Misdemeanors at the Altar: 2nd blog for The Pagan Values Blogject

I don’t believe that Wiccan clergy in particular, and Pagan clergy in general, should have set fees for their services. I think love offerings are wonderful if the person receiving a service wants to offer one, and I think that within reason now that gas prices are exorbitant, it’s acceptable to ask for a little bit of money for gas if you have to drive farther than 30 miles or so.
Why am I opposed to clergy asking for payment? For one thing, being a priest or a priestess is a calling that should not under any circumstances hinge on being paid. If you’ve truly have been called to be clergy, then the thought of posting a fee schedule is probably abhorrent. Religion is not a business. The other reason why I’m very much opposed to clergy asking for money for their services is that the vast majority of Pagan clergy do not have any sort of divinity degree. They’re not professionals, although they should always strive to act in a professional manner. If, for example, a priest/priestess has a divinity degree from an accredited institution (which Cherry Hill Seminary, unfortunately, is not yet), then I can maybe see a small stipend being offered to the person by the organization that they serve. But the bottom line is that living off of those that you serve is wrong.
Many Wiccans, and to a certain extend some Pagans, tend to follow only one rule when it comes to morals: “‘An it harm none, do as thou will.” While this seems like a simple enough thing to comprehend on the surface, it’s an extremely complicated and complex notion. I’ve noticed that a lot of Wiccans do not apply the Wiccan Rede to their treatment of Pagan clergy, and maybe it’s because payment is usually not requested.
If a clergy person is down to earth and ethical, I’ve noticed that many Pagans feel that they can walk all over them. They treat their clergy in a way that they would have never treated their Christian clergy (yes, I did just make that sweeping statement because it’s a statistical fact that a majority of the Pagans in America were previously Christian). If a clergy person is aloof, haughty, and unethical, then an undeserved respect seems to be bestowed upon them. Maybe it’s because the person just expects respect instead of working to deserve it. I guess it works along the lines that if two items are placed side by side, one of inferior quality and one of excellent quality, and the inferior one is priced higher than the good quality one, the inferior product almost always sells out before the low priced, good quality product does.
As a priestess, the most common form of disrespect that I’ve encountered is people contacting me for services–usually a handfasting–and then jilting me at the altar after I’ve done a lot of work on their behalves. Sometimes I’ve already gotten handfastingcords to them and rearranged my schedule when I’m notified that my services are no longer needed. The quotes below are from actual emails that I’ve received.  Unfortunately, the quotes below are only a sampling.  I could publish a small book full of the jilted altar emails that I’ve received.  If you see a quote from an email that you’ve sent me, then I hope you’re suitably embarrassed and that it rained during your handfasting ceremony.
Before we continue, I want to make it clear that none of these emails are from people that are members of my religious organizations. The type of disrespect that I’ve received from them is usually more along the lines of what you expect from rude teenagers whose mommas didn’t beat them enough when they were growing up. It’s nothing that half an hour on my X-beam wouldn’t fix!  

