Arch Druid Candidate Responses 2019

The Arch Druid is the President/CEO of the organization, as well as the Spiritual Leader of the organization and Head of the Clergy Council.  Please note that the Arch Druid is a paid position.  They are an employee of ADF and receive a monthly stipend, making it especially important that our funds are spent on a qualified person.  Arch Druid is a 3 year term, with a 3 term limit, and is a voting member of the Mother Grove.

Candidates:

  • Rev. Melissa Ashton
  • Rev. Jean Pagano (Drum) (late response)

Bios can be found here.

The list of all questions can be found here.

Summary:

Rev. Melissa Ashton Rev. Jean Pagano (Drum) (late response)
Administrative Qualifications

  • Masters in Non-Profit Management
  • Served 3 terms as ADF member’s Advocate
  • Served 4 years as Oak Leaves Editor-in-Chief
  • Serves as President for local PFLAG group

Spiritual Qualifications

  • Consecrated ADF priest
  • ADF Initiate
  • Master Bard & ADF Bard Laurete
  • Experience leading Grove & Festival Rituals, and providing Solitary Resources

Goals for the upcoming term:

  • update policies at the org level to bring us into compliance with non-profit industry standards
  • bring engagement levels up to build better relationships with each other
  • send a formal delegation to the Parliament of the World’s Religions and engage in ecumenical work with other faith organizations on a larger scale
  • Evaluate & update Publications department
  • Create an ADF blog that accepts submissions from all members
  • Update Recommended Reading Lists to reflect current understandings
Administrative Qualifications

  • works in IT
  • served 1 term as Arch Druid
  • served 2 terms as Vice Arch Druid
  • served on the Board of Directors for White Oak Order and Cherry Hill Seminary.

Spiritual Qualifications

  • senior ADF Priest
  • ADF Initiate
  • Master Bard
  • has created resources for members

Goals for the upcoming term:

  • Complete the SWOT analysis
  • improve membership involvement
  • evaluate our ritual practices, study programs, and org documents & subgroups, making changes if needed
  • support Project Manager for Website updates
  • offer training to our leadership
  • solicit volunteers to help with various tasks at the org level
  • expand ADF Druidry in non-USA countries

Rev. Melissa Ashton

Google Doc with Responses

All Candidate Questions

What do you consider the role of AD to entail, and how are you uniquely qualified to fill it?

The role of the Archdruid (AD) is multifaceted. I compare it to the role of the Executive Director. The AD is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs, and strategic plan as they function within the organization. They are responsible for the marketing/outreach and serve as the liaison to the folk from the board of directors. Here in ADF, this position also includes the duties of the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). As Chairman of the Board, the AD leads and conducts all business of the board of directors itself. As CEO, the AD is the highest-ranking person in the organization and ultimately responsible for all decision-making. In addition to all of this, the AD, as the religious head of the organization, also serves as the Chief of the Clergy Council.

I am qualified to fill this position for multiple reasons. First, I served on the Mother Grove for three years as the Members Advocate, which provided me with a hands-on learning experience for the way our current board functions. Second, I have served on the PFLAG Boulder County Board of Directors first as a NOD and now as the President (I am also the interim treasurer, so wearing multiple hats is not a problem).  I have revised the board functions for PFLAG and helped them to reinvigorate the chapter, which has been on the brink of closing for several years. I was the Editor-in-Chief of Oak Leaves for almost four years, which gave me a solid understanding for the behind-the-scenes functioning of the org. Finally, I have experience managing people as well as working on multiple consensus-based teams, which I will discuss more in the below question regarding my “day job.”

In regards to Spiritual Leadership, I have spent the last four years working closely with small groups and individuals to aid them in finding their paths and incorporating the elements of Our Druidry into their everyday lives. I’ve led ritual for multiple events outside my own grove, presented on topics relevant to the overlap between the mundane and spiritual realms, and even led a group through Ian’s Court of Brighid work. I have the capacity to teach and to lead ritual on a much larger scale, as I have done it before, and I look forward to opportunities to work in those areas again regardless of whether I win.

Ultimately, my experience, developed skillsets, devotion to polytheism and spiritual growth, and high level of organizational efficiency are complimentary to the many hats our organization requires the AD to wear.


Do you have any “day-job” qualifications for the position, and if so what parts do you use most often/benefit ADF the most?

The leadership and organizational skills I have gained through my career and volunteer work are highly relevant to the role of Archdruid. I have experience as a hiring manager, scheduling and conducting interviews, creating job descriptions, managing schedules, conducting performance evaluations, and assessing competency. I have project management training and have worked on interdepartmental teams within my organizations and in partner with others. I have formal SWOT analysis training and with Rev. Sean Harbaugh have already attempted to use this to the benefit of ADF. I have conducted conflict resolutions and disciplinary action/escalation with the formal process as defined by our labor unions, SEIU Local 105 and UFCW Local 7. I have worked in partnership with other departments, both peer-level and executive-level leadership, often facilitating meetings that can be quite heated. I have served as an inspector for clinical laboratories for many years and understand the need to ensure our organization is in compliance with any changes to regulations. I also have a monthly overall budget of $500,000 that I manage as part of my routine duties, keeping track of multiple projects and their individual budgets.

What does this mean? I have developed the skillsets needed to manage multiple teams such as the Mother Grove, Clergy Council, and Executive Committee, including ensuring compliance with the differing sets of bylaws. I have no problem managing the few appointed positions that report to the AD, including ensuring adherence to procedures and setting performance expectations—as well as coaching when expectations are not met. I have a solid pulse on industry standards and changes that may arise in the Publication 1828 which dictates the compliance requirements for 501(c)3 religious organizations. I have no issues conducting difficult meetings and maintaining a budget for the organization overall as well as for individual projects. Finally, I can easily compile reports from multiple parties and report out to whomever necessary. I have employed many of these skillsets to assist my own grove, other groves, and several subgroups.


