Sacred Paths Center to Close: An Obituary for our Community Center

On May 2, 2012, Teisha Magee, Executive Director and founder of the Sacred Paths Center announced, “After much heartache, soul-searching and tears, it has become clear that Sacred Paths Center cannot continue. Our expenses are too high in this location and we are just not getting enough money coming through the door. All of our resources are tapped, and our volunteers are worn out. By the end of May 2012, we will be closing the doors. We don’t know the exact date yet.”

The SPC has been significant to many in the community. It provided a convenient entry place for those new to the community who wanted to learn about community resources, it provided meeting space for many groups, it had a shrine for departed loved ones, it had a lending library, and it provided the focus that our community had something truly special and rare.

SPC Board Member Mary Oczak said, “I believe it filled a need and performed a valuable function by hosting spiritual and secular events and public rituals and providing informative classes on a variety of subjects. The library, retail shop and ancestor shrine were positive assets to the community.”

SPC Board Member Lola said, “The significance of having the SPC has been huge for me, giving me a social space that also carried the joyous yet solemness of a spiritual space. I hope that there will continue to be a level of SPC to continue, perhaps online.”

In an official statement released by the entire board of directors, it says, “There is a need for a nature-based community center in the Twin Cities.  We believe it can be a sustainable endeavor with the right planning, the right space, and the right people. Community members did come forward in epic ways over the last three years to support the center by giving their money, time, input, and spiritual resources.  SPC operated solely on hundreds of volunteer hours put in by the Executive Director, the Board, and many dedicated volunteers.   We are eternally grateful for this community’s passion.”

Newly elected (Feb.2012) SPC board members Nikki, Lola, Carol, Mary, Heather, and Emily. Not pictured, Teisha Magee

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

The Sacred Paths Center enhanced the Pagan experience in the Twin Cities in many ways.

The SPC was an easy access point for people new to the community who wanted to discover the resources this community has to offer. We still have metaphysical shops and a community calendar, but the community center was a dedicated place for the purpose of allowing people to gather.

August 1, 2009, the Minnesota Church of Wicca and the Wiccan Church of Minnesota held a joint ritual at the SPC. These two groups had split 20 years earlier in a schism which was the subject of scholarly study. Earlier in 2009 both groups were holding meetings in different parts of the SPC, and decided that the time had come for them to come back together for a public ritual. All involved credit the SPC as being essential to this reunion.

Sacred Paths Center Store Front.

Every Monday the SPC hosted a community potluck where people brought food and sat around eating together.

Every Thursday, the SPC hosted the Mentoring Elders program, which encouraged an ongoing discussion about the appropriate place for elders in a maturing Pagan community.

SPC became the de facto home of Coffee Cauldron, a bi-monthly gathering for the local Pagan community. Coffee Cauldron has already announced that it will continue at a new location: Caribou Coffee, 1127 Larpenteur Avenue West, Saint Paul, MN 55113.

Following their annual meeting, the SPC created a tradition of having a Bread & Brew contest. Community members were invited to create their best breads and alcoholic beverages and compete to discover whose was the best.

The Wiccan Church of Minnesota regularly held its meetings, classes, rituals and a psychic fair at the SPC.

The Group Seeker Meet & Greet allowed groups and those seeking groups to come together and mingle.

Loui Pieper is one of the Pagans honored at the Ancestor shrine

The SPC hosted a Goddess art exhibit.

The SPC has hosted many concerts from artists such as Celia, Sharon Knight, S.J. Tucker, and Ruth Barrett.

The SPC was one of the sites for the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

In the 2011 Minnesota Women’s Press What Women Want edition, the Sacred Paths Center was voted Favorite Women-Friendly Spiritual Community.

The SPC hosted a memorial ancestor shrine and a lending library.

Sunday, April 5, 2009, Loui Pieper died. There has been a shrine to her at the Sacred Paths Center ever since.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

The Sacred Paths Center opened for business Friday February 13th, 2009 and celebrated its grand opening Friday March 13, 2009. Within weeks, on Saturday April 4, 2009, the SPC began fulfilling its commitment to the community by hosting a fundraiser for local Elder Ken Ra who was facing financial crisis after a kidney failure, with a significant mass of the community coming together to support one of its own. It has since hosted countless rituals and community gatherings.

