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Adventures of a Vodou CHS Student

b2ap3_thumbnail_Wes-paket.jpgBy Rev. Wes Isley -- Dressed in my Vodou ceremonial whites and surrounded by Christian colleagues, I sat on the floor of a hospital conference room. I was sharing with them a story I had written about the Vodou lwa Papa Legba and Maman Brigitte, using it to illustrate my own theology of healing as a chaplaincy intern. They listened and they laughed and they didn’t run in fear. Afterward, two of those Christian chaplains asked for a copy of my story. And none of this would have happened without Cherry Hill Seminary.
That’s right, a Pagan seminary bringing together Christians and Vodou! As a Masters of Divinity candidate at Cherry Hill, I was able to sign up for the chaplaincy internship, and this is just one example of the spiritually enriching—and fun—things I’ve done as a student.
Sure, Cherry Hill students have to turn in research papers and exams, but we also have the freedom to explore spiritual experiences and topics that we might otherwise miss. We Pagans love to attend workshops and festivals in order to expand our spiritual skills and meet kindred souls; well, taking a class at Cherry Hill offers the same opportunity. The only difference is that students can luxuriate in the experience over weeks or months rather than in just one whirlwind weekend.
Here are a few of the projects, experiences and topics I’ve enjoyed most through Cherry Hill:
·    Meeting a favorite Pagan blogger and joining discussions with him as a classmate
·    Creating rituals for Beltane and for greeting local land spirits
·    Attending an interfaith symposium on spiritual responses to climate change and meeting Cherry Hill students, professors, staff and board members
·    Creating an emotionally powerful ritual for invoking a concept of deity that I call the Divine Androgyne
·    Discussing BDSM, polyamory, pornography and other sexual topics within a safe space
·    Exploring further my spiritual path of Vodou, including making a magickal object known as a paket for my home altar and a 3-D representation of Vodou cosmology
·    Representing Pagans on an interfaith panel as part of my chaplaincy internship
·    Dispelling stereotypes among local chaplains about what it means to be Pagan and a Vodouisant
There’s much more I could share, and I look forward to what happens next as I prepare for future classes. Cherry Hill offers more than a one-dimensional experience, and I have been enriched intellectually, spiritually, socially and professionally. Naturally, your experience would be unique and personal, and I hope you’ll seize the opportunity to find out what lies in store for you as a Cherry Hill student.

The Rev. Wes Isley is an interfaith minister with a special interest in nature-centered and Neo-Pagan spirituality. A student of various Christian traditions for most of his religious life, Rev. Isley today finds inspiration in a practice based on modern shamanic techniques and Haitian Vodou. He leads individual and group meditations, and offers blessings, weddings and other services for those who prefer an alternative approach to spirit. Rev. Isley is also an award-winning writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about health and wellness, travel, politics, entertainment and the independent grocery retailing industry. He can be contacted at greensborominister.com.

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As the leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and nature-based spiritualities, Cherry Hill Seminary supports Pagans and their communities by providing an extensive education in diverse aspects of Pagan philosophy, practice, and skilled ministry; supplementing existing ritual and magical skills with training for professional ministry and pastoral counseling; serving as an ongoing resource for individual continuing education; and providing a forum for scholarship and community  

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