Describe your leadership style and why it makes you a good choice for the position.

My leadership style is a blend of servant leadership and mindful leadership, though I have recently done quite a bit of reading on transformational leadership. I enjoy learning from others, lead by serving, and hold listening as one of the biggest responsibilities of leaders. As one of my mentors once told me, the higher up you go, the less you should be speaking.  I have a call to service that includes administration and teaching, and success in these areas requires an attention to detail that only comes when one truly listens and is present with others.

 

Why are you seeking this office? Why do you love ADF enough to devote substantial time and energy to the organization, and what do you see as the limits and boundaries you would have to place on your involvement?

Heh. I have devoted the better part of the last ten years to her. She is my home, my spirit, my inspiration, and my sorrow. I have watched many beautiful things in my tenure with ADF. I’ve made friends, and I’ve had friends laid to rest. I’ve sung before hundreds of people in a chorus of gifted bards, and I’ve sung alone. I’ve witnessed marriages and births, and I’ve counseled through divorce and suicide. I’ve laughed with her, I’ve cried with her, I’ve bled for her (just that one time), and I’ve become a different person. How do you put boundaries on that? The last time I was on the Mother Grove, my life went sideways, and it was my ADF family that guided me through—and I have never missed a deadline. She has never asked more from me than I could give, and as issues arise, I am confident in the good folk of ADF to provide support and space to get us all through whatever it is together. My only concern is the number of events that request AD appearances with conflicting dates. I adore travel, especially by air, and I look forward to attending more events, if I win.

 

How will you promote & grow ADF’s commitment to a culture of consent?

Consent culture is actually VERY important to me. I can tell you as a former MA that we often fail at the follow-through when an alleged consent violation is reported. We need to update our policies and give them the teeth they need to be more than words on paper. Unless we all agree to uphold the standards, people will be at risk of getting hurt. We need to work more toward safer space, though our space can never truly be safe as a public-facing organization. We also need to create a speak-up culture where the behavior simple isn’t tolerated anymore. This needs to be a higher priority. I would LOVE us to develop a formal Code of Conduct.

 

Share your thoughts on the ADF saying “fast as a speeding oak” and why roots are important to you and to the org going forward. 
Fast as a speeding oak is a phrase I find problematic, not because of the original intent but because of how it is often used these long years later. It was once meant to be a play on “slow and steady wins the race” and the strength of the mighty oak tree. Nowadays, this phrase has been used sarcastically to point out when we are moving too slowly for someone’s taste or being stubborn and refusing to move. This phrase as been “weaponized,” as Rev. William Ashton puts it, to not only point out the flaws of our leaders but also to shame people into making decisions.

For me, the idea of rooting ourselves deep in the traditions and fellowship while allowing us the room to stretch and breathe as we evolve and explore is far more impactful. The tree itself still represents us: Rooted deep into the ways of old and continually translating the ancient ways into our modern world. That’s what it means to be a polytheist Neopagan.

 

Do you believe in the axiom the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?
The needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few is pretty utilitarian, and for me, that means the minority always has to lose. When we look at choices, we must not think in terms of either/or. One of the things that interest-based problem solving teaches us is that there are more than two ways to get something done. A consensus-based decision making platform will allow us to find new ways to solve problems that take into account the voices of everyone, not just the majority, to ensure we DO meet the needs of all involved and provide the best solution to our issues.

 

Regarding Solitaries:

What efforts will you take to improve outreach & engagement for solitary members?

Not all solitaries are unhappy as solitaries. We have quite a few folks who are solitary by choice, as I was for ten years. I want to begin by recognizing this. I know we have conducted surveys before about “what the solitaries need!!” I would like to work with those who are interested directly to create a list of potential ways they can engage. How do they feel about the tele-liturgy? Do they want to be involved? What about those who write liturgy? Would they like to send a script to some of us and have us perform it with them? We seem to always be putting on things FOR them. I would love to find ways to work WITH them to help build the community they want, not just assume what they need based on what we think they need.

 

How will you support those solitaries working through the DP by strengthening the mentoring program or establishing a virtual grove?

I have long-desired a virtual option for participation, and with the success of things like the Google Hangout Druid Moon casts we were doing in the past spearheaded by Nicole Egelhoff, the high day videos being put out by Rev. Amber Doty, and the virtual work being done by Three Cranes Grove, I would say we are a bit behind the times as an overarching organization. It was part of Isaac’s original vision for “everyone to be able to tune in to a Druid service from wherever they are.” I would love to see us hosting monthly meetings via Zoom (or some other web-based meeting platform) and utilizing Google Classroom (which we can get free as an NPO). There are several groves already doing this work, but at the local level, these amazing efforts do not always make it to our solitary and international members. I would love to see these types of meetings leading to natural mentor-student relationships as people work together and get to know one another so they can be sure it is a good fit for them. As far as a virtual grove, I think if that arises organically, we need to find ways to ensure our members find community in ways that are relevant and meaningful to their lives, not limited to the rigid demands of our current in-person-only structure/system. It’s happening anyway. How much more successful will these endeavors be once we put the resources of the international organization behind them?

 

With more solitary ADF members, supporting them in their practice may be the most important tasks we face if we want keep them and get new members. What will you do to fix the Mentor program so it can become a robust source of help for anybody who wishes to join ADF, but who is not local to an operating, healthy, teaching grove?

First of all, if the mentor program is broken, we will need to do a root cause analysis. Initially, it is a best practice to map the current program and then send a survey to the current and previous students to ask them where they were satisfied and where they saw need for improvement. Similarly, we will need to ask the mentors about their role and see where they run into barriers, etc. Part of the issue with programs like these is we put them into place without enough room to breathe and evolve as the folk we serve grow and change. We need more voices, and we need to ACTUALLY do what we learn. The “Aha!” moment must not be mistaken for the actual change itself.

