At the beginning of October, TopazOwl, founder of Garrán an Eich Órbhuí, received an official-looking envelope in the mail addressed to “Rev. C. Leigh McGinley.” When she opened it, she found an embossed invitation from the Chancellor and President of Syracuse University to the celebration of the Installation of the New Dean of Hendricks Chapel at the University, being held over October 25th and 26th. Since Druids are rarely (if ever) invited in their clergy capacity to the installation of Deans of colleges, this seemed a momentous occasion, and she decided that she should accept.
It was a special occasion on many counts. Reverend Tiffany Steinwert would be the 6th Dean of Hendricks Chapel since opening its doors in September 1930, and its first female Dean. And though Tiffany is a Methodist minister, she is very accepting and even embracing of the Pagan community in the greater Syracuse area. Hendricks Chapel itself has a history of serving all faiths, and there is a Pagan chaplain on campus, but this is the first time Pagan clergy from the surrounding community have been asked to attend such a prestigious event at the University. Needless to say, we were very excited.
The event was very nicely organized. There was a formal procession into the Chapel that consisted of the Chancellor, University Deans and former Deans of Hendricks in their various scholar gowns, and the invited Clergy in all their varied religious regalia. There were Christian clergy of every denomination, along with Hindu priests, Buddhist monks, Wiccan high priestesses, Druids, Islamic Imam, and Rabbis of several sects. It was a colorful group, seated front and center (a place of honor) in the Chapel for the ceremony.
The Deans, Chancellor, and Chaplains took their places on the altar/stage. The ceremony was opened with a Native American Thanksgiving prayer by Regina Jones of the Oneida Nation. The Reverend Kevin Agee of the Hopps Memorial CME Church gave the Invocation, and Jikyo Bonnie Shoultz, the Buddhist Chaplain of Hendricks Chapel, welcomed us all to the event. There were greetings from representatives of the Board of Trustees, the University Faculty, and the Students, along with stirring musical tributes performed by both the Hendricks Chapel Choir and the Syracuse University Black Celestial Chorale Ensemble. Tanweer Haq, Assistant Islamic Advisor and Counselor of Hendricks Chapel, gave the Benediction.
The response from Reverend Tiffany Steinwert was eloquent and warm, and it was easy to see why the University had chosen her for the position. She thanked everyone, and spoke of unity between faiths and working together. Topaz-Owl remarked, “Reverend Tiffany’s exact words are lost on me now, but I remember at one point she turned to the multi-faith clergy seated there before her, and with an inclination of her head, indicated and spoke of her “fellow clergy” -- and at that moment I felt so proud to be there representing the Henge of Keltria, so gratified to at last be recognized as an equal among the clergy of all those other recognized faiths.”
After the Installation of the Dean, the University held a reception in another building where flavored waters, juices, and soft drinks were served along with several different kinds of hors d'oeuvres. The new Dean of Hendricks Chapel was at the door to greet everyone with a friendly handshake and a warm smile. TopazOwl remembers, “When I introduced myself as Reverend C. Leigh McGinley, Druid, Henge of Keltria, Reverend Tiffany’s smile got even brighter and she said that they had received the best response to the event from the Pagan community, and that she was so glad I had come. She also offered the use of Hendricks Chapel for any Keltrian religious services or rituals.”
Our Grove was honored that our Chief Druid was given the opportunity to represent Keltrian Druids in our local community. We feel that the more of these events we can attend, the better it will be for Druids (and Pagans in general) concerning our desire to be accepted as a valid part of the religious community and society at large.