What to do about our Solitary Members?
When I first joined ADF in 1984, I was solitary for the better part of my first twenty years. I relied heavily, in the pre-internet days, on Druid’s Progress (the magazine) and News from the Mother Grove (the newsletter). In the rare instances that I would run into folks from ADF, I would try to glean as much information from them as I could: who, what, where, etc.
Once the internet became a major force, it was easier to find out things because of chat rooms or email lists. It was the next step in the process of getting information but one thing did not change: I was alone.
When I moved to Michigan, I hooked up with Shining Lakes Grove of which I am still a member. It was really a change of life for me. There are some solitary members who are solitary because they want to be, but, the great majority of solitary practitioners are solitary out of circumstance. Roughly 55% of the ADF population is solitary and I feel there is a need to find a way to make solitaries feel that they are part of the greater family of Druids. How does one do that?
I have often written to members when they joined to welcome them to ADF and let them know that we do not take their membership for granted. I am not sure that this practice was overly effective, but it was an attempt. Yet, that takes care of one day in the ADF life of a member and that is just not enough. So the question remains: what is to be done.
I have a couple of ideas.
I travel a great deal for ADF, mostly to see various groups or collections of people and I am often fortunate to see whatever solitary folks are able to make it to festivals, gatherings, or Pagan Pride days along the way. I have an idea to do a little bit more. I would like to propose that once a month, myself and someone else from leadership or clergy venture to a different state and try to find a central location where solitary folks might be able to gather and get to talk to some folks from a representative group from ADF. This might be something like a meet and greet followed by a ritual. Why a ritual some may ask? One of our ADF brands is our Core Order of Ritual which defines whether a ritual is an ADF ritual or not. It is one thing to read about it, it is another to see a ritual on You Tube, but it is entirely different to see it in person and to be a part of that experience. I guess this would be an ADF Road Show in a way. An activity like this would be fairly effective in smaller states, like Delaware and Rhode Island and probably a lot more challenging in larger states like Florida, Texas, New York, and California to name a few. I am sure the methodology would have to be developed and refined, but it would be a good way to meet the people who have either been members for a short amount of time or a long period of time and have rarely seen anyone from the organization.
I have also spoken to some folks in the gaming industry that have some definite ideas about creating an online experience that might be interactive, vital, and allow folks to share time and experiences together. This will take some time to develop and to recruit talent to help with the process, but the internet is the one place that we can come together and meet with relative ease. We have found success with chats, Google Hangouts, and other meet-up methodologies, especially when they are targeted to certain interest groups.
I would also like to invite and engage our clergy to get involved with offering ritual services online, so that if folks want to ask questions about ritual practice or actually try out some ritual practices with someone else, folks will be available to look, listen, and learn. Clergy is just a starting point – we have many Senior Druids or Grove Organizers who are talented with ritual and ritual construction. I would like to see online locales set up as test beds where people can try things out and get some gentle and guiding feedback from the folks mentioned above.
Finally, I would like to see our regional leadership, like Regional Druids and their deputies to contribute their experiences as well. Our regional folks are out there meeting people all the time and they may have found approaches that are vital as well.
There is nothing like the immediacy of being with and interacting with people in person. I am hoping that by trying these ideas and also reaching out with monthly gatherings that we can not only let solitary practitioners know that they are not alone, but also help them feel more connected to the whole.