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October 13th, 2009


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11:06 am - On the role of an ADF Priest
I have been spending a lot of time, recently, on examining the role of the Priest in ADF (and, slightly more broadly, in Neo-Paganism in general). In a lot of ways, I find it very straightforward and simple, while in other ways it is very complicated. There is a lot of good information in a variety of sources that expand on the basic question of "What is a Priest and what does he or she do?" Really, reading a few articles answers a lot of questions.

Ian's words ring very true: we are not shepherds, we have no flocks.

The "ritual specialist" language is too simplistic, though, and speaks to a very limited role. I'm not overly pleased with it, so I expect to mostly abandon it soon, or at least modify it with additional terms.

Over and over, though, I come back around to three things: partnership with laity, commitment and training.

The commitment is really the central piece; training is an addendum, really, that leads to obligation and commitment, a sort of *ghosti relationship where when you do the work to get trained, you find yourself committed to training others in the ways of Our Druidry, and to use the skills provided by that training to ensure that the proper rites and sacrifices are made in the proper way at the proper time. In many ways, an ADF Priest is first and foremost a person committed to serving the folk through their training and making sacrifice to the Kindreds.

In any case, there is a two-way commitment: one to the Kindreds, and one to the Folk. I am generally not of a mind that a Solitary member cannot become a Priest, but I think about the oath I took and I wonder how I could fulfill it from a Solitary point of view. I also, though, accept that every individual will find a different vocation, and that they will be called to serve the Folk in different ways. Because of that, my own notion of how someone else might fulfill their oath is fundamentally flawed: not knowing their vocation, I cannot question their fulfillment of it effectively.

It occurs to me that there is also an ineffible quality to priesthood, within ADF and (I suspect) outside of it: those who have been through the processes of consecration and ordination (and now, initiation) will view their role differently than those who have not passed those boundaries and have not made those commitments, and differently than those who have not done the training. I suspect that there is an element of intent to the training, as well, since a trained Liturgist might find similar courses but a very different experience in them, as I know I have.

I think that, because of this, I can only see the role of the Priest in ADF as a partnership of sorts: just as you cannot define a "partner" in ballroom dancing without discussing dancing, one cannot define Priests without discussing the relationship and interaction between Priest and laity. If we consider separating the Priest from the laity at all (either by defining one group as "useful" or one group as "useless"), each category must understand and express the value of the other in order to find value within itself.

A book that I love describes it like this: "We can ask, What is a wombat or an edible dormouse?, but not, What is a priest? The priest is no independent species – the 'laity' are part of the picture of what the priest is, and the priest is part of the picture of what the laity are." The notion that priests can be defined in isolation from the congregation is a ridiculous one, and I suspect that the true issues that surround "defining a Priest in ADF" likely revolve around insecurity about what an individual's role is in relation to the ADF Priest, not insecurity about the role of the external priest.

My initiation into the ADF Initiatory Current was a very reflective thing: I am deeply engaged in retrospective thinking and considering new things that are coming up. My actual essay on this topic (meant for Oak Leaves) is already stretching several pages, because the question of the role of ADF Priests is so very complicated, so I won't dwell on it here much more.
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From:dubhlainn
Date:October 13th, 2009 06:05 pm (UTC)
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The notion that priests can be defined in isolation from the congregation is a ridiculous one

I tend to agree but I ask who is the congregation? Quite a few times I have been told, by Ian and a few others, that that the Priest is the ritual specialist -- in what ever terms -- of the local Grove. And yet it is not the Grove that calls or Ordains the Priest. It is no the local Grove that those of you who have attained Consecration or Ordainment have made your Oaths to. Is the "congregation" all of ADF? And if so how is the work that our Priests do different than those of the commited laity?

I suspect that the true issues that surround "defining a Priest in ADF" likely revolve around insecurity about what an individual's role is in relation to the ADF Priest, not insecurity about the role of the external priest.

In my case it is both. I am trying to determine what my role is if I should chose to never again seek status as an ADF Priest. This is especially true in regards to the Priests I work more regularly with. Is there something I owe towards our Priests? Is there something they owe towards me? Is our relationship only based on my need? If so which needs are appropriate to take to our Priests at all and which are not?

