Members Advocate Candidate Responses 2019

The Members Advocate is the organizational ombudsperson.  They represent individual members of ADF to the Mother Grove, especially minority members that are otherwise not well represented.  The Member’s Advocate manages compassionate memberships as well as handling complaints that are both interpersonal and inter-organizational.  They are expected to mediate these complaints before they reach the Mother Grove. The Member’s Advocate is a 1 year term, with a 3 consecutive year term limit, and is a non-voting member of the Mother Grove, though they are expected to attend all Mother Grove meetings.

Candidates:

Bios can be found here.

The list of all questions can be found here.

Summary:

Sarah Finn Brigette Evans Erin Fallath
Qualifications:

  • Senior Druid of Red Maple Grove in Ottawa
  • Diversity Advocate and Differently Abled Advocate
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Criminology Concentration
  • Master’s Degree in International Business with specialization in Cross-Cultural Communication.
  • Ombudspersons & Mediation experience
  • consensus-building, and conflict resolution training and experience
  • Military Police Reserves
  • Analyst – conducting interviews, extensive review and analysis of information, writing assessments, working in teams, interfacing with managers at all levels, and being entrusted with confidential information.
  • Certified Autism Intervenor – training in conflict resolution, diversity and inclusion, anti-harassment, mental health and suicide awareness, assertiveness, and cross-cultural communication.

Support Consent Culture:

  • I implemented a Consent Culture & Anti-Harassment Policy for the ADF Canada East Three Rivers Festival.
  • Support every ADF-affiliated festival having a Consent Culture policy.
Qualifications:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker – provided couples counseling and family counseling
  • Training in serving diverse populations, maintaining confidentiality, verbally de-escalating conflict and working with individuals who have suffered from abuse or assault.

Support Consent Culture:

  • expect all leadership to attend consent training.
  • raise awareness about ADF’s sexual misconduct and harassment policy, and revise it to ensure safety for members
Qualifications:

  • Professional Clinical Counselor and – provide individual, group, and family counseling services, including anger management courses, conflict resolution, and trauma therapy for children, teens, and adults. 
  • Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor – serving communities that have been stricken by extreme poverty and the opioid epidemic.
  • In the process of setting up a specialized service for LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Co-leader of the Thiasos of the Starry Bull, a Dionysian tradition.  
  • Serve on the administrative team for a Discord (chat/social) server for LGBTQ+ adults.

Support Consent Culture:

  • Honesty and transparency in communication 
  • I will make sure, when I speak on someone’s behalf, that I never put words in their mouth, and that I am maintaining open communication with all parties involved
  • Encourage leadership to be open to feedback from members about what the membership (not the leadership) wants from their church. 
  • Consent isn’t limited to sexual activity–it exists, and is vital, across every form of interpersonal interaction.

Sarah Finn:

Questions for all Candidates:

Q: What do you consider the role, responsibilities, and requirements of Members Advocate to entail, and how are you uniquely qualified to fill it?

A: Greetings! My name is Sadie De Finney, but most know me as Sarah Finn.  I have been in ADF since 2006 and am the Senior Druid of Red Maple Grove in Ottawa, Canada. I am a candidate for Members Advocate (MA), which is effectively the organizational Ombudsperson and Mediator.  The MA’s overarching responsibility is to the folk, and Desiree Amber Cook has ably fulfilled that responsibility for five years.  I would like to thank her for her exemplary service.

I have experience as both an Ombudsperson and as a Mediator, which are the two key roles of the MA.  As part of the ADF Board of Directors, the MA represents members’ interests, especially those of underrepresented minorities, at the Mother Grove (MG) level.  The MA also assists in mediating conflicts between members, or between members and the organization. These duties would be right up my alley given my training and experience.

As per ADF by-laws, the MA does not get a vote in the MG but they can propose motions to improve members’ interests.  If elected, I would draft motions for what the folk wants / needs from its religious organization. I have previous experience in having motions passed such as when I was on a Diversity Committee which convinced the Director and other top officials of a government department to approve changes benefiting LGBTQ+ and disabled communities.

