A Little Oaks Samhain

Our Grove has recently started kicking it up into full gear with the children’s programming.  We probably have somewhere around 15 kids associated with our grove, not to mention any others who happen to show up to public high days.  Our Little Oaks programming is geared towards the kids who are direct members of the Grove, rather than the public stuff we do for the kids at High Days.

Those of us who are trading around leading the meetings right now are working on getting a good routine in place so the kids start to get comfortable.  I’ve got it set up in a basic outline that has an Opening, Story, Craft, Ritual, Closing.  It keeps things moving and allows each thing to build right into the next.

This was our first time trying out this routine, and I think it went really well.  It was structured enough to keep the kids engaged.  We were done with the whole meet up in 45-60 minutes.  Which is plenty long for preschool aged kids, and remarkable that they stayed relatively sane the whole time.

So, what did we do?

For the babies (under 1 year old) we set up some sensory play for them.  We had a whole bunch of different textured gourds for them to feel.  We had small drums for banging on.  We had a baby pool ball pit.

For the rest of the kids we followed the loose outline I mentioned earlier.  For our opening song we sang a version of “My Roots Go Down” that I had modified for our Little Oaks Druidry.  It was a great way for the more shy toddlers to warm up to what we were doing, to get everyone comfortable and moving, and to set a clear beginning for our meet up.

We then moved into the story.   I told it as an interactive, cooperative story.  They had parts where they joined in with certain words and hand motions.  The preschoolers and early elementary kids stayed pretty well engaged and into the story.  They enjoyed shouting “Trick or Treat” and pretending to lift a lantern up.  The toddlers were a little harder, but with some parental redirecting they stayed in the same general area and didn’t go running off.  I got a video of me telling the story that I’ll post when I get it off the camera.

Since the story was about Jack-o’-Lanterns it flowed very nicely into the craft portion.  All the kids were able to get into this part.  The first craft was to draw a Jack-o’-Lantern on a piece of orange paper.  Since the story was about using Jack-o’-Lanterns to keep the fairies away, the kids were invited to make a Jack-o’-Lantern they could hang up at their house for Trick-or-Treating to make sure that only humans came to their door, and no fairies.  They seemed to have a really great time with it.

The second craft we did was to write letters or draw pictures for our Ancestors.  We started with a quick discussion of what and who the Ancestors are, and had the kids give examples.  It ranged from the beloved cat, to a grandfather, to a parent.  The younger kids were welcome to either draw pictures or dictate what they wanted to say to an adult who would write for them.  The older kids were able to write and/or draw as they desired.  It was explained to them that we were making these as presents for the Ancestors, and we’d be giving them to them at the party we were having in just a little bit.

That allowed the craft to flow nicely into the ritual portion of the meet up.  We started with a quick discussion with our listening ears on about what kinds of things make up an altar, and how we don’t touch them or play with them.  In the future I’d also like to start having a small fire for these so we can begin teaching fire safety a little more directly.

After the brief pre-ritual discussion we moved right on in to the ritual.  It draws very heavily from Rev. Kathleen Pezza’s work with the Children’s Programming for Charter Oak Grove, ADF with some modification for our specific group and age range.  In the future we have plans for other deviations from her work, but the basic idea of how to present ritual to kids as a birthday party is fantastic.  We were able to keep the ritual moving right along by having the parents (armed with song sheets) continuing right along with the pieces, each of which had a song (with a children’s song melody) to go along with it.

During the Key Offerings each of the kids brought their present (the letter/picture they made) up to the offering bowl, said who it was for, and put it in.  For the Return Flow, after I drew an omen (Omicron, Mu, Khi) and explained it in kid-friendly language we put each of those gifts into our “goody bags”, represented by cookies and juice.  The kids were then able to take the blessings into themselves by eating them.  We then closed out the ritual by quickly saying thank you to everyone that we invited, and hanging up our Cosmic Telephone.

Finally, after the ritual was over, we congratulated all the kids on doing so well, and sang our goodbye song, which I had my daughter teach me from her preschool class.   All in all, it was a very good day and meet up for our Little Oaks.  There are still things we want to do, and revisit, and modify.  But this was a good day.

Magic in ADF Ritual

Your answer to Magic 2, exit standard 5:

The three instances of magic that are done in every ADF ritual that I’ll be discussing are the Recreating the Cosmos, Opening/Closing of the Gates, and the Return Flow.

Recreating the Cosmos
The Re-Creation of the Cosmos lines up the different realms, so that they are overlaid, or parallel. It is common to sanctify the space around the ritual and the ritual participants as part of the Re-Creation of the Cosmos. I think this works well, since we are creating the Sacred Center of ritual, and setting aside the mundane for a time in order to commune with the spirits.

When I Re-Create the Cosmos I first hallow the space around the ritual participants, to be sure that the miasma is washed clean and chaos is left behind. Then I initiate the connection to the worlds by declaring that the smoke from our sacred Fire will carry our prayers to the gods. I make offerings to the Fire and the Well, allowing the objects that represent them to become fit for the purpose of ritual. Then I take the omphalos and bring it to the center, declaring that it marks the Sacred Center of all the Realms. The Re-Creation of the Cosmos works because it establishes the Sacred Center and primed the space for the Opening of the Gates.

Because I am mimicking the first establishment of the Center, the magic being performed here is sympathetic. I am mimicking the directions of Zeus, as he searched for the Center of the World.

Below are the words I say most often when Re-Creating the Cosmos:

“Let this area around us be purified sacred space where we go to meet the gods, and the gods descend down to meet with us.
Let the smoke from our sacred fire carry our voices to the heavens to be heard by the gods.
I place this omphalos at the center of worlds, just as it marked the center of the ancient world. My hands, like two eagles, flying to meet in the middle and establish this as the sacred center of worlds.
Through this sacred center, let the World Tree grow, plunging deep within the earth to touch the Sacred Waters below and reaching through the sky to embrace the Sacred Fires above.
Opening the Gates

After the Cosmos has been Re-Created, the space is primed and the Gates are ready to be opened. When the Gates are opened the space between the realms is connected, so that we are better able to hear the Kindreds and they are better able to hear us. It is akin to ringing the doorbell of a spirit. While they are all around us, Opening the Gates allows us to get their attention.

When I Open the Gates, I call on a Gatekeeper for assistance. In my personal rites, this is usually Hekate. I say an invocation that praises Her and extols the reasons why I desire to work with Her in particular. Then I ask that She join Her magic with mine, and help me open the Gates. The physical motions that I make I believe are echoes of what many in ADF do. When Opening the Gate to the Underworld through the Well I make a spiral motion from my center, counter-clockwise down towards my feet. When Opening the Gate to the Upperworld through the Fire I make a spiral motion from my center, clockwise up towards the sun towards my feet. Then to connect the realms I first form a ball (Tai Chi “hold the ball”) at my navel with my right hand on top and left on bottom, then I press my right hand up towards the heavens, and my left hand down towards the earth. Finally, as I proclaim the Gates to be open I take my hands from a ‘prayer’ position and open them out to my sides.

In this manner, I think the motions help to focus the intent of the magic, but it is with the help of the Gatekeeper that the Gates can actually be opened. As with most of the other acts of magic I’ve discussed, it is the relationship with the spirit that makes the magic possible.
Below are the words I say most often when Opening/Closing the Gates:

“We call out now to Hekate to guide us in walking between the worlds!
Hekate, at moonlit crossroads, you befriend the helpless.
Keyholding Mistress of Earth, Sea, and Sky.
Dark Mother Hekate,
Ghosts and hounds follow you.
You are the black puppy and the black she-lamb.
Torchbearer, we praise you for the brightness of your power.
We offer you [eggs and wine].
Hekate of the Crossroads be our Guide!
Guide us as you guided Demeter in her journey.
Reveal to us the way to walk in safety.
Radiant Hekate of the Torches,
Guiding Light, Keeper of the Keys,
Join your hidden knowledge and power with ours
and help us to open the Gates between the worlds.

Let this water become the Well, and open as a Gate to the worlds below.
Our connections deepen to the Chthonic beings as the Gate is opened.
Let this flame become the Fire, and open as a Gate to the worlds above.
Our connections deepen to the Ouranic beings as the Gate is opened.

Let this Omphalos stand at the center, and mark our sacred center here and in all the world. Let the tree wrap its roots around the stone and sink into the Well, and let it’s branches stretch upwards and reach for the Fire.
We stand here, connected at the Sacred Center to all the realms of Land, Sea, and Sky.

Let the Gates be Open!”

Closing the Gates/Restoration of the Ordinary
“Let this Well be but water, ever sacred in its own right, but no longer a Gate opening to the many paths.
Let this Fire be but a flame, ever sacred in its own right, but no longer a Gate opening to the many ways.
Let the omphalos no longer be the Center of the Worlds holding us at the Crossroads.

Hekate, as we move away from the Crossroads and return to the center of our hearts and homes, stand ever vigilant as you always do, until we return again in need of your aid.”

The Return Flow
The Return Flow takes place after all the offerings have been made. It is the reciprocal part from the Gods, that as we have given gifts to them, now we ask for gifts in return. When we ask for blessings from the Kindreds, we take an Omen to see what form those blessings will take. Then the Blessings are infused in some way, often within the Waters, so that the folk can imbibe them and take them within themselves, and carry them into the work ahead and into their lives.

When I Call for the Blessings, I first reflect on the omens that the Seer has received and interpreted. It is important to understand the omen, because that is what you are going to be infusing the Waters with, and offering to the Folk. I find it useful in larger, especially diverse, rites to also call on the Folk themselves to consider the omens and their interpretation, and how it applies to them. I then ask for the Theoi to give us their blessings, as we have given of ourselves. I use the imagery of the moon to help the Folk visualize the Blessings filling the waters. I hold the vessel of water aloft as I ask for the Theoi to send down their blessings. As I am doing this I reach out in all directions with tendrils of awareness, and use them to act as a conduit and a funnel for the blessings, so that they make it into the vessel. As I feel the vessel getting heavier, more dense, and often slightly warmer, I declare that with the blessings of the gods we can grow ourselves, and symbolize this mixing of our energies by pouring the blessing infused waters into the wine (or juice). Some of the water is reserved for any workings that will be done, as well as for those who desire a non-alcoholic drink (when wine has been used). The Folk are then invited to imbibe and reflect on the blessings.

