Saturday, July 30, 2011
Often public rituals are eclectic in this regard- a group will host a ritual for say, Samhain for the benefit of the greater pagan community, including their own tradition, but open to anyone else. I have also hosted gatherings and sabbats where not everyone is on the same page magickally- some are students while others are initiated into a tradition. This creates a challenge: how does one keep the potency of a working, while working with and acknowledging these differences in perspectives, skill levels, and religions present?
Well, you try. Often you just can't please everyone. But here are some tips when planning such an event that will get you off to a great start:
As someone who has planned lots of events as well as been a community organizer, I can tell you that people who actually show up and do the work of making something happen are greatly outnumbered by those that avail themselves of your work and possibly criticize it. I simply do not let those people affect me adversely and my organizing work. When they offer suggestions, I listen. I thank them for their input, take what suggestions are helpful, and suggest that if they want input into next time, that they join the planning committee to make that happen.
I also lay out in the call for organizers that those that show up to do the work are the ones who have input into what we do and why. This eliminates the "comments from the peanut gallery" from people that aren't actually organizing (that often happens when people try and plan by email list).
2. Have actual planning meetings (in person) not conference calls and email lists. You can use the latter tools for following up on work decided upon in meetings, but making decisions in a diverse group without face-to-face contact and actual dialogue is not productive.
3. Start your meeting with introductions that are specific. Names, religious traditions, and what they are hoping to get out of the ritual or event. Ask for specifics and take notes. See if there are similarities in what people are saying- those links and commonalities are important and will help you build bridges and craft an event that works for the most people involved/attending.
4. Think lowest common denominator. Nothing stirs up resentments faster than a public event, which was supposed to be for a greater community, reflecting only a handful of participants' religions. So think- what is it that you all have in common? The elements and the directions? A specific animal? A god or myth cycle that you follow? Use that to plan the theme, details, and story arc of your ritual. Similarities are great, but what about when you run into differences?
I have found that an approach that acknowledges differences in an obvious way (like taking bits of different styles of creating sacred space and inserting them into the script) helps. It's even better when this attempt is obvious- like creating a program so that attendees can see their trad represented as well as myriad others equally.
What tips have you found helpful in organizing a diverse group?