The MA also administers the Compassionate Membership Fund. I have related experience on social welfare committees, applying for and/or discreetly arranging assistance for those in need, and I have also arranged the payment of ADF compassionate memberships for members within my grove.  As well, the MA can also be called on to help oversee voting in guilds, kins, SIGs, and Councils, which I would do if elected.

I grew up in a bilingual family with a French-Canadian Mother, English-Canadian Father, Stepmother of mostly African and some Scottish ancestry from the Caribbean, Stepfather from New Zealand, and two siblings, one of whom was born in the USA when we lived there for a few years.  I have always had diverse friends and I love to travel, which inspired my education choices. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Criminology Concentration, and a Master’s Degree in International Business with specialization in Cross-Cultural Communication. I have also completed training programs and workshops related to conflict resolution & mediation, diversity and inclusion, anti-harassment, mental health & suicide awareness, assertiveness training, and legal motion submissions.

I believe I am uniquely qualified to fill the MA position because I have relevant experience, training, skill sets, and personal characteristics (objectivity, neutrality, fairness, compassion, empathy, discretion, commitment to truth, and desire to help others) to be MA.  Also, as a disabled / differently abled woman who experienced domestic abuse and raised a special needs child as a single mother, I understand what it feels like when you need help in a difficult situation. I can empathize with people’s need to be seen, heard, supported, and respected.

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

A:  I am recently retired after some 30 years of full-time public service, so I felt this was an opportune time to be of more service to the folk.  As indicated above, I have experience as an Ombudsperson and as a Mediator. I have also worked as an Analyst, which involved writing assessments, working in teams, interfacing with managers at all levels, and being entrusted with confidential information.  I served in the Military Police Reserves many moons ago, completed a legal secretary program, and have worked as a security guard, private investigator, and office manager of a youth rehabilitation initiative. I am also a certified Autism Intervenor.

My skill sets which would benefit ADF include: conflict resolution & mediation; consensus-building, diversity and disability / differently abled advocacy work; cross-cultural communication; interviewing in emotionally charged situations; focus group research; policy development; legal motion drafting and submission; conducting investigations; analytical report writing; along with teamwork and project oversight.

Q: Describe your leadership style, and why it makes you a good choice for your position.

A: My leadership style is one of service and protecting people from harm or infringement on their rights.  A large part of my public service career entailed protecting the diversity of Canadians. In group settings, I adopt a de-centralized teamwork approach; people may have different roles but they are all deserving of respect. Whether I am in a leadership position or not, I am dedicated to the truth, and to speaking up for what is right even when other leaders may be reluctant to listen.

I also value the expertise and experience of others, which is why, for example, my grove hosted the mid-2018 Ottawa visit of newly ordained Rev. Chelly Couvrette, and then ArchDruid Drum, who did workshops in Ottawa shortly before Samhain.

As MA, my default setting would be to take the lead in mitigating conflict.  That said, in specific cases where enquiries confirm that a member has exhibited egregious behaviours not in alignment with ADF values, I feel it is important that ADF have the option to pursue sanctions including up to expulsion, as per ADF bylaws, to ensure that victims are heard and supported, and that everyone feels safe in ADF.

Q: 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?

A: I received a tap on the shoulder and it was pointed out that my experience and skill sets are a fit for the MA office. I have always believed that significant progress can be made from the inside, and this office would allow me to directly advocate for members’ interests.  My love for ADF has grown steadily over the years as I met more and more ADF members, in person and online. My child grew up in the ADF and is now an adult member, and I met my husband, also an ADF member, at an ADF High Day Ritual. The ADF is our spiritual home.

I am honoured to do what I can to help the ADF be an inclusive and meaningful religious organization, however I would set limits on my availability in my time zone given boundaries are essential for self-care and avoiding burnout.  In the scenario that multiple complaints come in at once, I would triage and address them in order of priority.

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

A:  I have long promoted the principles of consent culture. Last year, I implemented a Consent Culture & Anti-Harassment Policy for the ADF Canada East Three Rivers Festival.  I believe every ADF-affiliated festival should have a similar policy. I intend to take Cherry Hill Seminary’s Consent Culture course, further to the MG’s plans to extend this training to all Senior Druids. If elected, I would continue to support a culture of consent at all levels of ADF.

