Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are We Ready for More Leadership

This summer members of the Pagan community who serve in, or want to serve in leadership positions are invited to the Pagan Leadership Skills Conference in Richmond, VA, July 23rd through the 26th. Circle Sanctuary is also offering a Pagan Leadership Institute during Pagan Spirit Gathering this year (June 14-21 near Salem, MO). The call is there. Leaders step forward! We need you. We want you. Are we ready? I don't know.

I've been saying for years that the Pagan community needs to get more organized. This much creativity and imagination scattered to the winds is just shame. Not to mention the benefits of organization that we just don't have because we just aren't.

But "they" say that you can't organize a group this diverse. Is that so? Do you think Dr. Martin Luther King's followers only consisted of Southern black Christians? And heck, this is America. We're all about diversity here. We have a government, a bureaucracy, don't we? And isn't it built on a model that was developed by... what? Pagans?

Diversity is a strength, not a weakness. A leader whose followers consist of carbon copies of himself has nowhere to go but where he already is. How boring is that? A diverse group will prevent abuse by its leaders and will bring creative and unique solutions to problems and multiple talents to create a firm foundation for whatever project they want to get off the ground.

We have some leaders. Good leaders who have served the community for years, but we need more. Many of these have been active since the 60s and could use some backup from a fresh generation to deal with 21st century issues. We also need leaders to cooperate rather than compete. It seems there's a lot of "I can do it better" among the leadership of different groups, and I have seen more than one embarrassing spat. Leaders accuse others of everything from whoring to being "in it for the money" as if there were money to be made in public service (and as if the quest for money was somehow a bad thing). I have seen promising leaders throw up their hands in defeat after losing huge amounts of time and money on projects that they were promised help on, and that many members of the community swore they wanted, but in the end were only attended by a few, if any.

People complain and even verbally attack organizers because events aren't conveniently located for them (only to not bother to show up when the next event is located near them) or costs too much (but will not help with lowering costs). It is as if many Pagans really want to live in a fantasy world where everything is convenient, free, fun and requires no effort whatsoever. Who are these people? I am sure they aren't the majority, but a loud minority (like the fundies) drowning out the voices of the reasonable.

I have heard the argument that Pagans are, as a group, generally not terribly wealthy. Bull says I. You're telling me that people who can waste their money on jewel encrusted wands, solid gold pentagrams, ungodly velvet cloaks, renfest wear of all sorts, not to mention authentic medieval weapons, statues and more statues, and scads of herbs, oils and incense... can't afford to pay a few dollars a month in dues to an organization that is created for their benefit or shell out a couple hundred a year for fellowship events? I think it's really a matter of trust. And I've always been suspicious of people who didn't trust other people.

There are more and more of us in trouble now due to the economy. We should be able to support each other in times of trouble with networking and maybe even material support. But that can't be done without organization.

I have been involved with the Pagan community for almost 10 years now and in that time I have heard the excuses, the whining and the accusations. I have seen promising leaders give up and promising organizations fold. But I have also seen more positive signs in recent years. More open dialogue, more acceptance of diverse ideas and more people unafraid to call bullshit when they see it. Of course, there are more of us out of the broom closet making ourselves known to each other and many of us are *gasp* normal people and it seems that the loud minority is maybe not quite as loud as it once was. There are more young people in the Pagan community who were raised Pagan and don't see it as a revolutionary thing and those of us approaching middle age who once did have gotten tired of rebellion and are ready for a more pragmatic approach.

We have to take care of each other. It's as simple as that. And someone is going to have to handle the paperwork. Someone is going to have to handle the logistics and legalities and someone is going to have to bring snacks. Those people are our leaders. Let's support them! If you're one of those people THANK YOU! I know how hard it is sometimes. And if you're one of those people on the fence, thinking about jumping into the leadership arena, if you've got a great idea or you think you might know of a better way to do something- speak up. I am not sure that we're ready for you, but we just might be.