Below are words, or a variation on them, that I commonly say when conducting the Return Flow:

*have vessel filled with wine, and vessel filled with water. Water is infused with the blessings and poured into the wine. Some water is set aside for the working*

Having given of ourselves, and received wisdom and blessings in return, we now seek to take of those blessings to enrich ourselves for the work that is to come. We seek to fill ourselves with these blessings so that we may be thusly imbued with the sacred powers and apply ourselves to the work ahead.

*take vessel filled with water*

Let the brightness of the Shining Gods fill these waters with the omens we have received, [Omen, Omen, and Omen]. Let their blessings grow in strength like the light of the moon, shining with the brilliant power akin to the noon-day sun. Theoi! Rain your blessing down upon us, and fill our Sacred Cup.

*vessel is held aloft as water is infused with the blessings*

Their strength shall augment our strength *blessed waters are poured into wine. reserve some waters for the working* as we approach the workings ahead.

Drink deep, Children of Earth, and think on the gifts we’ve been given.

Esto!

Lit Prac 2 Evaluations

Script for Avestan Summer Solstice Ritual, honoring Anahita, the Mother of Waters

Evaluations per Course Requirements for Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 2.2:

Include evaluations of the ritual from two other attendees (Include contact information for the attendees providing the evaluations. Their evaluations must be at least 125 words in length and include a description of what they thought went well and what improvements could be made, as well as whether or not they believe the ritual accomplished its purpose.)

Evaluation 1

(contact info removed for privacy)

Briefly describe the Ritual:

The ritual was the celebration of Summer Solstice. Anahita, the Mother of Water, was the Deity of occasion. Rev. Jan wrote the ritual and assigned parts to volunteers, using the ADF Core Order. She attempted to have many perform parts that they normally would not have or that have not had the opportunity to perform yet. There was no working outside of worship and praise. Everyone had the opportunity to give offerings to both the Anahita and their own personal deity. Indo-Iranian names were used during the rite.

I personally had the opportunity to make peace with the Outdwellers, not a part I normally call; however, fitting given my military service.

What did you think went well?:

Jan was very precise on instructions. There was active group participation within the rite and most people spoke loud and clear. Everyone gave offerings and people actually spoke their praise to the deities out loud; something that not everyone does. People stepped outside of their comfort zone and performed well.

What improvements could be made?:

As an evaluator, I would like to have had a copy of the written ritual prior to rite. This would have given me more time to formulate any questions concerning the rite.

Do you think the ritual accomplished it’s purpose? Explain:

Yes. The purpose was for Jan to write an entire ritual and assign those to parts to individuals who volunteered to be a part of her rite to meet the criteria for the Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 2.2. Part of her purpose was to get individuals involved in ritual and to speak out loud when giving offerings. Everyone who came did as she had encouraged in her instructions prior to the start of the ritual.

Evaluation 2

(contact info removed for privacy)

Briefly describe the Ritual:

The ritual was held in Three Cranes Grove’s usual nemeton, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation East in Reynoldsburg, OH. Many of the attendees had assigned ritual parts, which Rev. Avende had previously sent out to their responsible parties. She had also prepared all the required offerings, which were noted in the ritual script.

I don’t believe any of the attendees were previously familiar with Avestan-style ritual; certainly there was no broad knowledge. Rev. Avende began with a briefly not only of the ritual as a whole, but also of the particularities of Avestan ritual. Specifically, she noted the customary tag to invocations and offering praises: “for you brightness and your glory, we offer you a sacrifice!” Rev. Avende’s script also delved into the particular cultural practices of the Avestans, naming particular mythological figures in the Recreation of the Cosmos, calling on the Kindred by their Avestan titles, etc.

What did you think went well?:

The culturally specific namings and invocation tags were particulary effective; much as a translator often leaves a bit of the ‘flavor’ of a source text while doing the bulk of the heavy-lifting for the understanding of the reader, Rev. Avende took historically attested forms and adapted them to the COoR while maintaining their cultural focus.

I was also impressed by the ritual’s response to the broader secular world. The summer solstice, in Columbus at least, aligned with our community’s celebration of Pride; in fact, I and others traveled directly from the Pride festival to the rite. I haven’t talked to her directly about this matter, but I suspect Rev. Avende specifically wrote subtle allusions to the secular cultural context into her script. The attunement played on Anahita’s life-giving waters that flow from the sun, and led us through contemplating the different prismatic colors of the rainbow formed in the mists of magic, which was a fairly clear connection to Gay Pride. In addition, there were repeated references throughout the script to diversity in all its forms. None of this felt in any way forced; it all would have been completely appropriate language at any time of year. But especially in the wake of the shootings in Orlando, it provided a welcome and meaningful space to honor the blessings of the Mother of Waters as she sustains us all, in our diverse array of selves.

What improvements could be made?:

I was very pleased to have the Avestan ‘flavor’ included in the rite, and usually Rev. Avende’s script did a fine job of smoothly interpreting the unfamiliar terminiology. There were a few points, however, when an unfamiliar term would go unremarked. I seem to remember, for example, (though I don’t have the full script in from of me), that the first occurrence of the Avestan term for ‘chaos’ didn’t have an immediate gloss. Similarly, my part (Recreating the Cosmos) included a number of mythological terms for the first plant, first animal, first man, which all seem to have etymologically-related names, but it wasn’t clear in the glossing whether the gloss was translation or explanation. Especially for linguistically minded people like me, that poses a danger of pulling me into my own headspace.

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, it’s because I am: Rev. Avende’s ritual script was beautiful, and flowed smoothly; it made an unfamiliar hearth culture feel present and welcome. My quibbles above are to take it from excellent to superlative!

Do you think the ritual accomplished it’s purpose? Explain:

Indubitably. First, it assuredly marked the summer solstice: the DotO was absolutely aligned with the High Day, and Rev. Avende’s script tied her attributes back to the summer’s heat and life that we could feel and see all around us. Second, it also achieved the subtextual goals of building community and offering a space for attendees to celebrate the Kindreds and each other in all our great diversity — by welcoming difference, it bound us and the spirits more tightly in a web of care and community. It was one of the more powerful rites I’ve attended this year, and I’m quite glad to have been a part of it.

Evaluation 3

(contact info removed for privacy)

Purpose…

Our stated purpose for the rite was to celebrate the Summer Solstice, to honor the Kindreds, and to honor and give sacrifice to Ardvi Sura Anahita. The Folk did indeed bring honor and praise for the three Kindreds, as well as the Summer Solstice appropriate Deity of the Occasion Anahita, and received Blessings in return during this Avestan Rite. As a bonus, we learned about worship within a hearth culture that was new to nearly everyone who participated in this fully scripted celebration.

I very much enjoyed the ritual that began with offering to Atar, the Great Fire, with purification by washing our hands, and with an Outdwellers treaty. It was noted the Avenstans called to the Earth itself, not an Earth Mother, followed by calling to a deity of inspiration (Haoma) and the attunement. Recreating the cosmos and calling Beaver as the gate keeper continued the fire-in-the-waters theme, and then the gates were opened with well, fire, and tree imagery. General praise offerings by the Folk followed the Kindreds invitations, and offerings to Anahita were brought forth after evoking her. After the Prayer of Sacrifice (my part) came the unusual method of water scrying for taking an Omen. The Blessings were passed on to the Folk through drinking Hallowed Waters. The Spirits called upon were thanked, the gates were closed, Beaver, Haoma, and the Earth were thanked. The rite was ended.

Propitious…

There was excellent preparation for the rite, as evidenced by pre-arrangement of roles and tasks, discussion of the purpose and structure of the rite, and the availability of a full written version of the script (if we had not printed our part or had no electronic access). Jan provided effective coaching for the process and flow of the rite, as well as any parts assigned, before and during the rite. Jan adapted well to any difficulties that arose, handling changes that had to be made smoothly and gracefully.

There was also valuable assistance rendered as instruction on performance blocking, with personalized attention given to participants regarding specific questions. Jan exhibited a good understanding of individual Grove member’s aptitudes for liturgy, their current level of confidence with performance, and their willingness to stretch beyond that comfort level – and, encourage us to stretch she did! Everyone present participated in some way beyond just making personal offerings, even if it was only to use the suggested bookend phrase, “___ , for your brightness and your glory, I offer you a sacrifice,” which sounded very good and right as it was included in nearly every part spoken and in the praise offerings of so many of the Folk. It’s one of those things that quite beautifully knits a ritual together.

Along with fulfilling its ritual purpose, each part provided some information/education about the Avestan entity addressed and/or the way the Avestans might have approached their worship. I think this is one of the duties of those who lead our ritual celebrations – to teach us something of the peoples who have gone before and the deities they worshiped. Sometimes we do that in the pre-ritual briefing, sometimes through ritual storytelling strategically placed in a rite, or, as in this case, quite handily through the carefully worded liturgy itself. Even if I cannot connect with a ritual on any other level, if I come away with a new or different way to consider worship, I have “gained something in the work.”

Possibilities…

I love it when we try new things or take a new approach to things – like the water scrying for the Omen – though, it is inherently more difficult to connect with a method or approach used rarely or never before. The water scrying was completely appropriate to this rite, and this DotO, and I think it was a good call, even if it was uncomfortable as a participant to experience so much newness in one rite.

Offering to the Great Fire, Atar, and the washing of hands for each individual seemed to set the pace of this rite as somewhat slower and more word heavy than we might usually perform… though, again, both items (and all sections of the ritual) were completely appropriate to hearth culture/DotO, and were also a good call. There may or may not have been a goodly bit of wanting to get to the After-Feast in not wanting a ritual to drag on. To be fair, the lengthy liturgy was worth the information imparted.

Personal Favs…

Attunement – it seemed highly appropriate to a Summer Solstice Rite as it involved the Sun and the Waters showing how they combine to form a multitude of colors, and yet also coalesce into one unified white light… I was proud to do this Attunement at the Three Cranes Grove Summer Solstice Rite the next weekend on Sunday morning at the annual Community Festival (ComFest) in Columbus OH.

Bookends – it does indeed enhance the aesthetics of a ritual for many people to use similar formats during their parts, right down to repeating specific wording as in the case of this bookend phrase.

Discipline 2

Final Course for CTP 2: Discipline 2

1) Describe your discipline practice as an ADF Priest. Explain what you have learned from this practice, describe how your connection with the Court of the Sky has grown and changed over the time you have worked with them, and reflect on your journals and omens over the period. (min. 600 words)

What I’ve learned from this practice:

Though I’ve had some significant life changes happen since ordination, I would say one of the biggest things I’ve learned is more of a reaffirmation one of the take-aways I wrote about in Discipline 1.  That is, in order for my spiritual practice to work, it has to be a part of my life, not apart from my life.  Most of the regular devotional work I do now is extremely concise.  It is a part of my day, and wiggles its way into the small things that I do.

