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Vocational Essay for Clergy Status
Within ADF
(Annotated Version)

ADF asks three questions of those applying for Clergy status. Below are the three questions, and my answers to them.

1. Why do you want to become a Priest, and what is your plan for making that goal happen?

I began thinking about priesthood years ago, back around the time when I first became Pagan. At the time, it seemed like a natural extension of my path, like it was a place I would eventually end up. As I moved through my life, I sought experiences that would help train me for this eventual path, mostly by myself, as a solitary practitioner, until I joined ADF in 2001. At that point, I began working toward ADF Priesthood immediately.

As recently as three years ago, after my completion of the ADF Dedicant Program, I have struggled with and sought to confirm to myself that I am, indeed, called to the Priesthood. Over the past year, in particular, this drive has intensified. I have seriously questioned myself, looking hard at who I am. I have particularly sought to uncover a definite "calling" or "vocation" for the Priesthood, journaling daily from August 1, 2004 until August 1, 2005. I found this in the summer of 2005, thanks to a close friend.1

After discerning that I had, indeed, felt a Call, that there was something within me that would constantly steer me toward priesthood for the rest of my life, I began to work hard on myself. There have been some pitfalls, some horrible missteps that I have made in the past year, but I have learned from them and feel more prepared today than I ever have in the past.2 I have seen that the path of priesthood is something that I will continue to grow into for the rest of my life.

I truly see priesthood as a path, not as a destination, which requires me to discuss my previous steps as well when I describe my plan. My first real step onto that path was when I joined ADF, for I joined with the knowledge of where ADF could take me. My completion of the ADF Dedicant Program was a further step along that path. I began on the Generalist Study Program as soon as it was approved, even though I was unsure that I would find application in the courses offered in the not-yet-completed Clergy Training Program. I have already had one of the classes in the GSP approved, and have submitted each of others for review. I do intend to continue this particular journey, though I have found a greater calling in helping Dedicants work through their own coursework.

I am willing to state that I will have the first circle of the Clergy Training Program approved by the Summerland Festival in 2006, and the Law and the Church course will be completed as soon as it can be after its approval. Beyond that, if there is a second circle approved, I will continue to work through the requisite circles, year by year, until I have been approved for full ordination. These are the measurable milestones that will aid me in my journey toward ordination.

Primary to my plan for seeking ordination, and far more important than the "milestones" above, is the desire to help others in their own studies. I firmly believe that there is much to be learned by going back to basics over and over again, and I find endless inspiration in the Dedicants of ADF. I expect that the thing I will find most valuable in my work toward ordination is the work of those who come after me, who teach me through their learning, and who make my journey easier through their questions and questing. I have a great deal of respect for the Dedicants of ADF, and I know that respect will only continue to grow as I grow with them.3

2. Why do you want to be an ADF Priest in particular?

There are two specific aspects to this:

  1. I wish to serve my Grove and local community as an ADF Priest, and to provide all the duties that such a Priest should be expected to provide.
  2. I wish to serve ADF as a whole by providing and continuing to provide the best training materials available in all of the Neo-Pagan community.

To some extent, I'm already acting as priest for my Grove. More than that, though, ADF has become my chosen path, my church, and my religion. ADF is one of the major identifiers I use when I speak about my religion: it is difficult for me to describe "my own" Druidry without describing ADF. At one time, I would have thought that describing my religion by describing the body of believers that I belong to was somewhat wrong, but I have seen that, to me, religion and community are intimately connected.

When I say I am already acting as Priest, I don't mean that I'm already ordained, or that I hold any sort of actual priestly title, nor am I insinuating that I "deserve" or "require" this title. I'm no reverend, father, brother, or brahmin. But yet, I act in the capacity of priest for a number of people both within and outside of my Grove.

