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A Vision for ADF's Training

Over the first twenty years of Our Fellowship, the training programs grew exactly as we said they would: as fast as a speeding oak. There was a time when ADF's Study Program (at the time a single training program that covered all aspects of Indo-European culture) was known as the "Super Druid Program" because only a superhuman effort could bring completion of the program, and indeed only one person passed all three circles: our Archdruid Emeritus Fox.

In 2002, the ADF Preceptor at the time, Jenni Hunt, cut the Guilds loose and allowed them to bring us a multitude of study programs rather than one giant, insurmountable Study Program. The Clergy Council approved a First Circle for their training at Wellspring in 2005, and an Initiate's Program is now in the works for 2006. ADF no longer speaks in terms of its "amazing Study Program," but now about its "awesome study programs, from Guilds to Clergy to Initiates and Dedicants."

In 1999, the Dedicant Program was approved and a handbook for the program written by Ian Corrigan, which allowed us to teach the basic skills needed to head into the Study Program. This "year-long" course of study ("year-long" being in quotes because it actually took nearly everyone who has passed it more than a year) received a good response, and many people began working hard on it, with a small but proud number finishing the program and encouraging others to do the same.

The Dedicant Program was revised in 2003, giving us a more stringent and better focused set of standards on which we could base our further training, and more people, excited about the program's new look and feel, began to work in earnest on it. In early 2006, a study guide was published that gave a weekly schedule and assignments for the student to follow, and so far has brought many Dedicants the structure that they always wanted in the program.

Now, as we watch the various Guild, Clergy, Dedicant, and Initiate study and training programs coalesce, it's time to look at where we have been, consider where we are, and think hard about the future of those programs.

Many know that I have focused hard on the Dedicant Program, making sure that our Dedicants have the best possible resources for their basic training, but not everyone knows where I see that program going.

We already offer the best training in the Neo-Pagan community, so far as I can tell. There is so much more learned, gained, and understood with our current training materials than there is anywhere else in our community, and we are not only willing, but able to do it for a fraction of the cost of other organizations. I have always admired that about ADF: we have recognized that training, learning should be as accessible as possible to those who desire it. Yes, you need to join ADF to obtain our materials, but we don't demand that you keep it a secret, or bind you with an oath to return it if you decide ADF is not for you. The training is what we offer to those who want to learn, who want to advance themselves.

I've also always liked how ADF does not class people by their status as "Dedicant" or "Initiate" or "Third Circle Bard." A member of ADF cannot rest on their earned laurels, but must demonstrate the skill that earned them those laurels in order to show them off. A member of the Clergy is expected to write and work locally and on an organizational level, even on a superorganizational level with people of other faiths, both inside and outside the Pagan community. A highly ranked bard will not tell someone that their chant is poorly done, but rather will show them how to improve it. A Dedicant will help build bridges for other Dedicants by writing articles for Oak Leaves about their struggles and their experiences. All these things are integral to the vision of our study programs.

Right now, the (affectionately named) "Preceptor Posse" is working with the ADF Preceptor and former (and probably future) Preceptors and deputy preceptors to ensure that the Dedicant Program is as well developed as possible. Books are being written on each of the DP requirements, meditation CD's are being assembled, articles are being commissioned and provided, and throughout it all, we are continually examining the question: "How can we help the Dedicant achieve her fullest potential?"

We are also working on Grove-building materials that would allow a Protogrove to work through the Dedicant Program together, allowing them to learn from one another while taking the crucial steps that will help them become a tightly-knit, well-oiled Grove.

Our training, once perceived as a set of "hoops" to jump through, is becoming more and more like a journey that does not end. In ADF, there will always be something new to learn. The multiplicity of study programs and their various foci ensure this.

As we finish up the work on the Dedicant Program ("finish" is a strong word: no one really believes we'll ever "finish"), we are not neglecting the Guild study programs that are also being formed. We are hoping that they will find a push within themselves, one to drive toward excellence and improving or passing their study programs. Half of our Guilds now have at least the first circles of their training approved: it's time to move on to the second and third circles if they have not already, or else to finish the work on the first circle (all Guilds have at least a strong, formative idea of their training).

The Generalist Study Program has been adopted by the Clergy Council as its first circle. The second circle is now being devised and built, and I hope to see the second circle finished in early next year. The completion of that first circle (plus one other class) allows consecration as a Dedicant Priest, something that until recently could only be obtained by special request. Someone wishing to become an ADF Priest now has a clear plan to doing so.

We can and we will ensure that by the time anyone is ready to move onto a new circle in the Clergy Training Program, a circle will be prepared for them to work on and pass. That is a definite goal for the next two years for ADF: get these programs in place so that those who need to work through them can.

I expect that we will soon see a requirement that all our Senior Druids pass the Dedicant Program. After that, I hope to see us expand that to all Guild Chiefs and certainly all Guild Preceptors. We should then begin to work on the offices on the Mother Grove. If you seek a leadership position, locally or organizationally, start your DP now.

With the introduction of the Initiate Program, we have opened the door for a deeper magical meaning to many of our practices. Our study programs have been called "too academic" in the past (not the worst of accusations, by any means), and we have constantly sought to find ways to bring magic and experience to our members. The Initiate Program is a formalized system to do that, bringing together magical training and mystery to help apply the basic knowledge learned in the Dedicant Program to our work as a spiritual people.

Some Groves already have small, magical or initiatory training programs. I hope, one day, to find that study programs have grown up in Groves, whose exit standards are published in Oak Leaves or perhaps a supplemental book to the Grove Organizers' Handbook.

This is a very exciting time to be a part of ADF: we have the study programs we have always dreamed of, and they only get better with time. ADF is growing quickly and surely, and our study programs are benefiting from the amazing people who pass through them, building bridges for those who come along behind.


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