Q: 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.

A: The saying is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way of acknowledging that we are predominately a volunteer-driven organization and things tend not to happen overnight (we all lead busy lives!), but I feel it also alludes to slower-paced, steady growth being a good way to pay homage to our origins while the roots and branches of the ADF ‘tree’ continue to grow. That said, I believe that oak-speed mode can sometimes be a little too slow in this day and age.  A modern religious organization needs to be able to adapt and respond quickly, even urgently, in certain circumstances.

I do not believe in change for the sake of change – we have only to look at what has been happening in the world of politics to see why change is not always the best thing.  That said, I strongly believe that we as an organization need to remain vigilant for occasions when we should go into more of a warp speed mode whilst ensuring that we have done sufficient due diligence of the facts before reacting.

Q: Do you believe in the axiom “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”?

A: Frankly, no, it is by no means an axiomatic truth.  If the logic of this saying is extended, it can become tyranny by the majority.  Who are the ‘many’? Who are the ‘few’? Are the ‘few’ a marginalized / miniority group(s) and is intersectionality relevant?  Which needs, and are they the same or different, and can they be met in the same way or not? In other words, each situation merits informed consideration to ensure true social justice.

Before I homeschooled my child, he attended schools aware of his Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder diagnoses.  His specific needs were markedly different from the other students, however, their right to an education did not outweigh his right for the same.  Within ADF, a significant portion of our members are part of at least one underrepresented minority (intersectionality can apply, or type of member – Solitary, Grove, family, child), and this is at the core of what the MA should focus on when pushing for improvements in favour of members.

I really appreciate that ADF members are exploring social justice issues in conjunction with, or some would say as part of, their spirituality.  The ADF Activist Network Facebook group, of which I am a member, provides an informal forum for people to support each other in social justice activism.  One of my personal interests is the impact of climate change and environmental degradation, especially on marginalized groups, and exploring how ADF can contribute towards the well-being of the Earth Mother.

I would also like to see ADF put more focus in the future on the unique needs of a specific ‘few’, namely ADF child members and their families.  In my experience, many members are unaware that we even have an under 18 membership option for minors. As our religion continues to flourish, we are seeing more intergenerational members and I expect this trend will continue if families believe that ADF and its events are a safe place.  I feel that this type of focus is particularly relevant given the past controversy and any lingering negative perceptions towards ADF.

Q: Regarding Solitaries (you may answer these separately or as one response):

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

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

  • 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?

A: I love that ADF is in a growing number of countries and having the opportunity to communicate with many members, a lot of of whom are Solitaries, via the ADF Members-Only Discussion Group on Facebook. Some are Solitaries because there is no grove nearby but some are Solitaries by choice.  For our organization to do a better job at attracting and retaining Solitaries, we need to understand them as the individuals they are and to represent their unique needs at the MG level, which I would emphasize as MA.

The ADF’s online presence goes far in opening up the lines of communication and building an international community.  For example, Solitaries and members of four groves accepted the online invitation I posted to attend the ArchDruid’s workshops in Ottawa. That said, it is important to remember that not every member, whether Solitary or not, has web access or is comfortable using computers or smartphones, and/or has interest in contact with other members.

If elected, I would reach out and support members via the communication method(s) and level of engagement they prefer should they require the MA’s assistance.  If Oak Leaves is open to this, I would like to publish an occasional column related to members’ interests to solicit feedback and ensure members are aware of the MA’s availability to assist them.

Like other Indo-European-focused Neopagan groups, we still have challenges in being seen as an attractive option to people of colour (POC), whether as Solitaries or grove members.  POC who feel called to Druidry may have some Indo-European ancestry, as my Stepmother does, or they may have no Indo-European ancestry whatsoever. Our organization should continue the work already being done to be inclusive and build bridges with like-minded individuals and organizations. I support Rev. Lisa Wasilkowsky Malik’s suggestions of last fall that we include a land acknowledgment in High Day rituals and that ADF allow Clergy to complete an Indigenous history course for their region.  In addition, I feel that we should continue to post videos and other materials emphasizing our inclusive nature.

