The members have questions they ask candidates before the ADF Elections. My answers are below. Fair warning, they’re long, but I think worth the read if you want a peak into my thoughts and vision of ADF going forward. If you’d prefer to read these questions with a Table of Contents, you can do so here.
The following three questions are specifically asked to those running for Vice ArchDruid:
VAD 1- How much time and energy do you have to devote to ADF work? In particular, do you have confidence you are prepared to assume all the responsibilities of the ArchDruid if you are called upon to do so unexpectedly?
This election cycle I’m actually in a fantastic spot time-wise to take on this role. Both of my kids will be in school all-day, and I’m still mostly staying at home. I work as a chaplain at a local university, but I set those hours and appointments myself, which allows me to be extremely flexible. In exact numbers, this means I’d be able to commit to about 20-25hrs/week for ADF leadership tasks. I would be able to step up as ArchDruid if needed, and adjust my time commitments accordingly. I also intend on setting myself flexible work hours for VAD and other ADF-related tasks, both to ensure that I have adequate time to complete them, but also to self-guard myself against burnout. I think that’s a balance that is extremely important for clergy and leadership to maintain.
VAD 2 – How will your role as the Vice ArchDruid be involved with the other officers of the Mother Grove in order to make sure that everyone is working together in a harmonious and productive manner that benefits the ADF community as a whole?
I believe the job of VAD is primarily to work with the AD in order to distribute the workload. Ideally I would be allowing the AD to focus on more of the public facing jobs including PR, while I, as VAD, would able to do things like chair various committees, oversee various subgroups and keep them informed of what the Mother Grove is doing, and pass along any of their concerns to the Mother Grove. Additionally, I see the VAD as a behind-the-scenes-job, in a way. They can connect on a more individual level with members because they aren’t tied as closely to the bureaucracy, they can organize membership engagement opportunities and events, and they can act as a point of contact to get members to the best possible person or resource to meet their needs.
The Mother Grove is a unit of many moving parts. I have worked in several roles that require managing and juggling many tasks at once (including being a HS Teacher, Faculty Advocate, in Grove Leadership, on education & curriculum design committees both professionally and in ADF, and managing a household), and so I’m well-equipped to handle the task management, division of labor, and excellent communication necessary to be a valuable addition to the Mother Grove team.
VAD3 – Since roughly 2016, ADF has been experiencing a decline in membership, based on data from administrator reports (which actually puts it at 2013, with a spike in summer 2016 reports then back to the decline) and membership numbers from annual ballots. (Further data info, the 2011 ballot doesn’t have that information so I used the 2011 administrator report.) What is your response to these trends? Has anyone examined why this decline has happened? What plans or ideas do you have for slowing or even reversing this trend?
I think fluctuating membership is to be expected, but the continual downward trend over the past 6 or so years (since 2016) is concerning.
I think there are a number of possible contributing factors to look at, with an eye to the fact that correlation doesn’t mean causation:
- The 2016 US election: this likely drove many pagans underground and leaving overtly pagan groups. We noticed this in our local grove.
- The 2016 & 2019 ArchDruid election: according to past data, it’s not unheard of for members to leave the organization following an AD election year, particularly if that election is contested. In addition to the AD elections, VADs during this time were, in order, Rev. Carrion Mann and Rev. Sean Harbaugh.
- The 2018 Isaac Scandal: it is unsurprisingly that we lost members following this, and looking at the steep drop, possibly due to the MGs handling of the situation
- The 2019 Priest & Initiate Exodus: many (accurate, in my opinion) accusations were made about the way the organization is run, it’s biases and limitations, and its general direction, causing 5 ADF priests (almost 20% of our clergy!) to leave the organization when their credential renewals came due, and 2 additional Initiates to leave. Many members and some groves followed them out. A few more priests left less publicly in the year following (bringing the percentage closer to 25%). It is worth noting that only one of these priests/initiates was male.
- The 2020 pandemic: according to the graph of data, we actually began seeing small gains again. Despite financial uncertainty, it seems likely that many people were desiring community that was lacking in other areas of their life.
I think it is certainly worth considering that we saw good growth during Rev. Kirk Thomas’ tenure as AD, and substantial decline during Rev. Jean ‘Drum’ Pagano’s tenure as AD. As I mentioned above, there are certainly other factors at play, but overall I think this points to the fact that what we (as an org, led by the MG) are doing isn’t working.
