Wiccan ministry is a controversial subject. It is expected to be so in non-Wiccan circles, where long-established religions prefer to maintain their oligopoly on the Divine. Unfortunately, the controversy also rages within the Wiccan community. Hopefully, this article can shed a different light on the nature of ordained ministry, along with information about becoming an ordained Wiccan minister.
Wicca is a new religion, only existing as such since 1954. As a result, the structures and organizations that other religions have developed over thousands of years are still newborn or unborn in Wicca. The most developed structures are still in their infancy. This causes some challenges with Wiccans who wish to serve as ministers that ministers of other religions don’t have.
At this point, there is still strong debate about the role of Wiccan ministers and whether there should even be such a position. Many Wiccans see ordination as a rite performed by organized religions, which they left to come to Wicca. They are concerned that formal ordination and clergy will impinge on their right to experience the divine directly and unmediated.
Wicca is a mystical religion, emphasizing direct experience and unity of the worshiper with the divine. This leads to the commonly held idea that each practitioner is a priest or priestess, resulting in an inherent absence of a laity. People who hold this view see the presence and growth of ordained Wiccan clergy to be an undermining of its mystical nature.
I disagree with this view. Instead, I see the presence of ordained clergy to be important to the religion for many reasons. Many Wiccans practice alone and can sometimes become spiritually stuck or worse, caught in a crisis they cannot resolve on their own. They need to know who they can count on to help them. There needs to be people who are dedicated to serving the Gods enough that they will offer assistance in the middle of the night if needed. This level of dedication can, in rare cases, preempt other activities such as the minister’s day job.
Many Wiccans wish to remain private about their religion, but wish for there to be greater tolerance toward them. Ministers are needed to act as a public face for Wicca, voicing the needs and opinions of the Wiccan community to the larger world. Ministers speak publicly for those who wish to only speak privately. They also explain the nature of Wicca to the non-Wiccan/Pagan society to promote an interfaith ecumenical understanding.
Wiccan ministers are also needed to teach others. Priests and priestesses are excellent at serving in this capacity within their coven or circle, but do not generally work outside of their group. Ministers aid those who are not members of any group, either by choice or circumstance. They serve in prisons, hospitals, homeless shelters and many other places where people are frequently ignored and feel the need for spiritual comfort and solace.
Ordination is not required to offer such service. Many people serve the Gods in this capacity without such formality. Unfortunately, many cannot allow their service to prevent them from going to work on time or making dinner for their kids. They offer their service willingly, but are not held to the level of obligation of an ordained minister.
Being an ordained minister is a higher level of service and obligation than being a priest or priestess. A priest/priestess can focus purely on their circle, coven or church. They can focus their service to those in their particular faith. A minister serves the world at large, instead of just their religious organization. They offer aid to those of other religions, without any agenda of conversion or proselytizing. They see that serving their Gods is done through serving other people. Those people are frequently outside of their organization.
When one is ordained, one takes an oath of service to helping other people. The Gods hold the minister to that oath and there is karma accumulated for this service (or the non-performing of this service) . This is something that must be understood by people who are interested in ordination. They are not just given a title. The title is meaningless unless it is backed up with actions. These ministerial actions need to be more than the occasional handfasting and wedding. Each ministry is different and there are endless ways to serve fellow humans and the Gods. The minister needs to decide how they will serve and follow through with action with the help of their Gods.
Some organizations offer “free” ordinations, with no strings attached. The Universal Life Church (ULC) is the largest, but by far not the only one. Unfortunately, these ordinations are frequently not recognized by states or other people. There is no training offered with the ordination, which puts the minister at an enormous disadvantage. They are not prepared for the demands of the service. As a result, the new minister is left to learn the ropes of their service on their own, which can be a daunting task.
People interested in serving the Gods and humans through ordained ministry should work with a Wiccan church or seminary for this, instead of simply printing off a certificate online or paying money for the paper. Most Wiccan churches don’t have a formal seminary program yet, but some are developing them. Others offer training through apprenticeship programs instead of formal seminary, similar to how many Baptist churches train clergy. Either way is valid and effective.
As Wicca develops, it is important that it come to terms with the need for ordained clergy. Without clergy, the religion will have great difficulty growing in membership and recognition as a valid religion by others. Ministers provide an important service to their fellow Wiccans, non-Wiccans and the Gods.
Also read: Wiccan Ordination and Ministry Revisited