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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

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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Date:October 14th, 2009 06:09 am (UTC)


I guess I may just be close enough on the cusp of laity and clergy to get myself in trouble here, but I'll comment anyway, because, hey, why not?

The role of a Priest in ADF is complex and difficult to define because most of us have only one Priest with whom we interact on a regular basis. You folks are very spread out! Each area where you are located has very different laity with very different needs. Those Priests who practice in Groves with inexperienced liturgists and youngin's who may need a lot of coaxing will have a very different vocation than those Priests whose Groves are older and more established with highly seasoned Druids in the congregation. There are a couple of thousand ADF members in the country. There are what? maybe a dozen Priests?

The Role of a Priest in ADF cannot be standardized without hurting the very folk they have vowed to serve. In the wording of the Oaths listed above, it clearly states that the Priest will serve the folk, and that means that you fill the shoes that are empty. You cannot send a liturgist to fill the needs of a Grove whose highest skill is liturgy. The Role of an ADF Priest is to be able to see what the needs of the laity are, by listening and observing, and to fill those needs to the best of thier abilities.

One point that you make, Michael, that seems to be getting lost is the internalization of the Oath. The Priests themselves have made a personal Oath to serve their folk and the Kindred. They have expressed a level of commitment that is beyond that of the laity, and that is the main difference. Not to say that the laity are unskilled or unqualified to do some, if not all of the same types of work. This is not about capablility. Honestly, it is more about longevity. This is about a man or a woman whose devotion to the Kindred runs so deep and their desire to serve the people who honor those same beings is so strong that they have made a personal commitment and agreed to sacrifice most of their free time, resources and energy in the years to come for the greater good of those they serve.

The Catholic faith (which I HATE to bring up here for fear of the connotations it will infer, but I will because I have an Aunt who is a nun and feel that I know enough about the inner workings to comment with intelligence), describes their clergy as the "Brides of Christ." They have a level of commitment to their Gods that can only be compared in human terms to a marriage. It is a long-term devotion, a life-changing and self-sacrificing relationship between the human and the divine that is manifested in the service to the congregation. Our ADF Priests are not much different. I really don't want to hash out the differences between Catholics and pagans here, but my hope is that folks may be able to see the personal side. Most of what goes on in their lives involves charity work, answering questions, asking questions to those who need to figure things out for themselves, and generally being available for "other duties as assigned" at any and all times. That, to me, is the Role of a Priest in ADF...which is why I am not in the CTP. I don't have the time (as a noun) to sacrifice in the way that I would have to in order to do the job properly.

We throw around vague terms like "service" and "meeting needs" which sound good on paper but don't give any more information than the querants had before they asked. I think there are people who want an itemized list that can be applied to all Priests in ADF and use that as a standard to judge whether or not they are doing a good job. I challenge those folks to make an itemized list of what their responsibilities are and hold themselves accountable to those things to which they have committed themselves and see how they measure up, especially in terms of those things they get paid to do, before they start complaining about those things that the Priests do or do not do for them or their Grove for free.

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