 

What sorts of efforts and contributions do you plan on making to the organization if you do *not* win this election?

Loads. I am planning on working with my grove to get some of our community classes into Google classroom and even working on hosting via Skype or Zoom to that those who are not within driving distance may attend. I will be writing music and liturgy with my grovemates and long-distance collaborators. I am working on a book (as it turns out, ha!) and several other essays that will likely become workshops. I would love to attend more festivals. Travel is very expensive, and so many of them occur when school is in session. I’d love to see more options, especially out west. Geographic isolation can be so difficult to manage.

In short: If I win, I do the work. If I lose, I do the work. There’s plenty of it to go around.

As Candidate for Archdruid

What is your Vision for ADF for the next 3 years? For the next 6+?  How do you plan to articulate and act out this Vision?

As the Chief Administrator, I plan for administrative streamlining, updating the boring policies and procedures (or writing them in their absence), and re-engaging members. We have a lot to offer people, and we owe it to them to be as professional as we can be. The bar has been raised external to us in terms of organizational legitimacy, and I refuse to let us fall behind any further. It only takes one complaint for us to be formally audited. Would we pass scrutiny with our documentation as it is? We don’t have the benefit of the Vatican to bail us out. If we recall, the SCA lost a legal battle recently, and since the parent org did not have enough money to settle the debt, they pulled from the kingdom accounts. That causes me anxiety, because our grove budget is very modest as it is.

Spiritually, I want to focus on engagement and building fellowship relationships. I remember when I first joined ADF over ten years ago. I had been practicing Wicca for a decade and planned on remaining a solitary. I was drawn to the online community and the excellence of our study programs. Over time, we have lost engagement on the lists and allowed some of our resources to go out of date. I think three years is plenty of time to work on bringing engagement levels up among the folk and breathing life back into our relevant subgroups. We must also take the opportunity to review the subgroups that are being kept in place for no reason other than nostalgic loyalty so those resources may be reallocated to places that better serve our members.

In the long term, I want the engagement levels to include more submissions to our publications (see specific goals below), more attendance at festivals, and more options for people to meet in person, more presenters and more diversity among them. I would LOVE to see ADF send a formal delegation to the Parliament of the World’s Religions and engage in ecumenical work with other faith organizations on a larger scale. I want to recognize those who are already doing this work and empower them to serve as liaisons of our organization. In short, I want ADF to once again become one of the big names in polytheism through our engagement in the greater community and not just in our own world—and certainly not just in the United States (e.g. ADF Canada!).

 

Are there any specific goals you’d like to undertake, and what is your plan of action?

The first goal involves publications. We have some very talented authors in ADF. I think of people like Jennifer Gadd, Wayne Keysor, Rev. Gwernin Grove, and Rev. Jean Pagano who all had to self-publish their works. Quality is not limited to nonfiction, and I want us to take a hard look at our willingness (or lack thereof) to publishing the works of our most dedicated members.

Along the same vein, I would love to see a revamped blog system that includes submissions from the members-at large that can be published on a regular basis, particularly from our members in more reclusive areas, countries outside the USA, and individuals who are not often given the space to have their voices heard. Having works published in Oak Leaves may not be something these individuals want, but a blog post that is less formal and just as impactful may be something they are more willing to do.

Finally, I REALLY want us to examine our recommended reading lists and update any of the titles that have become obsolete due to new research, and hopefully revising some of the study programs to bring them into modern standards for education. With a motto of, “Why not excellence?” we need to be sure we are recommending the best resources and education on topics are relevant to Our Druidry. I would further ask the various subgroup preceptors to go through their own lists and see what, if anything, is new and improved since the last collection of source materials was made.

It is a common misconception that the Archdruid can just change things. Ask any previous Archdruid who had an idea how easy it was to implement. I want to create some focus groups, explore the SWOT analysis results and begin creating a strategic plan to address the issues identified by the folk of ADF.

 

From the questions asked on the Clergy Council List: What specific parts of your Masters in Nonprofit Management (MNM) training do you want to put to work for ADF/would benefit ADF the most?

When I completed my degree, I spent the two years of work intensely studying ADF as my “filter” organization. I went through our bylaws, SOPs, subgroup charters, board structure, overarching organizational structure, and program structures under the supervision of professionals in the field of nonprofit management, including individuals who are employed by various types of nonprofit organizations, law professionals, and international scholars in nongovernmental organizations. I have catalogued issues we need to address that include our board structure/function, inconsistencies in subgroup charters at the higher levels of leadership, and program management for our study program system. Many of these changes are small but would make a big difference in terms of efficiency and effectiveness for the organization. I have also made a list of the things we are doing well, and I would like to see us leverage our strengths to help us work through our areas in need of improvement. I love that we performed a formal-ish SWOT analysis, and I want to see this work completed and turned into a series of action items, including the development of a strategic plan. If we can speak to the work we are doing on behalf of the organization, engage the members with the skillsets to join in this work, and communicate our progress, we can improve communication and address the perception that we lack transparency in upper management.

There is actually a lot I could write here. For the sake of the length of this document, I will refrain from further examples, but I am happy to provide more details, if anyone is interested.


What do you consider to be your best accomplishment of your previous term as AD/in your tenure in ADF?
I have had many personal triumphs in my tenure with ADF. If you had asked me this question about five years ago, I likely would have taken the opportunity to laud myself. When I look back at my time with ADF, I see a stream of accomplishments, often made with the help of others, and I am filled with a humble sense of pride. I think there are two instances that bring me the most joy upon reflection. The first is the article I got posted to the website for adopting the Core Order of Ritual for personal use. The second is the Pagan Baptism rite I wrote. In both instances, the feedback I received from others who were truly helped by these works brings me more peace and solidifies my path more than any of the other things I’ve done.

 

What do you consider to be the your most significant failure in your previous term/tenure with ADF, and how do you plan to avoid a similar issue going forward?