Although the SPC was not the first Pagan community center in the nation, or even locally, it’s closing leaves The Open Hearth Foundation in Washington DC as having the only Pagan community center in the nation.

The previous local community center was The New Alexandria Library. The New Alexandria Library opened in September of 2000 as a subscription library. It was a subsidiary of the Wiccan Church of Minnesota. Its stated purpose was “to create an archive that preserves our Pagan history, culture, and heritage, to ensure community access to hard-to-find and out-of-print materials, to provide access to a wide range of information and training materials, and to serve as a center of studies and research for scholars of Neo-Paganism.” The library quickly became a center for Paganistani activity. For financial reasons, the library closed its doors in July 2004.

The SPC was a direct successor of Evenstar Books, opened in 1979 by Loui Piper, which was a center of Pagan activity for almost 30 years. In 1991 Loui Pieper founded the Evenstar School of Sacred Paths and in October 1992 it received federal recognition as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization. After Piper’s retirement, Magee continued running the shop. Within a month of Evenstar closing, January 24, 2009, the SPC was opened around the corner, in its 5000 square foot facility after soliciting enough memberships and donations to be able to sign a lease, in the middle of a recession.

Anything left from Evenstar’s going-out-of-business sale (including display cases, shelving units, and everything else associated with the store) was moved across the alley to this new location to create the SPC’s gift shop. Rooms were also erected to create a healing center within the SPC.

Teisha and Paul Magee

Magee has a long history of activism in the Pagan community. In 1995, she and her husband organized Coffee Cauldron, the longest running Pagan gathering in the Twin Cities. In March 1999, the Magees spearheaded the adoption of Minnehaha Falls Creek by the Pagans of Minnesota and organized biannual clean-ups.

April 20, 2012, Magee dissolved the board, and became sole proprietor of the SPC. In the official statement from the board of directors, it said, “The Sacred Paths Center as a community center has ceased to exist.  It is now a private business owned by Teisha Magee.   Any contributions or membership dues, including any automatic withdrawals made via PayPal, are going directly to Teisha Magee.”

FINANCES

Any donations that come in this month will help to offset the cost of closing and outstanding bills.

The SPC had four main sources of income: membership, gift shop, space rental, and healing center. Also noteworthy were the fundraisers where the community came together to support its community center.

The first community fundraiser for the SPC was August 24, 2009, including a raffle and chili sale, in response to the centers first financial crisis. The Eye of Horus, a local metaphysical shop, held a sale with a percentage of the profits contributed to the SPC.

The SPC lowered its operating expenses through its reliance on volunteers to offset the need for paid staff. The SPC had many loyal volunteers.

There were many in this community who gave their time and money to keeping the 5000 square foot center functioning for over three years, helping make this a significant part of the history of our local community. However the large space also increased expenses and made rent difficult to maintain. “On April 18, 2012 we received a call telling us that rent on the center was three months overdue.” said the official statement from the board of directors concerning the closing.  “On April 27th we were told by the landlord that if one month’s rent was not paid on Monday April 30th they would file eviction papers. The rent was not paid.”

“We have learned many things over the last three years, what to do and what not to do.  One of the biggest issues was the blurred financial boundaries between the store the Executive Director’s personal accounts and contributions and dues to the Center.  Several attempts were made to rectify this financial tangle over the past three years, without much success.  Other issues which have challenged us over the last three years include the minimal initial planning when the first opening the Center, a space that was far too expensive to sustain with our income, and a general lack of oversight on financial matters.”

Oczak said, “I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering in the shop, and was especially pleased whenever I could assist someone who had never been in Sacred Paths before. Though at times serving on the Board of Directors was extremely challenging, it has overall been a valuable learning experience. I hope that most people remember SPC for the positive things it did for them and the community, and that a new and improved community center – built on the knowledge of our successes and failures at Sacred Paths – will arise in the not so distant future.”