I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s useful to strip your practice down to the bare bones and see what you miss and still find value in, and then work on adding it back in.  It helps things stay fresh and meaningful.  An example of this is that as my work situation has changed, I’ve moved away from sunrise devotionals, and I’ve found that I miss it.  That is something that I’d like to start incorporating back in soon.

Another thing I’ve noticed since ordination is that I have to consciously make time for my own practice, whereas before it came much easier.  I think this is in large part because there is only so much time I can be doing spiritual stuff, so I’m having to split, in some fashion, the amount of time spent on me in order to focus on others.  I knew that there would be demands on my time and my spiritual skill set, but I’ve had to work on making sure that while I’m providing for others, that I also explicitly make time for my own devotions to foster my personal connections.  This is reflected in the first statement in my Code of Ethics: “I will pray with the Good Fire.”  If my own flame isn’t kept bright, then I won’t be able to help others kindle theirs.  Part of how I’ve been able to manage this is through doing the Clergy Order Work at the Mound and beyond, which is a time focused on my spiritual growth and needs, and my interactions with the spirits.

How my connection with the Court of the Sky has grown and changed:

The most interesting thing about the Court of the Sky, and my growing relationship with them, is that I interacted with at least some of them before ordination, during my Initiation and the intervening time.  One of the spirits I’ve formed a particular strong relationship, enough that I consider him to be one of my spirit allies, is the Fire Slug.  My first interaction with him was during Initiation, though I didn’t know it at the time, when the stars all fell from the sky and rained down upon the Mound.  He was one of those stars who fell, then caught fire and raced around the edge of the Mound forming a burning ring.

I have found this class of spirits to have an interesting, to say the least, take on the world.  They are part of it, but also really not, and it shows in the way they perceive and interact with us. Most of the ones I’ve met, either in passing, or to work with in any capacity have been related to the stars in some way, as opposed to the Moon or other celestial bodies.  The Fire Slug fell from the stars, and I would probably still consider him at least partially meteorite.  I’ve met some who dance atop the standing stones I’ve found elsewhere in the meadow area who appear to be streaks of light, alien and merry.  The ones I’ve met have a focus on prophecy, divination, or “knowing” in some manner, or they have a focus on strange bargains and how that interacts with magic.  I’ve been enjoying working with them, and look forward to continuing that work.

Reflection on my journals and omens:

Regarding my omens, I’ve found that I’ve gone back to the method I find more meaningful to me, which is taking omens for specific purposes and questions, during full rituals, and about one additional reading a month.  Daily, or even weekly, omens don’t seem to give me added clarity or perspective, but rather seem to get bogged down in the immediate present.  I find I get more use out of the spaced out divination. I have also started keeping track of my omens in a 5-year diary.  I think it will be interesting to see how they cycle through the years.  As before, I’ve decided to take a look at my omens over the past two years as a whole.

If I were to read and interpret the most commonly pulled symbols, I’d say that “it has been a lot of work to maintain my Clergy Oath and the Work that entails, but that it is following the directive I’ve received from the folk and the spirits, and that it is a noble undertaking.”  All in all, this bodes well for the work I have done, and the work I will continue to do.  It speaks to keeping my oath and doing the Work of clergy.  Some other things to note is that Mu was pulled far more often than Iota, speaking to the vast amount of internal work and changes I’ve undergone, as opposed to the external work and external changes I may have made.  Also high on the frequency list are Xi and Gamma. They are a reminder to tend the seeds I plant in order to reap the rewards that the Earth Mother provides.

In general, I’ve found my divination set to be a combination of encouraging me on my path and gentle in its warnings or hard times ahead.  It has also at times seemed to be comforting on recent events of the past, as opposed either looking ahead or being overly critical.

Regarding my reflections and journals, one of the things that has continued to help me be self-reflective about my practice is my method of journaling the things that have surprised me.  I have a quick list that I’ve titled “Things No One Told You About Being a Priest,” that touches on some of the things that I’ve reflected on.  Below are some of the most notable things, or at least some of the things I keep coming back to.

Probably the single item I come back to again and again is how lonely the path of Clergy is, especially as an extrovert.  I have found my personality shifting, becoming more withdrawn.  I think this may happen with any form of leadership (real or perceived) in that I am more aware of the places where a wall has grown up around me, and more aware of the way people react differently to me.  I’ve been able to note this particularly in my grove.  I have been able to watch the way long-time members shift in the way they interact with me, and watch the way new members, who’ve never known me as a non-priest, interact with me.

One of the other things I’ve noticed is that I am able to stay engaged and fulfilled when I remember the real Work.   Love the Earth.  Serve the Folk.  Honor the Gods.  Following that drive and passion and vocation helps me renew my drive, my passion, and my vocation. For me, the most fulfilling part of Priesting is the work I do one-on-one with the Folk.  It’s allowed me to see myself in them, and see where they can grow into various roles they enjoy and fulfill them.  One of my primary vocations that seems to be continuing to grow as I continue on this path is mentoring.

Another big thing I’ve noticed is how much I’ve had to step up my game regarding setting boundaries.  I note in my journaled reflections that there are “hundreds of small sacrifices of family and friend time” and “how the responsibilities eat their way in with small, but noticeable ways.”  This has been a thing I’ve had to keep an eye on and be aware of in order to maintain a balance in my personal and professional life.

And finally, one of the last major points (that I also noted above in what I’ve learned in this work) that I’ve reflected on in my journal and strived to remember throughout this journey thus far is that it is our own practice that lets us keep our center and be able to do the hard stuff.  “Keep your own flame bright, or you cannot show others its light.”

Ethics 2

1)  Provide an appropriate definition, discuss your understanding, and provide an illustrative example for the term “ethical dilemma” (minimum 100 words, excluding the definition)

An ethical dilemma is a complex situation that requires a choice to be made between multiple options regarding a course of action, and no matter which course of action is chosen, some ethical principle is compromised (Allen).  Essentially, there is no perfect solution to a situation.  There are both absolute and approximate ethical dilemmas.  An absolute ethical dilemma is one where “two or more ethical standards apply to a situation but are in conflict with each other” (Allen).  A conflict between personal and professional ethics is not an absolute or pure ethical dilemma because it involves personal feelings where the rational processes for solving ethical dilemmas can’t be used for conflicts in values.  So, even though situations where professional ethics and personal values collide are difficult and uncomfortable, they are not absolute ethical dilemmas, but rather approximate dilemmas (Allen).  This means that in order to have a pure or absolute ethical dilemma a situation must require a decision to be made between two conflicting ethical standards from our Clergy Council Code of Ethics.  A situation that presents a conflict between the Clergy Council Code of Ethics and our own Personal Code of Ethics would be an approximate ethical dilemma at best.

I’ve experienced both absolute and approximate ethical dilemmas within the field of education.  When a student confides abuse to me, I am required by state law as well as standard 3.e in the “Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators” to make an official report.  However, standard 5.a in that same Code of Conduct also forbids sharing confidential student information, which is needed to make the report (Ohio Dept. of Education).  Because there is a conflict in the ethical standards put forth in the Code of Conduct for Educators with this situation, it is an absolute ethical dilemma.  There is also an approximate ethical dilemma present in this situation if I fear for the safety of the student if I make the report.  However, the Code of Conduct, as well as the overall continued safety of the child depend on making an accurate report, and thus while both conflicts in ethics and values technically present ethical dilemmas, for me this was not a particularly difficult decision.

2)  Identify, list and briefly explain the steps to a “Problem Solving Process.” Process steps may vary in style depending on student preference and source. (minimum 100 words each step; citation of source for process required)

Many problem-solving processes are similar in their layout of steps to take.  The problem solving process presented by the Global Development Research Center has six steps (Srinivas), as explained below:

1) Define the Problem – The first step is to define what the actual, specific problem is.  This requires those that are involved in the problem solving process to focus in on what the problem is.  When you write down the problem, you are creating a check you can use throughout the rest of the process.  This is also useful for those working through the problem and possible solutions to be sure that they are remaining focused on the problem at hand, and not off shoot or unrelated other problems.  By writing down the problem you are focusing on, you then have a statement you can come back to ensure you’re coming up with as many solutions as possible and that they relate directly to the problem.

2) Analyze the Problem – The next step in the problem solving process is to analyze the problem. This can take a couple of forms, all of which are important.  One analysis should look at the root cause of the problem.  By examining this, you are looking at base issues which may be feeding into the specific issue at hand, and you will also be examine base issues to ensure that the problem won’t repeat itself in another form.  Depending on what you find in this step, you may want to go back to step 1 and redefine your problem.  Another aspect to analyzing the problem is that you want to know what kind of environment the problem exists in, because that will determine what kind of solutions are viable.  This is also the step where you will come up with criteria with which you can evaluate the possible solutions you will come up with in the next steps.

3) Brainstorm Solutions – After cycling through steps 1 and 2, and perhaps revisiting step 1 a number of times in order to determine what the actual problem you’re focusing on is, you will then begin the process of brainstorming solutions.  The important note for this step is that this is not where you will be evaluating their merits, how well they may work, whether they’re viable, whether you like them, or choosing which possible solution to attempt at all.  This is the step where your goal is to come up with as many ways to solve the problem as possible, as off-the-wall as some of them may be.  I would even say that a few off-the-wall ideas are good, because they will encourage thinking outside the box and creativity in the brainstorming process.

4) Analyze Solutions – This next step is similar to step 2, except that you’ll be looking at each of the solutions you brainstormed, rather than the problem you came up with.  This is the step where you will take a close look at each possible solution and define its good and bad points.  You will examine where the places are where it could work well, and where the places are where it has some weaknesses or possibilities for failure.  At this point you are still not yet picking which solution you will use, but rather are examining each individually on it’s own merits.  You may find that this step may circle back around to step 3 as you see specific ways that a solution could be improved.

5) Pick a Solution – In this step you finally go about evaluating each individual solution and ranking them based on usefulness and likelihood that they will work to solve the problem.  This can be done with a yes/no system, a weighted voting system, gut and intuition, or some combination of those.  When you rank all your possible solutions you end up with a smaller list of those you may want to implement.  If you still have too many, it may be worthwhile to refine your ideal requirements so that you end up with less possible solutions to work with.  Ultimately you’ll end up with no, one, or many possible solutions.