I sat on my interest in ADF for several years. It wasn't until 2001 that I finally joined,4 primarily because I wasn't content to be a solitary Druid. My journals from those years include the words, "What good is a Druid without a community?" While I fully recognize that the solitary membership of ADF is not only unique but religiously active and self-evident, I feel a definite calling to serve my community, and that is an integral part of what Druidism is to me. Eventually attaining clergy status is a part of that calling. I founded Three Cranes Grove, ADF, primarily because I saw a need in Columbus, and knew that I had the ability and the calling to fill that need.

As my Grove grows, I look back at the things we said when the Grove was founded.5 We spoke of tending the Grove, nurturing it and guiding it to reach new heights. What I want now is to become a more able gardener, one who can fulfill the needs and wants of the trees, saplings, and plants he loves so much. Like the gardener with a new system of irrigation to replace a watering can or a a strong set of shears to replace a rusty old pocketknife, becoming a Priest will expand my tools and allow me to better serve my Grove, which is my primary goal. I wish to live a life of service to the gods and to my community, and I can think of no greater cause. While I am not eligible as a Senior Druid for Dedicant Priest status as I write this, I have been in the past, but hope to be eligible before Summerland 2006.6

As to my second reason, it is again based on community. I have now written two books designed to aid Dedicants as they work through the ADF Dedicant Program, and I expect to write a number more.7 These books have been provided for peer review to the ADF Dedicant Mentors, but I have no real access to the opinions of the Clergy Council on the whole. Because the ADF Clergy Council is responsible for the education of ADF Clergy, and the ADF Dedicant Program is the first step in that training, I often feel exposed and as if I'm overstepping my bounds when I finish a book and publish it. In this instance, I am not looking for the "approval" of the Clergy Council, so much as I am trying to make sure that I have provided the best possible resource, one that has been well-reviewed by our Clergy and our mentors, and one that I can say with authority is, indeed, in line with the spiritual goals of ADF. In order to achieve those aims, I need access to the role of ADF Priest and the counsel of other ADF Priests.

3. What does being a Priest mean to you in the cultural context of your Hearth Culture?

My initial reaction to this, of course, is that I do not live in the cultural context of my Hearth Culture. I can't think of the last time I met a Gaul, but then, I'm very much into the "Neo" portion of "Neo-Paganism." Despite that, I have long recognized that a path centering on the Celtic religions of ancient Gaul calls strongly to me. It is far from an easy path, as I have to deal with both a lack of hard historical evidence and an inversely proportionate number of crazy theories and people supporting them.

Within my Hearth Culture, being a Priest involves a strong connection with the deities both in public and in private, offering training and advice, and never ceasing to learn. While in Gaul there seems to have been a status that was afforded simply by bearing the title of "Druid," it is obvious that the title of Priest within ADF is one that not only requires but also deserves constant proving and strong commitment.

It is important to me that my deities always come first in my life. They come before my own happiness, my job, my well-being, and even before ADF. Piety is not only an outward, public display. It is also an inward charge, one that a priest must uphold within himself. If I hold a ritual and no one shows up, the ritual must still be done; if I hold a ritual and the gods do not show up, then I should not pretend at empty gestures. I need to be available to those who call me "Priest," no matter what time of day or night it is. I need to guide those who need guidance, and help those who need help, even if that help involves forcing them to help themselves. Most importantly, I cannot cease being a student. I must continue to learn and advance, and I must continue to provide the fruits of that learning to others.

I would be very young for a priestly title in my Hearth Culture, and I realize that I am young for a priestly title within ADF. This presents unique problems to me, but I am confident that my age will not stand in the way of my work, and may, hopefully, bring a new aspect to the Clergy of ADF. I have examined this point carefully over the past three years, as well, particularly when confronted with it directly by a leader in ADF in 2004, and feel very strongly that my age is more benefit than detriment.


1- I owe a lot to my friend Mazi, who cleared the question up very simply when she asked me, "What does a priest do that you don't do right now?" That question alone, while I had often asked it myself many times, made me realize that the calling I spent a full year seeking (and journaling for; journals are available on my site) had been there all along. I had been looking too hard for it.

