January 11, 2012
Paranormal Pastoring: Part 2
By Reverend Sherrie James
This is Part 2 of Sherrie's story of how a traditional Protestant pastor came to be a minister and an ordained Christian exorcist to those who are experiencing paranormal events.
Previously, I shared about how my religious and paranormal journeys have dovetailed from age 13 forward (click here for Part 1). I truly believed that God was setting me up for this particular aspect of my future ministry throughout all of my paranormal and religious experiences, but I did not begin to understand that fully until recently...
During a paranormal conference in 2009, whenever I said that I was a Christian minister and an exorcist, some people immediately shied away from me. I eventually realized that they seemed to expect me to attack them for their beliefs or for their chosen hobby. They truly acted as if they expected me to question them, or to start preaching at them, or tell them that they were going to hell, which was so not who I was or why I was there. Their reactions to me were so foreign to anything I had previously experienced. Not being very familiar with the larger paranormal community or its culture at that point, I was completely shocked.
Now, I realize their reactions are fairly typical for many in the paranormal community. I learned that I often have to let people get to know me before I am accepted or welcomed because so many people have been hurt or disillusioned by mainstream religion and a few of its more colorful and caustic members. I also learned at this conference that once people realized I was not out to judge them or to proselytize at that moment that they opened up to me with their own stories. I heard multiple stories of the pain, hurt and disillusionment caused by certain members of a church. My heart just broke for those people! I recalled Jesus' words that the harvest was plentiful but the workers were few.
I began to realize that so many people needed spiritual help, spiritual healing, and compassionate understanding in the paranormal community. If that was not possible or desired, I still deeply felt convicted that people in the paranormal community, at minimum, needed positive exposure to caring Christians and to non-judgmental Christian ministers.
I became aware that the darker side of the paranormal was literally plaguing individuals and families. The spiritual questioning, or even the spiritual crisis, that sometimes stems from paranormal exposure seemed rampant. Though our numbers now are slowly increasing, few Christians and fewer mainline Christian ministers seemed to be living into our religious heritage and calling to help people to deal with the demonic and/or the spiritual aspects of hauntings. I also began to realize that if people were not exposed to, or offered, assistance by Christians and Christian clergy who hold traditional Christian views on the metaphysical that they were going to seek help from whatever other sources were available.
I intensely felt that if Christians did not step up and reach out without being judgmental that the only thing that some people involved the paranormal would ever understand and experience about Christianity would be the harshness or rejection that they had known at the hands of theologically-challenged Christians or the absolute lies that some are led to believe about Christianity from those with their own differing spiritual, personal, or para-political agendas. I felt it was my responsibility as a Christian and as a minister not to attempt to force anyone to believe anything, but to let those I met in the paranormal know that the love of God for them had not changed just because of their chosen hobby or because they had experienced something paranormal and were trying to understand it. So I continued to stay involved in the paranormal and in ministry. I went on ghost hunts and learned about scientific paranormal investigating. I helped out with worship services at the church I attended and began to question whether or not it was time to seek formal ordination once again with a denomination. Roughly a year later, I spoke on two panels about Religion and the Paranormal at my first paranormal conference in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Nothing in my life seemed to go smoothly around that time though. The team that I was with sort of fizzled out. I became associated with another paranormal organization as a specialist. That did not work out either, and I actually never investigated with them. Naively, I also made some very poor business and personal choices during that time that I now deeply, deeply regret, but that taught me much.
A verse in the Bible says that all things work together for good for those who are called by the Lord for His purposes. In my day job, my skills as an editor and as a writer were being honed. I also met and became friends with some wonderful and cherished people in the paranormal community during that time that I may never have met otherwise.
To my surprise, people started to contact me via the social networks more often. My friends' list grew. Christians involved in the paranormal wanted to chat the most. These individuals often either had experienced paranormal events or were seeking biblical answers to questions that they felt that they could not ask their own pastors. I began to realize that a significant population of Christians were involved in the paranormal, but they mostly remained closeted about their religious affiliations due to fears of what would happened in both the Christian and paranormal communities if their Christian or paranormal associations became exposed.
I also started to peruse social networks and the Internet for traditional, mainline Christian pastors involved in the paranormal community and began to realize just how miniscule those numbers seemed. People who claimed the title of pastor/reverend/minister/priest etc. were out there and they often claimed to be "Christian" in a sort of eclectic, fringe, or associative sense of the designation. But in terms of the mainline Christian denominations and the Protestant traditional ministers who actually had attended a formal seminary and who held more traditional Christian views, only a handful apparently seemed to be involved in the paranormal in any form. I cannot say that I was exactly surprised, but I was disappointed in us as Christians and especially as ministers. I knew, however, that not every pastor felt called to directly minister to the paranormal community, just like not every pastor felt called to work with youth or with the homeless. I also knew that just because a pastor did not publicize that he or she dealt with paranormal or demonic cases that did not mean that Christian ministers were not out there assisting those in need. (Praise God for the Roman Catholics who always have continued to help those plagued by demons!)