This is a difficult question. I am reminded of one of the formal complaints that I managed as MA. Due to confidentiality, I will refrain from details. Suffice it to say that I knew the right thing to do, but I let myself be swept into the group think of the private MG list. I still regret that I didn’t do more on behalf of the member, and every time I am faced with an integrity check, I remember her and how I failed her. Not in a way that promotes self-flagellation, but as a gentle reminder that when one has “power over,” everyone loses. I ask myself, how can I approach this situation as a “power with” instead?

 

In what ways will your term be different from previous Arch Druids (or from your previous term)?  What, if anything, would you do differently?

I doubt anyone before has ever been so focused on administration. We owe it to our members to update the infrastructures and create open channels for communication and progress while maintaining our sacred traditions. Remember the tale of Lugh, when he said, “ah, but do you have anyone who can do ALL those things?” I am bringing not only my love for the religious aspects of our organization to the table, but also my experience and skills as a nonprofit manager with high executive functioning.

I will open discussions to examine some of our process flows to get rid of inconsistencies in how the different arms of our organization function, definitely focus on a communication plan to increase transparency and access to religious education and community for our members, and update our spiritual resources (including formalizing some teaching, which we have been reticent to do) to ensure our motto of “Why not excellence?” is about what we are doing now and not just what we used to do. Most of all, I want to start hosting Great Hall meetings that will allow members to observe some of the Mother Grove meetings, ask questions, and provide real-time feedback on issues before the board. Once these are established, it will be far easier to create a successful framework for virtual ritual and for study groups to meet.

 

What do you think needs to be done to improve the “spiritual” needs of the congregation; and how might you meet that need?

The Spiritual Needs of the Congregation vary widely, so there is no ONE way to ensure we meet their needs. I try to focus on creating space that will allow all the diverse members of our orthopraxic (and not orthodoxic) religion to feel welcome at the fire. Here at Mountain Ancestors, we have a variety of folks from the Christopagan to the Humanist and everything in between, and the main way to ensure their needs are met is to allow them to be exactly as they are. If they have questions, we help them find resources. We need to take the time to validate the cosmotheology of others without trying to fit them into the box of our own preconceived notions.

 

How will you engage the full membership to be a part of the major changes that affect everyone in the organization?

Our current framework for communication is too slow and clunky. Since we do not schedule regular meetings of the BOD, choosing to conduct our business via an at-will email list, we need to create a minimum monthly report out to the folk for our discussion (minus confidential items, of course). This will include voting in progress, voting that has completed, and a list of discussion topics. In the event that a “hot topic” item is brought to our attention, I would like to see us post to the membership that we have received the news and are working on a response immediately and get the response out in no more than 24-hours. I would also like communication to happen in multiple avenues, and not just Facebook or the e-lists.

There are loads of social media tools to aid in communication and marketing. I have a person. She’s rad. I know enough about this to know that I need to rely on Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from any of a variety of areas to ensure the organization is getting the best advice before we consider any changes. I want there to be a place on the website where these go, not buried in Facebook or a forum somewhere.

As part of our communication flow, we need to also have clear avenues for return commentary, and it must be conducted prior to a decision being made. One of the biggest complaints I hear is the perceived lack of transparency of upper leadership, most of which stems from finding out about a discussion after the decision has been made.

 

Do you believe the cultural appropriation of indigenous practices to be a real and valid concern? If so, how do you navigate that within our religious structure and community?

Short answer: YES. I have learned a tremendous amount since I began working in partnership with Rev. William Ashton, whose ministry has long centered on right relationship with indigenous peoples and the issue of cultural appropriation. This is not an issue that is specific to ADF. Paganism in general is built upon the study of polytheist religious practices and adopting the ones that resonate with us. When we began doing this 30+ years ago, it was with a sense of connection and a desire to honor those cultures from where these practices originated. Now that we know better, however, we need to do better. We have countless examples of indigenous peoples telling us directly that they want us to stop taking their practices, especially when we take them out of context or outright change them. This is disrespectful to their ancestors as well as the peoples themselves. Starhawk’s definition of cultural appropriation is that of taking from the ancestors of another culture without giving anything to their children. What does this mean? If you are a Hellenic pagan, what do you know about the current affairs of Greece? Consider yourself a shaman? Have you ever spoken with the peoples of a tribe and heard their words regarding what you are doing? There is a lot of intense emotion around this topic, and we need to stop being afraid of that.

In ADF, Isaac took the Gatekeeper from the Vodoun religion practiced in Haiti. We continue to perform the opening of the gates and assign whomever we want as Gatekeeper for our rites, but as an IE-specific faith, we cannot give back to Papa Legba, the original Gatekeeper. We never asked if we could have this, and I wager the majority of the members of ADF did not even know this. This is how insidious and seemingly innocent cultural appropriation is. I am working on restitution where I can, educating myself so that I can recognize my own blind spots, and talking to people from those cultures whenever possible. There is much to do, and I certainly cannot do it alone.

 

As AD, you would be the visible head of the organization.  Do you plan on any interfaith outreach (formal or informal) to non ADF organizations or people?

Absolutely! As I mentioned above: I would LOVE to see ADF send a formal delegation to the Parliament of the World’s Religions and engage in ecumenical work with other faith organizations on a larger scale. We actually had a priest of ADF in attendance at the last Parliament who was specifically told she was not to be there as a representative of ADF. I will attend as many events as I can, but there are so many people doing so many good things like Pagan Pride events and Interfaith work for social change that one person cannot possible be at everything where the voice of polytheism needs a place at the table. We need to empower our local leaders, especially those in other countries, to engage in this work to serve as liaisons of our organization as well and stop being afraid of what they might say and how that might hurt ADF.

 

Rev. Jean Pagano (Drum)

late response received

What do you consider the role of AD to entail, and how are you uniquely qualified to fill it?