It occurs to me that there is also an ineffible quality to priesthood, within ADF and (I suspect) outside of it

Of course! Is there any group or experience, especially in regards to religious experience, that does not have some ineffible character? In fact, I would argue that without that ineffible quality it is not a religious experience at all! But, just because the wholeness of it can not, and should not, ever be defined in words means that we should define the direction that intent behind our Priesthood? This is the argument that frustrates me most. I say "how should we define our Priesthood?" and I am told that because there are parts of it that ineffible we cannot define any part of it. And yet, this is true of every study program we offer from the Dedicant path through the Guild work. All of it holds a certain ineffible character. All of the programs I have been involved in, certainly, have changed me in ways that I would be hard pressed to put into words. We still define those. We define what a Bard is and what a Seer is and what a Dedicant is. I do not understand why defining a Priest is different.

the 'laity' are part of the picture of what the priest is, and the priest is part of the picture of what the laity are

While I find this quote from your book interesting I do not believe, or at least -- have not experienced, ADF Priests working in this manner to date. I think it would be a wonderful idea to pursue. While I do feel that our priest are part of the picture of what our Priests are I do not get the impression tha the oppisite is true.

Sorry for the long comment.

because the question of the role of ADF Priests is so very complicated, so I won't dwell on it here much more

That is a shame, I think these are important conversations to have.
[User Picture]
From:dubhlainn
Date:October 13th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
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While I do feel that our priest are part of the picture of what our Priests are I do not get the impression tha the oppisite is true.

Sorry, this should read:

While I do feel that our Priests are part of the picture of what our laity are I do not get the impression that the opposite is true.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:October 13th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
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who is the congregation?

I view it as ADF as a whole. Other priests will view it as their local Grove. Still others might view it as the Sols only, I suppose. Some make their consecration oaths at festivals, and some in a local Grove rite. A Sol who becomes clergy might make it at their Hearth Shrine with a member of the CC present, I suppose, though that hasn't happened yet. I don't know who they'd think of their congregation as, but I don't think they can be Priests alone. One may surprise me and do it, though. Who knows?

Is there something I owe towards our Priests?

The commitment made obligates the Priest to the folk, but nothing really obligates the Folk to the Priest. There is no daksina in ADF at this time, and I don't expect there to be one (though fees for services provided are always welcome, and fees for materials purchased or time spent should be reimbursed, I imagine). Still, I would suggest that if a person wants to benefit from a Priest, *ghosti would come into play and they should engage with that Priest and give of themselves, too. The commitments a Priest made will see them giving anyway, but that giving will increase through support from the member and work that builds from that relationship. Those who do not engage in a *ghosti relationship with the Priest probably ought not wonder where their benefit is, though, as I think about it, as the Priest may serve the Folk in a way that does not necessarily serve all folk.

We define what a Bard is and what a Seer is and what a Dedicant is.

To define through CTP content is actually pretty simple. Here's a quick breakdown:
  1. 43% of our courses are devoted to scholastic study. Other more practical courses apply that study directly to liturgy or other priestly work. So, our Priests are expected to be scholars.
  2. 23% are devoted to ritual knowledge and skills, so our Priests are expected to be ritualists.
  3. 17% are devoted to trance, divination or practical magic, including 2 results-based practicum courses, so our Priests are expected to be trained in "occult"-type work
  4. 17% are devoted to management, policy or leadership skills, so our Priests are expected to be leaders.
So it can be done, and it's actually a pretty good definition of what we expect an ADF Priest to be able to do, and what you can call on them to do, at least as much as you can determine what an ADF Bard or ADF Dedicant is from the SP. I'm not as interested in that, though, as I am in that ineffable piece.

I think these are important conversations to have.

They're for Oak Leaves. I've already been beaten and dragged through town once by merely posting something on my LJ (something virtually no one cared about in a large ADF forum, oddly enough), so I am not anxious to have it happen again. So this is merely an indication that there is more to come, in a more proper forum.

