In the second of a two-part series, The Wild Hunt reached out to a couple of longtime members of the Covenant of the Goddess to get their perspectives on how the Grand Council will impact members of CoG, as well as those who might be interested but don’t know how to connect with the group.
I reached out to the two members, Andrea Kendall and Macha Nightmare, to get their thoughts on the same questions that were posed to Janine Nelson, the National Public Information Officer for CoG. Their answers are listed below.
The Wild Hunt: Welcome to The Wild Hunt! What can you tell our readers about what the new National Membership Outreach Officer means for Covenant of the Goddess members and for others who are not in CoG that aren’t in that description? How do you envision their role affecting CoG members and also those who might be interested in CoG?
Andrea Kendall: For existing members, the National Membership Outreach Officer will provide guidance and materials that will help us effectively reach out to the greater Witch/Wiccan community while allowing us to focus our efforts in a way that fits the vision and mission of the covenant and the needs of the local council.
The Outreach Officer can help people who are not in CoG learn about the organization. What does CoG do? What benefits there are to joining? How can CoG and its members be effective in their region and the world?
As I stated above, the National Membership Outreach Officer can help members, in addition to providing guidance, by maybe providing a fresh perspective on working with the National Public Information Officer and National Membership Officer in creating new promotional materials for members to share at various events. I trust the incoming officer to know the level of guidance and materials that will have the most effect. I can imagine that they might decide to create a “poster document” to use at a local Pagan Pride event. This document might serve as a template that could be used to inspire a poster for members to use.
Additionally, they will be a great resource for answering questions such as what type of materials tends to work well on social media? What about at local Pagan Prides?
I suspect that they will also want our ideas on how we can easily contribute to the effort of promoting CoG. A way to let people know why members joined CoG and why they stay. The most powerful thing we can do is share our stories and let people know they are welcomed in the organization. That we do want to listen to new ideas while sharing what has worked.
Given the growth of Wicca/Witchcraft, I suspect that a great number of people have never even heard of CoG. So they do not know the depth of craft knowledge that current members have. Also, they may be unaware of the important role CoG has played in things such as securing rights for those who follow our religion, training offered at our annual meetings, nor of our interfaith work. They might not see the value of a local group of knowledgeable Witches/Wiccans working together in a world where it is easy to make a Meetup.
Another thing they can do is help demystify the process of joining CoG. At first glance, people who are interested in becoming members might not know exactly how to go through the process of joining. The National Membership Outreach Officer, in conjunction with the National Membership Officer and National Public Information Officer, may choose to create materials that explain this or might choose to put interested people in touch with others who can help. Either way, someone looking into joining will get assistance. Of course, because CoG is an all-volunteer organization this assistance might take some time to coordinate, but I have confidence it will be there.
Macha Nightmare: CoG created the new position Outreach Officer because CoG’s relevance to Witches, and to other Pagans, is little known. We especially want younger Witches to know of our work, and to consider joining. CoG established this new Outreach Officer not only for recruitment in general but also because as a younger Witch can speak more knowingly and sympathetically to younger people.
The fact is that membership, although comprised of adult Witches and Wiccans of all ages, is aging. Those who created CoG gathered together for a few years before formalizing the Covenant and incorporating with the California Secretary of State. That was a time in society when nearly every Witch lived deep in the broom closet and most were disconnected from one another. Also, CoG had to ensure confidentiality as to who its members were, a policy that continues today for those who wish to remain unidentified. In the pre-Internet world of 1975, before many of today’s Witches were born, CoG membership offered the ability of its members to network with other vetted Witches. This networking fostered solidarity, trust, and the power of numbers.
There are a few current members who were among the founders; however, many have crossed over. All of us wish for CoG to continue.
I think that most people can appreciate the history and institutional knowledge, wisdom, and sometimes even temperance, that older folks often carry. In addition to founding members, many of us, myself included, have maintained our membership, and involvement, for decades. Our new Outreach Officer has the benefit of access to this pool to seek historical reference and counsel if he feels the need of it.
In its earlier years, CoG was mainly a California institution. California corporate law requires that we meet as a body at least once a year. That was relatively easy when all members are in the same state, even such a big one. But if CoG wanted to be really relevant and useful to all Witches, it had to expand beyond California’s borders. To that end, a festival called MerryMeet was added to the annual Grand Council in 1981. That gathering was the first I attended as a member.
The late Alison Harlow was instrumental in this outreach. Among others in attendance at that MerryMeet/Grand Council were Ginny Brubaker and Dave Norman and friends from the Temple of the Pagan Way in Chicago, a delegation of Witches from Salt Lake City, and the late Judy Harrow.
Now it is time to build upon this foundation.
TWH: How do you see the extension of most national officer positions being extended to two-year terms helping the organization?
AK: Since CoG is a non-profit 501(c3) organization, there is a steep learning curve to being an officer. You have to understand the bylaws. You have to understand the requirements that an organization needs to keep its 501(c3). You have to know how to work with people who are highly individualist using a consensus model. Then you have to learn what you need for your specific office. For some officers, this includes the financials and what CoG does to make sure that all monies donated are being used in the way that people who support the organization would want. If you are the Membership Officer you need to learn software that can be very difficult for non-technical people. All this takes time. So by having two-year terms, the officers will be able to use what they learned to move the organization forward rather than restarting that process potentially every year.
