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: holy spreadsheets batman, all the tracking that goes into this for taxes and personal resource management and boundaries
    • product packaging: I skilled at doing lots of things, but how do I let others know that without coming off as arrogant?
  • 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: some stuff is just really fucking hard to deal with
    • funerals
    • executions (prison ministry)
    • trauma
  • spouses and second-class-ness.  There’s definitely nothing out there to help a male spouse deal with the all the issues that come along with being “a pastor’s wife”
  • Boundary issues:
    • What hat am I wearing when I interact with you? Am I your friend? Your priest? a concerned acquaintance? Your mentor? Your teacher? Some combination of all those…
    • 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?
  • You are the one who gets to make the final decision, often day-of, about whether or not a ritual is inside or outside, and have to consider safety and accessibility for your entire congregation when making this decision.

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.

My Vocational Statement

When did you hear the call to the path of ADF Priesthood? What did it sound like?

When I was first considering what direction to go following the approval of my Dedicant Path documentation I waffled for a long while between the Initiate Path and the Clergy Path.  I talked to current initiates and priests.  I asked questions.  I did divination, journaled, and wrote a lot.  When I asked the counsel of my gods, it was obvious to me: I needed to do the Initiate work.  I didn’t feel ready, and didn’t know that I would ever feel ready, to embark on the path of clergy.  I still felt like I had a call for it then, but it was quiet and I questioned whether it was actually there.  I wanted to do the Initiate work first.  I needed to solidify my own practice before I could truly listen to see if the call was true.

 

The closer I got to completing the course requirements for the Initiate Path, the more I noticed that as I was growing in my own work, the louder the call was getting, and the more insistent.  As my own practice grew, I began seeing places where I could offer my knowledge and skills to those around me.  I feel that, next to walking your walk and owning your path, it is imperative to help others walk their path as well.  I found myself seeing voids in the community, and they were voids that I could fill.  I began leading Full Moon rituals every month, with the focus for those rituals being the magical work that we didn’t really get to do or engage in elsewhere.  It was also a place where I have fostered a “no fail” zone.  I wanted to help others find their voice, the way I felt like I was finding mine.

 

As I reached the final months of journaling for the Initiate Path, my call to the work of the priest solidified.  It felt just as obvious to me as my initial decision to embark on the Initiate Path first.  I knew without a doubt that I needed to first complete that work, and that I could then allow my focus to shift and set my foot upon the path of clergy work.  The paths all merge.  The work of the Dedicant is the first stream.  As it flows along, other rivers join it, bringing with their new waters new inspiration, new knowledge, and wider banks.  The Dedicant stream continues to flow strong in the river of my own Druidry, and will always flow in my river as its headwaters.  It has been joined by the Initiate Current, which brings a deeper understanding and a deeper level of work.  These two rivers flow, their waters mingling, and yet each flowing just as strong, now a single river.  As I encounter new waters, like the work of the Clergy, the river will continue to flow, and grow stronger as all the waters mingle.  My work as a Dedicant is a constant, ever continuing path, as is my work as an Initiate now, feeding the river.  I see the work of a priest the same way: once joined they are ever flowing, becoming just as much an integral part of the river as the other waters.

 

I want to be a priest because I want to help others on their path, whatever that path may look like to them.  I want to provide liturgy to folks who are having trouble coming up with something fitting on their own.  I want to provide my knowledge and skills to those who need them.  I want to help grow our children in our tradition.  I have built my strong foundation, and the pull has intensified.  I understand why so many people refer to it as a “Call.”

 

It is not a loud resounding gong, nor a can I necessarily put my finger on an exact moment that I felt called, but it is a constant and insistent part of my being now.  It is a constant ringing in my ears and a constant throbbing in my being. The clergy serve the gods the folk and the land, and that is what I feel drawn towards, pulled towards, called towards.  I’ve grown in my understanding of this faith community, and I’ve come to realize that what I want to do and who I want to be can’t be done elsewhere.  The sound of the call was when I heard the sound of that need in my community, when people started looking to me in that role, and when I was able to begin seeing myself in that more confident and capable place.  When I understood that by becoming an ordained priest I would be able to answer that call and fulfill that need, it felt right. The call encompasses the sounds of multiple melodic lines weaving together in harmony as the gods, the folk, and the land all sing together in my soul.

