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I have done the thing. My hand guides the heaven-bound boat. My feet walk the paths of the earth mother. I am a priest of the people of ADF, and I have sworn my oath before them and all of my spirit allies.

May I always remember how it feels to be this blessed.

New Priest - Jan's photo

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2018 Election Results

It is with great pleasure and humility that I announce I have been elected to serve in the position of Non-Officer Director to ADF’s Mother Grove, the international Board of Directors of our organization. I look forward to serving ADF and all its members for the next two years, and to whatever hopefully beautiful things are coming for this organization.

ADF Members, you can see the results here at this link – the results are also being posted to the Announce list, but must have moderator approval first.

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I’ve been reading Kathleen Norris’ (wonderful) book The Cloister Walk, about monastic spirituality, as a sort of side piece to all of the work I’ve been doing and to kind of keep me sane as I prepare for ordination and all the rest of the hoopla that is my religious life right now. And one of the things she talks about is the idea that, at least for Benedictine spirituality, formation is endless – the conversion of the self is a process that takes a lifetime.

So I sat down and looked at a typical formation process for someone in the Catholic faith vs what I’ve done, and realized there are some similarities. With apologies for generalizing, as each community really does have its own rules, and because what I’ve done is nowhere NEAR as dedicated as true monastic life, it still struck me that there were things that I could relate to.

My dedicant year was the equivalent of basic religious education – it gave me the tools to get started on the path, and set me up with a spirituality that I could practice satisfactorily for the rest of my life. This only took me a year, but for others it is the work of a lifetime, and that’s more than okay.

The 2 years I spent working CTP-Prelim were my postulancy – where I figured out whether this whole priesting thing was really going to be for me. It was a longer process, but like all processes – like all formation – it takes however long it takes. I did a lot of work, internally and externally, between August 2014 and August 2016, and I don’t want to shy away from that. It involved a lot of confirmation that what I was doing was really the right thing, and set me up with a lot of the spirit relationships that have continued to nourish me through to today.

From August 2016 to March 2018, I was a novice – not yet having taken any formal vows, but having applied and been accepted to my community of faith and living as best I could the life and spirituality of a priest in my community. I did the clergy student discipline, I spoke with mentors who assisted with my formation and my growth. I studied hard, got handed a few massive life-lessons in the process. I served my community in such a way that they could see my building ministry and vocation, and they allowed me to learn and grow.

And now I sit in the liminal space before taking my oaths as a priest – before being vested with the stola of a priest (which is given to me by the folk). I will step into the role of a junior professed, whose path is renewed every year through continuing education. I wonder what this life will look like in a year, or two, or five. Or twenty. I’ve been “in formation” since 2012. In five-odd years, I’ve come an awful long way, but yet there’s still so much that I don’t know. I’m still so new at this.

What will my life-long formation as a polytheist priest look like?

Because I am not done. If anything, the wheels of change in my life are spinning at a rate that is almost dizzying. New doors are opening up for me, with new opportunities to study and practice my spirituality. This is a watershed moment that I am preparing for, yes, but it is only the beginning.

To coin a phrase, this isn’t even my final form.

I wonder what that will look like.

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Part of ADF’s core order of ritual is a moment we call Creating the Group Mind, which involves grounding and centering. Most groves work with what we call the Two Powers – fire and water – that represent the primal forces of creation. Water is down, dark, chaos, potential, swirling, magnetic. Fire is up, light, cosmos, order, creation, burning, electric. As they combine, we find the energy we use to do magic. Below is a quick and dirty two powers meditation that you’re free to use – it works well with both large groups and as a solitary practice. Enjoy!

Children of Earth, breathe deep and close your eyes. As we stand here, preparing to work the magic that is found in our ritual, let us pause and release all the tension we may be carrying. Relax your arms and shoulders, ease your jaw and your forehead, and breathe deep into your belly. Now, let us take nine breaths together, to find our center and order ourselves in this great work.

For the first breath, our roots reach deep into the earth.
For the second breath, we draw up the swirling, chaotic waters.
For the third breath, we are filled with the cool waters.

For the fourth breath, our branches reach high to the heavens.
For the fifth breath, we draw down the ordering, creative fires.
For the sixth breath, we are filled with the burning fires.

For the seventh breath, the waters and fires alight, turning into the druid’s mist.
For the eighth breath, they expand and pour fourth, filling our grove.
For the ninth breath, we open our eyes, one grove, to work our magic together.

(2018, Lauren Mart)

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In the vein of several other excellent videos, I’ve made a brief ballot introduction about me, who I am, and how I approach this whole Non Officer Director thing that I’m running for. It’s about 3 minutes, and as always, if you have any questions you know where to find me!