The role of the Archdruid is to act as the head of the Mother Grove, the Chief of the Clergy Council, and the spiritual leader of the organization. From the corporate perspective, the Archdruid is the Chairman of the Board.

As the head of the Mother Grove, it is my job to review and process suggestions that we receive from both internal and external sources, and present those items to the executive committee or the board for discussion and decision making.   While the Archdruid is the head of the Mother Grove, they are only one of the nine voting members.  It is important to work with the entire Mother Grove as a team, and to be sure that everyone’s voice is heard, whether they are a voting member of the board or not.

As the Chief of the Clergy Council, the Archdruid works with the Clergy Council Officers to process tasks and changes much in the same way that the Archdruid interacts with the Mother Grove. I believe it is important for the Archdruid to be creative and innovative, developing new ideas and methods of practice, both for clergy and members alike.  One example of this type of innovation that I have displayed during my term as Archdruid is the Clergy Council High Day Ritual videos.  The Core Order of Ritual is fundamental to our practice, yet many of our solitary members have never seen it in action.  Creating videos gave our Clergy the opportunity to demonstrate this practice for the folk, giving a resource to our existing members, and acting as a form of outreach to others in the community.

Another idea that I pioneered is the retirement of priests.  It was inevitable that there would be a need for this to happen as our organization and leadership ages.  I also think it is important for the Archdruid to talk about important religious topics like the Kindreds, our practice, and personally, the use of devotionals.  I have created workshops, blogs, books, and other resources about these topics and others.  The Archdruid is also instrumental in supporting priests, whether they came through Super Druid, were sanctioned by the Mother Grove, or came through the Clergy Training Program. Each of these categories of priests are real priests and all are valuable.

I am uniquely qualified for this position because of my love and dedication to this organization.  I have invested 35 years of my life to practicing and serving ADF.  I have been honored to serve as Archdruid for the past three years, as well as Vice Archdruid for two terms prior to that.  I have been a part of the Executive Committee for seven years. I have fulfilled all of my terms, without lapse, while continuing to travel across the globe to meet with our membership. I am available 24/7 and my contact information is available for anyone who feels the need to reach out.  I have also previously served on the Board of Directors for White Oak Order and Cherry Hill Seminary.

In addition to my extensive experience as a member of a board of directors, I also have served in leadership in many different roles within ADF, including time as an officer of the Clergy Council, the Bardic Guild, the Naturalist Guild, and many other subgroups, as well as listmaster. I made it a priority of my leadership to reach out and get to know to our members, wherever they may be. I want our members to know that their leadership is someone is kind, welcoming, and concerned about their well-being. The most important part of leadership is service to the folk and I have endeavored to help any and all members as often as I can.

 

Do you have any “day-job” qualifications for the position, and if so what parts do you use most often/benefit ADF the most?

I work in the Information Technology industry in my “day-job”.  In my professional role, it is important to be able to collaborate and work with a team on a daily basis, while also being willing and able to perform individual tasks to keep projects on track.  This balance of working with others, while also making sure your tasks are completed is a valuable tool as Archdruid.  I am comfortable working with a group and setting aside personal differences to pursue a common goal that benefits everyone. Every undertaking requires a number of people working together so that everyone feels included and so that the individuals involved feel that their voices are heard and that their needs are met.  I also know it’s important to follow through with tasks that are specific to the role of Archdruid.

Additionally, the IT world has come a long way in the last 35 years. Technology is now common in our everyday lives, through both websites and social media. As Archdruid, I recognize the need for our organization to better utilize those tools, have worked to improve our access and usage of both.  Finally, technology is a world that requires flexibility and adaptability each time things change, which is often in IT.  That adaptability is important as the needs of our organization, and our board members change. Having IT skills is fundamental is today’s electronic world. The internet and opportunities that are available through electronic media make our outreach and connection with others even more important.

I am fortunate because I also have I have the benefit of experience in the job of Archdruid. I have been in this role for the past three years, so I have practical day-to-day knowledge that comes from doing the work. I view ADF as my second full-time job, and it’s a job that I hope to be able to continue.

 

Describe your leadership style and why it makes you a good choice for the position.

I consider my leadership style to be a combination of democratic, team, and visionary leadership. The Archdruid is alone in their leadership and much try to reach consensus whenever possible. For tasks and decisions that come to the Mother Grove, I always engage the other members in the decision making process. The Archdruid is only one of the nine votes in any matter. I find that engaging everyone in the decision making process gives everyone ownership in the solution. I consider the Mother Grove to be a team, gathered from different communities, working together to fulfill our mission and our vision and support our membership. No member of the Mother Grove is less than any other. I consider this team to bepeers and I treat everyone as equal participants in the process. We are elected by the membership to represent them and we must leave personal agendas aside as we move forward together. I have a vision as well, as I believe an Archdruid should. I feel that ADF is a world-wide organization, and seeing people practice on four continents has shown me that our actions transcend nation, regional, and linguistic boundaries. Our discipline, our Core Order, and our Devotion to the Earth Mother and the Kindreds are a unifying force that allows us to offer a similar and powerful experiencesno matter where we are located. My encounters have shown me that when people see what we do, they are interested. I believe that by following our vision, we can touch members and non-members alike worldwide. The Earth Mother is understood and experienced in so many different places and different ways.

 

Why are you seeking this office? Why do you love ADF enough to devote substantial time and energy to the organization, and what do you see as the limits and boundaries you would have to place on your involvement?

I have dedicated the better part of my adult life to being a Druid. After 35 years in ADF, it is not only my home, but it is a way of life. When I first joined the Mother Grove, I did so to make a difference and to help bring my long experience as a member of ADF to use, hoping to benefit both Solitary and Grove members. I was a solitary for over 20 years before joining a grove and I understand the challenges of practicing alone and being distant from other members. It was my practice that kept me active within ADF and I want to share my devotional practices with other people.  It’s also that unique insight that makes me so dedicated to reaching out and being available to our membership.