We have seen a consistent drop in membership, and we need to make some changes. Things I would like to see happen that I think would help slow or reverse this trend (many of which I detail more fully in answers below):
- A modern website that is better organized, more reasonably searchable, and more visually appealing (I know the webteam is still working on improving this)
- A centralized location for information and events (see my answer to question 2)
- Regular posting/sharing of information (we’ve started this with sharing prayers, but need to expand it to more substantial short articles. Also see my answer to question 2)
- Revitalized and modernized educational offerings (see my answer to question 2)
- More interfaith work in the pagan community (see my answer to question 8)
I know a membership survey came out this past year, but I don’t know if there has been any analysis of the data in that report. I haven’t heard of any, nor of any specific and actionable plans to address the declining membership.
The following twelve questions are asked to ALL Candidates:
1. What vision do you see for the future of ADF, and what efforts do you plan to do to make that happen?
I would like to see ADF continue to move along into the 21st century. We have made great strides in this due to the challenges the pandemic had for us. We’ve removed some of the barriers that were in place for our solitaries and allowed them more agency and opportunities to build community. This is fantastic! But this is also a place where we can continue to make progress. One of the ways we can do this is by leveraging the multimedia skills our members bring to the organization, and developing a centralized and cohesive “brand” where both the public and our members can see what we have to offer a spiritual community. I would love to see us go even further than the newsletter and Oak Leaves, and add a modern blog to our website. Here we could gather timely articles, research, prayers, videos, etc from all of our members. A blog would allow us to have a centralized location for all this information, even if it links to or embeds other services (like YouTube, SoundCloud, etc). People want to contribute, and want to feel connected. This would be a wonderful opportunity to build community in the digital age.
Additionally, ADF has always pitched itself as differing from the rest of the pagan community by offering a robust set of Study Programs. While that was once true, our programs have seriously stagnated. Many of our Study Programs haven’t been re-evaluated or updated in a decade or more. I would like to form a committee (of folks with a background in education and/or curriculum development) focused on modernizing our Study Programs. This should include everything from the DP, to the Guild SPs, to the Advanced Study Programs. We need to move beyond being a correspondence course. From a professional educator standpoint: curriculum should be re-evaluated every few years to make sure that it is meeting the needs of the students and organization in the best way possible. One particular change I’d like to make is to move the Guild Study Programs out from under the “DP Required” umbrella. That is a needless barrier that has prevented meaningful membership engagement for decades. As far as qualifications: I’ve written a book on children’s religious education (Kindling Sparks), co-authored the Hearth Keepers Way, and revised both the Initiate Path and Magician’s Guild Study Program. Additionally, I have a Bachelor’s degree in English, a Masters of Education, and experience teaching both middle and high school.
2. If you are elected to your position, what is the first change you want to work toward on behalf of our members?
As I mentioned above, there are two big changes I’d like to make to support ADF’s Vision. To support the Vision of “Accessible religious training for all”, I want to form a committee of professional educators to re-evaluate and modernize our training programs. This would be a lengthy process as we worked through each program, but it’s work that’s vital to maintaining their excellence.
A quicker change I’d like to make to support ADF’s Vision and Values as they relate to both scholarship, and building and serving a community of pagans is to develop a modern blog with regular, scheduled postings as a centralized location to share timely articles, focused research, embedded videos, reflections and reviews, and other spiritual content. This would be a great opportunity to go beyond our work with the Newsletter and Oak Leaves and encourage the membership at large to have a place to share their knowledge, as well as provide a public-facing place to share what we have to offer with the greater pagan community.
3. Serving on the Mother Grove is a huge commitment of time and energy. How will you fit your potential Mother Grove role into your life?
As I mentioned above in the VAD-specific question, this election cycle I’m actually in a fantastic spot time-wise to take on this role. Both of my kids will be in school all-day, and I’m still mostly staying at home. I work as a chaplain at a local university, but I set those hours and appointments myself, which allows me to be extremely flexible. In exact numbers, this means I’d be able to commit to about 20-25hrs/week for ADF leadership tasks. I would be able to step up as ArchDruid if needed, and adjust my time commitments accordingly. I also intend on setting myself flexible work hours for VAD and other ADF related tasks, both to ensure that I have adequate time to complete them, but also to self-guard myself against burnout. I think that’s a balance that is extremely important for clergy and leadership to maintain.
4. If elected, do you have a willingness to serve your entire term, or if you are not elected, do you intend to remain as a member?