And remember, voting starts tomorrow, so be ready to make your voice heard!

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It is typical of members who are running for ADF’s Mother Grove to field questions from the membership at large. Several members have compiled these questions into a big list for all of us to answer, so you’ll find mine here. I’ll add to this post as more questions are asked. This is a long post, but I think it’s worthwhile as a candidate for our Board of Directors to be as thorough as possible in answering these kinds of questions, so people can vote accordingly.

Blessings,
Lauren

*****

My name is Lauren Mart (though some of you may have known me previously as Lauren Neuman). I am an ADF member since 2012 and a Dedicant since 2013. My current study work has me moving towards completing ADF’s first circle of the Clergy Training Program. As well, I began a study group in 2013 that is now functioning as Nine Waves Grove in my hometown of Houston, TX, where I serve as Senior Druid. My primary hearth is Anglo-Saxon, though my daily practices (like all of ours) are as much my own as they are representative of my hearth culture.

What sort of Vision do you bring to the table for the future of ADF?

ADF is my spiritual home – something about this organization clicked for me from my very first exploration into the Dedicant Path back in 2012. Since then, I have refined and reinvented my personal Druidry to fit the growing role it has in my life. I want to see that druidry expand to encompass newcomers and solitaries, to see them supported in their vital role in our organization. I want to see us lead the way in paganism in consent culture and diversity. I want us to get our hands dirty in the environment around us, and to be druids of the land, not just druids of the library. I want us to serve the Kindreds with our whole hearts – however that looks to each of us. I want each person to bring their own brilliance, their own genius into ADF and find there a home for it to grow and flourish, that we may be, together, stronger than any of us is apart. And I want us to foster excellence. True excellence requires sacrifice – and I know that’s hard to think about. Each of us has the opportunity to bring out the best in each other, and I want to see that as ADF steps forward into the next years of being Our Druidry.

Are there any *specific* problems or goals that you want to tackle? How do you hope to address those problems/goals?

Recently, ADF has found itself in a sort of “combustion cycle”, especially online, where every six to eight months there is a blow-up about something. This is also indicative of a culture where there is a lack of transparency and trust – where people feel like they can’t trust the leaders of the organization to do the right thing (especially in these trying times where the “right” thing may be hotly debated).  I want to bring folks into the discussion, be a voice that is level-headed and (hopefully) trusted in these conversations, and always do my best to be as transparent, as trustworthy, as empowering, and as kind as possible, both to my fellow members of the MG and to the membership of ADF as a whole. Personal sovereignty is near to my heart, and I’d like to see that respected across ADF – that each of us brings our own genius to these challenges, and a culture of us-vs-them only makes us all smaller. Let’s be large. Let’s quote Whitman, and contain multitudes. Let’s embrace, and increase, our diversity in the organization. Not every idea is good, but literally any person in this organization should be respected for having good ideas – let’s open our hearts and minds to each other, from the MG right down to the newest member – and try to move forward into a place of more trust and transparency.

If you win the position you are running for, what will be the biggest obstacle you will have to overcome? How do you plan to do so?

There will be a lot to learn! I am an active member of ADF, and follow along with as much as I can from where I and my grove serve our community, but stepping into this position on a national level will bring with it new challenges. I expect that it will take a lot of my time and energy, and a lot of both hard work and heart work. But I feel strongly that new voices are needed in our organization – folks maybe who are like me, who haven’t been around ADF for twenty years. This is my sixth year as a member of ADF, my fifth year as a dedicant. I’ve done a lot of work in the organization, and I’ve gotten a ton in return. It’s time for me to do my best to serve this organization and try to help us overcome our growing pains and step into the next thirty years of Our Druidry.

Volunteer recruitment and burnout are big problems. Do you have any plans to address either of those issues?

Well, I’m volunteering! I’m new to ADF on the International level. I want to see other beginners, like me, feel empowered to take steps into the limelight. To feel heard, and valued, and then supported as we bring a new generation of leaders to ADF. To support this, I want to see a continuation of all of the work that folks like Crystal Groves have done, to get positions in ADF advertised widely and broadly. I want to see groves recruiting members to serve in more positions above the grove level, and I want to see solitary voices stepping into positions of leadership and guiding our growth.

I truly believe ADF has the smarts and the vision and the wisdom to grow into the organization that we all want it to be, if we put our minds and hearts toward that purpose.

What special skills would you bring to the position?