While I do feel that our Priests are part of the picture of what our laity are I do not get the impression that the opposite is true.

I don't understand this. Could you explain?
[User Picture]
From:dubhlainn
Date:October 13th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
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While I do feel that our Priests are part of the picture of what our laity are I do not get the impression that the opposite is true.

I don't understand this. Could you explain?

Sure, or well, I'll try. Not having read the book you are quoting from it may be that I have a poor understanding of what you were trying to imply.

The Clergy I know well (You, Carrion, Raven, Ian, Sue etc.) seem to have no issues talking with, planning in cooperation with, and even learning from the laity around you. I have been in several religious systems where the clergy isolate themselves from the laity. ADF Clergy does not seem to do this (except in some cases, like your retreat, where it is neccesary). When I think of the "whole" of ADF (when I picture in my head the people and experiences I have had) I do not see a difference, really, in the Clergy and laity. The "whole" of ADF, in mind, encomapsses all of us.

ugg, not sure I am getting that our right.

Now, when I think of Clergy I do not see how the laity is any part of that picture. I am not sure why. When I was a UU we spoke a lot about "ministry" which is a term not really pertinent to ADF but the concept was always "ministry is what we do together" the laity had a voice in the ordination and selection of Clergy, in the vision and direction for the Church/Org.

I am not saying that the laity should have a vote in approving our Clergy (though I think the Mother Grove should). But I just do not feel the voice, or see the picture, of the "whole" of ADF as it pertains to our Clergy when they are acting as a whole.

Not sure if that makes any sense or not.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:October 13th, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC)
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I think I see, and I thought that this might be where you were going with this, though I wasn't entirely sure.

In terms of Consecration/Ordination, I might argue that my consecration was affirmed by the people at Summerland who attended the ritual. . . there was a moment where they were asked to support me, and they said they would. Additionally, several of the offering sections specifically asked blessings for my consecration (talk about a humbling experience), and the bull-slaying/shared meal and ingesting of waters from those blessings could be construed as further affirmation. In that respect, there was definite voice there: they could have all shouted, "Hell no!" or avoided the waters.

I think that the question I would respond with is this: is it only in terms of selection that the laity seem left out? Or is there another place?

One of the things that we tried to do in our Wellspring retreat a few years ago (which didn't work well at all, though not because of lay participation, more due to organization of the event) was to involve the laity in half our retreat activities. It turned out that we shot the weekend in a pretty crappy way and failed, but we did try. I would like to see something like that happen again, with an open retreat day and then a closed one or two. The problem is, we're only doing them once per year now, and not everyone can get to Cleveland, so it's hard to fit everything in and still manage to have an open portion that everyone gets to comment on. Heck, it's virtually impossible, especially when a major part of the weekend is something like initiation.

One of the nice things about the CC, though, is that we've done very little in terms of acting as a whole. We've even been discussing giving up the one bit of "external" influence that we have (the bit about "Determine ADF liturgical standards" in the SOP): it was seriously raised at the retreat as one option going forward.

Part of the issue of "acting" is that we make very few decisions. We made one, and we learned a heck of a lot from it: the COoR is likely to be the last decision for a long time, and it still astounds me that something designed specifically to clarify "what a High Day ritual has to have" for Dedicants turned into "OMGLiturgyPolicemenAreGonnaBeatMeWithCOoRNightsticks!!!111!" I mean, it really was just a clarification on what most of us where doing. It's been handled like holy writ more by people outside the CC than by people inside the CC (I should know: I'm one of the biggest deviants from the COoR).

Most of us, oddly, rely on the lists and on personal forums to help define and decide on what we'd like to see as "policy" and then we just talk it to death as individuals. Think about the "Nine Tenets" I wrote: totally not a CC thing, but it started a new conversation about "what makes an ADF ritual" that didn't involve steps, and received serious consideration at the CC Retreat as a possible "endorsed model" as a result. And anyone could write something like that.

The CC actually doesn't do much at all as a body. Mostly, it's just a scary monster in the closet: if you turn on the light, you'll see that no one is there except perhaps a few moths.

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