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Representing ADF in Public

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Representing ADF in Public

People are judged, it is said, by the company they keep. Over the years, we have all noticed that no matter who we are as individuals, our deeds, our words, and our interactions all reflect on the company we keep as well. Because of this, it is vitally important that all our members, no matter where they fall in the scheme of the organization, reflect upon their own actions. What's more, those of us who are leaders, however unfair this may sound, must be even more self-critical than the general membership, for we truly represent ADF, both in the leadership we can offer, and also in the quality of our religious practice.

There are five places or things that the majority of people will learn about ADF from: ADF's written literature, workshops given by our members, rituals put on by our Groves, and personal interactions with members and leaders in real life, as well as virtually on the internet.

Literature:

ADF seeks to provide Grove Organizers and Senior Druids with example pamphlets, fliers, and handouts for use at rituals and around town. Extra copies of Oak Leaves, the Membership Guide, and some of the writings created by members of Our Fellowship are highly effective. Here, Groves and Protogroves should consider a website (several places can host for free, and space on the ADF.Org website is also available if need be) to direct people to. The Web has become so ingrained in modern Paganism that it seems that one must first have a website, and then they may have legitimacy.

On all your literature, make sure that you have your Grove's (or Protogrove's) name and address, as well as an email address, stamped or written. Distributing information without a method of contact attached won't get you very far at all. Also, don't be afraid to ask your Grove or those attending ritual if they will chip in a few dollars to help off-set printing costs.

Keep in mind that nothing needs to be expensive, just informative and engaging. Simply changing the colour or weight of the paper for your pamphlets might have the exact effect you want.

Workshops:

If you can, find somewhere to give presentations about Druidry. Often, it's best to start out by talking about ancient Druidism and how modern groups work to keep up the worship of the Gods and the Kindred. Several groups have done these workshops, and asking if anyone has something you can use is always a good place to start.

You can also give a class on the differences between Druidism and Wicca, or walk people through a basic Druid liturgy. If you do the former, work hard to not be condescending about Wicca, or making the discussion an "Us/Them" issue. If you do the latter, describe why we do what we do, and give the importance of things, such as the Return and the Omen.

Perhaps you can follow these classes up with a discussion of how one becomes a Druid, discussing the ADF Dedicant Program and the Study Programs. Finally, you might do a lecture on forming a Druid Grove, and give information directly from this handbook.

It is fairly clear, we hope, that if you give these workshops, by the time you come to the fifth one, you might already have a clear core group of people who are interested in helping you form a Protogrove. You will have managed to integrate the students into the thought-process and shown them the surface of what ADF is all about, and if you have managed this, you will know that a Protogrove is ready to form.

Groves that have become very large and feel that branching out into a new Protogrove (or several Protogroves) might also find it useful to train a few people from a similar geographical area with this set of workshops, making sure that they are prepared for the journey.

Rituals:

At festivals, the main way people hear about ADF is by attending a rite. Offering to do the opening, closing, or even the main rite at a festival or gathering can cause an influx of new Druids to any struggling Grove. The key is that the rite be well done, and that the rite be rehearsed enough that problems and errors are kept to a minimum.

If you have a small Grove or Protogrove and still wish to take on this responsibility, see if there are other ADF members who will be attending. Ask them if they will take parts, for it is likely that they will have a good grasp of the liturgy (or, at the very least, will have seen it performed before). If you cannot find ADF members, and need to pull ritual leaders (such as bards, sacrificers, dancers, drummers, or chanters), you will need to be able to explain the liturgy in a manner that they can understand. This may require an extensive briefing for your ritual participants.

At the pre-ritual briefing (and you should have one for the benefit of those who have never attended an ADF rite before), explain the steps in the rite, go over the chants, and talk about how to do the processional. It is usually best not to compare ADF liturgy to other forms of liturgy, especially if you are not well versed in the other forms. After one festival, I received a complaint that in the process of explaining how the rite would be done, the ritual officiant doing the briefing had made blanket statements about how Wiccans did ritual during the briefing, meaning to explain how ADF ritual was done in comparison. The officiant never considered the fact that he might be coming off as disrespectful to Wiccans in his briefing, and conveyed his regrets that it had come out that way.

If you can memorize your liturgy (or extemporize it well), you will appear more together and impressive than a group who reads everything from paper. You don't need to have everything memorized before you do your first public ritual, but it is best if you work hard at memorizing the lines as soon as possible.

