Congregationalist Wiccan Association of British Columbia
FIVE YEARS OLD!
By: Sam Wagar
Date: March 2004
It's the Fifth Anniversary of the founding of our church here in BC! On the 7th of March in 2004 we had our founding meeting and as of 25 March 2004 the Society was incorporated. I just went through my diary and pulled up some relevant facts.
To begin, 'way back in 1991, after a period of discussion over a couple of years across the country, my then coven incorporated a national church, the Congregationalist Witchcraft Association of Canada. Although most of the people involved in the discussions around Canada lost interest in having much to do with national activities, we kept the CWA-C alive on paper, occasionally trying to stir up interest in it, and occasionally doing some activities in its name. The painful, drawn-out, death of the multi-tradition Temple of the Lady here in BC soured a lot of people on the idea of doing anything in the way of public organization in the early '90s.
Then, over the course of 2003, there was a lot of discussion of the idea of a "Pagan Community Centre" or a Pagan Temple on the bcpagans online discussion group. It was, as is the nature of these things, set in terms of "It would be great if somebody else started this kind of thing up and I could use it." Although I resisted volunteering, I participated in the discussion until it died its natural death late in the year. I felt some urge toward doing something concrete, but I resisted it.
And then there was a tragedy - the wife of a man in the Pagan community died suddenly and I was called upon to perform a funeral in the chapel of the hospital. A small group of his friends got together and a coven-mate of mine acted as my Priestess using the script I'd written some years before and it was tremendously moving. A small part of the community came together to support this poor fellow. And I realized then that I had been misunderstanding what this church idea might be about - I had been thinking only about celebrations, and weddings, and the cycle of the seasonal round (all of which are wonderful and essential parts of building community and celebrating the Gods). But what the community was really for was to help us care for each other in difficult times - to visit the sick, to comfort the bereaved or those in pain, to help each other through the dark times, and to bury the dead. Community, and the church, speaking as a Priest, can express the love and caring of the Gods for Their people. If this poor fellow had not been able to call upon us, his wife's death would have been so much more terrible, because he would have been alone.
I knew then that I had been Called. I circulated a copy of the constitution and bylaws of the CWA-C and got people to volunteer to read and comment on them. Then, at a special meeting of my coven, with a couple of guests from outside the coven, a group of naked Witches sat down on the 7th of March and went through bylaws for two hours and signed off on the legal documents to found the church. Three weeks later, after some small changes to the legal papers, we were incorporated, with two Temples, as the BC branch of the established CWA-C.
The first CWA-BC public ritual was May 22nd, 2004, up at Simon Fraser University. At the end of August, I was licensed by the province to perform legal marriages, as was the Priestess of the second Temple. In September, she split away from CWA-BC, and one of our other founding members left with her. The first couple of years were a little chaotic, with the start of Temples in Surrey (that didn't work out), Abbotsford (that met a couple of times then died), Langley/Port Coquitlam (that withdrew), and then with the North and South Okanagan and Nanaimo congregations and the start of the travelling church-planter phase, we settled into a steady period of growth in 2005.
A wonderful set of developments in 2006 were the formal chartering of the three new Temples as independent member Temples, the Ordination of their clergy and the first weddings performed by them. In 2007 we weathered the very difficult storm in the Temple of the Green Cauldron, in 2008 the division of the south Okanagan Temple and the collapse of one of the new groups there, as well as the start and dissolving of the central Okanagan congregation in Kelowna. But we are continuing to look forward eagerly to future growth, with a new Temple starting in Prince George and one in Parksville area as well.
Not all of these early organizing efforts and teething pains are going to be successful but the church is well-begun, leadership has developed (and I am proud to see that the Board members are all people that were not founding members of the church - so many groups stay in the hands of their founders, to their detriment), and our membership is solid. Tasks ahead - managing growth, deepening the understanding and the quality of service that we perform, continuing to work toward charitable status.
I look forward to, I hope many years from now, being buried after a funeral performed by one of our Priestesses. I believe the Gods will bless our church with long life and the nourishment of generations of members. So mote it be!