So the past month has been dominated by PLSC. There’s been preparations to make, then going to the conference itself, and then recovery and fallout. It’s been a wild ride, and I think it’s only starting.
The conference itself was wonderful. radiantbaby and I learned some excellent information about group dynamics, and we met some fascinating, dynamic people. But we didn’t just meet them. No, we interacted with them. We shared stories, and we got some suggestions and inspiration on how to address some stuff going on down here in Atlanta.
See, for the eight or so years that I’ve been involved in the pagan community here in Atlanta, activity has seemed to be in a slow decline. People who have been around longer tell me about some big explosions and communication breakdowns that happened a little before I got to the city. There have been a couple of groups that have worked wonders at keeping things going—and some of them are still going strong—but it feels like the communications pathways aren’t there for people to find out about the opportunities and groups that are out there.
Throughout that time, a number of people I know have noticed the problem and started thinking about what to do about it. Some have started to try to fix it. A few of those are still working on it. But so far I haven’t seen any of these groups reach critical mass. That is, not until just recently.
A month or three ago, a handful of local pagan leaders started talking seriously about working together to address the problem. I’m not sure what possessed them to include me in their conversations. Nonetheless, a few weeks ago we sat down together and chatted about what we’ve seen in the past, what we see now, and what reasons we see behind the changes. We chatted about what we’d like to see in the future and what changes we need to get there. It was a productive talk, so we decided to do it again soon.
Then PLSC happened up in Richmond. I learned a bunch about small group dynamics and the forming, growth, and dissolution of those groups. And I chatted with leaders from around the country who have addressed issues similar to ours, from their own local areas and all the way up to national levels. In fact, I chatted with them a lot. I’m grateful that people like Eric Eldritch, Becky Starr, Drema Baker, and Judy Harrow aren’t up and running away from me in full haste with all the time I took chatting with them.
But they’re not running. To the contrary, they and the other leaders in attendance pretty clearly expressed interest in doing even more to support us in pulling back together and organizing ourselves. I got sincere interest from many of the people there and even direct generous offers of time and effort from a few. I was overwhelmed, to tell the truth. Here I was just hoping for some handy skills and contacts to help me in a general sense with local pagan organizations, and I was basically getting handed all of the information I needed for how other people have solved many of the exact same concerns that we’re now facing, and a good bite at direct aid in making it happen, too. All I had to do was figure out how to utilize all of these gracious offers.
I brought their offers back to Atlanta. My local compadres had set up our next chat for today—coincidentally the weekend after PLSC. We had another excellent chat today, and we came away from it with a number of solutions to begin exploring, planning, and implementing. I’ll let others talk about their own plans; personally I came away with support and resolve to make three things happen:
We will organize a pagan leadership summit modeled after the national Pagan Summit of 2001, but with a smaller focus. Instead of bringing in national pagan leaders to talk about national issues, we will bring in regional and local pagan leaders to focus on their own groups’ issues. This will allow us to broaden our understanding of the state of affairs from our own personal experience organizing groups and events in the area to include the experiences of many pagan leaders from different groups around the area. We look forward to finding shared concerns and working together to address them. Or, if we find out that we have different sets of concerns, we look forward to being able to share solutions to problems already solved by other groups, and to growing stronger as a community through the sharing.
The model adopted by the national Pagan Summit has already been applied effectively in the mid-Atlantic region by MAPLC (Mid-Atlantic (regional) Pagan Leadership Conference) and WaBaPLC (Washington–Baltimore (local) Pagan Leadership Conference), and it’s likely been applied by leaders in other areas as well. We haven’t determined yet whether our current situation warrants a regional or local focus, but we’re beginning to examine how we can draw on the successes of these other groups to run our own successful South East (regional) or Atlanta (local) PLC. Personally I aim to see a firm date set for this event within a year.
We will organize a communication medium to keep local pagans informed about open groups and rituals and about topical news. We’re only in the beginning stages of planning, so we haven’t yet determined whether this will be a standalone paper publication, an organized addition to an existing paper publication, or simply a central website for reliable information for the local pagan community. Our aim is to support local and visiting pagans in staying better informed about resources available to them. We haven’t talked about what to include yet, but preliminary suggestions have included open public event listings, open regular social events, announcements of groups accepting members and individuals seeking groups or other individuals, topical news articles of note, and informational articles about our paths. My personal goal is to have an initial paper edition available for distribution at Atlanta Pagan Pride on Sunday, 5 October.
We will organize a community festival to be passed among active pagan groups in the area. I hesitate a little to say “we” on this one because a few people present raised well‐considered concerns about the idea, but I remain confident that together we can overcome those concerns. This project is based on a model that’s proven successful in a number of other regions, wherein different worship groups from the community take turns organizing the festival and main ritual. The festival’s name and general time and theme remain consistent, but each year a different group takes responsibility for the details. The benefits are many and varied, but overall they contribute to a growth in maintainable shared community. This is not the highest of my three top priorities right now, but I am committed to seeing it in concrete planning within two years.
I’m really excited to be a part of making all of this happen. A stronger, more visibly active local pagan community is something I’ve been wanting to see for several years now, and to share that concern with respected friends is strong and affirming. To share it with friends who are ready to set aside differences and tackle the problem together is downright uplifting. And to have unrequested standing offers from uninvolved remote pagan leaders to help make these things happen is simply indescribable.
This next year or three is going to be insane. I can’t wait.
(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: compadres -> compotes)