A Town Hall meeting took place to discuss the possible closure of Northern Dawn local of the Covenant of the Goddess ( NorDCOG), Saturday at Walker Church. The NorDCOG First Officer said the meeting helped the long established group determine what it needs to do to survive and remain viable.
Northern Dawn Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess was founded in 1982 by three covens; Minnesota Church of Wicca (MnCoW), Prodea, and Rowan Tree. NorDCOG has been continually hosting public sabbats since Samhain of 1982, and has hosted the COG national gathering (Merry Meet) twice.
In the call for this town hall meeting the problem was stated as, “As a foundational and networking center we can be proud of our contribution to the success of Paganistan. But the success of the community has not been the success of Northern Dawn. With so many options for community involvement, and what may be seen as some barriers to entrance, participation in Northern Dawn’s leadership has dwindled over the years to the point that today its future is uncertain. “
The immediate cause for the meeting was the lack of participation that has become a crisis in functioning as an organization. Several board positions are unfilled, including a ritual officer, so no public rituals have been planned. Meetings have been unable to meet quorum standards, and this has prevented NorDCOG to conduct business or consider active solutions to be considered and enacted, including possible changes to the bylaws. As a local of the national organization, mandates of operation are also in place that may pose a conflict in some considered changes within the organization.
The meeting was attended by over thirty people, including many past and present members of NorDCOG, coven representatives, and the concerned Pagan public. After a wonderful meal, the actual meeting began with introductions of all present, and an overview of the accomplishments of NorDCOG over the past thirty years.
The role of NorDCOG in offering a public and legitimizing presence for witches, as well as its programs in education, police contact, and facilitating ministerial credentials were recognized. NorDCOG has been an entry point for many seekers of a place to study or grow in our Pagan community.
Facilitated by Robin Grimm, the meeting had a consensus type structure allowing people to speak in turn, where some of the possible root causes of its current situation were explored.
Noted as possible factors in the crisis of participation were:
- The expansion of the Pagan community offerings. Many groups now sponsor public rituals and offer opportunities for group involvement.
- The many entry points for young seekers to explore Pagan spirituality that are now available.
- The aging of the COG membership, and the difficulty of engaging younger members.
- The perception that national COG membership and meeting standards are too restrictive.
- The lack of electronic savvy in promotion and communication required to reach potential participants.
- A perception the organization is not as affirmatively welcoming as needed.
- An atmosphere of acknowledgement and appreciation that is not consistent.
- A move from a co-created public ritual model to a directed ritual model may have limited some participation.
- A general perception that opportunities for significant participation and contribution are limited.
- A clear local mission statement and statement of values as foundational guiding documents are not present.
The actual meeting time, less than 90 minutes and allowing nearly everyone who wished to speak the opportunity, flew by quickly. It was evident that moving to considering actual proposals, actions of the board, or bylaw changes could not take place at this meeting. The task of immediately scheduling a further meeting to include the many active individuals present proved difficult and so another meeting will be scheduled in early June to consider action.
Tim, NorDCOG first officer, offered this summation of the meeting, “We had a wonderful meeting with members of the community who came together to help Northern Dawn figure out what we need to do to survive and remain viable in the future. I think it was wonderful that we had so many diverse people show up tonight. We will be working on scheduling a followup meeting ”
NorDCOG as a member organization is not defined to be inclusive to all forms of Pagan spirituality. It’s membership is for witches and Wiccans who worship the Goddess, and who are vetted in some form to participate as voting members. NorDCOG has encouraged non-members to voice their concerns and participate at meetings and to participate in and help produce public events .
While there were many options for change and improvement noted, this reporter observed two main directions supported among the speakers. One is that NorDCOG can successfully modify its bylaws within its charter and renew its commitment and practice to being as inclusive and communicative as possible, while retaining the benefits that association with the national COG organization offers. The other direction proposed is that the chartered organizational structure simply can not work and that withdrawal from national affiliation and reforming locally is the best option, even if a new group loses the benefits of national affiliation. The unspoken question arising between these options, as an action within the local council charter and covenant, is what is the proper method for discussion and decision within the existing organization and in meetings mixed with invested members and the concerned Pagan public. The individuals at the meeting seemed committed to exploring all options that could make the organization viable in future scheduled meetings. Many of us have reaped the benefits of having this active COG local in our area, and I encourage witches, and all those who have appreciated the work of this organization to become involved as a member or a supporter.