(Names have been changed.)
“Hey! I am interested in talking to you about doing a handfasting/wedding type ceremony for us, we live in ++++++ near ++++++ and would come to the mountains preferrably. Please email me back a # or contact me via call or txt at +++++++.
Thank You!!
“Dear Tommy, What day, time, and location were you thinking about? I’m about 30 minutes from you. Did you want just a priestess or did you want a ceremony with a priest and a priestess.
Sparrow Brown”
“Hey Sparrow! Thank you for getting back with me, i didnt know it but a friend of mine who is Wiccan is ordained and said she would do the ceremony for us. It will be cool having her do it since i’ve known her for years. We are excited about it too!
Thanks again for getting back to me.
********************************************************************************* “Hello Sparrow, 
 My name is Christine. My fiance and I are planning a handfasting ceremony for July 14 in +++++++++. We live in ++++++ and own a piece of property in +++++++ and that is where we are planning on having the ceremony. Do your travel to +++++++ to preform ceremonies and are you available on July 14 of this year? We have just started looking for someone that would be able to preform the ceremony. 
 I look forward to hearing back from you, 
 ”Dear Christine I am available. Do you want just me, or would you like to have a priest present too? 
 Sparrow Brown” 
 ”Hi Sparrow, 
 Do you do legally recognized hand fasting ceremonies? We really only wanted to have one officiator present. How much do you charge to preform the ceremony? You are welcome to call me so that we can go over the details, my number is +++++++. 
 I look forward to hearing from you, 
 ”I am legal in the state of NC. In order to make it legal, you’ll need to get a marriage certificate from the county where the “wedding” is going to be held (++++++ Co.). The state doesn’t care what form the ceremony takes, as long as all the paper work is filled out and they get their money. I don’t charge anything for performing rituals, but if you feel lead to give a love offering, the money will be split between +++++++++ organization and +++++++++ organization. What time of day is good for calling? 
 ”Hi Sparrow, 
 So what you are saying is that I will need to get a marriage license and marriage certificate from +++++++ County? The license is obtained prior to the ceremony and the certificate is filled out after the ceremony and submitted to the County, is that correct? I am available by phone all day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I am available after 6:00 PM. The exception to today is that I have an appointment at 4:00 this afternoon for about an hour. I look forward to hearing from you. Blessings, 
 ”Yes, that is correct. You and your fiance obtain the paper work from +++++++ County and pay them approximately $60, and then after the ceremony, I’ll fill out the paper work and you, your new husband, and two witnesses will sign it. And then you or me (it doesn’t matter which one) has about a month to turn it to make it legal. NC doesn’t have any waiting periods, so you could get the paper work Friday before the ceremony. I would just call to double check to make sure the county offices are going to be open. I don’t know about ++++++ County, but some counties only accept cash. This should help answer some of your questions: http://www.+++++++++ I’ll give you a call tomorrow afternoon, and we’ll get started hammering out the details. 
 ”Hi Sparrow, I just wanted to let tell you a little bit about what is going on on my end. About 4 weeks ago I contacted someone and asked if she would do our handfasting ceremony. She said yes and I reserved the date with her. She said that she would E-mail me some paperwork within a couple of days. After about 10 days she sent me another E-mail saying that she was really busy and would send me the information that afternoon. That was 3 weeks ago and I have not heard from her since. I called and E-mailed her a couple of times with no response. Last weekend I decided to start looking for someone else and that is when I contacted you. I contacted 10 people in total last weekend. I was a little nervous to put all of my eggs in one basket again and still not have an officiator for our ceremony. I have mailed the invitations, ordered the flowers and the food, so I was getting quite nervous about not having someone confirmed. So that brings me to now and I sorry to tell you that we have decided to go with someone else as officiator. Thank you for your responses to me, I really appreciate it.
 (A side note: I had switched things around in my schedule for this her.  I also did call her when I said that I would, and I received her voice mail.  This email arrived three days after I called.) 

*********************************************************************************”Hello Sparrow!
My fiance and I have been together for 8 years, we are looking to make it official tomorrow. There is so much more to this story but seeing as we’re short on time I have to skip it for now. It would mean so much to us if we could marry on Halloween. We’re not doing anything fancy, friends will be present, but we could come to you if it would be easier. Please let me know if you can help! 
Thank you,
 p.s. we’re in ++++++++++ nc, originally from ++++++++, we moved here at the start of the year” (Because of the Samhain holiday, I did not get this email until 3 days after they wanted their handfasting.) ********************************************************************************* 
I’ve talked to clergy people of other faiths, and they report that they do not generally have this problem.  The people that I talked to say that it’s not uncommon for couples to postpone a ceremony due to cold feet or to completely call off an engagement.  Some of these clergy people have a set fee, but most of them don’t, but accept love offerings, some of which gets personally pocketed and some of which gets turned in to their religious organization.  So, since many of the clergy folks of different faiths I’ve spoken to do not charge a fee, I’m inclined to think that it’s just Pagans behaving badly and being unappreciative and rude.  That’s really sad and unacceptable if we want to be taken seriously by the rest of the world.

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