6) Plan the Next Steps – In this last step in the problem solving process you’ll be working with the possible solutions you came up with in the previous step.  If you didn’t come up with any working solutions in the previous step, you’ll need to back to at least step 3 and brainstorm more solutions, if not all the way back to step 1 and redefine what your actual problem is.  If you have one or more solutions, you’ll want to decide which solution you’ll try to implement first, and then write out the actual steps for making that happen.  It may include deciding what materials and personnel you need, as well as timeframes for certain things to happen in, and checking each step along the way to be sure it has been done and things are still on track for solving.

3)  Provide the following information for each of the situations described below.

  1. a)  Explain how you would utilize your problem solving process to resolve the situation. Discuss an effective resolution and why you believe the resolution would be effective (100 words minimum);  b) Discuss how your personal Code of Ethics was utilized in the resolution of the issue presented. (100 words minimum);  c)Discuss whether you would consider the situation to be an “ethical dilemma?” Why or why not? (100 words minimum)

Question 3: Situation 1

It is a long-standing tradition within your Grove to pass the Waters of Life using a single vessel for high day celebrations. Your group has always been small and the group at large prefers alcoholic Waters of Life, which is the plan for this high day event. Prior to the beginning the ritual pre-briefing you become aware that several new individuals are in attendance. One of these individuals discusses with a member of your Grove that they learned of your event from a poster in a local Unitarian Universalist Congregation where they attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. What do you do?

a)  Explain how you would utilize your problem solving process to resolve the situation. Discuss an effective resolution and why you believe the resolution would be effective (100 words minimum)

The problem that I identify in this situation is that there may be those present at a ritual who do not drink, or who do  not wish to be pressured to drink.  In our grove we’ve already taken into account this kind of situation to help avoid it.  In general, we simply don’t use alcohol of any variety as the Waters of Life.  Not only do the spaces we rent prohibit alcohol, we also don’t want to put anyone in this type of situation, whether or not we suspect a recovery status or not.  In order to be welcoming to all, including those in recovery and to families and children, we simply don’t use alcohol in the Return Flow.  Other possible solutions to this situation are to offer both alcohol and water in separate vessels, allowing each person to determine which one they will take.  Another possible option would be to explain the various methods of ‘taking in’ the blessing.  At sumbels it is common to hear an explanation that you may drink from the horn, kiss the horn, or pour out a libation on the ground.  All are acceptable.  If we offered options that included alcohol in a ritual, I would be sure to always take a non-alcoholic option to ensure that the folk knew that it was acceptable in practice, and not just in words, to do so.

b)  Discuss how your personal Code of Ethics was utilized in the resolution of the issue presented. (100 words minimum)

There are two main ways my personal Code of Ethics supports my resolution to not offer alcohol as the Waters of Life.  First, because “I will be kind to others” that means that I will ensure that all have the safest space possible in which to experience a relationship with the Kindreds.  This means removing the pressure and stigma of alcohol.  Second, because “I will be a … responsible person,” especially as it pertains to the law, I will not violate the regulations of the spaces that we rent for our rituals (Avende).  In the Clergy Council Code of Ethics, under Integrity, the Priest has a “responsibility to promote inclusivity,” and as such, I think to be inclusive both to those in recovery and to families, we need to allow for changing circumstances that may necessitate us using non-alcoholic beverages for the Waters of Life (ADF Clergy Council).

 c) Discuss whether you would consider the situation to be an “ethical dilemma?” Why or why not? (100 words minimum)

This is neither a difficult decision for me, nor is it an ethical dilemma.  Not only do I feel that I have a moral imperative to ensure that I make reasonable accommodations for all ritual attendees in order to ensure that they all have the ability to experience joy and a relationship with the Kindreds, my personal Code of Ethics specifically supports the decision to use a non-alcoholic option in this case, and the ADF Clergy Council Code of ethics empowers me to use my best judgment to make this decision.  This is neither an approximate nor an absolute ethical dilemma.

Question 3: Situation 2

While meeting with a couple to plan a hand-fasting ritual you have been asked to facilitate, you notice one of the partners continually makes all of the decisions concerning the ceremony and refuses to let his/her partner participate in the discussion. When you encourage the silent partner to participate the other individual becomes obviously agitated. You notice several bruises on the silent partner legs and arms and he/she appears afraid to express any thoughts and ideas. Following the discussion, you receive a phone call from the silent partner apologizing for the conduct of his/her partner. The wedding is a month away and the couple has written an oath for the ceremony that professes a desire for a healthy relationship and equal partnership. What do you do?

a)  Explain how you would utilize your problem solving process to resolve the situation. Discuss an effective resolution and why you believe the resolution would be effective (100 words minimum)

The problem that I identify in this situation is that presumably one of the partners is being physically, and also perhaps emotionally, abused by the other.  When I analyze this problem, I find that it is outside both my skill set and comfort zone to address the issues at hand.  My response after speaking with the couple would likely be to inform them that I was unavailable on their preferred wedding date, and to refer them to the other local ADF priest in the community who I know has a better ability to cope with this situation than I do.

b)  Discuss how your personal Code of Ethics was utilized in the resolution of the issue presented. (100 words minimum)

The decision to refer this particular situation on to a fellow priest within my own ethics comes from a place of integrity.  When I am a “responsible and independent person” it means that I know my own skill sets and my own limits, and do my best to not exceed those limits.  When I “am loyal” it means that when I don’t know, or in this case, can’t do, something, I will find someone who can (Avende).  The decision to refer this particular situation on to a fellow priest within the Clergy Council ethics comes from the concept of *ghosti and the concept of Competency.  Because a priest may refuse service to anyone, and “will make every reasonable effort to refer the individual to other options for that service,” I will refer to a fellow priest who I believe has the skill set to manage the situation.  I will do so because I recognize that I have strengths and weaknesses and that I will “work within those realizations” (ADF Clergy Council).

c)  Discuss whether you would consider the situation to be an “ethical dilemma?” Why or why not? (100 words minimum)

While this is a difficult decision for me because I feel like I want to be able to help, it is not in fact an ethical dilemma because both my personal Code of Ethics and the Code of Ethics for the Clergy Council require me to not handle a case that is outside of skill set when I have the ability to refer the case to one who is better qualified and I have a reasonable expectation that they could help.  Because the Clergy Council Code of Ethics specifically allows for a Priest to refuse services, particularly as long as they refer the client to someone else, this solution to the situation is not an ethical dilemma, despite being a difficult decision requiring me to know myself well.

Question 3: Situation 3

You are facilitating a children’s activity concerning the 9 virtues and the Kindred for your Grove. A ten-year old child approaches you during the activity and says, “Can I tell you a secret?” You let the child talk and he tells you that his stepmother, who is an active member of your Grove, doesn’t follow the virtues or care about the Kindred. You ask him why he believes this and he tells you, “Because if she did she wouldn’t hurt me!” Once more you ask the child what he means and he shows you a horseshoe-shaped belt mark on his back and says, “Don’t tell anyone.” The father and stepmother are in the next room at an adult workshop. What do you do?

a)  Explain how you would utilize your problem solving process to resolve the situation. Discuss an effective resolution and why you believe the resolution would be effective (100 words minimum)

The problem that I identify in this situation is that there is child abuse occurring, specifically that it is occurring within my religious community.  The only acceptable solution to this problem is to make a report to Child Protective Services.  The fact that I suspect abuse at all means that I am obligated to make a report both by my own ethics and by law.  Possible methods could involve making the report immediately with the child in the room, or waiting until the meeting is over and making the report after.  From experience and training in education, the process I would follow would be to inform the child that I am there to support them, that I believe them, and that this requires me to report the suspicion to children’s services. I would not inform the parents that I was making the report, because I do not have the expertise on dealing with safety of the child once the parents know, whereas Children’s Protective Services does.

b)  Discuss how your personal Code of Ethics was utilized in the resolution of the issue presented. (100 words minimum)

The decision to make a report to Children’s Protective Services fits with my personal Code of Ethics because “I will be a … responsible person,” especially as it pertains to the law (Avende).  I am a mandated reporter according to Ohio Law, and as such, if I suspect abuse, I am obligated to report it.  Relatedly, the decision to make a report to Children’s Protective Services in response to this situation fit with the Clergy Council Code of Ethics because according to the principle of *ghosti “privileged communications … are considered confidential information … subject to limitation only by … applicable law” (ADF Clergy Council).   Again, because I am a mandated reporter, even though the child asked me not to tell anyone, I am required by law to report the suspicion.

 c)  Discuss whether you would consider the situation to be an “ethical dilemma?” Why or why not? (100 words minimum)

Because my personal Code of Ethics contains a point stating that “I will be loyal” and goes on to explain that “I will maintain the confidence of those who have trusted me to hold space with them” but also states that “I will be a … responsible person,” especially as it pertains to the law (Avende), along with the clause in the Clergy Council Code of Ethics that contradicts my own confidential point with it’s exceptions, this is technically an approximate ethical dilemma because it points out a discrepancy between my professional and personal ethics.  Nevertheless, it is not a difficult decision for me.  If for some reason I didn’t believe that reporting child abuse was in the best interest of the child, perhaps it would be a difficult decision in addition to being an approximate ethical dilemma, but as I believe my reporting provides the best support and safety for the child, and follows the law, the decision for me to report is easy.

