This week we have another EMLC member sharing her memories of the most recent Grand Council/Merry Meet in Atlanta. Lady Bridget Sidhe-Lyric, HPS of Witch and Famous, and our outgoing National Membership Officer, shares her experiences at Merry Meet below.
This year’s annual meeting of Covenant of the Goddess (called Merry Meet for the festival side and Grand Council for the business meeting) took place in Atlanta, GA at the Crown Ravinia Hotel from Aug. 21-24. As usual, events started off with the Leadership Institute the day before the meeting. We were treated to a visit to the Nature Conservancy in Atlanta where they rescue and return to the wild many animals and birds, and also caring for those that cannot be released. We hiked the trails watching for signs of wildlife, visited the Aviary where owls, eagles, hawks, and other birds are in recovery, and walked through the nature exhibits designed to educate and entertain.
The latter part of the morning and early afternoon were devoted to a panel discussion on Interfaith work with many of the Covenant’s own National Interfaith Representatives and a special guest, Selena Fox from Circle Sanctuary. I was surprised to find myself very engaged and fascinated listening to their experiences, information, and advice for those interested in doing this work. I think all who were there agreed that we learned a lot and were inspired to see so many people of such varied backgrounds and faiths discussing this topic. The theme of this year’s Merry Meet was “Common Ground” and I think that this presentation beautifully illustrated that theme.
The business meeting of the Covenant got off to a great start on Friday morning, as we knew we already had quorum since enough members had registered to be present or to represent other members. The meeting was started off with a remembrance of so many of our Elders who have passed away, many of them having passed recently this year, and who have given of their time and love to forward our faith. Their names were said aloud, and then there followed a minute of silent prayer for all who had passed.
Later on that day, we also honored our Veterans in an historic first with Circle Sanctuary and Covenant of the Goddess both together in a joint ceremony for the first time ever. Veterans both present, and represented by others or family members, were given a medal from CoG presented by Kasha, and a ribbon from Circle presented by Selena. I was asked to accept on behalf of Lady Incendia Apollonaris of Dragonwhisper Coven of EMLC for her service in the Army Reserve, Army Nursing Corps. Although I didn’t really want to be in the picture because I thought that people might be confused thinking that it was I who had served, I decided not to duck out as it seemed disrespectful. So if you see pictures of the presentation with me at the end of the line, that’s why. I was honored to be entrusted to give this medal and ribbon to our own Lady Incendia and hopefully will be able to do the presentation justice at our annual meeting.
The rest of the business meeting went similarly as it has in past years, with reports first from the National Officers (of which I was one this year serving as membership officer) and then with reports from the Local Councils, from the National members, from the Interfaith representatives, and then from the Committees. The one report that stands out in my mind was from the CoG Survey which was done just prior to the meeting and the tabulated results that were presented were an eye opener for a lot of people. Over 60% of the respondents identified themselves as solitary practitioners, and about 36% identified themselves as working within a coven structure. That tells me that our organization, in order to grow, needs to be focusing more on the needs of Solitary members. Additionally another statistic that struck me was the large number of people who said that they became Wiccan while in their 20’s, which tells me that we are not serving the younger generations as well as we could. I am hoping that the full results of the survey will be up on the CoG’s main website very soon. We can learn a lot from those results and use them to focus our services and our membership on what is needed by the Wiccan Community.
If you haven’t been to the Grand Council annual meeting of CoG before, here is a brief description of how it works. Members submit proposals to the Council as a whole and these proposals are discussed and debated by those present with input from the members that they represent. Discussions can get passionate and a little heated at times, but since our organization works by consensus process, everyone who has something to say gets a say. These things do take time, but it can become fairly clear early on if there is too much contention around a proposal, and then there are several ways it can go. The person or people who presented it can withdraw it. The proposal can go to committee for development over the next year, and those involved will hone it and hopefully present a more unified idea next year. The proposal can also go to a short committee, which will discuss and hone the ideas over lunch, dinner, etc, and come back with the altered wording later on in the meeting, usually the next day. Several proposals were passed as written, one went to the short committee and then was passed the next day, and a couple went to the longer committees and will be brought up again next year, with new refinements.
It never ceases to amaze me at the patience and passion that our members have for this process! Just in the midst of heated discussion, someone will walk up to the microphone and propose an idea or wording that everyone suddenly realizes will work, and there seems to be a collective sigh of relief that goes up in response. (or is that just me?!) The National First Officer who runs this meeting has to perfect a fine line, keeping the meeting moving so we will get through the agenda while still allowing the discussion and expression of ideas that is the consensus process. Kasha, a member of the Coven of the Moonlit Sea in our own EMLC, did a wonderful job of that!
If you have never experienced CoG’s Grand Council, you should really make an effort to attend at least once. This is a process, that if seen from beginning to end, can be both scary and exciting. And CoG has a lot of famous Pagan people who are either members or former members, so there is an opportunity to meet and get to know the people who are authors and writers, artists, interfaith workers, etc. Not to mention the workshops that are available during the time that Grand Council is happening. This year it was put on by Dogwood Local Council and many of the local council folks take the time to share their knowledge and energy by presenting workshops on various topics. These are in general much better than what is offered at a lot of Pagan Festivals – at least in my experience anyway – and although I didn’t get to go to any this year, it is always a high point when I do get to do that.
Hopefully someone from our local council who was able to attend some of the workshops will write and tell us about those! I was so involved with the meeting this year that I really didn’t find an opportunity to get to a workshop. There was at least one or two that I was planning to attend, but I lost track of time in the meeting and missed them.
In the evenings we spent time with friends, both old and new, chatting and catching up on news. This year some of the EMLC members played “Cards Against Humanity” with a certain celebrity Pagan and we had a blast! On Saturday night, Dogwood hosted a Masquerade Dance, where we all dressed up and wore our favorite masks – and Everglades Moon members danced till the DJ had to go home! Yes, we closed the place! It was great fun, even though many of us were very stiff and sore the next day.
This is a large part of the charm of Merry Meet – as it moves around the country and is hosted by different local councils, we get to visit with new folks who live there, get to see their part of the country and experience their local environment. We get to discover what is special and Sacred about where they live, and share those moments with friends, and make new memories. We get to visit with friends that live across the country from us, and that we only get to see in person about once a year. We get hugs! We laugh and have fun together, and argue and debate together, and then laugh some more.
Next year’s Grand Council will be hosted by Touchstone Local Council and will be in California, to be held Aug 13-16, 2015. They will have more information on their website soon, and for more information about CoG in general, go to www.cog.org.