Lola said, “I will miss spending time volunteering behind the counter on the retail end. It was always a joy to be able to burn candles and incense and have both random people and long time friends walk in the door and for me to see the look of peace on their face and energy. I loved having the Ancestor shrine and library as well, those two elements added incredible uniqueness to the space.”

Magee’s announcement of the closing of the center ended with, “Thank you, each and every one of you for your support on this adventure over the last 3+ years.”

The board of directors official announcement ended with, “Thank you for all of your wonderful support throughout the last three years!  Members, teachers, musicians, healers, belly dancers, men-in-kilts, bards, readers, vendors, shoppers and friends all made Sacred Paths a truly sacred space.”

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24 thoughts on “Sacred Paths Center to Close: An Obituary for our Community Center

  1. JRob Zetelumen says:

    I wouldn’t say there was malfeasance. I honestly believe that everyone involved was doing the best they could. It wasn’t my intention for this article to imply anything else.

    • Star Foster (@gleamchaser) says:

      Because it’s so easy to confuse personal money with money donated to a non-profit? As someone with years of accounting experience I have a hard time believe someone could make that mistake easily.

  2. JRob Zetelumen says:

    I wouldn’t say there was malfeasance. i honestly believe that everyone involved was doing the best they could.

  3. Christopher Blackwell says:

    Ah,who to blame seems to be the most important thing about any problem,despite the fact that blame itself does nothing about the problem and does nothing to learn how to advoid the problem in the future. Now I am not involved in any way, not even in that part of the country, but why don’t I accept the blame so the community can get on with actually solving the problem of creating long term working community centers, that are so needed al over the place.

    As the blame has now been cheerfull assumed, what have the local people learned and how can that help with other community centers? What worked and what didn’t work?

    How can we get the Pagan community to understand that lack of enough money can dom even the best of Pagan ideas. Sorry the the Hippy days are over and we do live in teh real world now. I am oldenough to remember the Hippies,both the good and the bad of it.

    Before we complain about not having anything, are we, individualy or as a community, willing to cough up a steady supply of money to create or maintain it? Money talk severything else only walks.

    As to those that have complaint, do you have any practical solutions to give, would you be wiling to take on the full responsibilty for bringing your solutions into reality? Or are you only into complaining?

    • Star Foster (@gleamchaser) says:

      The community coughed up 12k when the center needed it. Why accepted accounting procedures weren’t used and why none of the finances have been made transparent are things we need to know. Pagan orgs need to learn to conform to standard non-profit fiscal practices.

  4. Rosemary says:

    I agree with Star Foster on a few things- Standard accounting procedures needed to be used. Separation of personal and SPC’s finances was needed. Transparency, balance sheets, financial reports of recievables/payables, etc. needed to be created and available to those who invested time, money, and passion.

    I also agree that blame will not get us anywhere. There is a difference, however, between blame and making sure people are accountable for their actions. Either way, using compassion as our intent and center is essential. Being accountable for one’s mistakes, whether by accident or on purpose is not comfortable, but it is necessary if we are to create healthy relationships and quite frankly-finances. and community centers where people can grow spiritually and socially.

    Somehow, to learn from our mistakes, an accounting on several levels needs to take place, and restoration processes (making things right) needs to also happen. It is possible to do these things with the intent of compassion, We can go down a positive road with this.

    I say this because I still believe in and would like to see a pagan community center for the Twin Cities area. SPC as an entity and center did many good things for many people. But to go forward we need to deal with the present in a completely honest, open and ethically compassionate way and we need to learn sound legal and business processes and rebuild trust. Maybe part of the process is also taking a hard look at ourselves-our personal values, stewardship practices, our own honesty/ethics, etc.. And for now, SPC, the entity needs to be laid to rest.

    Maybe we as a community can think about how can we open the door for people to be honest about mistakes and find solutions for restoration. Right now I do feel there is a shunning and shaming mentality instead of a how can we help people be accountable, make things right through actions and change, and grow and become better. That said, however, there are times when one may have to say your practices and values don’t match with mine, and in love and compassion I need to walk away.
    Maybe then, later on, we can come together from our learning experience and figure out how to create a fiscally, and spiritually sound community center based on values of accountability, stewardship, ethical practices.