 

What form do you expect your vocation to take?

I have been doing a lot of work as an Initiate that has revolves around part of the oath that states “…and with these tools I will lead others to the flame.”  My vocation I expect will continue to reflect this work.  I will be involved in making Our Druidry accessible to any who seek it.  For any who seek the flame, I will act as a guide on their path, aiding where I can, challenging when I need to, and supporting always.  I will be involved in the educational programs that we have (in the form of the DP, IP, CTP, and Guild SPs), and with those that are just now blossoming (such as children’s programming, especially locally). I want to help grow ADF into a church that my children can be a part of and feel connected to from a young age.  I want to help develop programming that engages our new members, particularly those who are being raised in our traditions.  One of the biggest draws to ADF for me is its inclusiveness and family-friendly nature, and I want to help grow that.

 

There is great joy and potential in the balance that exists within ADF between faith and scholarship, between practice and study.  I want to help others see that same joy.  I want to help others in ADF blossom in their practice, and should they decide to embark on the course of higher study within ADF, I want to make sure that the coursework is accessible to them in a way that they can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. I want to help others feel capable and confident in adapting their hearth culture and practice into the greater whole that is ADF practice. I want to help others find their voice.

 

Do you feel prepared to become an ADF Priest now? Do you see further work that you will need to do to prepare yourself for the work ahead?

I feel as ready as I can without having actually set foot on the path yet.  I know that I am going to run into obstacles and challenges, but I feel confident that while I won’t be prepared in the sense that the challenge wouldn’t have happened, that I am prepared in that I will be able to work with or around the issues that arise.

 

There is always work to do, and there is always room for more growth.  I don’t think I will ever be done learning and improving.  There are always new things to learn, and new things to experiment with.  There are specific experiences that I lack, but that I’m not sure can be gained before ordination.  I’ve never married anyone, though I witnessed folks declare themselves for each other.  I’ve never helped anyone cross the veil, though I’ve sat with those left on this side.  I’ve never done conflict resolution from a religious point of view, though I it do it on a regular basis at my job and amongst my friends.

 

These are life experiences, and I think they simply take time.  I cannot say with certainly how I will handle them when the time comes, but I feel that I have been well prepared, and have a solid support network of my own in the form of current Priests and the Kindreds to draw on when I need help or guidance along the way.

 

Clergy is not all weddings and funerals.  It’s not that glamorous or that that clear cut.  It’s listening and liturgy.  It’s meditation and magic.  It’s the interactions and relationships you develop.  It’s about the day-to-day work – the hundreds of small differences that you are able to make in the lives of those around you.  It’s about fostering a community and growing and tending what you have.  It’s about the thousands of minute details and small-scale actions you take each and every day to serve the gods, the folk, and the land. That I am prepared for.

 

We are all students, and all continually growing beings. There is nothing wrong with, and perhaps even something good about, accepting that the path we walk doesn’t have a clear end and that there is something new around every twist and turn.  I am prepared in this sense, because I have faith that I can handle the experiences that are to come with the skills that I have gained along the way.

Discipline 1

Discipline 1

 

  1. Describe your discipline practice as an ADF Clergy Student. Explain what you have learned from this practice, describe how your connections with the Earth Mother and the Gate Keeper have 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:

There are many things that I learned from keeping a regular devotional practice.  A large part of this preliminary building of this practice happened when I was working through the initiate program, and holding to that same level of practice has continued to serve me well as I embarked at the clergy training program.

 

One of the things I learned from building this practice is that I enjoy speaking my prayers out loud.  It sounds simple and perhaps like a no-brainer, but when you’re at your shrine or altar and by yourself, there doesn’t seem to be a need to say anything out loud.  You could theoretically just say it in your head.  But I’ve found that not only do I really enjoy speaking aloud even in my solo rituals, I also get more out of my work and my practice when I engage with my practice verbally.  It brings it more to life for me.