I bring with me the skills I have developed in bringing a group of three folks, meeting once a week to talk shop about paganism and transforming that into a functioning grove of fifteen, with weekly meetings, study groups, and the capacity to lead a (in my *totally* unbiased opinion) fantastic ritual at a statewide festival.

As well, I bring with me years of experience talking with other pagans about how to begin. I’ve talked with countless folks in the last six years about how to start a pagan practice, how to find what they’re called to do, how to Do the Work, whatever it looks like for them. I know how to listen to someone, help them distill their ideas down into core values and concepts, and then turn those core values and concepts into actions and practices that we can all learn from. Every time I do this, my own druidry is strengthened. I hope to bring those experiences with me into the Mother Grove, that we can all hear from both the beginner and the advanced practitioner.

Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the mind of the beginner, there are many possibilities.” I hope to bring my own cultivation of “beginner’s mind” to the Mother Grove, and maybe bring your infinite possibilities along with me.

How will you contribute to building a culture of consent in ADF?

I will make sure that, among other things, a consent culture course is taught (ideally as the first workshop) at any event where I am giving a presentation. If there is no-one to teach such a course, I will teach it myself.

Beyond that, I will do what I can to continue ADF’s cultural growth towards consent, including training our Grove Organizers and Senior Druids, creating consent training that is appropriate for all age groups and all event types.

Were it up to you, where would you take this organization 5 years from now, and how would you get us there?

I want to see ADF become a truly safe space for folks to come when the polarized, monotheist, black and white culture that is so prevalent in our world becomes too much. I want to see our solitaries empowered to teach in their communities (if they want to do so), our initiates serving the folk one-on-one with divination and perspective and vision, our groves providing places for families to come who need infrastructure that has, as yet, been unavailable to pagans. I want to see our priests empowered to be priests, not just administrators or sacrificers, and to lead the way into new arenas for Our Druidry. Big dreams, I know, but I feel that this organization has something special and I don’t want our light – our vision – to be clouded or lost in a world that largely doesn’t know what to make of us.

What other roles have you held within the organization, and what have you done while in them?

I joined ADF in 2012, as a solitary member. From there I started a study group, which became a protogrove, and now is a chartered grove (Nine Waves Grove, in Houston), where I have served as both Grove Organizer and now Senior Druid. Our grove has had as many as 12 ADF members associated, and our high days typically serve 25-35 members of our community. I am also the Anglo-Saxon Vice Chieftain of the Northern Kin, was an active member of the Druid Moon Casts when those were still active, and have been active in the Texas pagan community, helping build community between the groves in various parts of our state. Aside from that service, I am new to ADF on the International stage, and bring a fresh new set of eyes and perspectives to the organization. I hope that my enthusiasm and work ethic will translate into my service to ADF on the Mother Grove.

How will you encourage ways of making ADF accessible to children (with parental consent, of course)?

Our children are our future. In my work with Nine Waves, we have just grown large enough to begin creating resources for children. I know other groves are doing this work, and rather than have all of us re-invent the wheel, I’d like to see a cross-grove project to bring children’s resources together. Whether that’s simply a list of documentation that people are willing to share on a page on the website or something bigger will depend on the kind of response we get as a MG, but I think that it is absolutely time to begin to compile all of that information.

What does the NOD job description mean to you and how would you fulfill the duties of NOD?

I believe that the responsibility of the Non Officer Director (NOD) is to serve as one of the voices of the folk on the Mother Grove. Recently there have been troubles with transparency, as well as members of the folk feeling dismissed and unheard when decisions are made. Like many of you, I see that as a troubling sign that our organization is unhealthy. As NOD I will work to the best of my ability to be both accessible to anyone, as well as to be as transparent as I can be within the bounds of the office – even if all I can say is “We’re working on XYZ thing and should have something to share publicly soon”.

I also want to get new voices on the MG. Aside from my service to the Northern Kin, this is my first foray into ADF as an International organization. I bring a fresh new set of eyes, a strong voice, and hopefully can lead the way for more of our folk to feel empowered to get involved in our organization in whatever ways they can.

Lately, ADF has been rocked by several ‘scandals’ for lack of a better word, and frankly, the MG has floundered. From appointing people to making statements without complete information, these sorts of things are damaging to the organization. If elected, how would you go about navigating the issues facing the organization around bringing more transparency to processes while still responding to crisis in a timely manner?

This is a double-edged sword; we must be transparent, so that our members know that we are acting. But we must also be unified as a Mother Grove, for without a feeling of unity, we will be torn apart in the political climate of the world right now. I want to see more people interacting with MG members outside of just the minutes and meeting notices. We have a PR person for major releases, but as leaders we have to be willing to be human in public. That’s scary – it’s scary even considering it now, as just a Senior Druid. But without our humanity, without transparency, and without acting with both Wisdom and Vision, we flounder, and our organization suffers. I can’t make promises here on turnaround time, but I can say, should I be elected to NOD, I would do my best that every member of ADF knows they can come to me as a level-headed resource for discussion.