As I’ve said before, I view ADF as my second full-time job. I dedicate between 20 and 40 hours a week to ADF, not including travel time or attendance at festivals and gatherings. I am willing to give as much time as is necessary to do the job the right way. As the Archdruid, I must be ready for engagement wherever and whenever the need arises. One cannot just step away.  I am very fortunate that my wife Rhiannon understands and support my work as Archdruid as a partner and as a member of ADF. The Archdruid must be able to dedicate large amounts of time for the organization and must get out and meet the Folk, whether it is at festival, one-on-one, or at long distance. Archdruid is not a spectator sport – it requires active participation. I have done this over the last seven years, even prior to becoming Archdruid, and will continue to do this into the future.  It’s important to me and our members to see the leadership in action and feel like they have been seen as well.

 

How will you promote & grow ADF’s commitment to a culture of consent?

The Mother Grove decided last year to send all priests, Regional Druids, and members of the Mother Grove to Consent Culture training through Cherry Hill Seminary.  I have been and continue to be very supportive of our leadership receiving training in consent culture. I personally provided financial support for 25% of the cost of ADF’s consent training last year, along with paying for my own and several other members as well.  I believe in right action, and felt this cause was worth the investment in our leadership.  We were very fortunate that a number of the individuals who received training were also Senior Druids or Grove Organizers. However, we have budgeted for the remaining Senior Druids and Grove Organizers to receive a consent culture course this year.

I have asked Cherry Hill Seminary to if they could develop an on-demand Consent Culture course that we could provide, not only leadership but membership in general.  We have also asked our Human Services Specialist to develop some resources for our membership. Additionally, last year I requested that the first workshop at every festival be dedicated to Consent Culture. This request was implemented at many events and the workshops were well observed and attended. I am committed to making ADF a safe place for everyone and am dedicated to continued offerings ofConsent Culture training.

 

Share your thoughts on the ADF saying “fast as a speeding oak” and why roots are important to you and to the org going forward. 

Fast as a speeding oak is a phrase that meant deliberate and steady progress would yield results over time. In the early days of ADF, where communication was done entirely via “snail mail”, the pace of progress was very slow. Yet from those early days, we have progressed from being a small regional phenomenon, to a national organization, and then the international organization that it is today.

ADF relies on a lot of volunteer energy to run Our Own Druidry. Since we rely on volunteers, some things may take a little longer than if we were able to pay for full time staff. This is not an excuse for moving forward slowly but an explanation that some things are a process and not just an event. Larger organizations have larger budgets and weekly or occasional collections that take place at local services. We do not have this luxury. Most of the funding that is collected locally remains local and we look to membership to be generous in their donations to the international organization.

“Fast as a speeding oak” also suggests that slow and steady growth yields a firm foundation. I believe that this is the case in ADF. It is our membership base, whether they are long-term, mid-term or new, that add to the diversity of people and experiences that makes ADF unique.  I have been a member since 1984 and have seen a lot of different thing over those years and learned along the way. Some events are lightning bolts, some are gentle, nourishing rains. Our long-term members are those deep roots that anchor the organization. It is our traditions and practices that strengthen us. It is continuing and new members that bring us their experiences and insights and move us forward. The true test of change is sustained change over time. “Fast as a speeding oak” speaks directly to this sustained change.

 

Do you believe the axiom the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)?

 It would be nice if we as ADF could always achieve consensus, but with 1300+ members from all walks of life, this is nearly impossible. We can develop situations where we can satisfy the needs of most of our members, but there are always those who do not agree or choose to follow. In binary situations, where a choice must be made one way or another, it is unlikely that consensus will occur. Elections, like the one we are approaching now, are one of those binary choices where we must choose one over another. This is not a weakness, but a feature of certain situations.

As leaders, we hope to meet all members’ needs, but invariably, there will be times were choices must be made and decisions rendered. This is not said gleefully or without knowledge of consequence, but it is the way things are at times when people are involved.

 

Regarding Solitaries:

What efforts will you take to improve outreach & engagement for solitary members?

As part of my last campaign, I pledged to reach out to and visit solitary members and have been fortunate enough to do so throughout my term.  I have reached out to members to see if they wanted solitary visits and for many of those members I have met with them, either in their communities or at gatherings and festivals. I specifically designed the Clergy Council High Day Ritual videos as a way for people who were not physically close to groves to experience Core Order of Ritual rites and to see our Clergy in action. I created the Clergy Skills and Strengths page to allow members to find priests with certain skills. In our most recent Mother Grove meeting, we discussed the creation of a database with members’ skills and services.  I think every member is valuable with unique skills and experiences that they may be able to share with others.

Several Groves have pioneered streaming rituals, such as Three Cranes Groves. This allows members to experience rituals live and spontaneously. I would like to encourage other groves and Protogroves to let the world see what you do for ritual. I have made some of my workshops available via YouTube so that members anywhere can attend workshops without having to leave their living room.

I have made liberal use of Twitter and Instagram to put out prayers, devotionals, and bardic works for others to use in their own practice. I would like to encourage more people to complete the Dedicant Program.  As part of that, I would like to allow members to submit one module at a time instead of the whole program to give them a sense of accomplishment and the ability to watch their progress as they learn about ADF.

I am excited about the work being done with the Hearthkeeper Program which will allow members everywhere to establish a hearth practice independent of any study program. I am a solitary member as well and much of what I do is at my home altar. I want others to feel not only comfortable in doing so, but have an idea what to do.  I also want them to know that they are not alone in their practices and experiences.  To support that idea, I am happy to continue visiting solitary members upon request. If you aren’t able to get to a place where you can meet others, I am happy to come to you.

 

How will you support those solitaries working through the DP by strengthening the mentoring program or establishing a virtual grove? 

