Paganism is not a specific religion. It is more a descriptive term to cover a loosely defined group of religions and spiritual behaviors. Having studied Druidism, I came to learn one "branch" of paganism (if I can use that term) which made me curious to learn more. This course began with a "beginning" – a discussion of the creation stories by various pagan groups. Having studied Greek and Norse mythology as a young man, I saw a lot of common ground there.
I tend to view things through a Christian lens – so I studied with the tension of beliefs. I would read the lesson, set it aside, re-read it, and tried to gain a "pagan" lens in which to gain understanding into the human soul. There is much to learn and appreciate when one sheds the "Christian" garment and puts on the pagan cloak for a time. In a sense, it is getting to understand basic humanity with natural hopes, dreams, and spiritual desires.
I looked for the common points of contact. God, gods (and goddesses), spiritual beings (going by many names), the afterlife (reincarnation or resurrection) are among the topics studied in this course. All spiritual people struggle and deal with these issues. One commonality is that pagan and Christian believe in "something out there" and there is activity between this world and another. There is also the belief in the afterlife – though we will disagree on some issues.
Celebrations and Sabbats were interesting lessons and revealed the pagan carryover into Christianity. There is a lot of what Christians call holidays (originally, holy days) that have a pagan origin. There are two views on this. One is that the Roman Church "Christianized" local holy days so the local people would be more amenable to Christianity. Another is that pagan traditions were not so easily given up. I suspect it was a mixture of both.
For me the sacred place lessons really hit home. Every person who seeks after God should have an altar or sacred spot. I believe it is in our nature. As a child, I had my "special place" where I could escape family for a time and just be. It was in a tree. I could lay on a huge branch, look up at the sky, and talk to God. My study is now my "sacred place" with objects that help in my prayer, meditation, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines.
The discourse on rituals was another interesting lesson. People just love rituals. Whether it is getting the morning paper, a cup of coffee, and doing the crossword is a ritual for some. We are creatures of habit. Paganism gives religion or spirituality a sense of legitimacy. All religions have rituals.
The Great Rite was a blessing to me. I was able to develop my own version of it. I used passages from the Song of Solomon as a means of blessing. This Pagan rite is more "biblical' to me that the couple who marry at a church and rush off to Niagra Falls looking forward to pleasure without considering the spiritual aspect of the coming together of the two genders made in God's image.
As I set aside the pagan cloak and take up my Christian garment, I have a greater appreciation for the Pagans. I understand more than I did before. I realize how spiritual the pagan is and how much we have in common. I look forward to learning more….
As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge catalog of Universal Life Church materials. Many have been ordained with the Universal Life Church for many years and it's Seminary since the beginning and can attest to its ongoing growth and change.