How do you view environmental issues within the context of ADF? What, if any, goals do you have to change the current actions or lack of actions currently present within ADF?

ADF is at a crossroads with regards to the environment. Like so many things in our culture, it is a polarized and polarizing force that must be handled with care. But we are druids – at heart, we honor the Earth Mother. I would like to see more environmental action, even if it’s not surrounding public policy. Let’s get groves to challenge each other on environmental service hours – let’s clean up our rivers and beaches (watersheds are close to my heart, as I live in the bayous of Houston, and they need so much love). I want to see our groves take their commitment to community service seriously, and go out and be known as the people willing to get their hands muddy to make the earth a better place. We can do that, regardless of our politics.

How do you view the role of solitary members within ADF and how do you anticipate that role will change over the course of your proposed term?

I started my tenure in ADF as a solitary, and the solitaries of ADF have a special place in my heart. You are the life of our organization, because through you we find our growth. I took it upon myself as a solitary to pray for the “communities” of ADF, and I would like our communities to return the favor. Should I have the opportunity to travel, I would hope to see solitary members where *they* are, not expect them to come to me, out here in Houston. I especially want to support the solitaries that are solitary not by choice, but by geography, in developing new resources for starting groups that might be even less formal than a protogrove. That’s how I got started with my own community, and I’d love to share that knowledge so that solitaries who want to (and I know that’s definitely not all of you) have the support and resources they need to try and plant a little acorn of a community where they are.

How would you work to make ADF as respected and legitimate as any other church in the USA, and the world.

To be respected on the level of other churches in the USA and in the World we need a bigger vision for our clergy training program – that’s likely to be a revamp that will take a long time, but modern humans need modern priests, and we can’t rely on the Indo-European “Sacrifice-Priest” to be our only model of priesthood. I’d like to see more training in pastoral care, in counseling, in one-on-one work, and in leadership models that will bring us more in line with the kind of training that churches in other religions have to offer.

In real actions, how would you, if elected, improve on the great job the MG has been doing?

In very real ways, stepping into the MG right now is stepping into some really big shoes. There are folks on the MG who have done tireless, often thankless work, and I feel as NOD it will be my job to take their efforts and run with them. To be unflagging in my support of transparency, of best practices, of listening, and of being decisive about where we truly want to take our organization into the future.

I would like to hear the candidates thoughts on strategic planning for ADF.  Where do you see us in 10 years?  20 years?  How are we going to get there?  What are your goals on the MG?

We need a vision for ADF that is bigger – as we take steps toward our current goals, we should be pushing out further into the future. I want to see us, as an organization, think bigger than just churches. I want to see more multimedia content, streamed rituals, a solid online presence that doesn’t restrict the folk to communities where those already exist. I want to see us lead the way in Paganism, to show that we have the smarts and the cohesion to turn what was a “new idea” in 1983 into something truly groundbreaking. We’ve always challenged ourselves to excellence, and I think excellence in growth is one of the ways we should be looking forward.

That will, likely, mean that ADF has to make some decisions about what we stand for – I hope that I can help guide the MG as we decide (both as the MG and as the organization as a whole) how we want Our Druidry to look.

How would you ensure fair treatment of members regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, class, or ability?

By being a voice for *all* members of ADF – even the ones who aren’t sure they can speak up. As a NOD, it would be my job to take the mantle of criticism, in lieu of someone who was afraid or unsure how to speak up. I want to bring us forward, and that means sometimes being the one to stick my own head above the crowd. Throw your ideas my way, let’s work on them together, and I’ll bring them to the MG. I can’t promise we’ll get everything implemented, but I can promise that they’ll get brought up.

How would you look to heal divisions in the organization, bring the organization to a sense of more inclusive wholeness and create a positive vision for all members regardless of whether they are clergy, dedicants, solitaries, old-timers, newcomers, etc. Do you feel that all members are equal?

All members of ADF are, at their core, members of ADF. Regardless of what titles we hold, what study programs we complete, what service we provide, we are all members of this crazy thing we call Our Own Druidry. It is *ours* – and it is painful to me to see the impressions that people have of divisions within the organization. It is hard for an organization that is divided within itself to stand, steadfast in the rising tide of insanity that is the world at large right now. But grand ideas about unified druids are only so useful as the voices who will seek to heal those divides. That will take time, but I can think of no language that expresses my desire to be part of that healing process strongly enough.