 

Another one of the things I reaffirmed when continuing this practice is that there is true value in regular practice.  I noticed this when I was preparing for initiation and drastically increased the number of full core order rituals I did each week to nearly one a day.  I have backed off a bit from that since then, but it has been more because school started up again and I’m limited in the amount of time I can sacrifice during the school year.  I still do at least one full ritual a week, and try for two to three. I’ve found that the more I pray, the better I feel, and the better I feel the more I desire to pray.  It is a cycle that builds on itself, building my practice and helping me grow in the process.

 

Something new in this practice has been the addition of retreat days.  I’ve enjoyed adding the monthly retreat day to my practice, though I’ve found it more difficult than I was expecting.  Initially I tried to take the whole day and devote it entirely to my spiritual practice. That didn’t go well.  With a child under the age of two, I just couldn’t take that continuous chunk of time away.  I should have remembered going through that same process when my daughter was even younger as I was starting on the Initiate Path.  I relearned, or maybe reaffirmed, that in order for my spiritual practice to work it has to be part of my life, not apart from it.  While it is important to set time aside for just me in my spiritual studies and devotional practice, it is also important to kindle that flame in all parts of my life and let it brighten everything from there.  The following months, as I learned to incorporate the work of the retreat days into my life, began flowing smoother and becoming another part of my spiritual practice.

 

 

How my connections with the Earth Mother and Gate Keeper have grown and changed:

As I started the clergy training program, and began incorporating the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper into my rites in a different way, a more prominent way, than I had before, I began to see changes in how I viewed them.  Shortly before completing the IP I made the decision that I would pursue the clergy path following my initiation.  So, when I started on the CTP, I began working with the Earth Mother and Gatekeeper I had just met.  They are distinct and different from whom I typically call in ritual to work with in the roles of Earth Mother and Gatekeeper (Gaea and Hekate, respectively).

 

This Earth Mother I met seems to exude an overwhelming sense of soft, warm, and motherly love.  She is less fierce than Gaea, and is who I have started working with in clergy work.  She is her own distinct being, and somehow seems even more all-encompassing, and all-mothery than an individual hearth-centric deity does. I also met, during the course of this work, a much darker and more primordial Earth Mother.  She was awful and haunting and fierce.  She is, I believe, a different being that the Earth Mother I’ve been working on building a closer relationship with. She is much more mysterious than the Earth Mother, and seems to be just a small step past Chaos.   She holds the seeds of potential and shepherds them as a fierce and protective Mother to their fertile soil and into the care of the things or people that will help them grow.

 

The Gatekeeper I’ve been working with throughout the course of this is also the one I met during initiation.  He seemed partially made of mist.  He may have been the inspiration for Manannan, or Manannan for him, but they were clearly not the same being.  He is the Lord of Wisdom and Opener of Ways.  He is a sharp contrast in a lot of ways from my usual way of working with the Gatekeeper, probably in large part because I work with a female Gatekeeper most often in ritual.  When I work with Hekate as a Gatekeeper, there is still that mixing and mingling of magic to do the work. When she walks between the realms, she literally moves between them, and exists fully in each one that she enters, and not existing in multiple realms at once. In working with her, she will guide you from place to place, from realm to realm. However, with the Gatekeeper, he is much more liminal. He can exist in multiple realms at once, and when you work with him, you also are able to drift like the mists and exist in the place between those realms as well as having a feel of existing in multiple realms at once.

 

My reflection on journals and omens from the period of this work:

During each full ritual I did throughout this work I drew an omen, of either 1 or 3 symbols, which was every few days.  One of the things I’ve done to analyze my omens from this period is compile all of the symbols I drew into a frequency graph. A large percentage of those omens contain Eta, Beta, Iota, and Mu (see graph).  Eta is the oath symbol, and while I was working on Divination 2 I found that when I did readings for current priests I almost always pulled Eta in their readings.  Eta literally means: “Helios who watches all, watches you.”  Beta is the helping gods that support you on your path.  Iota and Mu are both work.  Iota is the external work that is done and allows you to pursue excellence.  Mu is the internal work that is done and allows you to make admirable changes within yourself.  I did not drawn Omicron at all throughout the course of taking omens during this time period, which I find both interesting and applicable.  Omicron is literally “There are no crops that are not sown.”  Because I have been doing the work (Iota and Mu), have been supported by the helping gods of my path (Beta), and am keeping my current oaths as I prepare to take another (Eta) I have no need to worry about not having laid the proper groundwork to proceed on my path.