I do not perceive the DP and mentor program as part of the MA’s main bailiwick, but I would certainly be open to offering advice and assisting the Preceptor et al in matchmaking members’ backgrounds and personal interests should the members grant me permission to do so.

I like the idea of a virtual grove as an option for those who have no physical grove nearby, however, with human nature being what it is, and as already occasionally demonstrated on the ADF Facebook groups, interpersonal conflict(s) may eventually arise.  As a preventative measure, a good Admin(s) should be in place, with the option to call on the MA should conflict continue to escalate.

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

A: I plan to continue serving as Senior Druid and Liturgist for Red Maple Grove, assisting with running the Healers SIG, coordinating the Full Moon Healing Prayer (prayer written by ArchDruid Drum), acting as admin for the Healing SIG’s decluttering Facebook group, and organizing the 10th Anniversary of the Canada East Region’s Three Rivers Festival scheduled for June 6-9, 2019.  I will also continue looking for future opportunities to serve ADF in Canada as well as at the international level.

Q: Member’s Advocate – How do you mitigate your biases and remain a neutral party in extreme disagreements?

A:  There is not a person alive who can mitigate their biases completely, especially as those of us living in North America tend to have both overt and covert biases programmed into us from a young age.  That said, I have worked hard to discover and discard biases, and the type of work and training I’ve done over the years has helped me do this. Each side in a conflict has their story to tell, and I respect that right.  When analyzing a particular situation, I find that it becomes almost like a form of meditation, emptying the mind so that one can see with clear eyes and listen with an open heart.

In one case, I was part of the team tasked with reconciling disparate positions for an international economic summit.  Over a dozen nations intent on pushing their own agendas made for a lot of initial disagreements. Despite this, our team maintained neutrality and created ‘win-win’ proposals which satisfied the national leaders. I have worked on many other cases where the opposing sides were in extreme disagreement about the facts and/or what a just and equitable outcome might look like. There were more times than the human spirit should have to endure when my colleagues and I had to review graphic details of the worst things humans can do to each other.  I won’t pretend that it was always easy to remain neutral under these circumstances, but in order to have the clarity of mind to do the job at hand, I learned to stay focused on facilitating the right outcome.

This leads to an important point I would like to make.  Yes, it is important that the MA show compassion and empathy to members who are experiencing a difficult situation, however, professional Ombudspersons and/or Mediators would tell you that there needs to be limits in order to safeguard their objectivity, neutrality, impartiality, and perceptions there of in a case.  Put simply, an Ombudsperson and/or Mediator should not cross over into acting as a therapist for a party involved in a dispute. If a person requires and/or requests significant assistance to process psychological trauma, whether caused by the situation which prompted their complaint or by something which occurred in their past, an Ombudsperson and/or Mediator would refer them to separate therapy sessions with a therapeutic professional.

Setting such boundaries is necessary for an Ombudsperson and/or Mediator to remain neutral whether the matter is being resolved informally or via formal procedures. If elected MA, I would look to work in conjunction with an auxiliary team of ADF volunteers with professional therapy or counseling credentials available to provide therapy sessions in person or online. In a similar vein, I would look to align with Clergy who are available to support the spiritual needs of members involved in complaint cases.

On a closing note, I would like to thank those who supported my nomination, the incumbents for their service, all the candidates for stepping forward to serve the folk, and the many people who pour their hearts and souls into ADF. May the Kindreds continue to bestow their blessings on all of ADF. Please feel free to contact me with a PM on Facebook Messenger (Sarah Finn) or an email at celtic_history@yahoo.ca with any questions or suggestions.


Brigette Evans:

What do you consider the role, responsibilities, and requirements of Members Advocate to entail, and how are you uniquely qualified to fill it?

The role of the MA is to serve as the first response to all official complaints and to oversee the compassionate membership program. The MA is responsible for attempting to mediate a solution between parties of an official complaint. If that complaint cannot be resolved, they must communicate the complaint clearly to the MG. They are also responsible for recording responses to official complaints.