2- Here, I owe a lot to Erien, who made me realize that the people I care most about will see me for who I am, and that the people who matter most in my life will not be fooled by a silly title, and that I could trust them to see me for myself. For as close as I am to her, her statement was pure and simple: "Michael, you will never be my clergy." And with those words, I realized that no matter what my status was to ADF or my Grove, there were people who would still know who I was, and whose estimation of my value would not require the idea that I was clergy. I could, indeed, be more than that to the people it mattered most to.

3- A story that I first heard as a Cub Scout has greatly influenced my life. Here it is, in its entirety:

The Bridge Builder
By Will Allen Dromgoole (1860-1934)

An old man going a lone highway,
came at the evening cold and gray,
to a chasm vast and deep and wide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
but he turned when safe on the other side
and built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man", said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting your strength with
building here; your journey will end
with the ending day. You never again
will pass this way. You’ve crossed the
chasm, deep and wide, why build a
bridge at evening tide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head;
"Good friend in the path I have come",
he said, "there followed after me today
a youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me,
to that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend I am building this bridge for him!"

4- When I found ADF back in the mid-1990's, I thought that it was the kind of place I'd want to be. I fired off an email to Isaac Bonewits asking about Groves, and he responded to me. And then I didn't do anything about it. But I do still have a printed copy of the email. . .

5- The inception statement of Three Cranes Grove, ADF, reads:

We have come together today for the inception of Three Cranes Protogrove, ADF, and to join together in worshiping and praising the Shining Ones. 

A Protogrove needs to be nurtured as it grows. It needs an influx of new ideas, a creative flow that will soak its roots and keep it strong and firm. It needs leadership to show it the heights it may attain, and dedicated gardeners to tend it and guide it to its destination. It needs the sunlight of enlightened minds to warm it and to synthesize energy and vigor. It needs faith in the Gods and Goddesses to grow straight and true.

If the flow of ideas grows stagnant, or the leadership and sunlight fail, the trees will not grow, but will wither and die. Without faith in the Gods and Goddesses, our work is in vain, for it is Their hands which guide our work. This Grove is our responsibility, for we have planted it. We must not fail it, for it will never fail us.

6- Something that I have struggled with in terms of ADF and the priesthood requirements are that I occasionally go in and out of eligibility, depending on the turnover of members. In November of 2005, I was eligible, but not ready. Now, in March of 2006, I am ready, but not eligible. The following timeline indicates my eligibility status for Dedicant Priest ordination, under the following criteria:

Eligible individuals are defined as those who have completed the ADF Dedicant Training Program as published in the New Member's Guide and who have at least two cumulative years of experience in the position of Senior Druid of an active ADF grove or groves. Their current grove should be composed of at least 9 ADF members at the time of their request, each of whom has been a member of ADF for a minimum of two years.
  • 11/16/2005 - eligible for Dedicant Priest ordination.
  • 12/14/2005 - no longer eligible.
  • 12/29/2005 - eligible for Dedicant Priest ordination.
  • 02/01/2006 - No longer eligible
  • 06/23/2006 - next potential date of eligibility if no new members with over 2 years' membership join.
  • 01/26/2007 - next potential date of eligibility if member renewing on 06/23/06 does not renew, a current member with more than two years of ADF membership lapses or leaves, and/or no new members join.

Each of these periods of ineligibility are due to a single member leaving or not renewing ADF membership. I have completed the DP and I have my two years of cumulative experience, but I cannot seem to reach the membership requirement, or perhaps to maintain it when I am ready to apply.

7- The first book, The Dedicant Program Through the Wheel of the Year, is available through CafePress, or free to ADF members in .pdf format. The second is entitled A Virtuous Life: The Nine Virtues of ADF, and is also available for free to ADF members in .pdf format. Forthcoming books include works on each of the other Dedicant Program requirements and one on Grove building using the DP.


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