Question 3: Situation 4

A young woman from your local Neo-Pagan community contacts you and expresses a desire to attend your Grove’s upcoming high day; however, she explains that she is in a wheel chair and has an uncontrolled seizure disorder. Another local Neo-Pagan group had explained to this individual that they were unable to accommodate her needs at this time. The young woman plans to bring her personal care attendant with her, but the attendant is opposed to Neo-Pagan beliefs and does not want to actually participate in the service and plans to wait outside the ritual area. Your regular outside ritual space is not readily handicap accessible and the ritual is planned for this outdoor space. What do you do?

a)  Explain how you would utilize your problem solving process to resolve the situation. Discuss an effective resolution and why you believe the resolution would be effective (100 words minimum)

The problem that I identify in this situation is that the ritual space does not meet the woman’s needs.  This is an issue of accessibility.  Possible solutions may include telling the woman that we can’t accommodate her needs, moving or rearranging the current ritual space, or telling the woman that on this short notice we don’t have the ability to accommodate her needs, but will need time to make the space accessible to her wheelchair and invite her to the next public ritual.  While the second option is the best option, if the space is already not handicap accessible, the likelihood of our Grove being able to make it so without switching locations on short notice (near impossible to do in our parks system) is very unlikely.  Therefore, the most likely solution for this situation is to discuss with the woman what specific accessibility needs she has (ramps, distance from parking lot, etc.) and arrange for those accommodations to be made at the next ritual.  Even if this particular woman does not show up again, it is an important modification to make regardless.

b)  Discuss how your personal Code of Ethics was utilized in the resolution of the issue presented. (100 words minimum)

My own personal Code of Ethics relates to my resolution regarding this situation in a couple of ways.  First, “I will lead others to the flame” means in part that I will do what I am able to do in order to ensure that all can experience the relationship they desire with the Kindreds.  Second, “I will be kind to someone.” This situation goes beyond mere kindness in my opinion and is more akin to civil rights.  Being kind means that I will grant all basic human rights to individuals, and this means as a Priest I should provide access to a person’s desire to experience this spirituality as much as I am able (Avende).  My decision relates to the Clergy Council Code of Ethics in multiple aspects.  Under Service, “The Priest has a responsibility to provide service to the Folk.”  This does not specify which Folk are worthy of expending the effort to provide service.  Additionally, the Clergy Council Code of Ethics specifically focuses on non-discrimination, stating “The Priest has a responsibility to promote inclusivity, diversity, and non-discrimination; additionally, our clergy should promote the respect, self-worth, and dignity of individuals” (ADF Clergy Council).  This means that we have a duty to make an attempt to provide reasonable accommodations for all members and potential members of our community.

c)  Discuss whether you would consider the situation to be an “ethical dilemma?” Why or why not? (100 words minimum)

This is not an ethical dilemma because it doesn’t conflict with either my personal Code of Ethics or with the Clergy Council Code of Ethics.  This may be a difficult situation, depending on what kind of accommodations are needed, and it may be an awkward conversation with both the woman, and perhaps with her non-Pagan caretaker, but it is not an ethical dilemma.  Every person has a right to pursue the spiritual path that they feel called to, and they have a right to expect reasonable accommodation to be made for that if they have a disability.  It may take some work and some time to figure out how to meet those needs, but it is not an ethical dilemma. 

Works Cited

ADF Clergy Council. “ADF Clergy Council Code of Ethics.” Adf.org, Ár nDraíocht Féin, 9 Oct. 2011,www.adf.org/system/files/members/org/clergy-council/adf-clergy-code-of-ethics.pdf. Accessed 13 Sept. 2016.

Allen, Karen, Ph.D, LMSW. “What Is an Ethical Dilemma?” SocialWorker.com, 22 Dec. 2013, www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/ethics-articles/what_is_an_ethical_dilemma%3f/. Accessed 12 Sept. 2016.

Avende, Rev. Jan. “Thoughts on Virtues and Ethics.” Mist to Open. Mists to Bind, 4 Sept. 2015, hellenicdruid.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/thoughts-on-virtues-and-ethics/. Accessed 14 Sept. 2016.

“Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.” Ohio Department of Education, 11 Mar. 2008, education.ohio.gov/getattachment/topics/teaching/educator-conduct/licensure-code-of-professional-conduct-for-ohio-ed/licensure-code-of-professional-conduct.pdf.aspx. Accessed 14 Sept. 2016.

Srinivas, Hari. “The Problem Solving Process.” The Problem Solving Process, The Global Development Research Center, www.gdrc.org/decision/problem-solve.html. Accessed 14 Sept. 2016.

Leaders are Always Growing

This is excerpted from my Leadership Development course, and refers to what I see as my own strengths and weaknesses as a leader, particularly as a leader within ADF.

When considering how I fit within the context of leadership in ADF, especially as it pertains to the organization as a whole and its members, I think I am strongest in Strategy, Shared Values, and Strengths/Skills.  I have ideas how to keep moving us forward as a religion, and work to implement them, especially on a local level, with my peers.  I identify strongly with ADFs Shared Values as stated in our Mission and Vision statements, and work to align my personal work with those shared values.  I think the greatest strength of our church is our individual members.  Everyone has something to bring to the table, and we can grow stronger as an organization by using these skills and making sure all feel like valued and contributing members.

I still have a lot I think I can improve on in Staff, Systems, and Style, as it relates to leadership.  Because Staff refers to the people within an organization, and the general skill sets that they all have, I think that, although I am a people-person, this is someone that every one of us can continually improve on.  I’ve been trying to make a point of making myself available to people who don’t have a local community.  I spend time following and engaging in conversations with folks who I’m unfamiliar with, especially when they are seeking help, advice, or just other like-minded people practicing Druidry. I also do my best to make it to rituals at others groves, and to festivals, though I recognize that they are only a very small percentage of our membership, and so it must be coupled with distance communication with solitary and faraway members.

Because I believe our greatest strength as an organization is the people who are in it, I think it’s absolutely vital to continually get to know those people, and make sure that they have the opportunity to become familiar with me, and know that I’m someone they can reach out to at any point without fear of awkwardness or judgment. I love discussing Our Druidry with people, so I want continue to learn about the individuals of our membership: what their path is looking like, where they want to go, how to help them get there, what they’re carrying with them (skills, knowledge, burdens) on the journey.  I’m an extrovert most of the time, but prefer in depth one on one conversations, so in order to improve this particular Leadership Skill I need to be cognizant of my inclination to want to continue long in depth conversations with people I know, and be able and willing to step outside that comfort zone and make myself available to others.

As far as improving Systems, I think there is a lot to be done as far as the organization itself is concerned to improve these, and I have ideas on how to help.  I can improve this by continuing to follow my vocation and drive, and work on not sitting quietly, but instead taking a more active role in the changes that can and are happening.  I see our study programs continuing to grow and evolve as we get more members, and more specialized knowledge.  I see those study courses each having a rubric, both to help the student as they’re writing, and to help the reviewer as they are evaluating.  Most of all, I see more active work happening as far as creation of useful materials for members, especially solitaries.  The more practical and supplemental help we can provide for those walking the path of Our Druidry, like prayers, ritual scripts, meditations, tools, and other ideas, the better.  The focus here is on contributing more towards improving the Systems that allow each individual member to more fully and accessibly experience Our Druidry.

Because I tend to be rather quiet (indirect and reserved) in many situations within ADF, in order to improve my leadership Style, what I need to work on most here is navigating when to flex that style.  I need to work on flexing from indirect to direct so that my voice gets heard and taken seriously amongst all the other loud, forceful, and passionate voices.  I also need to work on allowing my outgoing side to take precedence more often in non-in-person scenarios.  It isn’t often a problem when I am with other people and conversing in-person.  However, since due to the small and spread out nature of our organization, online and other distance communications are more regularly used, and in those situations I tend towards reserved.  So working on being more outgoing when communicating over distance is another area of focused improvement for this.

What Makes a Good Leader in ADF?

This is excerpted from my Leadership Development course, which, as a whole, I found fascinating and useful in many different parts of my life.

When I think of leadership, the image that is in the forefront of my mind is the one where the leader is reaching down to pull others up the mountain. I think, above anything else, our job as leaders is ensure that we have a healthy community.  There are many other things that go into it, of course, but you can’t be a leader of none.  Leadership is service, especially in the context of an ADF Priest.

boss-leader-difference-climbing-a-mountain (“Boss Leader”)

Some of the qualities and skills that go into being a good leader are a strong focus on introspection and self-reflection, being aware of and knowledgeable about your community and members, and assuming positive intent.

When talking about introspection and self-reflection begin integral to leadership, there are many reasons why.  When we work understand ourselves, we are able to not only engage in self-care, but are also better able to understand others.  Self-reflection is important when dealing with potential burnout in yourself.  You need to know when you’ve been pushing yourself too hard, and allow yourself a time out to kindle your own flame.  You must keep your own flame bright, or you cannot show others it’s light.

You need self-reflection as well because you need to be aware that your words and your actions have weight, and you must be careful how you use that weight and influence. If others view you as a leader, then they are more likely to ascribe more weight to your words.

Introspection and self-reflection also allow you to continue to expand your worldview, and reach an understanding with multiple viewpoints.  Be engaging in introspection, you can allow your views to continually change as needed to be adaptable to the situations at hand.  You are better equipped to remain nonjudgmental in the face of adversity.  You are more able to be as Teutates, the Gentle Gardener and Tender of the Tribe, and help new, innovative, and strong ideas to blossom and grow.

As a leader, you must be aware or your staff and their skill sets.  This is a two-fold need for leaders.  Not only does it allow you to know whom you can lean on for support, especially if you are pushing up against burnout, but it also means that you know the potential of the future.  You will know who, and how, to build up and encourage those skilled individuals towards leadership.

Last, but certainly not least, it is important for leaders to assume positive intent, not nefarious motivations, in others.  Oftentimes leaders are so passionate about their work that they get caught up in the details of the process, and can sometimes lose sight of the vision, of the bigger picture.  It is vitally important for the health of the team and the larger community that the leader assumes we are all working towards the same bright vision, and though we may have different ideas on how to achieve it, each person is honestly doing their best.

Leadership Development 1

Leadership Development 1

1)  Define consensus and collaboration in your own words, give an example of how each can be applied in a grove setting, and explain which you prefer and why. (min. 250 words)

 Consensus: noun

1) majority of opinion;

2) general agree or concord; harmony

collaboration: noun

1) the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

2) traitorous cooperation with an enemy.

Consensus is when, in a group setting, all the members of the group come together to make a decision on a specific issue, action, or situation.  While consensus doesn’t have to be unanimous (though it can be) it is often the result of common thought and compromise.  The connotation of consensus implies that while not everyone may agree on all points unequivocally, they are in general agreement with and can accept the decision.  Consensus can be used in a grove setting where the group is brainstorming ideas for new projects, since that is a situation where ideas and issues can be brought up early on, so as to not interfere with the decision making process too much.  We use consensus when we write the new stanza for our grove poem each year.  Everyone can contribute new ideas, and then we mix them until everyone agrees.  Poetry by committee is entertaining to the say the least, and somewhat exemplifies why I prefer collaboration to consensus.  Consensus takes a long time, involves more compromise than is necessarily good, can be hung up by a single person who can’t or won’t agree to the compromises, an can leave less direct individuals feeling like their opinion and voice wasn’t heard.