The MA is responsible for processing compassionate membership requests and requesting more information when appropriate. They are responsible for approving and maintaining the records of community service hours reported by individuals with a compassionate membership.

The MA is responsible for writing and presenting a report on activity to the MG which has had personally identifying information removed as appropriate.

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 am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. As such, I regularly assist people in accessing community resources and navigating personal issues or conflicts. I have provided couples counseling and family counseling. Both services have prepared me to assist others in finding resolutions to conflict. It also has given me language to clarify misunderstandings from intentional harm or malice. I have had additional trainings in serving diverse populations, maintaining confidentiality, verbally de-escalating conflict and working with individuals who have suffered from abuse or assault.

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

I consider myself a collaborative leader. I see the need for the MA position to establish and maintain deputies to allow for both a variety of perspectives and to prevent burn out. Serving as a mediator is not easy work. Seeing people angry or hurt can become overwhelming without delegation and self-care. I believe the professional skills that I have developed over the last 4 years give me a strong basis to navigate the needs of this position.

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 been actively pagan for about 18 years. In the course of that time, I explored different sects including Greencraft Wicca and AODA. ADF has been my home for the last 10 years. I have gone through many personal challenges and the grounding of my experiences with the Kindreds and the support of the clergy have seen me grow and thrive. Duty is a very important value to me. My years as a military brat and later as a military wife taught me that no organization grows without volunteers. If I’m not actively working to try to help ADF become the best it can be, then I am not living up to my duty as a community member. I am not a part of a grove; this is one of the ways that my skills can be useful to the Folk and I feel I owe it to them to offer them up.

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

I fully support the requirements of all leadership to attend consent training. I would like to see an increase in awareness among the membership regarding our sexual misconduct and harassment policy. The policy was created in 2012 but I am unclear about the organization’s success in increasing knowledge about its contents throughout the membership. Additionally, the guidelines of how to address complaints of this nature use the same procedures and standards as any other complaint addressed through the MA. I have concerns that these guidelines may be insufficient, and I have concerns about the guidelines requiring secrecy in the complaint process when addressing allegations that could put other members at risk of harm. One of my goals is to address with the MG how these guidelines may need to be reviewed; I consider mandatory reporting laws to be a valuable example in that requirements for confidentiality are breached when concerning specific instances such as concerns about abuse or harm to self or others.

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.

I think it is important to remember that oaks grow in two different ways. First, they grow over the decades in size. But they also grow an entirely new crop of leaves each year. So too I think ADF must balance our growth. It is essential that we be able to respond to the short-term needs of the group while focusing on our long-term views of who we want to become as an organization. We are seeing a substantial push among the membership for the MG and the organization to be responsive to crises and scandals. But it is important that we address issues while remembering that our end goals continue to be focused on religion and spirituality.

Do you believe in the axiom “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”?

I find this axiom difficult. In most cases, valuing the needs of the many over the few leaves those who are minority groups at a disadvantage. Part of the duty of the MA is to focus on the needs of the underserved populations in the organization to prevent their needs being overlooked. When I think of the virtue of moderation, I often contemplate its similarity to balance. I will diligently work to insure the needs of the few are balanced as best as I am able to the needs of the many.

Regarding Solitaries (you may answer these separately or as one response):

  • What efforts will you take to improve outreach & engagement for solitary members?
  • How will you support those solitaries working through the DP by strengthening the mentoring program or establishing a virtual grove?
  • 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?

I feel that these questions are better suited to other positions in this election than to the MA. I do intend to make myself readily available to the membership. I am active on the ADF FB and am in a number of sub-groups. I intend to be as responsive to solitaries as I am to those in leadership or those in groves.

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

My intention is to offer up my skills and support to whomever the winner of this position is in the election. I am happy to serve as a deputy or assistant as appropriate. I am also active in the social justice group and anticipate continuing to be active in their efforts to increase the inclusivity of ADF.

Members Advocate Specific Questions:

How do you mitigate your biases and remain a neutral party in extreme disagreements?