I intend to serve the entire term. In our grove, officers take the following oath:
“I, _____, do oath by the gods my people swear by
To uphold the office and responsibilities of the office of ______,
To serve the Land, the Kindreds, and the Folk,
To seek help when necessary,
And to step aside if life changes to let another take my place.
Let the sky fall upon me,
The land crumble about me,
And the sea rise against me,
Should I be forsworn.”
I plan on taking a similar oath if elected. I think it’s important to not only recognize the weight of the office, but also to not let your own ego get in the way of making sure the job gets done, no matter who does it or has the title.
If I’m not elected, I will absolutely maintain not only my membership, but also the extensive work I do for ADF already. This includes not only my official work as Preceptor of the Initiate Path, Coordinator for the Children’s Education & Parenting SIG, Clergy, and work for Three Cranes Grove, but also the more informal things that I do such as running the #PrayerADay Challenge, co-hosting the “Druids in Cars, Going to Festivals” podcast, pastoral work in the community, live-streamed and in-person rituals, composing and performing bardic works, and writing new relevant resources for pagans.
5. Given the position you are running for, what efforts are you planning to do to promote transparency in your work?
I am a skilled project manager with many tools for multi-tasking and coordinating several activities at once. I am social media savvy, and already do my best to use multiple modes of communication to keep the Folk up to date of my projects, commitments, and work. If elected as VAD I plan on setting myself some formal hours for ADF-related work. This would ensure that I have the time set aside to make these communications.
6. How quickly do you believe it reasonable to answer emails or some other form of messaging (not accounting for family emergencies, ritual prep, scheduled time away, or something else unexpected) on behalf of our membership?
As I mentioned above, I plan on setting myself some flexible hours for ADF work. Ideally this would mean that I would be able to respond to communications within 24 hours. I haven’t decided yet if I will set these as loosely resembling traditional work hours with weekends off, or if it will be set aside time each day. I do encourage folks to contact me via email so that their messages go through my workflow and don’t get lost amongst my personal messages and stuff. In addition, I’m cognizant that some messages carry greater urgency than others, and I adjust accordingly: I typically preview messages and respond more quickly to urgent needs (often things like prayer requests).
7. Given the amount of qualified possible volunteers within our community, what thoughts do you have to more actively engage them?
First and foremost, we need to get more folks to fill out the form that tells us what their skills and passions are. Also, this form could be updated to include more about what people are passionate about, and take a more encouraging tone. That being said, in my experience the best way to get volunteers is to directly ask people. So, in addition to putting out a general call for volunteers, we can review the surveys we’ve received about what people are interested in doing, and what they’re good at. This lets us start asking people directly to apply for open positions. I absolutely believe that every single person in ADF has something to bring to the table, and that part of our job as leadership is to build the opportunity and empower them to share it. (I’ve given a whole workshop several times now about how everyone has special knowledge to share in a workshop, and guide them through the process of writing a workshop proposal and planning it).
Additionally, one of the key pieces of solid leadership is the ability to delegate and empower volunteers. In our grove we have a saying that it is the job of the older leadership to make room for the newer leadership, rather than the newer leadership having to carve out a space for themselves. If we want this organization to continue past the age of its first generation members, we have to make room for, train, and empower new leadership. That’s on us.
Volunteer retention goes up when we have a culture of trust and a way for the volunteers to feel prepared for the tasks they’ve taken on. We need to recognize that the folks who volunteer for things have a passion. One of the reasons we in ADF have a hard time recruiting volunteers is that there is too much micro-managing and not enough trust. It is our job as leaders to empower them to move that passion for the organization forward. By having more volunteers, delegating responsibilities, and spreading out the workload to many different people, instead of keeping all the jobs within one small group of people, we will help avoid burnout. Additionally, I think we need to have a solid future plan and professional development that involves training new leaders to take over some of the more complex jobs, as well as mentoring for all new leaders so that they feel confident in their ability and in their position.
As a logical extension of involving more volunteers, I firmly believe that the Mother Grove leadership positions in particular should be divided so that laity is in charge of the organizational matters and the clergy is in charge of spiritual matters. For example, on the MG it is currently required that the AD and VAD, the two highest positions, be clergy. I would like to see the Administrator become a much more influential position (equal to that of the AD), and possibly be reserved for the laity. This would keep the AD as the spiritual head of the church, allowing them to be more involved with current events from our religious perspective, working to get us on equal footing with mainstream religions as far as chaplaincy and ministry positions are concerned, and being involved in hosting rituals and prayers. The Administrator would be the organizational head of the church, opening up a top level position for someone who has a real passion and skill for that kind of work, even if they don’t have a drive to be clergy. The two positions would work in concert with each other, but would also balance each other. In the same way, I would also like to see at least half of the NOD positions be reserved for the laity. There is currently too much overlap in the Mother Grove and Clergy Council, which means the CC has no check on it: a huge democratic problem, and not in non-profit best practices. The laity are a vast source of skill and talent for ADF, and I want to see us making best use of their passion, at all levels of our church.