Collaboration is when a small group comes together, often guided by a lead member, to create something or solve a problem that has arisen.  It involves taking input from many sources and encouraging creativity and new ideas.  It is most often goal driven, and the teams involved in collaboration may change based on what needs to be done.  A grove can use collaboration when planning rituals.  We often use the system of ritual teams, where we have a Druid-in-Charge (laity), a Priest-in-Charge, and 2-3 supporting ritual team members. This ritual team plans, writes, and assigns out parts for each of our high day rituals.   I prefer collaboration to consensus because it allows a small group to come together to focus on tackling a specific project.  There are less personalities involved, making the process smoother, and because the focus is more often on solving a problem, or entertaining multiple creative ideas in order to find a good outcome, rather than on finding something everyone can agree to, there is less hurt on a personal level.

 

2)  Describe the following traits of leadership.  Describe the types which best fit you. (minimum 100 words for each trait, and 100 words for the self-description)

There are Four Traits of leadership, with each trait divided into two opposing preferences.  These preferences are expressed on a continuum, with most people falling somewhere between the two extremes.

Influencing

The Influencing Trait ranges from Indirect to Direct, and qualifies how you express thoughts, present ideas, and assert yourself.  It has to do with communication.  It is not a measure of how influential someone is, but refers how they prefer to go about influencing others.  The Influencing Trait does not measure assertiveness, power, or self-confidence (Handley “Training” 17-8).

a) Direct – A direct style of influencing involves straightforward talk and body language.  The direct individual is willing to debate ideas, is confident and self-assured, and tends to tell people what to do, rather than ask them.  They are bold, and will say exactly what they mean without dancing around the topic.  A direct individual is good at taking charge, especially in situations that need a clear direction or someone to take point on decision-making.  They are good at getting issues out in the open, especially issues that other more indirect individuals may feel more hesitant abut broaching.  They are good at encouraging frank discussion of issues, and encourage all participants to lay all their cards on the table.  Direct individuals need to be conscious of how blunt they are being, as well as how much air time they are using.  Are they allowing other more indirect individuals openings and opportunities to talk, engage in discussions, and be heard? (Handley “Training”26-34)

b) Indirect – An indirect style of influence involves more diplomacy than a direct style of influence.  The indirect individual is more likely to be intimately aware of how their word choice, phrasing, and timing will effect their communication and ability to influence someone to their way of thinking.  They are tactful, modest, and approachable people, often open to negotiation and hearing multiple sides of an issue before nudging the conversation in the direction they want to see it going.  Indirect individuals use a supportive approach, guiding conversation so that others think ideas are theirs, and then supporting them in making that idea reality.  They are likely to present their ideas in an unassuming, often Socratic, manner.  They will ask for tasks to be done rather than telling people to do them. They are good at facilitating discussion and mediating conflicts.  Indirect individuals need to be conscious of their unassuming nature and diplomacy to be sure they don’t drift into the realm of manipulation.  They should also be aware that their gentle approach may be mistaken for a lack of confidence in their opinions, and sometimes not worthy of consideration because of that (Handley “Training”18-25).

Responding

The Responding Trait ranges from Reserved to Outgoing, and qualifies how you approach and respond to others, particularly groups.  In other personality tests this is the same scale that measures introversion and extroversion. (Handley “Training” 35).

c) Reserved -A reserved style of responding describes an individual who prefers deep one-on-one discussions and prefers to have the time to thoroughly think out their responses to people before voicing an opinion.  They tend to be quiet in large groups, but very engaged in small groups.  They recharge from stress by taking time for themselves.  In addition to their style of verbally communicating, they also tend to have reserved body language, minimized facial expressions, and use few gestures.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling emotions, but rather that they don’t tend to show those emotions publicly.  Reserved individuals often do not share a lot about themselves, and may take a long time to build a trusting relationship with and get to know. One thing that is important to note is that the reserved trait is not the same as shyness or lack of self-esteem.  A reserved individual just doesn’t talk when they don’t feel like talking, and tends to abhor small talk (Handley “Training” 35-42).

d) Outgoing – An outgoing style of responding describes an individual who on other personality scales is often referred to as “extroverted.”  They tend to be talkative and enjoy group settings.  When working through issues and problems, they are far more likely to talk out the issue, rather than think it over by themselves in order to clarify how they feel.  They are more likely to verbally process information. They recharge from stress by finding like-minded people to be around, discuss their stresses with, and generally socialize and connect with people. Outgoing individuals are open and expressive, and the often use large gestures when communicating. They stay in contact with friends, family, and acquaintances easily and frequently, and are good at making others feel at ease around them (Handley “Training” 43-48).

Pacing

The Pacing Trait ranges from Urgent to Steady, and qualifies the speed at which you make decisions and take action.  It has to do with how an individual goes about their tasks.  It is not a measure of energy level, soundness of decision-making skills, or productivity.  To judge those qualities it is more useful to look at how dedicated and motivated an individual is (Handley “Training” 49-50).

e) Urgent -An urgent style of pacing describes an individual who is able to make quick decision by considering only the most important information.   Too many choices and alternative options don’t bog them down because they prioritize importance well.  They are able to act quickly and easily adapt to change.  Urgent individuals do well in leadership roles that have many short-term projects.  They are good at jumping at opportunities as they arise and working with many projects at the same time.  They can move an organization quickly towards a goal.  Because they are quick to react, they do need to be aware of how their emotions and frustration effect their communication, as they are often described as having short fuses (Handley “Training” 50-56).

 f) Steady -A steady style of pacing describes an individual who is persistent, deliberate, and loyal.  They are not slow, but rather carefully consider as many options as possible before making a decision, and are not impulsive.  They would rather be sure that all research has been done well, and are willing to wait for other options to open up, rather than jump to a hasty conclusion. Steady individual have an excellent long view, and are good at seeing the bigger picture and how cascading decisions may play out down the road.  They do well with long-term projects that require careful research, and more easily overcome boredom associated with drawn out tasks.  They have long fuses, and are slow to get emotional and frustrated about situations, but also often have long memories when they do reach a breaking point. They often appear easy going, calm, and amiable (Handley “Training” 57-64).

Organizing

The Organizing Trait ranges from Unstructured to Precise, and how you structure time, organize tasks, and handle details.  It has a lot to do with task achievement and how details for completing those tasks are managed.  It is not a measure of performance, results, or quality, which are better predicted by intelligence, experience, and motivation  (Handley “Training” 65).

g) Unstructured – An unstructured style of organizing describes an individual who prefers flexibility, diving straight into projects and tasks, and is focused on the outcome rather than the process.  They are good at coping with rapidly changing environments and are creative at finding new and different solutions to projects.  They often will let little tasks pile up, but are good at taking care of emergency things right away.  They are also good sources for creative thinking, and can function well in disorganized environments.  They prefer to be given a task and then turned loose to solve it.  As leaders, they trust their team to get the job done, and will just expect the results at the end.  Unstructured individuals need to be aware when a task and process has been well researched and if it would be better to follow the set guidelines to save themselves trouble, or if something is new and different, and their approach will be a good opportunity to discover new ways to do things (Handley “Training” 65-72).

 h) Precise -A precise style of organizing describes an individual who prefers to have a schedule and structure to how they manage time, tasks, and details.  They are timely in their work and feedback, and seek to carefully schedule and plan.  They have a method for each thing that needs to be done, and systems in place to make them more efficient in their work.  Precise individuals see organization as a priority because it will allow everything else to flow smoothly.  The seek order in their tasks and situations, and prefer predictability to change.  They seek to improve systems and policies to benefit organizations as a whole (Handley “Training” 73-79).

Self-Description – I lean heavily toward being and steady and structured individual no matter what the situation is.  Interestingly, in the professional world I tend towards being direct and reserved, but in my personal life I am the reverse of that, tending to be indirect and outgoing.  These results are from taking the insight inventory for myself, and I certainly have a spectrum of traits. Within ADF I seem to be steady, structured, indirect, and then I flex pretty easily between reserved and outgoing as needed by the situation, though I am more frequently reserved in my leadership capacity within the organization (Handley “Interpretive”).

All of this together means that my strengths as a leader are my ability: to facilitate discussions without letting my personal thoughts and emotions get involved; to carefully phrase comments to present ideas in a non-conflicting manner; to do a lot of listening and let others talk more than me; to hold information confidential; to make others feel important and valued; to understand and empathize with the variety of factors that may be influencing peoples lives; to keep an open mind to alternative methods and solutions; to bring order and structure to disorganized or chaotic situations; and to see and establish ways to improve systems and policies that help make work flow more smoothly (Handley “Training” 2-5).

 

3)  Define the seven primary skills of leadership.

These seven primary skills of leadership are based on the McKinsey 7S Model.  They are divided into Hard and Soft skills.  The hard skills are Strategy, Structure, and Systems, and are typically easier to define and management can directly influence them.  The soft skills are Shared Values, Strengths/Skills, Style, and Staff, and are less tangible and more influenced by culture within the organization.  The idea is that for an organization to perform well, these elements need to be aligned and will reinforce each other (Mind Tools).

Strategy – This is the plan to move the organization forward.  In ADF it includes the plan to keep us a viable public neo-pagan religion, as far as how we provide training, run our business, and gain and retain our members.

Structure – This is the way the organization is structured on all levels; the hierarchy or who reports to whom.

Systems – These are the standard operating procedures for the organization.  The things in place to keep tasks running smoothly.

Shared Values – These are the core values of the organization as seen in the work ethic and culture of the organization.  Within ADF, this can be seen in our Vision and Mission Statement, as well as how various members interact with the subgroups and organization as a whole.

Strengths/Skills – These are the skills and competencies of each individual person within the organization.  Within ADF, we have a huge variety of skilled individuals who all bring something to contribute to the table.

Style – This refers to the style of leadership within the organization.  This varies within ADF depending on who the leader is in each specific role.

Staff – This refers to the people within the organization and the general skill sets they all have.  For ADF, this can refer to each individual member and how their presence strengthens us as an organization.

a) Identify the three skills that you are strongest in.

I think I am strongest in Strategy, Shared Values, and Strengths/Skills.  I have ideas how to keep moving us forward as a religion, and work to implement them, especially on a local level, with my peers.  I identify strongly with ADFs Shared Values as stated in our Mission and Vision statements, and work to align my personal work with those shared values.  I think the greatest strength of our church is our individual members.  Everyone has something to bring to the table, and we can grow stronger as an organization by using these skills and making sure all feel like valued and contributing members.

b)  Identify the three you are the weakest in and explain how you plan to improve these skills  (min. 400 words describing improvement outlined in section “b” of this question)

I think I could use the most improvement in Staff, Systems, and Style.