I have done significant work in my professional life to identify my biases. It is impossible for any person to completely get rid of all biases. My intention is to appoint deputy MAs such that I can recuse myself from any significant conflicts of interest. Also, I think that the use of deputy MAs allows for a system wherein multiple points of view can be more easily evaluated and biases can be corrected for.


Erin Fallath:

What do you consider the role, responsibilities, and requirements of Members Advocate to entail, and how are you uniquely qualified to fill it?

The role of member’s advocate is, ultimately, a spokesperson for those who otherwise might not have a voice.  The member’s advocate needs to be impartial but passionate, and assertive without being aggressive.  The MA needs to be able to provide a fair representation of voices that do not always agree with their own, so that those who have the power to make changes hear all information fairly.  The Member’s advocate also has a responsibility to assist in solving disputes, and serves as the most member-facing part of the Mother Grove.  As such, the MA needs a particular passion for the representation of minority members of all stripes.
 
The MA needs to be available, personable, and have a strong self-care regimen outside their organizational, personal, and professional life.  In that same vein, self-awareness of stress level and burnout potential is also necessary.  I’ll address my own relation to those concepts in the next questions.
 

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

In my professional career, I’m licensed as a Professional Clinical Counselor and Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor in the state of Ohio.  I currently work at a small private practice in Mason, Ohio, but I previously worked for various community-based organizations, serving communities that have been stricken by extreme poverty and the opioid epidemic.  I provide individual, group, and family counseling services, including anger management courses, conflict resolution, and trauma therapy for children, teens, and adults.  I have a special interest in serving the local LGBTQ+ community, and I am in the process of setting up a specialized service for LGBTQ+ youth.
 
In the field of mental health and substance abuse services, the ability to remain impartial is a must, but equally important is the ability to be empathetic.  I have had to maintain firm boundaries, particularly in the case of court-mandated services, while simultaneously understanding the unique positions my clients find themselves in with their lives–poverty, substance and behavioral addiction, racism, homophobia/cissexism, and other factors play heavily into how well treatment works, and I tailor my approach for each individual.  There is an idea within the counseling world that all counselors must hold two seemingly conflicting ideas in their heads at all times: “My client is doing the best they can in this moment” and “My client needs to do better.”  I take much the same view with ADF as a whole–we are doing the best we can, but there are many, many ways to improve, and that improvement comes from the unity and representation of our members.
 
In addition to those professional qualifications, I attend my own therapy for purposes of self-care and stress management.  My own self-care routine also includes my spiritual practice, personal recreation, and care for my own body and mind.  I monitor my stress and adjust my self-care as needed to make sure I am functioning optimally.  I also have experience in a similar position before, as a co-leader of the Thiasos of the Starry Bull, a Dionysian tradition.  Additionally, I actively serve on the administrative team for a Discord (chat/social) server aimed at LGBTQ+ adults.
 

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

My leadership style is, as I described before, rooted in empathy and understanding, as well as a firm belief that we can all do better, and we can all grow.  I always try to understand where someone is coming from, and why they have that particular point of view, before making any decisions on matters that are brought to me.  I also hold transparency and honesty to be essential qualities for leadership–even if I were to make a decision (as MA, as a Discord admin, or in any other situation) that wasn’t popular, it would be well known why and how I came to that conclusion.  That said, the position of MA requires an unbiased representation of matters that are brought forward, and so I will also encourage that level of transparency and honesty within the Mother Grove and other ADF leadership.
 

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?

ADF has been a part of my life, and my identity, for over a decade.  Despite the twists and turns my own spiritual path has taken, ADF has remained the constant.  A large reason for that is the people who are a part of it–I cannot accurately describe the enormity of the ways my grovemates, my hearthkin, and others have impacted my life and my devotion.  I know, historically, that MA is not a particularly enviable position–no one really *likes* to be the person in the middle of a dispute, but it is also one of the most necessary.  I believe my particulr experience and skillset qualifies me to weather whatever storms may come during my tenure.
 