    One thing I do think the pagan community needs to learn is that money and the stewardship and ethics that go along with it, is a spiritual and sacred thing. It is an energy like everything else that has repercussions if it is denied it’s sacredness and is treated with disrespect. In it’s essence- money is a symbol of the abundance and provisional nature of our Great Mother, Learning how to treat money well, and not belittle it-like the many other things we value such as trust, respect, compassion-is sometimes the hardest lesson to learn.

  5. Ciaran Benson says:

    Thank you again to the PNC for an excellent article. Very fair, and wonderful recap of the history of the SPC in the Twin Cities. It is now up to the next Community Center to learn from our mistakes and move forward to create an even greater success.

    • caraschulz says:

      We will publish a more in depth article about the center’s closing in a day or two, depending on when I can finish up with the numerous interviews I am conducting.

  6. Emily says:

    An official SPC posting, from the assistant to the executive director Emily Wallner:

    1. Anyone who suspects malfeasance or would like to know the financial details is welcome to contact the Center and see the numbers for themselves. The fundraisers over the last three years brought us back up in terms of getting back bills paid, but did not put us in the black. Monthly, there was not enough money to even get all the bills paid.

    2. A correction to the first PNC article and some quotes from the board of directors in it: I stepped down from the board even before I was officially elected to a position, and SPC remained a non-profit. We were unable to switch over to a sole proprietorship because in order to do that, you must have zero debt.

    3. All money coming into the Center is going to help absolve closing costs, pay off consignment vendors, and get everything wrapped up. None of that money is going into Teisha Magee’s pocket. When all is said and done, she will still have debt from the Center to pay off that goes on her personal credit rating: there is no profit being made here.

    4. We would greatly appreciate people checking out the validity of rumors with us and our financial records before spreading them like wildfire. Gossip is not appreciated.

    5. While SPC’s location and income/outflow was not sustainable, we are not a failure. When we moved in from the Evenstar location, we had enough items (total) to fill one of our slim bookcases and roughly $1,000 to begin with. We have learned a lot from this experience, and it has been quite the journey.

  7. Emily Wallner says:

    An official SPC posting, from the assistant to the executive director Emily Wallner:

    1. Anyone who suspects malfeasance or would like to know the financial details is welcome to contact the Center and see the numbers for themselves. The fundraisers over the last three years brought us back up in terms of getting back bills paid, but did not put us in the black. Monthly, there was not enough money to even get all the bills paid.

    2. A correction to this article: I stepped down from the board even before I was officially elected to a position, and contrary to the board’s statement SPC remained a non-profit. We were unable to switch over to a sole proprietorship because in order to do that, you must have zero debt.

    3. Also contrary to the board’s statement, all money coming into the Center is going to help absolve closing costs, pay off consignment vendors, and get everything wrapped up. None of that money is going into Teisha Magee’s pocket. When all is said and done, she will still have debt from the Center to pay off that goes on her personal credit rating: there is no profit being made here.

    4. We would greatly appreciate people checking out the validity of rumors with us and our financial records before spreading them like wildfire. Gossip is not appreciated.

    5. While SPC’s location and income/outflow was not sustainable, we are not a failure. When we moved in from the Evenstar location, we had enough items (total) to fill one of our slim bookcases and roughly $1,000 to begin with. We have learned a lot from this experience, and it has been quite the journey.

    • caraschulz says:

      Hello Emily,
      Thank you for your comment. I’m hopeful you will be able to start the interview with me soon as that is an excellent opportunity to make sure your perspective on this is heard. I am requesting a copy of the audit and copies of the 2012 financial reports for use in the in depth article I am writing. Your assistance in this would be very helpful.

      Thank you

  8. Emily Wallner says:

    Please, please, please give us time to compile financial records and get all that sorted out. We are putting all our energy into closing up and finding closure within ourselves as well. As I stated, the information is not secret but it’s just not ready for public dissemination yet. We are not ready at this time to distribute detailed info in document form or anything resembling that to the public– we need some time. There is no ulterior motives for this: we simply just do not have it well-compiled and this is a time of finding closure for all of us here at SPC.