CTP Omens

The Importance of Self-Understanding and Introspection

The work described in the practicum for Magic 1 for Priests, as well as the work done in Magic 2, have both helped to inform my understanding of why self-knowledge and introspection are critical for working magic. They have helped me consider how I approach magical work, what methods I use, how I determine what magical work to do, and how my work reflects on how I am perceived by others.

 

Self-understanding and introspection are essential for every person who practices magic, whether or not they consider themselves a magus or magician.  For me this becomes a discussion of ethics, and a discussion of ethics within my practice turns towards the Delphic Maxims.  Personal introspection falls under maxim #8 “Know Thyself” or perhaps “Be Yourself,” depending on the translation. This requires a person to examine their personal values, and determine why they feel the way they do, and how to best act in accordance with those values they have come to own.  Many other values are accounted for within the maxims that help to guide who that “self” is that you should strive to know and be.

 

In the work described in the practicum, I looked at what type of magic would actually be useful to me and to those who were attending the rites where that magic was performed. Part of the introspection was setting aside ideas for workings that would be ‘cool’ or ‘flashy,’ but not necessarily be the best way to accomplish the goal of that work. This required me to deepen my understanding of myself. An understanding of yourself requires that you know who you are and continually exploring who you want to become.  It requires an understanding of how your actions and inactions affect yourself and others, and your view of yourself and how others perceive you.  This does not require you to cater to or be afraid of how others will view you, but at least have an understanding.  This understanding as you grow will help you to distinguish the role that magic is taking in your life. I believe there is always a danger that hubris can overtake a person, and in the case of magical work, this hubris can be more devastating as the magician breaks from reality.  One of the guiding maxims that I think helps to curb hubris is to “Be (religiously) silent.”  It is more important to do the work than talk about all the work you have, or could have done. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve done the work for the initiate path as well as the beginning work for the clergy training program (including the practicum for this course), is that my view of myself will affect the way that others view me, and the best course of action for me is to let my work speak for itself and let others determine their view of me from my actions.

 

An understanding, and continual drive for better understanding, of how you view yourself and how others view you will help to keep hubris from taking root and destroying both the self and any relationships that may exist.  You should like who you are, and act in such a way that you continue to do so.  If you don’t like yourself, then you should be able to take steps to fix that.  You should also have an understanding of how those around you view you, and be able to accept that view.

 

Ways that I pursue a course of self-understanding are first by examining (and re-examining) my biases.  It is important for everyone to know their biases so that they can account for the ways that may pre-dispose them to a certain belief or outcome.  I do divinatory work to consult the divine on whether or not an action (magical or not) is called for.  I meditate on how my actions will affect myself and others. I work to determine what I view as right and wrong, and where my line is that I won’t cross.  I do my best to stay honest with myself and true to my gods, because in the end, I have to answer to my conscience and my gods.

Clergy Intention Letter

Why do you want to be a Priest, and what is your plan for making that goal happen?
When I was first considering what direction to go following the approval of my Dedicant Path documentation I waffled for a long while between the Initiate Path and the Clergy Path.  I talked to initiates and priests.  I asked questions.  I journaled and wrote a lot.  When I asked the counsel of my gods, it was obvious to me: I needed to do the Initiate work.  I didn’t feel ready, and didn’t know that I would ever feel ready, to embark on the path of clergy.  I still felt like I had a call for it then, but it was quiet and I questioned whether it was actually there.  I wanted to do the Initiate work first.  I needed to solidify my own practice before I could truly listen to see if the call was true.  
 