Finally, though certainly not the least important thing, your rituals should start on time. The vast majority of Pagans are not happy with Pagan Standard Time (i.e. starting at least 15 minutes late for everything), and starting on time can win you more members than any amount of talking and hand-shaking you can do.

Personal Behavior (Offline):

It is an unfortunate thing that people judge others, but it is a fact. Most often, we form an opinion about a person very quickly, and that opinion can come from many things: how a person looks, how a person dresses, or even how a person greets another. These impressions are transferred from the person to the company she keeps: in this case, onto ADF. While we cannot offer suggestions about how to dress or tell you to change the colour of your eyes, we can encourage one thing that we hope still speaks louder than all those things: right action.

It doesn't matter if you joined yesterday or if you have been a member of the organization for over 20 years. If your affiliation with ADF is known, people will associate your behavior and your actions with the rest of ADF's membership. Those of us who are leaders in Our Fellowship must be more careful, though, for an organization's true worth is always measured by its leaders.

To this end, we encourage the leaders in ADF to constantly review their actions, to become self-critical of what they do. A good template for this can be found in the Nine Virtues found in the Dedicant Program: Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Fertility, Moderation, and Fertility.

Simply applying your understanding of these Virtues to your situation could make all the difference in how a person views you, your Grove, and ADF as a whole. Much of the time, Pagans are not so interested in which code you follow, but more that you stick to that code through thick and thin. Here are some simple ways to apply some of the virtues:

Moderation: Probably the quickest and easiest way to make a poor spectacle of yourself (and ADF by extension) is to drink too much. ADF representatives (and as we have seen, that includes nearly every ADF member, but especially the leaders) should avoid drinking to severe intoxication. In fact, if you plan on drinking a lot in one night, you might consider removing your ADF t-shirt before heading to the fire. Of course, we aren't telling you not to drink or otherwise indulge, but simply to do so responsibly. As a representative of ADF, your Grove, and yourself, it is best that you be in complete control of your faculties at all times.

Courage and Integrity: To tie directly back into moderation, you should have the courage to approach any ADF leader you see who has had too much to drink and politely inform them that they have had enough. Before doing this, the individual should take an honest look at themselves, and have the integrity to admit whether she has also had too much or not. Should you host an event that you advertise as "substance-free" or "drug-free," you should have the integrity to stick to that label, even if you do not intend to enforce the policy. To call an event "drug-free" and not follow your own rules will turn off more than a few participants.

Hospitality: We have already begun to move down this path with integrity, but hospitality is another easy virtue to apply to your personal behavior. It is a fine thing to offer food and drink to friends or strangers who happen to come to your camp at a festival, or to offer a potluck dinner after your rites, but remember to have options available to those who do not drink alcohol or are in recovery. If someone politely refuses a drink, don't ask if they are sure about their choice; offer them an alternative. Let Pagans who state that they are in recovery know that ADF is very supportive of their attempts.

Piety: Keep the High Days. Each Grove is required to hold eight open to the public High Days per year. Show the Pagans in your area that your Grove lives up to the expectations they have for a functioning church in their area. Make a big deal about them, perhaps even giving presentations on them at a local Pagan shop, or holding a mini-festival in a city park. All this will show that you do indeed practice what you preach, and that will go a long way toward making you, your Grove, and ADF look good in the long run.

Fertility: Every day, we have the opportunity to explore those things that bring us pleasure, and this is not a bad thing. Love, lust, and creativity are all important things to us, and ADF does not discourage these emotions. We must constantly remind ourselves that our advances are not always welcome or comfortable, and that when we represent ADF to the outside world, we can be seen as "power figures" (and, unfortunately, as "power objects"). You are free, of course, to indulge in your own romantic goals, but remember that ADF is not a dating service, nor is any position in ADF something you should use as a power over someone. We need to avoid any hint of abusive or exploitative behavior toward the subjects of our attentions or those observing our actions. If false accusations arise, remember that your best (and perhaps only) defense will be your previous responsible, respectful actions.

The other Virtues will also come into play, as well, but the above examples can show examples on how to apply them.

Keep in mind that you have both the responsibility to provide safe and inclusive rites. If there is a person attending your rites who is behaving an a rude, abusive, or exploitative manner, you do have the right (and responsibility) to exclude them from your public worship. This does not contradict ADF's policy of inclusiveness, since you are acting to protect your Grove and ensure that your congregation has a "safe space" to worship in. The individual can always apply to the Members' Advocate if she is a member and thinks this decision was unfounded, but the Mother Grove will back you up if you can show sufficient cause.