  9. JRob Zetelumen says:

    The SPC really did have a positive impact on many people, and I am hopeful that we wont forget that. Personally, I grew a lot with the shamanic journeys we used to do in the basement. I was hotseated for my coven at the SPC. I received at least one of my reiki attunements at the SPC.

  10. Ciaran Benson says:

    I’ve just gotten off the phone with Emily and Teisha, and here’s what we plan to do about the requests for financial information:

    1) We are going to publish last fall’s Audit on the website.

    2) I will gather the financials for 2012 and will publish them on the website.

    3) I’ll post an announcement on the Facebook Page and email the PNC when these become available.

    I also have a day job and don’t currently have copies of any of this information so this might take me a couple of days, but until then please know that the public request for financials has been received by the Sacred Paths Center, and the 10 day counter for us to comply has been started.

    As detailed above, we will comply by publishing the information on the website. That will save us all the time and trouble of photocopying, mailing, and personal trips to the Center just to pick up paperwork.

    Any questions about this may be directed to me: Ciaran@SacredPathsCenter.org.

  11. roanrobbins says:

    I came on as a board member of spc last year, after the heroic fund raising kept our doors open once more. As I saw it-the main problem at Spc – the income (money/energy) and outflow did not match; we tried to make them match, reduced the difference, had emergency help from a generous community which helped for a while, hoped it would get better, but never got in-put and out-put to match. All other issues may have obfuscated, frustrated and/or compounded this basic problem, but really, in the long run, were not the real issue. Had we had no other issues, no road construction, no organizational or bookkeeping problems- we still did not have enough coming in to cover what had to go out. I gather the SPC newsletter will voluntarily make transparent the financials so that people can assess for themselves what happened.
    Spc has an amazing community heart. I hope we keep the website- our virtual hearthfire/temple- alive and continue to help the community grow. To the next group who tries- here are my suggestions from lessons we learned—
    Start small and work up- like a hearthfire–figure out what you can actually afford, get that going, and add on more wood as you go along, rather than try to start out as big as you’d like, and try to find the money/human power to match.
    Make a sustainable economy from the get go– everyone should get out as much as they put in-in the long run.
    Start out as a not-for-profit if that is where you want to end up. If you need to rent space from a for-profit store or other business, wonderful, it can be a win-win situation, but keep the edges clear and clean, and over seen, so there is no confusion– as the magical, energetic and legal rules for each are very different.
    Make it accessible to all economic strata- membership basics can be cheap so anyone and everyone who want to can join. But ask that people naturally are self-responsible, ex. potlucks clean up after themselves, all events leave the place better than they find it..for magical as well as pragmatic reasons.
    Be clear and consistent about how visible you want to be to the community at large– (we had a disparity between the people who wanted membership hidden and the center kept low-profile– and the people who wanted to expand membership drive, increase visibility, and educate the public.) Find a comfortable level for the bulk of the community and build around that.
    Pay- at least part time- 1-3 key people to organize the core– scheduling classes, healers and readers, publicity, volunteer-coordinating, and website maintenance. Let them be responsible to- overseen by- the board and membership-and be supported by a ring of volunteers. If you cannot support them, you really cannot afford to stay open. Usually four different personality types are needed for all businesses- 1) organizer, financial person, 2) idea/people/heart person, 3) publicity, communications person- and 4) web-maven. No one person can do all 4- don’t ask them to. Get people to contribute their strengths. (thank you Teisha for being such a great idea/people/heart person, thank you Ciaran for being our amazing web-maven)
    Be what you are, and work towards what you want to be, and be honest with yourselves in the process. Treat every comment, every action, as the magical process it is-keep the energy clear and do/say only what you’d be enthusiastic to have come back at you three-fold. Create a sustainable ecosystem and then help it grow organically.
    Consider working on a co-op model for the pagan businesses, like an antiques collective.
    Everything She touches- changes, everything lost is found again in a new form, in a new day- may we find our new form gracefully,
    frith-fully, Heather RR

  12. Ciaran Benson says:

    As promised earlier today, the results of the audits, and all available contemporaneous financial statements, are now available on the SPC website:

    http://www.sacredpathscenter.org/?page_id=943

    There are no financial reports available for either 2010 or 2012. No additional data is available for 2011.