The closer I got to completing the course requirements for the Initiate Path, the more I noticed that as I was growing in my own work, the louder the call was getting.  As my own practice grew, I began seeing places where I could offer my knowledge and skills to those around me.  I feel that, next to walking your walk and owning your path, it is imperative to help others walk their path as well.  I found myself seeing voids in the community, and they were voids that I could fill.  I began leading Full Moon rituals every month, with the focus for those rituals being the magical work that we didn’t really get to do or engage in elsewhere.  It was also a place where I fostered a “no fail” zone.  I wanted to help others find their voice, the way I felt like I was finding mine.  
 
As I reached the final months of journaling for the Initiate Path, my call to the work of the priest solidified.  It felt just as obvious to me as my initial decision to embark on the Initiate Path first.  I knew without a doubt that I needed to first complete that work, and that I could then allow my focus to shift and set my foot upon the path of clergy work.  The paths all merge.  The work of the Dedicant is the first stream.  As it flows along, other rivers join it, bringing with their new waters new inspiration, new knowledge, and wider banks.  The Dedicant stream continues to flow strong in the river of my own Druidry, and will always flow in my river as its headwaters.  It has been joined by the Initiate Current, which brings a deeper understanding and a deeper level of work.  These two rivers flow, their waters mingling, and yet each flowing just as strong, now a single river.  As I encounter new waters, like the work of the Clergy, the river will continue to flow, and grow stronger as all the waters mingle.  My work as a Dedicant is a constant, ever continuing path, as is my work as an Initiate now, feeding the river.  I see the work of a priest the same way: once joined they are ever flowing, becoming just as much an integral part of the river as the other waters.  
 
I want to be a priest because I want to help others on their path, whatever that path may look like to them.  I want to provide liturgy to folks who are having trouble coming up with something fitting on their own.  I want to provide my knowledge and skills to those who need them.  I want to help grow our children in our tradition. 
I have built my strong foundation, and the pull has intensified.  I understand why so many people refer to it as a “Call.”
 
I plan to, above all, continue my own hearth work and maintain my own piety, because that is the solid foundation upon which all my other work is done.  I don’t think you can lead the Folk as a priest unless you have a solid practice of your own and feel comfortable leading yourself.  In addition to the continuing hearth work, I plan to continue filling the needs I see in my community, wherever they arise.  As far as the Clergy Training Program within ADF goes, I plan to complete about one course a month.  
 
Why do you want to be an ADF Priest in particular?
ADF is my community.  ADF is my tribe.  These are my Folk, and make up a large chunk of those who I want to serve.  This is the pathway to make that happen.  I am drawn to the vision of ADF: particularly the mandate to provide regular, public rituals.  I want to help grow ADF into a church that my children can be a part of and feel connected to from a young age.  I want to help develop programming that engages our new members, particularly those who are being raised in our traditions.  One of the biggest draws to ADF for me is its inclusiveness and family-friendly nature, and I want to help grow that.  I feel that one of the ways I can be sure that I’m providing the best knowledge is by becoming clergy within the organization.  
 
I’m also drawn to the high level of scholarship and the quality of the training provided to ADF Priests.  I love the balance that exists within ADF between faith and scholarship, between practice and study.  I want to help others see that same joy.  I want to help others in ADF blossom in their practice, and should they decide to embark on the course of higher study within ADF, I want to make sure that the coursework is accessible to them in a way that they can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. I want to help others feel capable and confident in adapting their hearth culture and practice into the greater whole that is ADF practice.
 
I have no desire to be a “pay your fee and be a Priest” type of leader.  I’m in it to serve, and I see the ADF Clergy Path as the best way to both learn appropriate skills to serve in a religious capacity, as well as work with the Folk of my community and my faith.  

What does being a Priest mean to you in the cultural context of your Hearth Culture?
There were two types of priests within the Hellenic hearth.  There was the priest of the community and the beggar-priest, the mantis.  The mantis brought his skills and his knowledge to the folk.  This type of priest to me aligns with the work of the Initiate.  They work more in a one-on-one context, and support the work of the community priest.  The priest of the community aligns to the work of the ADF Priest.  The community priest was the one who led the public rites.  He ensured that proper sacrifices were made at the proper time.  He ensured that the community honored the Gods as needed to maintain the relationship with them.  
 

