Journeys: Thoughts from a Druid Path

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The Continuing Vision: Priests

Isaac Bonewits' Vision for ADF has been the guiding thought for the organization since its inception. It guided ADF through its formative stage and continues to be the vision that we all share. In our continuing examination of that vision, we come to the next item in Isaac's Vision: the priesthood. Isaac saw ADF as a church and he saw priests in his church.

Here is what he had to say:

"In ADF we believe that excellence in clergy training and practice is vital for any healthy, growing religion. To that end we are attempting to create a professional clergy training program equal in difficulty and superior in results to anything done by the world's other religions. Unlike many alternate religions, we will never have "instant initiations" into our clergy. Nor do we assume that every member of our religion will have a genuine vocation to the clergy, though it's likely that a high proportion will for the first couple of decades. Instead we expect that eventually the vast majority of our people will be laity."

Not every flavour of neopaganism has priests. In some groups, priests are made by fiat, by the will of a leader or by some other subjective methods. In ADF, Isaac wanted a verifiable priesthood, one in which each and every member of the Clergy could point to their training and show that they had a common core of knowledge that is shared by everyone. Granted, there have been a number of waves of priests throughout the years, but, in every case, these individuals had to work and produce to become priests.

There are three levels to the priesthood in ADF and each of these circles of learning has a requisite number of courses and a portfolio of material to turn in for approval. There are Ordained Priests (1st Circle), Consecrated Priests (2nd Circle), and Senior Priests (3rd Circle). ADF also added the category of Priest Emeritus for those priests who have chosen to retire.

One of the beauties of ADF's ritual style, commonly known as the Core Order of Ritual, is that no matter where someone goes in the world, the format of ADF ritual is the same. By the same token, the priest will be similarly trained to all other priests in ADF, although the presentation may vary widely. I have been fortunate enough to see ADF ritual in German in Germany and it was Core Order, it was offered by an ADF priest, and it was what I expected it to be. It was with great pride that I ordained our first European ADF Priest this past June and the tradition of excellence continues on another continent.

My vision of the ADF Priest is somewhat broader than Isaac's. As Archdruid, I am a solitary priest and there have been solitary priests before me. I like to think that the solitary priest is much like the Journeyman Priest of the RDNA that would travel wherever s/he would be needed. I see this to be the case in ADF and I encourage this. Most of our members are solitary and it is not unusual that there would be priests who are also solitary. Originally, Priests were pretty much attached to Groves and it was assumed that each priest would work in the Grove setting. As time passed some priests who were affiliated with Groves found themselves either without a Grove or distant from a Grove.

In each case, the priest was expected to be a ritualist and a portion of the training was geared to developing this talent in our priests. Yet, Priests can be much, much more. From an organizational standpoint, priests can also have jobs within the Clergy Council especially as our priestly ranks continue to grow.

In the early 2000's, ADF had seven priests, including Isaac and three other Archdruids: Fox, Ian Corrigan, and Skip Ellison. As the Clergy Training Program was established, the number of priests grew and today, in 2017, we have 38 priests. I expect this number to continue to grow. As the Clergy Council continues to increase in membership, I can see some ADF priests taking different paths than just being ritualists. I envision Librarian Priests, who handle the volumes of writing and information that the Clergy produces. While the Clergy Council Secretary typically would handle these tasks, as the volume of writing grows, it may need a dedicated person to do this work. There may also be the need for a Historian Priest, a person who studies and maintains the ADF histories, now in its fourth decade. We may eventually have a Lawyer Priest, who handles some of the legal issues that are to be found around the world, and we may also have Continental Priests, those who are skilled or versed in the cultures of their respective continents. While this need may not need fulfilling in the near future, it is an eventuality that we must plan for in the years to come.

As part of our pursuit of excellence in the priesthood, we continue with our program of Continuing Education, where priests must recertify every three years. This year, we passed a new Continuing Education program which expanded greatly on the old program and all of the priests who needed to recertify did so.

Here is the new Continuing Education Program:

Every three years each clergy member must submit a simple written report to the Clergy Council Preceptor verifying at least THREE of the following activities in the prior three years:

1) Complete any course in any ADF study program.

2) Publish an article in "Oak Leaves" on any topic

3) Publish a book on a Druidism/Clergy related topic (This item counts as the equivalent of three activities.)

4) Teach a workshop on a Druidism/Clergy related topic at a protogrove/grove event, festival, convention, retreat or other public venue.

5) Produce an online video workshop or informative video of at least 15 minutes in length on a Druidism/Clergy related topic (links should be posted on ADF member discussion lists, websites, and/or in an ADF publication)

6) Produce a work of art of any type that was displayed or performed to fellow ADF members (this includes online posting of artwork and videos with links published on ADF member discussion lists or websites and/or use of  artwork in an ADF publication or website). The work must relate to the practice of ADF Druidry.

7) Attend or watch a combination of at least three continuing education workshops or online training videos. All such training resources shall be selected from materials pre-approved by the Clergy Council Preceptor. Each  resource may only be used once for credit toward this requirement.

8) Conduct/Lead at least 3 private or 1 public ritual

9) Receive outside certification in any Clergy related skill

10) Review and achieve final approval of 3 student course submissions in the ADF Clergy Training Program or Preliminary Clergy Training Program

Therefore, Isaac's Vision continues to inspire and it continues to grow. Our priests remain an active and important part of our organization and they continue to learn, to perform, and to serve. I continue to embrace this vision and welcome the presence of the clergy in not only our church, but in its practice.

We are orthopraxic, after all.


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I am a long-time pagan and charter member of ADF, Ar nDraoicht Fein, a Druid Fellowship. I am a Senior Priest in as well as the Arch Druid of ADF. I am a Druid of the Third Order, RDNA; Druid Grade, OBOD; and a Second Degree Druid Companion in AODA. I love Druidry!  


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