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

I draw back to the honesty and transparency from earlier.  I will make sure, when I speak on someone’s behalf, that I never put words in their mouth, and that I am maintaining open communication with all parties involved the entire step of the way, checking in frequently with how things are going.  I will endeavor to encourage the rest of the leadership to do the same, and to be open to feedback from members about what the membership (not the leadership) wants from their church.  Consent isn’t limited to sexual activity–it exists, and is vital, across every form of interpersonal interaction.
 

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.

We have to know where we came from to know where we’re going.  Our roots give us direction, and without that, we are left wandering aimlessly, with no clear goal in mind.  ADF’s saying ‘fast as a speeding oak” is, I believe, slightly outdated, in the sense that we cannot see the growth of oaks, but we should be able to see the growth of our organization.  High speed internet access has made communication much, much easier, and we should be utilizing our resources as much as possible in that regard.  That said, growth cannot occur too fast, either–too much change will uproot us.  We should take the time to be careful, but we can’t stall out, either.
 

Do you believe in the axiom “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”?

I wish this question had a straight yes/no response, but it’s too complicated for that.  In some regards, yes–an organization cannot make major changes based on the requests of a tiny percentage, but the leadership shouldn’t be deaf to the needs of the membership, either.  Change starts with one person speaking up, and this is where I believe the Member’s Advocate plays the biggest role–making sure that one person’s needs are fairly considered, especially as how their requests may benefit (or not) the larger organization.  Dismissing the few is as grievous an error as catering exclusively to the few.
 
I do think that this axiom applies fairly strongly to leadership, however.  The few (leaders) cannot place their own needs and desires above the many (members).  A regular check of ego and a sense of accountability must be present for growth to occur.
 

Regarding Solitaries (you may answer these separately or as one response):

  • What efforts will you take to improve outreach & engagement for solitary members?
  • How will you support those solitaries working through the DP by strengthening the mentoring program or establishing a virtual grove?
  • 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?
Every solitary member of ADF is valuable.  Without the numbers and visibility of a grove to back them, our solitaries must have representation, and that falls to the Member’s Advocate.  While I am unsure at this point how much outreach I can do as an individual, I would like to see the Mentor Program enhanced by way of a set of standards for mentors, including frequency of communication.  I would like to see us use technology to our advantage in this regard–with the availability of things like Discord, IRC isn’t as popular, and it’s time to grow that aspect of our organization–a virtual grove would be ideal in that regard.  Our social media presence needs to expand to keep up with the changes in technology and popularity of various platforms, and that is one area where “fast as a speeding oak” doesn’t work.
 
Solitaries in general will best be reached via internet communication, and should be contacted by their mentor *frequently*, even if they themselves don’t reach out.  Multiple methods of communication should also be used in that regard–if an email goes unanswered, but the mentee’s phone number is available, a phone call should follow.  Folks who are new to large organizations don’t tend to be incredibly outspoken at first, which means it falls on those of us who have been here a while to foster those connections.

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

If I’m not elected, I’ll be focusing on completing the Initiate work, and I’ll volunteer my time and resources toward the online connections for solitaries.  My recent marriage threw off my festival attendance plans, but I’ll be back!  I would also like to assist in whatever way I can with introducing trainings for pastoral counseling, and substance abuse harm-reduction standards.
 

Member’s Advocate Specific Questions:

How do you mitigate your biases and remain a neutral party in extreme disagreements?

This hearkens back to my professional training.  Empathy–the ability to feel with, not for–is paramount in maintaining a sense of neutrality.  My profession requires me to minimize the impact my personal beliefs have on my clients, and it’s relatively straightfoward to transfer that mentality over to leadership practice, as I have in other leadership positions.  As part of the Anger Management classes I teach, I also implement and encourage the use of a system called “Fair Fighting” rules, which maximize the productivity of disagreements and prevent escalation to the point of unmanageability.  The Fair Fighting system focuses on thought out, calm, reasoned discussion, as well as the practice of reflective listening, and the importance of taking breaks if emotions run high (with the caveat that there is a time set to RETURN to the discussion, so it doesn’t just get ignored).  If anyone would like to see a copy of those rules, I’m more than happy to provide one–just email me at lysiosdruid@gmail.com.

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