Why the Dedicant Path?

I’ve been attending rites with Three Cranes Grove for about five years now, though I’ve only been in ADF for about a year.  I had continually put off joining ADF and the Grove for so long ultimately because I was scared of my intransient state.  I was a college student and shuttling between Cincinnati and Columbus, having no idea where I would ultimately end up, and not wanting to make connections with people who I was afraid I would then break away from and lose.  It is a little ironic then that I finally decided to join ADF and Three Cranes near the end of my college career, when I knew for certain that I’d be leaving the Columbus area.

I had realized that ultimately the reason I was putting off kinship with like-minds and fighting a connection with the Kindreds was due to fear, and having put a face on the obstacle, I now knew what it was I needed to overcome.  So I joined Three Cranes Grove and ADF and have since been working taking my relationship with my grove mates and the Kindreds one day at a time.  I’m trying not to worry about losing those who I’ve grown close to, and each day I can put off that worry and just continue to tend my relationship makes me feel a bit closer and more secure that I actually won’t lose that connection.

The Dedicant Path appealed to me as soon as I learned of it, but I once again ran into similar troubles.  I didn’t have the time to devote to getting it all done at once, and so didn’t feel as though I could start it due to fear I’d never finish, or would disappoint someone.  Starting this path begins as I am, for the first time in my life, out of schooling and the scholarly world.  I now have the time to complete the Dedicant Path, but the doubts of my own ability and dedication have only seemed to grow. Surprising however, as those doubts have grown so has a realization that I will run into obstacles as I walk this path.  I have come to appreciate and am gradually accepting that those roadblocks are not necessarily obstacles to the path, but rather a part of the path itself.

I expect that this course of study is merely a step on my path as a spiritual being, but in itself I feel it is an important track for me to follow.  It provides a structure for me to learn and grow.  Just as a young sapling may need a stake to help guide and protect it in its early developmental stages, so do I find the Dedicant’s Path beneficial.  However, within the same metaphor, every moment that a sapling is staked without need limits its movement and growth, depriving the tree of vitality and life.  So while support is necessary at times, it becomes dangerous to rely on that support once it has served its purpose.  I think this will become more important for me to keep in mind the further along this path I get.  I fear I may become to dependent on meeting the requirements and following the exact structure of every suggestion to the letter, depriving myself of the organic nature of belief.

It is with this fear that I’ll lose myself in the requirements and the hope that I won’t that I am willing to admit I’m not sure what exactly I’ll learn by following this path.  Sure I could rattle off the specifics I’ll learn about the virtues and the knowledge I’ll gain from reading books about the origins of Druidry and my Hearth Culture, but that doesn’t explain or predict how I’ll grow and change as I internalize and make these understandings my own.  I would like to use the specific and fact based knowledge that I’ll gain to build an envisionment of my own personal practice.  Simply taking the requirements will not provide much real understanding, and so I hope to take what I learn and apply it in a way that is meaningful to me, and in a way that I can pass down to future generations.

I do not know what direction this path will take me, but I do know it is one I must follow, however long it takes, and whatever obstacles appear in my way.  It seems daunting right now when I look at it as a whole, but broken down into pieces it seems much more manageable.  One of the hardest things will be balancing my desire to sidetrack and delve deeper into certain aspects and areas with a need to refocus on the bigger picture of the Dedicants Path and be sure I’m completing the requirements, specifically making sure that I’m not avoiding them out of fear.

The requirements that seem to the hardest right now are the meditation journal/essay due to the period of time it covers.  I have a hard time setting and maintaining long-term goals, so it seems daunting to begin with.  The other someone difficult sounding requirement will be the book reviews, partially because I’m not sure what is expected in the writing, and partially due simply to the amount and type of reading.  The book on hearth cultures I’m not concerned with because I have specific interest to pull me along, but the other two required books will take some time to delve into, read and understand, and the process and write about.

The other requirements seem easier to me because they are of a more personal nature, relating to beliefs I have and will form, and experience or thoughts that I have.  Writing personal narrative essays and creatively has always been easier for me to process and start than researched writing has been.