Our DP mentoring program needs retooling. We once offered training for people who wanted to be DP mentors but that has not been offered in some time. I want to see this revitalized. I think that the mentor pool is rather limited and I think we need to put a call out for volunteers to take up this task. We have lots of capable people who may be willing step up in this role. We also have international members who wish to offer their DP services in foreign languages and we should be enlisting these members and advertising far and wide that we can review the DP in other languages than just English. I have done two DP reviews in French and we have German and Portuguese-speaking members who could step up to this task or have already expressed a desire to do so.

I once thought the idea of a virtual grove was the way to go, but our current reporting structure for groves isn’t flexible enough to make this happen. I supported the idea of the Solitary Druid Fellowship and while there was some good liturgy created, this idea did not pan out. If we can find a way to make a virtual grove work, I am all for it.

At the most recent Clergy Retreat in October at Tredara, we used Zoom to offer a virtual ritual to priests who could not be in physical attendance and not only did they attend, but they also participated. The paradigm is there – we just need to bring it forward. Perhaps this is a challenge that we overcome. I will gladly participate and I am sure many others will as well.

I first did online rituals in the late 90s and it worked, although it was challenging just typing. Now, with products like Skype and Zoom, live participation is accessible to any member connected to the internet.

 

With more solitary ADF members, supporting them in their practice may be the most important tasks we face if we want to keep them as get new members. What will you do to fix the Mentor program so that it can become a robust source of help for anyone who wishes to join ADF, but who is not local to an operating, healthy, teaching grove?

I believe that I have answered this question in the preceding paragraphs, but I will offer some further thoughts. I recently had the idea that when we send out a new member letter/email, we can also include the first question in the DP, as a lesson, in, for example, the Virtues. Therefore, for those interested, they will have the lesson in hand; for those not interested, they need do nothing more. By offering a fully expanded lesson instead of something self-researched, and the ability to submit a module at a time, we may find more participation in the program.

As far as mentors go, we need to train them, offer a balanced system of assignment of mentors and encourage international participation.  Finally, while it is not desirable, not all members that come to us as new members decide to stay. Most of the feedback that we get from members that leave is that they have decided that this is not their path. For those who do wish to stay and have interest, we should help them at every opportunity.  

 

What sorts of efforts and contributions do you plan on making to the organization if you do *not* win this election?

I have built many relationships and bridges throughout the years. ADF is an integral part of my life. Since I am a Senior Priest, I am dedicated to service and serving others. That will not change. ADF is my life. I want it to live and to live in it. Service will help this come to pass. My active participation with our membership would not change.

 

What is your Vision for ADF for the next 3 years? For the next 6+? How do you plan to articulate and act out this Vision?

I am a member of the committee that is currently working through the SWOT analysis.  This will give us a number of tasks to work toward in the next 3 years. I expect that once this SWOT is completed and reported, we will look to do another one in three to five years and begin this process again. We will begin an organizational review at the end of this year to help us get a better understanding of where we are and where our vision will take us.

I’d also like to see more membership involvement, better membership access, and community building within ADF, as well as connections with other Druids. I think it is important to enlist the help of our own members in this process and also to enlist the help of professionals to keep this process independent, transparent, and fair. This should be ongoing. I have worked hard to make ADF the international organization that it is and intend to continue to build bridges with members abroad and with other Druids throughout the world. Most of all, I want ADF to be and remain an inclusive organization where people feel safe and welcome. It is a part of hospitality.

My vision for the next six plus years is to continue the process of evaluating ourselves while remaining true to the work we have done and where we find ourselves. We have an offering-based religion that honors the Earth Mother and the Kindreds and this is a path that we should remain true to. The Earth Mother comes first in our rites and should also be part of our practice. We need to review our programs of study to make sure they are up to date and solid and that people are utilizing them. If we change programs and no one takes those courses, then we haven’t engaged the people we are trying to reach. We must also evaluate the groups we have created and see that they still are valid and viable. If they need help, we should help them; if they are no longer needed, they should be retired. We need to encourage members to get involved in these subgroups if we want to breathe new life into them.

I also want an ADF that understands that it has a place in the international community and as such must alter its focus on strictly domestic matters and understand that we must embrace a spirituality that is applies globally.  When I first entered leadership, I found elements of intolerance for other beliefs and paths. I found this rather unsettling and vowed to myself to change this if I had the opportunity. I have tried, in my time as Archdruid, to be open and welcoming of other paths and people. I like to think that all people of good intention are welcome to share our hospitality.

 

Are there any specific goals you’d like to undertake, and what is your plan of action? 

Our new website, after a number of false starts and lost traction, is getting the attention it desperately needs. We just had a successful fundraiser to raise money for the development of the new website and the Mother Grove has budgeted additional funds to make this a priority. We are discussing the update as this is written.  This has been aided by the addition of a new project manager to our team. She has an eye on process, schedules, and delivery.

Our new Project Manager has recommended a number of pursuits that will help our outreach: monthly newsletters that highlight positive happenings in ADF. News from the Mother Grove, other groves, and solitaries, collected together and shared through this letter and other media outlets. We are currently discussing bringing in a professional developer to finally tackle our long-term problem with our website. It is long overdue.

I think it is important to offer training to specific positions, most especially the Member’s Advocate. Our new Member’s Advocate should have a transition period with our existing one and be offered training to help understand what it takes to do a great job for ADF.

I believe we need procedural documents for our other positions so that there is a clear understanding of the work to be done and the methods that we expect to be utilized. I would like to see all of our organizational documents updated to use more relevant and appropriate terminology when describing individuals. In order to accomplish this, we will solicit volunteers to work together in reviewing all of our documentation and making suggestions for improvement. I would like members of the Mother Grove, especially Non-Officer Directors, to sit on these committees.

Our Human Services Specialist is an important position in our organization but there is a LOT of work to do and a lot of documentation to create. I would like to find some skilled volunteers to help share the workload for this crucial job.

