May 8th, 2010


Reviewing the CTP: Vocations and Building Specialties

Nearly everyone knows what a Priest "is" and what a Priest should "do." The problem is that it leads to people failing to recognize that there are many kinds of Priests out there, and some will have different skill sets. Consider doctors, mechanics, or even football players: yes, they know a little about everything in their profession, but they are particularly good in specific areas (and sometimes not at all good in other areas: imagine an offensive lineman trying to quarterback).

There are generally two ways that Priests are chosen: via heredity and via vocation.¹ ADF has chosen to build based on the vocational model, but this leads to some particularly interesting issues that are magnified by notions of what Priests "should be."

When training our Priests, we must remember that vocations differ. While ADF has never placed as large an emphasis on vocation (or "calling to the Priesthood") as other religions, it is how we choose our Priests. It is vitally important to note that, if we recognize vocation, we must also recognize variation in vocation: every Priest who is called is called equally, but that does not mean that they are called to the same function. To say that "ADF Priests are ritualists" or "ADF Priests are helpers" means that there is no room for, as an example, a vocation for teaching the lore or being a scholar.

Because ADF has chosen to select its Priests based on these vocations (rather than heredity or other criteria), it stands to reason that we will find that those callings express themselves in different ways to different Priests. In short, there is no such thing as an ideal ADF Priest, because each Priest will have different skills related specifically to his or her calling. This brings us to the question of how we train Priests who may have different callings.

Because our Priests will be called in different ways, we should not expect all Priests to learn the same skills or to be fluent in all skills. Original notions of Priests as polymaths who are experts in everything tend to break down quickly (this is the pressure the old Study Program broke under), particularly as ADF has not made a decision on how "reconstructionist" we desire our Priests to be. Many whose vocations tend toward the reconstructionist will never find a calling to be a "helper" of others, and those whose callings reflect a more modern definition of Priest may not find that their vocation calls them to be an expert scholar or naturalist. However, there are things that we can agree on.

Because ADF has a tradition of clergy being well-skilled in ritual, ritual work should certainly make up the majority of the core skills required, particularly on a basic level. Additionally, some training in other fields, such as helping others, magic, and trance, should also be required. Once core training is completed (First Circle), specialization can begin, and courses should be provided for that. By providing core courses, we can ensure that our clergy are prepared for a wide variety of issues, but allow their vocation to drive a choice of specialization. Requiring them to choose two specializations will also keep them from being too focused on a single aspect.

Specialization can also help the Clergy Council (as well as our members at large) understand who they should refer to for specific issues, reducing the issue of requesting services from a Priest who has little or no training in certain areas, or simply finds him- or herself unable to do any more than the minimum in situations their vocation does not call them to. This will require a communication piece.

At this time, I've looked at five different specialties:
  • Helper: Designed for those who wish to be there for others and engage in helping
  • Naturalist: Designed for those who wish a greater connection with nature
  • Leadership: Designed for those clergy seeking leadership roles in ADF
  • Scholar: Designed for those who seek deeper study
  • Ritualist: Designed for those who seek more extensive ritual skills
Those could morph and change, of course (and likely will). You may note that there is no "magician" or "diviner" specialty: I see those primarily being specialties our Initiates will fill.

The deepest advantage of specialization, though, is that it allows us to expand the number of courses we can provide and require of our Clergy students. Initially, I was looking at up to 15 courses per Circle: with specialization, I am able to reduce that to roughly what it is today, with 10-11 courses per circle. In the end, specialization seems to create a more complete Clergy Council made up of slightly less "complete" (but certainly more diverse) Priests.

¹ - Oxtoby, Willard G. "Priesthood: An Overview." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. 2nd ed. Vol. 11. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 7394-7399. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 May 2010.
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