community present their best material, with stunning results. For the final night of the conference, participants attend a formal dance called Pamona’s Ball. The event is a benefit for the National Pagan Leadership Skills Conference and features both a live and silent auction.
National Pagan Skills Leadership Conference
c/o Carolina Spirit Quest
PO Box 61335
Durham, NC 27715-1335
Pagan Leadership website
Profile prepared by Christine Woodman