This also allows the Covenant to spend our time at Grand Council on other things besides vetting officers. My hope is that the Grand Council will morph into a meeting that allows people in the Covenant to get to know each other better so we can work towards our common goals.
MN: Two-year terms have the benefit of continuity. All CoG officers are volunteers, people who have lives outside of the Covenant, so sometimes life interferes (work situations, illness, family emergencies, etc.). In a perfect world, allowance for temporary MIA shouldn’t be problematic. There are the other officers on the current Board, plus, in the past, an Emeritus/Emerita National First Officer. Further, CoG has many experienced elders to whom to turn for counsel if and when it seems that would be helpful.
Like every other group, CoG has its own modus operandi and distinct culture of terminology, gestures, and common understandings.
It is my hope that two-year terms of office can accommodate less involvement of a particular officer for very short periods of time, and can make use of Covenant member resources when needed.
TWH: Any insight into possible ways CoG will begin marketing and promoting itself at Pagan events, at colleges, and improving the organization’s social media presence?
AK: I have not spoken personally to the new National Membership Outreach Officer about their specific ideas for this. However, since I was part of the process that created this position and approved the new officer position I know they will do a great job. So what I can say about this is I would expect that like any good marketing campaign it will begin by identifying our target audience and understanding their needs. I would also expect measurable goals to be set such as the number of people we hope to reach out to and attract.
MN: Personally, I would like to see a CoG presence, even a minimal one, at every Pagan festival and conference in the U.S. Preferably a real live person who can answer questions, but at the very least ads in their programs and a small supply of informational papers. Further, I’d like to see ads in all Pagan zines and websites.
TWH: How does the Grand Council and the National Board members see the governing board impacting CoG on a national level and impacting things on a local level?
AK: This is really two questions. I will address each of them separately.
a) How does the Grand Council and the National Board members see the Governing Board impacting CoG on a national level?
The new structure of CoG will allow the members to truly own the organization. When CoG was started technology did not exist that made it possible for people across the nation to communicate with each other in real-time easily. Add to that the legal requirements of a non-profit organization and the fact that we are an all-volunteer organization. This brought a lot of challenges for the officers. They were tasked with representing a very diverse group of people and shaping the vision of the entire organization. However, they did not have an easy way to check with the rest of the membership throughout the year.
This sometimes led to a dynamic where the local membership saw the national board as separate from them. The new Governing Board makes it clear that like others in the organization have elegantly stated: “We are CoG.” In other words, we now have a voice and a responsibility to shape the future of the organization. To allow CoG’s potential to be realized. As I see it, that potential is to be a group of people who come together because of the things that unite us and find common causes to work on. By working together we have the opportunity to allow CoG to better represent all of us.
b) How does the Grand Council and the National Board members see the Governing Board impacting things on a local level?
When the idea for the Governing Board came up I was excited about the experiment but worried that participating in the Governing Board for a newly forming local council might be seen as too hard. As someone at Grand Council wisely pointed out the Governing Board can act as advisors to councils that are struggling or trying to form. It can mentor and brainstorm with those councils. Once I heard this I changed my mind on the potential cost in time because I could see the benefit. At the end of the day, it will be up to each local council and the Assembly of Individuals to show up and participate. The more people who can find the time the better.
I am also confident that the National and Governing Boards can work with local councils that have difficulty meeting the additional time commitment of serving on the Governing Board.
MN: Local councils have the autonomy to produce events, participate in larger events, form alliances, and issue important statements on current events. Members of LCs know each other pretty well and have built mutual trust. To this end, many LCs maintain websites, issue statements, and one even has a podcast.
The National Board, on the other paw, while it is authorized to speak on behalf of the entire organization, is comprised of people from all over the country, making it more difficult to schedule meetings to discuss any current situation that would benefit from actions of the Board requiring a quick response.
What kinds of things, you may ask. Well, at the very least issues when a religious group experiences loss, discrimination, or tragedy. When a synagogue is bombed, when a terrorist shoots up folks in an AME church; when a mosque is set afire; when Native rights and sacred sites are threatened and/or territory commandeered (such as contamination of their water supply or running gas pipes through their lands).
CoG was established to assure Wiccan clergy the same rights and privileges that other religious leaders are afforded. To that end, CoG members have assisted in criminal investigations when possible occult matters are questioned; served as liaison with journalists; addressed political, civic, and educational groups about the Craft; worked for legal recognition of its clergy in jurisdictions where there is bureaucratic resistance; and have been significant in efforts to establish the Pagan Studies Section of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), an international scholarly religious organization, and more.
Most importantly, CoG has been in on the ground floor with the development of interfaith dialogue and action. This has been done on the local level in several cities and states, on the continental level (NAIN – North American Interfaith Network), and on a global level (URI – United Religions Initiative; PWR – Parliament of the World’s Religions), for a total of 27 different interfaith organizations with active CoG participation.
The Wild Hunt thanks Andrea and Macha for their insights into what the recent decisions of the Grand Council, especially the creation of the new National Membership Outreach Officer, will mean for the Covenant of the Goddess as an organization.