We need to continue our global outreach to other members and organizations that complement the work that we do in a neopagan world. Our European and Asia-Pacific Regional Druids have done great work but they oversee such large areas that we need to devise methodologies to help them extend their reach. Sharing venues with other Druids like OBOD, ADO, AODA, and RDNA may help us to better understand other Druids and explore and celebrate our commonalities. I am a member of many of these organizations and I welcome the exchange that we have experienced with them.

 

What do you consider to be your best accomplishment of your previous term as AD?

I don’t think there is a single accomplishment that stands out, but there have been many successes along the way with myself and the Mother Grove. Some of the accomplishments that I am very proud of are our Annual Report, presented as a document for the last two years, so that we have a written record of what we have done the previous year and that we can proudly present to others. An organization like ours needs this. Our Statement of Inclusion presents a powerful statement from ADF leadership to the members and to others in the neopagan community. I am very proud of the work that the Mother Grove did on this. I am happy to have ADF be a corporate sponsor with the American Forest Foundation. This was a Mother Grove project two years ago and was my project last year. I am proud of our first European priest and have encouraged others in Europe, South America, and Australia to join the Clergy as well. I am proud of how quickly we were able to get a large part of our leadership through consent culture courses and am glad that I was able to contribute monetarily towards that goal. I am also glad that we are finally upgrading our website after talking about it for so long.

I have been fortunate to be able to spend so much time on the road to talk to members and non-members alike about ADF. I have traveled to Australia, South America, Europe, and Canada to meet with members and share in their experience of ADF. I will continue to spend as much time as possible reaching out to our membership in person.

 

What do you consider your most significant failure in your previous term, and how do you plan to avoid a similar issue going forward?

I think I will answer this by saying that there are occasions when we, as a Mother Grove, receive complaints that cause a lot of hardship and pain to the people involved. For some of these that we experience, I wish that I could have reached a happy medium where Moderation resulted in resolution. Sometimes, this is not the case. I will continue to try to reach a middle ground with the parties involved in the future. I think that a lot of negativity was encountered when we had our Facebook groups open to the public and I believe this caused us a lot of hardship, internally and externally, and a loss of some members because of it. Bringing the Facebook group to members-only was a positive solution to that situation. In both of these instances, communication was ultimately the issue. I will work harder to try to foster better information sharing and better information flow in the future.

 

In what ways will your term be different from your previous term? What if anything would you do differently?

Working with other members of leadership is critical to the success of any administration. However, every leader is an individual with their own thoughts and desires.  There have been many issues that we have faced in the past three years, and personal differences between leaders have made working together difficult at times because there is often a sense of impending conflict. I have started to try to rectify some of this by inviting the Mother Grove to my home for each December for a meeting and retreat. This has allowed us to build cooperation between the Members of the Mother Grove and allowed us to sit across from each other and enjoy each other’s company, while we work together as a team. The Board of Directors need to work together and not at cross purposes. I will continue to serve, be of service, lead by example, and try to foster a sense of common purpose and collaboration.

 

What do you think needs to be done to improve the “spiritual” needs of the congregation and how might you meet that need?

The congregation needs to understand our practice.  I believe it is the job of the Clergy and leadership to serve in this manner. We also, above all, need to be accessible and listen to our members when they have a need. We have to stand beside our members and not stand apart or at a distance from them. A handshake can go a lot farther then an email or a text message and if we are able to reach out personally, we should do this and encourage others to do so as well.

Hospitality is our greatest virtue and we need to be hospitable always. We need to seek out the best in others and look to communication with others in as positive light as possible. Hostility raises barriers and causes conflicts; hospitality leads to understanding and a removal of obstacles. Let us be hospitable always.

 

How will you engage the full membership to be a part of the major changes that affect everyone in the organization?

Engagement is achieved through communication. We can put out information to everyone and we can ask for information in return. I expect that a member survey will follow soon as a part of the SWOT process and I expect this approach to continue in the years to come. Meeting with people, either in person or in virtual communities is the best way to learn what is on their mind and communicate what is in ours. It is critically important that the communication be open and not hostile. We have seen many instances where discussions are shut down by angry responses which immediately shut down the flow of information. We must develop standards and practices that do not tolerate hostility so that we can hear other voices, even when they may not agree with ours. Listening and understanding are key.

As part of this, I believe we need to better utilize our resources, both through our website and our social media.  We can provide a wealth of information to people if we are willing and able to use these tools to our advantage.  Creating images, text, video, and audio resources that relate to Our Druidry gives our membership the opportunity to engage with us and each other, while also making us more accessible to people who may be outside of our organization.

 

Do you believe in cultural appropriation of indigenous practices to be a real and valid concern? If so, how do you navigate that within our religious structure and community?

As an Indo-European community, there is always the danger of cultural appropriation and the improper use of indigenous practices. ADF was built on the practices of the ancient Indo-European people and I think it is critically important to be mindful and step lightly in these paths. I know that I learned a lot from speaking to Brahmans about the Vedic hearth culture and how certain things that we might innocently include in our practices would be offensive to those from which we took them.

We need to gain a better understanding of the pitfalls of cultural appropriation. This is not a matter to be decided in an afternoon and requires deeper research and reflection to gain a better understanding.  The creation of a task force to look at our own practices might be a good place to start.

 

As AD, you would be the visible head of the organization. Do you plan any interfaith outreach to non ADF organizations or people?

Outreach has been one of the priorities of my tenure as Archdruid. I have opened doors with many different groups, both Druidic and non-Druidic. I believe that the Archdruid should have dialogue with leaders and members of diverse religious traditions so that we can learn and better understand each other. My book “A Tree for the Earth Mother” includes selections from Philip Carr-Gomm, Damh the Bard from OBOD, and Kristoffer Hughes from the Anglesey Druid Order, as well as members of ADF. I have spoken to diverse groups of individuals and heard them speak as well. The exchange of ideas is made possible through Hospitality and is furthered by the same. Let us be good guests and good hosts in our beliefs and our practices.

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