Personal Behavior (Online):

Modern Pagans use the Internet as a primary form of communication. The lifeblood of ADF is in the electronic forums and email lists, as well as on personal sites and public journal sites. This has caused us to re-think the way these media have impacted the perception of ADF.

Online communication is always a difficult thing. Jokes, and especially sarcasm, are very difficult to read in text form, lacking the facial expression or tonal qualities to convey the correct emotion. This can cause many problems. In order to avoid problems in the first place, read every email from different angles. Consider each angle carefully, and then read it in the most positive way you can. If something looks like it might be a joke, treat it as one. If something can be either a sarcastic compliment or a derogatory statement, read it with sarcasm and take the compliment. If you read the positive into it, your own correspondence will be more positive and will reflect better on you, and thus on ADF.

Usually, it is best to simply ignore jokes and sarcasm when working over email. Think about it this way: if you received your missive, and you knew nothing about why it was being written, how would you read your words? It adds time, but if you aren't sure about how something will be received, delete it. It will save you (and ADF) much trouble down the road.

Sometimes, though, we need a place to vent our frustration, or to just talk honestly about what's going on in ADF. When we're mad, fed up, or simply frustrated with the what is being done (or what is not being done) somewhere in ADF, we might take it out on an open journal or on our personal website. Something that we need to remember, especially as leaders of ADF, is that such things are not private. They do not get lost in the void that is cyberspace. Non-ADF members read these things, and if you only write about how angry you are with Our Fellowship, it will eventually lead to people shying away from ADF. Remember to write about the good things, as well.

Personal correspondence and venting in journals are, of course, private things. ADF doesn't have a say in what you put in them, and it never will. The most important thing to remember here, though, is that we need to stop and consider if what we're writing reflects what a leader in Our Fellowship should be writing. This goes for all levels of leadership.

The best thing to do is to remember that the Nine Virtues are not a mask that you put on. They should show in everything you do, even online. If you read through an email, and you see that you are not displaying a Virtue well, then it might be prudent to re-word it. If you have just finished a journal entry and find that it lacks piety, perhaps you should consider adding some in. Eventually, it will become second-nature, and you will not need to revise and add.

Finally, we can modify the old saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Perhaps the best way to put it is: "If the only things you can say will reflect poorly on you, don't say it." Again, what reflects poorly on the individual will reflect poorly on the organization.

Dealing with Criticism of ADF:

Remember when we mentioned that people judge not only an individual by his company, but also the company by the individual? Well, you will constantly meet people who have, in their pasts, had contact with an individual ADF member who turned them off to the whole organization. Perhaps it was an entire Grove that dissolved before you even came onto the scene. Worse yet, they may be former members who were unable to get what they needed out of the organization. No matter what their gripe, they will be hard to convince that ADF has changed and grown from when they last knew us, or that they met a single "bad apple." Sometimes it might not even be worth the time (but it never hurts to try, of course).

Often, if ADF is accused of not being perfect, or not living up to our ideals, the best strategy is to agree whole-heartedly. We're a young organization, relying on a select group of dedicated volunteers, some of whom didn't manage to fulfill their intentions as well as they wished. Recently, though, we have had some major changes for the positives: we have Study Programs in place, with more on the way; there are Groves that are multiplying all over the world; and we are gaining many more new volunteers who are just as excited (if not more so) than the "old hands" and various projects are coming to fruition. You might even invite them to a rite or two to see how things are going on the local level, and then give them some good dirt about what's happening nationally.

Some people see a new ADF Grove or Protogrove as a serious threat to their own political power in the area. When Pagans decide that their place in the community is threatened, no matter how false the threat may be, they become very difficult to deal with. Their arguments are generally impervious to logic and truth, and they will criticize you to no end. The best thing to do is to make it clear that you are not out to "steal" members, emphasize that you'd like to grow and learn from each other while networking and helping to share the ecumenical duties required of Pagan groups, and just try to be diplomatic.

If a person (or set of persons) tries to take you on over an email list, the best thing to do is to ignore them. Don't sink to their level and fling insults back. Such fights will get you nowhere. Allow them to hang themselves by their own rope, and if you must reply, do so cheerfully and without malice. If nothing else, that will give you the satisfaction of making them look like the fool they are.

Finally, remember: you can't please everyone. Simply do your best to please the highest number of people possible, and be responsible in your representation of ADF.
Tags: adf, goh
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