Because Staff refers to the people within an organization, and the general skill sets that they all have, I think that, although I am a people-person, this is someone that every one of us can continually improve on.  I’ve been trying to make a point of making myself available to people who don’t have a local community.  I spend time following and engaging in conversations with folks who I’m unfamiliar with, especially when they are seeking help, advice, or just other like-minded people practicing Druidry. I also do my best to make it to rituals at others groves, and to festivals, though I recognize that they are only a very small percentage of our membership, and so it must be coupled with distance communication with solitary and faraway members.

Because I believe our greatest strength as an organization is the people who are in it, I think it’s absolutely vital to continually get to know those people, and make sure that they have the opportunity to become familiar with me, and know that I’m someone they can reach out to at any point without fear of awkwardness or judgment. I love discussing Our Druidry with people, so I want continue to learn about the individuals of our membership: what their path is looking like, where they want to go, how to help them get there, what they’re carrying with them (skills, knowledge, burdens) on the journey.  I’m an extrovert most of the time, but prefer in depth one on one conversations, so in order to improve this particular Leadership Skill I need to be cognizant of my inclination to want to continue long in depth conversations with people I know, and be able and willing to step outside that comfort zone and make myself available to others.

As far as improving Systems, I think there is a lot to be done as far as the organization itself is concerned to improve these, and I have ideas on how to help.  I can improve this by continuing to follow my vocation and drive, and work on not sitting quietly, but instead taking a more active role in the changes that can and are happening.  I see our study programs continuing to grow and evolve as we get more members, and more specialized knowledge.  I see those study courses each having a rubric, both to help the student as they’re writing, and to help the reviewer as they are evaluating.  Most of all, I see more active work happening as far as creation of useful materials for members, especially solitaries.  The more practical and supplemental help we can provide for those walking the path of Our Druidry, like prayers, ritual scripts, meditations, tools, and other ideas, the better.  The focus here is on contributing more towards improving the Systems that allow each individual member to more fully and accessibly experience Our Druidry.

Because I tend to be rather quiet (indirect and reserved) in many situations within ADF, in order to improve my leadership Style, what I need to work on most here is navigating when to flex that style.  I need to work on flexing from indirect to direct so that my voice gets heard and taken seriously amongst all the other loud, forceful, and passionate voices.  I also need to work on allowing my outgoing side to take precedence more often in non-in-person scenarios.  It isn’t often a problem when I am with other people and conversing in-person.  However, since due to the small and spread out nature of our organization, online and other distance communications are more regularly used, and in those situations I tend towards reserved.  So working on being more outgoing when communicating over distance is another area of focused improvement for this.

 

4)  Define the stages of burnout. Identify how you can utilize the strengths and skills of team members to avoid burnout in yourself and others. (minimum 200 words)

People who are involved in helping professions, like teaching, social work, medicine, and clergy work, face significantly higher risks for burnout.  Often this is because they got into those fields of work because they are very passionate.  However, the very fact that they care deeply, were ‘on fire’, puts them at greater risk for burnout (Hatfield).

Burnout is defined as “a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved work stress, resulting in:

  • Depleted energy and emotional exhaustion
  • Lowered resistance to illness
  • Increased depersonalization in interpersonal relationships
  • Increased dissatisfaction and pessimism
  • Increased absenteeism and work inefficiency” (Hatfield)

There are many different ways to divide up the stages of Burnout, however Hatfield and Gray, using the work of Veninga and Spradley, break burnout into the following five stages:

Stage 1: Honeymoon – The honeymoon stage is the baseline stage.  This is where you have high job satisfaction, and even though there are stresses in the job, you develop coping strategies to manage them.

Stage 2: Balancing Act – In this stage you begin to notice that some days are better than others at your job, and how you’re dealing with the stresses varies day to day.  There is a noticeable increase in job dissatisfaction, work inefficiency, fatigue and trouble sleeping, and engaging in various escapist activities.

Stage 3: Chronic Symptoms – In this stage, some of the same things that became noticeable in the Balancing Act Stage intensify, including chronic exhaustion, physical illness, and anger and/or depression.

Stage 4: Crisis – At this point, the symptoms from the previous two stages as they relate to your work life become critical and spread even further into all aspects of your life.  The physical symptoms of burnout intensify or increase in number, you’re constantly obsessing over the frustrations with your job, you’re pessimistic and full of self-doubt, and you seek ways to just get out.

Stage 5: Enmeshment – In the enmeshment stage, the symptoms of severe burnout are so entangled in your life that you’re more likely to be diagnosed as having some other physical or mental ailment, than you are to be labeled as a burnout case (Hatfield).

Burnout is a serious problem in organizations, and especially in those organizations that are involved in the business of helping people.  According to Maslach and Leiter, burnout occurs when there are mismatches between the nature of the job and the nature of the person doing the job (Maslach 9).  Often the value of the worker, the human, comes far behind the value of the job itself, especially when money is involved.  These mismatches happen when we feel overloaded, when we lack control over what we do, when we are not rewarded for our work, when we’re experiencing a breakdown in community, when we aren’t treated fairly, and when we’re dealing with conflicting values.  Burnout is an erosion of the soul, as we lose value, dignity, spirit, and will, and the further it goes, the more difficult it is to recover from.  People who are burned out become exhausted, cynical, and ineffective (Maslach 9-17).

Dealing with and preventing burnout is a team effort. Because burnout is a problem with the social environment of the job, there needs to be a shift in culture to help prevent and treat burnout.  Burnout says a lot about the conditions that workers are in, and it is not the individual that needs to change, but rather the organization as a whole (Maslach 18-21). The steps to navigate the process often start with one person sharing their dissatisfaction and gathering a group together to work on coming up with ways to solve burnout factors.  They then connect those proposed solutions to the organization as a whole and work to affect the related mismatches that are causing burnout.  And, because things in the work keep changing, the outcome of this process remains a process, continuing to work towards reducing the burnout factors for those in the organization (Maslach 79-83).

If you are experiencing burnout, you can lean on your team members for support in dealing with the job stressors when you’re in the early stages of burnout, but in order to mitigate the underlying problem, and not just the symptoms, a team effort is needed.  It can start with you as an individual, but will need to progress with the support of a team, and the organization as a whole, to continue to help manage the reasons burnout is occurring.

 

5)  Using the information you have learned in this course, what do you feel makes a person an effective leader in ADF? (min. 200 words)

When I think of leadership, the image that is in the forefront of my mind is the one where the leader is reaching down to pull others up the mountain. I think, above anything else, our job as leaders is ensure that we have a healthy community.  There are many other things that go into it, of course, but you can’t be a leader of none.  Leadership is service, especially in the context of an ADF Priest.

boss-leader-difference-climbing-a-mountain (“Boss Leader”)

Some of the qualities and skills that go into being a good leader are a strong focus on introspection and self-reflection, being aware of and knowledgeable about your community and members, and assuming positive intent.

When talking about introspection and self-reflection begin integral to leadership, there are many reasons why.  When we work understand ourselves, we are able to not only engage in self-care, but are also better able to understand others.  Self-reflection is important when dealing with potential burnout in yourself.  You need to know when you’ve been pushing yourself too hard, and allow yourself a time out to kindle your own flame.  You must keep your own flame bright, or you cannot show others it’s light.

You need self-reflection as well because you need to be aware that your words and your actions have weight, and you must be careful how you use that weight and influence. If others view you as a leader, then they are more likely to ascribe more weight to your words.

Introspection and self-reflection also allow you to continue to expand your worldview, and reach an understanding with multiple viewpoints.  Be engaging in introspection, you can allow your views to continually change as needed to be adaptable to the situations at hand.  You are better equipped to remain nonjudgmental in the face of adversity.  You are more able to be as Teutates, the Gentle Gardener and Tender of the Tribe, and help new, innovative, and strong ideas to blossom and grow.

As a leader, you must be aware or your staff and their skill sets.  This is a two-fold need for leaders.  Not only does it allow you to know whom you can lean on for support, especially if you are pushing up against burnout, but it also means that you know the potential of the future.  You will know who, and how, to build up and encourage those skilled individuals towards leadership.

Last, but certainly not least, it is important for leaders to assume positive intent, not nefarious motivations, in others.  Oftentimes leaders are so passionate about their work that they get caught up in the details of the process, and can sometimes lose sight of the vision, of the bigger picture.  It is vitally important for the health of the team and the larger community that the leader assumes we are all working towards the same bright vision, and though we may have different ideas on how to achieve it, each person is honestly doing their best.

 

Works Cited:

“Boss Leader Difference Climbing a Mountain.” StareCat.com. N.p., 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://starecat.com/boss-leader-difference-climbing-a-mountain/>.

“collaboration.” Dictionary.com. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

“consensus.” Dictionary.com. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

Handley, Patrick, Ph.D. “Interpretive Guide.” Insight Inventory. Insight Institute, 2012. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.insightinstitute.com/successcenter/manuals-guides/eInsight/ Participant-booklet-2012-V12.indd/index.html>.

Handley, Patrick, Ph.D. “Training Guide.” Insight Inventory. Insight Institute, 2012. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.insightinstitute.com/successcenter/manuals-guides/Insight-Training-G-2012.indb/index.html#/18/>.

Hatfield, Tim, Ph.D., and Lee Gray, Ed.D. “Burnout.” Stress Management Website. Winona State University, 18 May 1998. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <http://www.winona.edu/stress/ 9Burnout.HTML>.

Maslach, Christina, and Michael P. Leiter. The Truth about Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do about It. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1997. Print.

Mind Tools Editorial Team. “The McKinsey 7-S Framework.” Mind Tools. Mind Tools Ltd., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_91.htm>.

 

Things No One Told You About Being a Priest

There are a lot of things about being a priest that aren’t in any of the training, and that you really only learn or experience once you’re on that path.  This is an ever-evolving list of things that have surprised me, that I’ve learned and experienced, and that I’ve reflected on since becoming clergy.  They’re not really organized in any particular order.  Perhaps at some point I’ll organize them, or write more deeply about some of them.  I have bolded a few of the more important ones, or at least the ones that I keep coming back to.