8. What are your thoughts on promoting outreach within the Pagan community?
I think interfaith work is important, and that includes interfaith work within the pagan umbrella. As an organization we have a lot to offer for folks who are looking for structure or looking for training. But, we also need to temper that with the tendency to come off as pompous and egotistical. We draw members from many different paths, and many practice multiple traditions of paganism. Sometimes as an organization we fall into the trap of promoting ADF Druidry as “better” or “more enlightened” than other pagan paths, and that’s simply not true. If we’re going to succeed at outreach, then we need to engage in the reciprocity we value. We have to go into conversations and events expecting to learn from other traditions at least as much as we might be able to share with them. I don’t think a top-down strategy is the best way to approach this. On the ground level, this kind of work falls more to regional druids, groves, and individuals. Each locality has their own communities that are more prevalent, and as such the more local members will have the best opportunity to engage with other pagans. The MG has a responsibility to actively support and empower the people making those ground level efforts.
I’ve done a lot of work in this area already. I co-authored the Hearth Keeper’s Way, which is a free resource that we can use to help show who we are and what we do. I developed and run the #PrayerADay Challenge, which explicitly welcomes all paths to write and share prayers. Additionally, I’m also working as a chaplain at a local university, so I’m interfacing not only with many, many pagan practitioners, but also with the wider fatih community.
9. There have been concerns raised related to sexist/misogynistic language, inappropriate behaviors, and challenges to inclusivity within ADF. What actions have you done within ADF or within other organizations to address these issues?
First of all, it is important that we are as proactive as possible to these issues, rather than reactive. This comes in the form of solidifying our values statements and making sure they are prominent in both our words and — more importantly — in our actions. If we always wait to make statements about our inclusivity until something bad happens, then we’re not holding the marginalized in mind while we work.
Secondly, we need to set some firm boundaries. ADF has too long been willing to sweep problematic materials and members under the rug and out of sight. We need to be able to call out when we see something not okay, not have to fear retaliation, and be able to expect that those in charge will do something about it. We need to be real with ourselves that if we want marginalized people to feel welcome around our fire and in our organization, then we do in fact need to keep those out who make others feel unwelcome or unsafe.
Finally, I think we need to accept when we have done something that is hurtful or wrong. The norms of language change, and in order to keep with the times we need to adjust our language accordingly and apologize for the unintentional harm it may have caused. I think the current MG has done well to begin combing through our organizational documents to eliminate the “he or she” language, and replace it with “they” or “that person.” Additionally, people in positions of leadership are held to a higher standard of expectations (that simply comes with the job), and as such need to really consider how their choice of words and actions affect others, apologize when something comes out wrong, and endeavor to correct the behavior so it doesn’t happen again.
I try to model this type of honest communication myself, using the motto “Know better, Do better.” When I learn how to do something better, I accept the wrongness of my actions and try to do better the next time. This means trying to accept being called out with grace. I have also advocated for more inclusive language, including bringing the non-binary deity title “Godden” to the forefront of my prayers. In the future, I hope to listen to those who are hurt or marginalized, make explicit room for their voices to be heard, and do my best to make the changes they need to feel welcome and valued in our organization and religion.
10. How do you envision ensuring that ADF members–whether those in a grove or solitary, within the United States or globally–are truly represented and their concerns addressed?
I think this is a multi-pronged approach. First and foremost, solitary members make up more than half of our membership, and are the backbone of the organization. Solitaries are the seeds and roots that our Groves grow out of, and their support is imperative to the growth of the organization. I’m hopeful that the new Virtual Fire Protogrove will help give solitaries a greater voice in the organization, including a place on the Council of Senior Druids (though not yet as a voting member).
Ideally, locally is the best place to start for members to get their concerns addressed. This means bringing those concerns to either their Senior Druid/Grove Organizer, or to the Regional Druid in their area. Those leaders should be able to guide and advocate for the members that come to them. If those don’t work then the Member’s Advocate is a place to reach out to.
