ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP)–Reynolds High School, scene of an Aug. 17 “We Still Pray” rally, might soon be seeing another religious gathering in Asheville, N.C. This time, a regional pagan group is asking to use the facilities.
The Appalachian Pagan Alliance sent letters to Reynolds principal Tony Baldwin and Buncombe County school superintendent Cliff Dodson on Aug. 18 asking to hold a “We Still Work Magic” rally, stating that because Reynolds High was used by one religious group, it should be made available for all others.
Ginger Strivelli, the leader of the alliance, said, “I’m all for them having their religious gathering, but it struck me as being a poor decision to have it at the school system.”
Strivelli said the idea for a pagan rally had come to her well before the Christian “We Still Pray” event, which attracted more than 13,000 people who were able to get inside the stadium and approximately 24,000 others who tried but were turned away, congesting traffic for hours in Asheville. (See Aug. 22 Baptist Press report.)
The pagan group has asked for a Sept. 22 date to hold its rally, falling on the autumnal equinox, one of the holidays of the pagan faith. But Strivelli said that “there’s just not much of a plan yet. September 22nd was our first option.” If Sept. 22 were to be unavailable, Strivelli said her group would press on until they get their rally at Reynolds. “We’ll definitely be doing it there, even if we have to be doing it at spring equinox,” Strivelli said.
When asked about what would take place at the pagan rally if and when it is held at Reynolds High School, Strivelli likened it to how the pagans observe Samhain, traditionally called Halloween. “We’ll be having the energizing ritual. We plan to do a ritual to further the awareness and acceptance of the pagan religion by the community,” Strivelli explained, saying that her group’s beliefs should be considered as valid as any other. “We still pray as well, but it was a matter of being different,” she said, while inviting members of the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and any other faiths to join their planned gathering.
As of Aug. 22, Strivelli said her group had not received a response from Buncombe County Schools. “The letter was hand delivered Friday morning and we have not heard from them. They are dragging their feet, and being very difficult, which we fully expect them to be.”
Strivelli said that the Appalachian Pagan Alliance covers a wide area. “We have a hundred members, stretched out from Knoxville to Charlotte.” She said her group had received a great deal of feedback since announcing its plans on Monday, and that she had been contacted by numerous media outlets and is hoping to gain support for the pagan rally.
“It’ll be at the same place where the other one was,” Strivelli said. “I don’t think it’s the right place to have a religious gathering. But now they’ve done it, they need to open up to respect the diversity of the religious groups in this area.”
Knight is a reporter for the Asheville Tribune. Used by permission.