ADF is my home. I want it to be a home for all of us, regardless of the things that have so far divided us.

How do we assure that non-Clergy, especially members with experience and skills that could be useful the organization, have a voice and place within leadership?

I see the recent MG move to advertise all positions as a good first step in this direction. I think more and more, we will need to have new voices be strong and present in our organization – not from outside the organization, but from within. We need a way to coordinate volunteers, and bring forward those of us with skills that can help our druidry grow. I would like to see this happen in increasing numbers with positions from the Regional Druids up to the MG, where assistance is called for and advertised, and the folk are empowered to serve. Without new members in service, we will burn out.

And finally, what are we offering to members who are isolated and have no interest, time, and/or ability to pursue a study program?

ADF offers a spiritual home where anyone can find others of like mind and like heart, where all are welcome to make sacrifices. Yes, we are a studious organization, but we are an organization founded with the idea that laity are to be celebrated. I think the upcoming “Hearthkeeper” idea is an excellent one – a set of “first steps” into our practices as Druids that doesn’t require homework, just hearth-work. I want to nurture that program and see it grow into a network that is ADF-wide.

Since I started my tenure with ADF in 2012, I have talked to countless people, all over the world, about how to start a devotional practice, about how to live as druids. I think everyone brings their own genius to such an endeavor, regardless of whether they ever write a book report, and we should be in the business of connecting the dots, bringing people together, and helping them find a home for their spirituality.

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I started in on this on twitter, but realized there was a lot more than I could cover in even a series of tweets here.

ADF is, at its core, welcoming to Pagan laity. We hold public high day rituals because we want people to come and worship the Gods. We don’t force everyone who comes to our rituals to join ADF, and we don’t force everyone who joins to complete their Dedicant work, and we don’t even require attendance at regular study meetings, let alone mandatory ritual celebration (solitary or in groups). Can you spend a lot of time studying in ADF? Absolutely. And I think there’s a ton of value there. But if you just want to show up, get your worship on, and then go home and continue with your life… THAT’S OKAY.

It is 100% okay to want to be a practicing Pagan and just do your thing, practice your devotions to your gods, and live your life.

ADF is a public Pagan church. That inherently includes both priests and laity. And this is good! Not all Pagan groups are run with laity in mind!

So let’s knock off the shit about how we’re more spiritually enlightened because we have bookshelves worth of study materials and enjoy debating the finer points of paleo-religious theory. You can be pretty damn spiritually enlightened with a small home altar, some candles or a triple hallows, and heartfelt devotion to the Kindreds or your spiritual beings of choice. And, in fact, if you’re actually practicing and doing the religious devotional work, you might even be MORE spiritually enlightened than someone who never does any actual religious work but spends all their time reading without applying or doing anything with what they’re learning.

ALSO WHILE I’M WEARING THE RANT PANTS.

Someone believing in the disproved “Great Ancient Mother Goddess Religion” of Gimbutas and her ilk DOES NOT MAKE THEM WICCAN. It makes them ignorant of current scholarship. There are lots of ways to be Wiccan (of various flavors and types – it’s a hugely diverse religion), and most of those ways are at least duotheistic, if not truly polytheistic (the Trad coven I was part of the outer court with was polytheist). Also there is an entire religion devoted to a Great Mother God that has nothing to do with Wicca.

(Also with the “this person believes a stupid thing about a goddess therefore WICCA”? WTF? Wiccans are not uneducated morons.)

If someone says “I believe in the Goddess, but I’m not Wiccan” you say “okay”. You are not the arbiter of other people’s religion. You don’t try to force them to change their mind about how they’re really secretly Wiccan. Double especially if you’re trying to convince them to be Wiccan because they’re disruptive and embarrassing, and you just want them to go away and stop coming to your particular group’s meetings. Be straight with people about their behavior. If they’re a pain in the ass, tell them so and ask them to shape up or stop coming. The Wiccans don’t want embarrassingly disruptive people either.

So. Let’s be welcoming to the laity, and encourage them on their spiritual path(s). Let’s encourage, rather than one-up, each other, and remember that studying might make you knowledgeable, but it doesn’t make you a better person. And let’s quit it with the ridiculous assumptions about Wiccans. Many Wiccans (especially coven/Trad Wiccans) have just as much homework as the more well-known-for-being “studious” traditions, and often more spiritual discipline to go with it.

And in case it wasn’t painstakingly clear from the rest of this post, if you choose to use my comments section to bash Wicca, I will send your comments straight into the spam oubliette.

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