From personal experience, I knew how taboo anything to do with the paranormal or the mystical still was in most denominations. I knew how most Protestant ministers who choose publicly to become involved in the paranormal were setting themselves up for potential problems and criticisms. Plus, most Protestant pastors have zero training in how to deal with demons or the paranormal. Still, helping those in need and witnessing to the love of God to ALL people is a part of every mainline denomination's pastor's calling. At that point, I started to take my calling to minister within the paranormal and the paranormal community even more seriously. I reconnected with Father Al Durance, a retired Episcopal priest and significant figure in the healing and deliverance ministries in the 1980s. (He became a wonderful resource and a sort of email mentor. I always will be grateful for his willingness to teach me and to share his wisdom about his demonic encounters.) I also studied the Bible again about demons and paranormal events. In addition, I started my own paranormal investigation team, and I went on investigations as a guest with other teams in North Carolina.
As a paranormal crisis intervention specialist or exorcist, I also assisted or brainstormed with teams and individuals who had clients who were experiencing negative hauntings. For confidential reasons, I cannot provide details, but my skills in dealing with the negative side of the paranormal were being polished.
Gathering my courage after prayer, I also went more public with my ministry and calling to the paranormal community. I began to be interviewed regularly on Internet radio shows and became a speaker at paranormal conferences. I gave talks about practical ways of dealing with the negative aspects of the paranormal. I helped educate about the paranormal to church groups as well. Being a writer and editor as my other trade, I began to write articles about the paranormal on websites such as Ghostvillage.com. I also entered into negotiations with a major publisher and, if things go as planned, my first book will be published later this year. I even created my own website to highlight my speaking and paranormal ministry.
Sometimes, being a minister in the paranormal community was natural, easy and totally enjoyable. I met some amazing Christian men and women and other wonderful, genuine people of varying belief systems. At other times though, I was attacked spiritually, emotionally, electronically and paranormally.
I also have found myself in the position of defending more traditional Christian views and respectfully butting heads with those who held differing spiritual and paranormal ideologies that sometimes were anti-Christian, psuedo-Christian, or anti-spiritual. At times, it was a strange dance of trying to be respectful of everyone's rights to their own opinions and remaining true to what I believed, without being an absolutist. One can disagree and share differing perspectives/views without being disrespectful!
Throughout it all, I became even more convinced that God was calling me to be a minister involved in the paranormal community. That may sound strange, and it was a bit disconcerting and uncomfortable at times to share that I felt this was part of what I thought God wanted for my life and ministry. Many people who genuinely cared about me did not understand, but I needed to be true to myself and to my God.
After much prayer, I felt like it was time for me to pursue formal, ordained ministry again. I never felt that God had stopped wanting me to be a vocational minister. I also knew in my spirit that meant that I must declare that I felt that I was being called as an exorcist and to minister in paranormal settings. Given my past experienced with organized religion when it came to the metaphysical, however, I was very concerned about being accepted as a minister after I revealed my involvement in the paranormal.
In a series of meetings, I went before the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)'s Commission on Ministry. Almost from our first meeting, I chose to be open and to include that I felt called to this particular ministry to the paranormal community. I felt that if God was calling me to minister to those affected by the paranormal that I needed to trust God and to be honest about that calling. I decided that I was not going to deny who I was or that aspect of my ministry ever again!
May God bless those men and women on the Commission! Some of them seemed to understand and accept what I was sharing about the demonic and paranormal. Others seemed to struggle with what I was sharing because it apparently was not part of their personal spiritual views and understandings the same way that it was a part of mine. At my final appearance before them, the members questioned me at length about my calling as an exorcist, and about what I believed in terms of the paranormal and Scripture. Then they still approved me to become an ordained minister within our denomination!
Next, I had to come to terms with one of my deepest spiritual struggles. I knew I felt called to help minister to the paranormal community. I knew I felt called to be an exorcist and to help with negative hauntings as needed. What I did not know was exactly how much God wanted the paranormal to impact my future ministry and my life.
I prayed about it, and I pondered my future. What was God's will and desire for me and for my ministry? With God doing some interesting intercessions and revelations, I eventually felt like I had my answer. I stepped out in faith and trusted once again.
I was ordained as a minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on December 11, 2011, at 11 a.m. Directly following the taking of my formal vows as a minister, and although it was not part of our denomination's tradition, I also was allowed to take additional formal vows as an exorcist as a part of my ordination service. I actually may be the only formally ordained exorcist within our entire denomination and one of the few formally ordained Protestant exorcists in America.
I now await what else God has in store for me with my paranormal pastoring. Wherever I am called to serve, I trust that my involvement in the paranormal community will be seen simply as an additional part of my vocation before God and not as a deterrent. Since God has brought me this far, I trust that if I am called to be a minister to a particular church that the church also will accept my calling as an exorcist. But who knows what God has in store for me at this point?! All I know is that being real about who you are and living into your destiny creates joy and a rightness on one's spiritual journey. May the Lord bless you all!
Rev. Sherrie James sees herself primarily as a nonjudgmental Christian minister who helps anyone in need and sometimes that one in need is experiencing or being traumatized by paranormal events. With a Masters in Divinity from Duke, Sherrie is an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), one of the 25 largest denominations in the United States. Even though it is not traditional within her denomination, Sherrie took additional vows as an exorcist during her ordination, making her one of the few Protestant ministers who have actually been formally ordained as an exorcist within a mainline denomination. Sherrie also speaks at paranormal conferences, on Internet radio, and to churches to help educate about the potential dangers associated with negative or demonic hauntings or about the impact of the paranormal and modern Christianity upon each other.