However, this system is designed to meet needs reactively and needs to be partnered with a proactive approach. To me this looks like having a regular schedule to anonymously ask members for feedback. The membership needs a reliable way to share their thoughts and concerns, and the leadership needs to regularly be hearing and adapting to this feedback.
11. What thoughts do you have to promote Mother Grove transparency for ADF members?
First things first: the Mother Grove absolutely has to be transparent with what they are doing. The organization is trusting them to handle our money ($229,895 in assets!), make statements on behalf of our religion, and organize ways to improve pagan engagement not only within ADF, but also with the broader overculture and community. This is all in addition to the day-to-day tasks of running a religious and non-profit organization.
A lot of this falls to the secretary (a thankless and hopelessly busy job. Kudos to all those who have taken it on). They are the person who ultimately compiles and shares what the Mother Grove has discussed, what they’ve voted on, what projects they underway, etc. Personally, I would love to return to a more narrative summary of Mother Grove meetings, with the bullet pointed summary at the top for those who aren’t interested or don’t have the time to read the full set of minutes. It’s worth looking into a way to do this without overloading the already heavily burdened secretary. This could be individual MG members more regularly updating the membership at large on how their projects & committees are coming along.
Additionally, I think when the Mother Grove is considering something that is a large change or big project that will directly affect the membership they need to make an announcement in all of our communication platforms that they’re considering it, and solicit feedback before moving things forward to a vote. The agendas and minutes that get posted are great, but I know that I certainly miss some, or don’t have time to read some. If an important decision were being discussed, I would want some sort of special announcement to be made.
12. How have you already served ADF, and how do you envision those experiences will be helpful for the entire organization?
I am currently a Consecrated Priest and Initiate, the Preceptor of the Initiate Path, the Coordinator for the Children’s Education and Parenting SIG, and Magician’s Guild Preceptor (up for re-election at the time of this writing). Other positions I have held in the past include Heartland Regional Druid, Bardic Guild Chief, Seers Guild Scribe, Three Cranes Grove Scribe, and Hellenic Kin Preceptor. If elected as Vice ArchDruid I would commit to not taking on any additional positions for the duration of my term, and to stepping down from the Magician’s Guild Preceptor position. This is important to ensure that I don’t suffer from burnout and that subgroups don’t suffer due to my lack of time. It’s also vital to keep power from consolidating amongst a few people, and to allow those new to leadership a chance to use their skills and passions.
There are many ways that these positions have prepared me well for the job of Vice-ArchDruid. In both the Magician’s Guild and Initiate Path I have revised and updated the Study Programs. In the Magician’s Guild this was to bring the first circle for that study program more in line with an ADF style of magic. In the Initiate Path I worked with a committee to revise the first circle of that program to make it better match what initiates do, better prepare students for initiation, and clearly differentiate it from the clergy path. Working well on a committee is imperative to being on a Board of Directors such as the Mother Grove. I also have experience in this from working as a teacher.
Part of my work in the Initiate Path was to also assign and empower a Mentor Coordinator to ensure that our Initiate students feel supported as they work through the program. Not only has this helped me reinforce the importance of delegating out responsibilities, it has also allowed me to focus on the needs of the students within the program.
I don’t plan on stepping down from serving both as the Initiate Preceptor and the Children’s Education & Parenting SIG Coordinator because those jobs in particular allow me to feed my vocation. I can leverage both my passion and my skills for teaching. Because these things feed me, they allow me to continue to give in other areas that I may not have as much passion for. Additionally, they have opened my eyes to the ways our training programs are lacking, particularly when we consider how we are meeting the needs of non-college educated folks.
Early on in my time with ADF I served as the Heartland Regional Druid. Sitting on the Council of Regional Druids was my first foray into the international side of the organization, and has given me some valuable perspectives on the issues our more far-flung members face,not only within the Heartland Region, but in all the regions of ADF. I remain a non-voting member of the Council of Regional Druids so that I can stay up to date with what is happening on a larger scale across the globe for our members. Living in the Heartland, I am privileged to be able to attend many in-person gatherings within driving distance and to have many Groves to choose from within a few hours. This could prevent me from realizing the needs of many folks, but holding that position helped me to recognize that privilege and potential bias.
I ran for Vice Arch Druid back in 2018, and this is the quick video I made to help explain who I am and my vision for ADF. Almost nothing has changed in these 4 years.