    Normally a nonprofit or charitable organization in Minnesota with a budget over $25,000 per annum (such as the SPC) would perform public disclosure through its tax filings and form 990s for the past 3 years, but the SPC has not filed. The information on the above page is all that is available.

    Some volunteers have said that they are devoted to recreating financial statements for all three years for the SPC, but that information will not be available in the near term, and will be historical in nature. The 2011 information is the only contemporaneous financial information available.

    It does not appear at this time that any additional contemporaneous information will become available.

  13. Emily says:

    A celebration:

    We, as a non-profit run entirely by volunteers, were not without fault. The community as a whole is not without fault either. However… we lasted THREE YEARS! Look at all we accomplished, all the groups we brought together, the spirit of community that had WiCoM and MCoW join hands in a sacred circle once again after so many years of pain and separation. We supported our soldiers overseas with UMPA, created an official ancestor altar, brought honor to those who have passed away and joy to those still here on earth. We celebrated the birth and adoption of children, had rite of passage ceremonies and birthday parties, fun movie nights and lock-ins, came together over the communal nature of food at potlucks and the annual Bread and Brew contests, supported those who needed help, offered our storefront as a business front for many local independent artisans on consignment and by wholesale, offered classes and concerts and gatherings and so much more. Many members of many faiths called SPC their spiritual center– Shinto, Neo-pagans, Druids, Heathens, Buddhists, Wiccans, solitaries of many spiritual perspectives and earth-reverent agnostics (*raises my hand*). I have enjoyed my three years at the Center, and all the years prior to that over at Evenstar. This place was my second home, my second family, my place of refuge and my place to celebrate. It was a place of purpose and of healing. Personally, my time at Evenstar and then at SPC has been one of intense personal growth, re-building, and finding myself. My life has been made possible in part by the existence of these places and the amazing support and peace I found in them. I am forever grateful and determined to spread the love times three.

    We will continue to maintain the website and the Sacred Paths Journal, our newsletter. If you’d like to join the mailing list for that, please send an email to press@sacredpathscenter.org and we will get you added.

    Thank you all, and namaste.

    • Ciaran Benson says:

      Well said, Emily. I really feel like a lot of people, like myself, went to the SPC because of our sorrow in losing Loui Pieper, and stayed because of our joy in finding so many new friends.

      The community will absolutely continue. Centers for the community will almost assuredly arise all across the Twin Cities – and then hopefully the nation, and each will be stronger because of the experience we’ve gained and shared.

  14. Emily Wallner says:

    We, as a non-profit run entirely by volunteers, were not without fault. The community as a whole is not without fault either. However… we lasted THREE YEARS! Look at all we accomplished, all the groups we brought together, the spirit of community that had WiCoM and MCoW join hands in a sacred circle once again after so many years of pain and separation. We supported our soldiers overseas with UMPA, created an official ancestor altar, honored those who have passed away and did our best to bring joy to those still here on earth. We celebrated the birth and adoption of children, came together over the communal nature of food in our weekly potlucks and annual Bread and Brew contests, supported those who needed help, offered our storefront as a business front for many local independent artisans on consignment and by wholesale, offered classes and concerts and gatherings and so much more. I have enjoyed my three years at the Center, and all the years prior to that over at Evenstar. This place was my second home, my second family, my place of refuge and my place to celebrate. It was a place of purpose.

    That purpose is not fading away. We will continue to maintain the website and the Sacred Paths Journal, our newsletter. If you’d like to join the mailing list for that, please send an email to press@sacredpathscenter.org.

  15. Tracy Jarvinen says:

    As a person who has removed themselves from the “Greater Pagan Community”, I find it sad that there is always someone looking to blame something on someone. To those who volunteered their time and energies over the years, I say thank you. Thank you for giving! Thank you for caring! Thank you for being!. To Carol- Your investment (sometimes greater than you could afford) was immeasurable. To Paul and Teisha and your children- Thank you for the sacrifices that you made to try and GIVE this community a place to call home. The sacrifices that were made were too great to count! Blessed Be!

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