If you are thinking about the clergy path, or are already on it (at whatever point in your journey you may  be), please, feel free to reach out to me.  I know that I process best when I have conversations with others, and like talking about these issues.  So, no need to feel shy about it.  Reflecting like this is part of growing and learning.

  • Clergy work is lonely.  Intensely lonely.  That wall of loneliness that kind of creeps up around you, even in places you didn’t think would have it.  You slowly shift towards a more introverted personality style. 
  • People you’ve known for a long while and the change in the way they react to and interact with you.
  • The expectation (however well founded it may be) that you’ll raise your children pagan
  • The assumption and expectation that you prefer the term Priestess, when in fact Priest feels much more comfortable
  • The comments made (both from insiders and outsiders) that you control how your congregation acts and thinks (what the hell?!)
  • My stole is heavy.  In a way that I can feel when I put it on.
  • Getting asked if the reason you don’t drink (or don’t drink often) is because you’re a priest. (And being grumpy that the very fact that that person thought to ask and make a judgement based on that means that the answer is partially yes)
  • The ownership that others think you have over rituals and liturgy (though I’ve experienced this from both sides, actually)
  • I answer my phone more often now.
  • Being lumped in with all ADF clergy, and occasionally with all pagan clergy in general
  • I’ve been both pleasantly surprised (and disgusted) that none of the folk and only other clergy have made mention of my being (too) young.
  • Sometimes feeling as though I’m resented for now having the “Rev” title
  • The hundreds of small sacrifices of family and friend time you make. How the responsibilities eat their way in small but noticeable ways. 
  • Community members will come to you and say something along the lines of “if/when I die, I’ve given my Significant Other your contact information and told them I want you to perform my funeral.”
  • Being asked “will you make sure (the rest of) my offering gets burned?” or “I can’t be there, can you make an offering for me?”
  • Being asked if you will provide personalized training for someone.
  • Having your extrovert-priest-self mistaken for personal social self, and folks getting upset when you’re less social with them: aka: taking it personally when you’re not actually their best friend, but rather are just kind and personable with most everyone
  • There are no books written for pagan clergy to help with a lot of the issues we seem to encounter
  • I am less confident in my liturgical & ritual skills now than I was before ordination.  These higher expectations (real & imagined) that I now have to live up to.  And the trust (from the folk) that I will live up to it.  Like there wasn’t as much riding on success vs failure before.  There is this trust that I won’t mess something up, that things will go as planned, that folks will get the feels they want to feel from a rite/from me.
  • women as clergy and the issues that brings
    • raising a family while a priest
    • books for spouses of female clergy
  • how to navigate the larger religious world without an M.Div./chaplaincy (hospitals, prisons, military, etc)
  • As female clergy, if a request from the folk involves kids: congratulations, it’s probably you who’s getting the call. Whether it’s baby blessing, mother blessing, child’s rite of passage, pregnancy, miscarriage, or stillbirth funeral. 
  • (6 months in) I’ve now done more funerals/memorials since having my stole than I have anything else…. including high day rites… I hope it balances out…
  • The fact that all the training does not actually seem to prepare you for the day to day bits of being a priest. You can cite facts and procedures, but the actual doing and priesting, the interactions wth your folk, and the Work. None of that is covered in the training, so you better have been doing the work before hand or you’ll feel like you’re drowning. 
  • Having your Significant Other mention how you’re now working two jobs (you day job and your job as a priest) and realizing they’re right. (Or three, or four…)
  • Having to really step up your game for setting boundaries, time management, and saying no.
  • The feeling of nervousness the first time another priest asks you to do something big ritual-wise for them like a rite of passage.
  • The drive to be constantly creating materials that others can use on their path. How very much of your life and your vocation can be defined and focused by your oath(s): serve the folk & lead others to the flame. 
  • feeling so incredibly lucky that I have a local priest as a friend and mentor.
  • I’m tired of writing liturgy for funerals. (But I’m glad I can and am someone my Folk feel like they can come to for that). The mix of emotions there is complex and odd.
  • It’s our own practice that lets us keep our center and be able to do the hard stuff.  “Keep your own flame bright, or you cannot show others its light.”
  • Occasionally getting grilled on my knowledge of liturgy, lore, and other religious things.  It feels like when you say you’re a gamer, and suddenly everyone has to ask you all these obscure questions to make you “prove” that you are, only in this case its with religion and having to prove knowledge of lore, theology, and personal devotion and practice.
  • When people you’ve known for quite a while, certainly longer than you’ve been a priest, ask for (leadership) advice, starting with the phrase “so, because you’re trained for this…”
  • The first time you get paid for doing clergy work
  • Who is the priest for the priest? I guess we must serve each other. And allow our folk to support us when other clergy cannot. 
  • I think tonight (Imbolc 2016) may be the very first time I’ve truly (like actually truly in totality) felt the “you’re /my/ priest” from the clergy side of the equation. Like people feel like I’m /their/ priest. I… It’s kinda weird. Its heavy.  There’s stuff I could mess up, really mess up, on all kinds of levels.
  • Something about being out here outside the building where we’ve held ritual, lighting a sacred fire and burning all the offerings after a ritual while most others are socializing at the potluck, people come to talk to you. About all kinds of stuff.  Lots of “….Do you have a minute?”
  • conversations with people who are considering becoming clergy.   I didn’t think I’d be talking to anyone this soon about their vocation, their ministry, their Why they want to do the priest thing… Which kind of ties into the “I figured anyone who would have those questions would want to talk to Michael” The “wait, what? What do you mean I’m /your/ priest?”
  • When you’re doing introductions to new folks and you think it just means names, so you say “Hi, I’m ___.” And then several others in your grove add on “she’s one of our priests.”
    • You can call yourself whatever you want, it’s what others call you that matters
  • encouraging folk who have been told they were doing something wrong with their practice that they in fact are doing exactly what they need to if it working for them. And don’t they dare let anyone tell them they’re practicing their devotion wrong.
  • The (mostly unspoken) expectation that you will be totally mentally stable all the time. And finding that when you are going through crisis your own support network is way way way smaller. For the most part the laity don’t want to feel like you’re not stable, and the other clergy don’t think you’re capable of representing them well if you’re in crisis (and some didn’t think you could handle it emotionally anyways…)
  • You are more likely to discover which people consider you their Priest in times of tragedy than in times of joy.
  • When you go to a social gathering that you thought was going to be mostly people who didn’t know you as Priest, and then the awkwardness that happens when there are people there who only know you as Priest.
  • having atheist friends and acquaintances come to you for advice/counsel because they’ve been watching the clergy work you’ve been doing from the sidelines.
  • Remembering the real Work always helps.  Love the Earth.  Serve the Folk.  Honor the Gods.  Following that drive and passion and vocation will renew your drive and passion and vocation
  • Doing a ritual for the first time with nearly all new grove members, and the awkwardness that they expect you to handle most of ritual, and they don’t seem to want to speak at all. They trust you.
  • Having in depth conversations with folks about their spirituality, and knowing that you’ve made a difference for them. 
  • The sheer number of conversations with my folk that now begin with “So you’re a priest…” and then request advice, or knowledge, or even just listening.
  • Conversations with people facing death never go how you expect them to.
  • How attached I am to my “sacred tuft” (the spot where the hair I cut at ordination is growing back in)
  • (Spring Equinox 2016) Going through pictures from our recent rites, I finally don’t feel like I look weird with my stole on.
  • The joy you experience having in-depth conversations about liturgy, ritual mechanics, and the magic of the Work.
  • Being more nervous leading rituals now that you are a priest than you ever were before you were ordained. 
  • Leading a ritual where a large number of new folks got up to do parts (or old members doing new parts) for the first time, and being so proud of how well they did and how well the energy was raised and the ritual flowed.  Seeing folks you’ve had a part in mentoring grow into their roles and blossom in their own Work.
  • Never having really liked that some people use the title of Rev. for power or influence, and being pleasantly surprised at how that title has aided me immensely in the Work I was already doing serving my Folk.
  • Being the Priest for another Priest.  The first time that relationship flips with someone who has always been a counselor and priest to you, and you are the one being counselor and priest.
  • training becomes ongoing, self-directed, and on the job
  • relationships – congregational disapproval, stresses of work
  • leadership roles become intrinsic or more visible
  • lifestyle balance becomes important – engage in your hobbies; have other circles of friends
  • No one wrote us any books for this
  • Who counsels the counselor?
    • importance of having someone to go to – spouse, another clergy person
    • internal counselor
  • Clergy always held to a higher standard
  • you don’t get to pick your congregation
  • confidentiality is hard, especially for small congregations
  • job apps don’t seek this kind of experience
  • It’s a business: Planning – all important
    • income/expenses
    • product packaging
  • sometimes people leave
  • sometimes you are disappointed
  • sometimes they expect you to fix problems that they won’t tell you what they are
  • pressure to “act like clergy”
    • pray about problems/don’t drink
    • avoid depression
    • humility
    • temper
    • sexual morality
  • Not all skittles and beer
    • funerals
    • executions (prison ministry)
  • Boundary issues, spouses and second-class-ness
    • clergy 24/7? Can I call at 2am?
    • What is personal property and church property?
      • Clergy home? – used for church functions…
      • Clergy person? – when is he accessible?

A Prayer on the Autumn Equinox

This morning, as I was sitting in the parking lot of my daughter’s daycare waiting for my carpool to arrive, I watched the sun come up.  Dawn is always a powerful time for me.  She is liminal in that space each day, opening the way from he darkness into the light.  She rekindles my spirit each morning as I watch her dance over the horizon to smile at the earth.

It is especially powerful to follow the progression of the sunrise and sunset.  As the days get longer and then shorter and then longer and then shorter, there is something magical in that.  It seems to happen so quickly, and yet not quickly at all.  There is normally less than a minute difference each day, and yet suddenly it seems like we’re waking up and going to work in the dark, and coming home as the sun is setting.  There is something powerful about that shifting balance between light and dark, about the Dawn herself.  Something powerful about knowing that even liminality is liminal and always shifting.

Au Eq Dawn

Dawn on the morning of the Autumn Equinox

The sun peeks her head above the horizon
On this day where the world hangs in balance.
Liminal in time and day,
A moment of transition where even liminality is in flux.
The dawn comes, never failing,
Even when the cycle shifts to darkness.
Blessed are the children of Earth
With Her to greet them each morning
No matter the day.
Blessed are the children of Earth,
Especially today as we mark
the beginning of the darkness
Yet still greeted with Her light.