So I have been hearing a phrase so much in the last few years it has planted a seed in my brain and now I feel it has been given a chance to grow into what I hope is a helpful, concise explanation of expectations of a faith family.
“Your grove is too cliquey. I don’t feel welcome there. I’m not coming back.”
I have heard this phrase many times in my 8 years in our grove. There have been times I’ve been told I’m in the “in crowd” and times I have fallen out in the perspective of members.
It has always bothered me from an insecure place of privilege. I thought that since I was often told I was on the inside, that I could not possibly understand what it meant within our group to feel “other’. I felt that I was unable to gain enough perspective to do anything but feel guilty that I wasn’t doing enough to feel inclusive and to try harder to make a more welcoming space when people came to join with us in spirituality.
But after having two babies and having a large portion of my social and spiritual group move, I’ve been feeling the self-isolation kick in. And that gave me perspective I would like to share to maybe help if you may be feeling that you are not getting what you need from a faith family. My hope is to see people try and feel less like outsiders and understand what may really be the concern.
First I want to break down the word “clique” and what it means to this conversation.
Noun: a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.
And what a “grove” is by the ADF Grove Organizer’s Handbook
“An ADF grove may be formed by any group of three or more voting members of ADF who live in the same geographic area, who gather at least twice a lunar month to study and practice Druidism within the context of Ar nDraiocht Fein, and who are chartered by the Mother Grove as a local congregation.”
After some mindfulness and prayer, I have come to the understanding that while these two ideas (a grove for spiritual community and social circles) can overlap, they are not synonymous. I came to our grove to find a circle of spiritually like minded people and a more organized way to study and learn about such paths of spirituality. When I joined, there were years of shared experiences and stories I heard. What seemed like a lifetime of inside jokes and shared spiritual practice seemed daunting to try and jump in.
I was fortunate enough to be just the right amount of terrified socially with almost an equal amount of desire to make new friends. Some of us clicked right away, and some of us didn’t. But what I did note, was that I was immediately invited to take part in rituals. If I wanted to honor something specific, I was given the chance to. If I was curious about a part of the rite, I was given the ability to try it out. I was asked to write prayers, to sing songs, to come to social events. And I took all opportunities that I could to take part in our faith, if not somewhat hesitantly at times. I attended all the meetings I could and immersed myself as much as I felt comfortable.
But the friendships came later. In some cases, much later. Part of what can happen in an ideal situation is that when doing the work with the folk, you get to know each other. You make mistakes in public ritual (“honey from the suckle” anyone?) and it becomes a shared joke, a shared experience. You share your time, your lives, your prayers with one another and from that bonds can grow. In my experience, the bonds of friendship I have found with my faith family are some of the strongest I’ve ever had, despite hiccups and frustrations and distances.
But I had to work to understand that just by the very nature of joining a grove, I did not assume people could read my mind and understand my needs. If I did not reach out and ask to spend time together, I could not expect this spiritual family to know what I was or was not expecting from them.
When I joined ADF, I was hardly ever on Facebook. But now, I am quite often reviewing and scrolling through it several times an hour. Most of our events are listed there, and it has been a great way to communicate with friends and ADF folk all over. But with that comes the proliferation of posts that can and have at times, left me feeling left out. When someone posted about a fun spiritual thing they did with another grovemate, but I wasn’t invited to, I felt hurt. I had assumed that since it was something that I would have liked, with people I liked and shared a grove with, I should have expected to get included.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really dug into this thought, but really, while a grove can be a great place to make connections and lifelong friends, being a member in the grove gives me access to a group with whom I can find opportunities to share in study and worship. I came to ADF to find opportunity to learn and create liturgy that was meaningful to me. I was welcomed to a grove that was rich with opportunity to do just that.
My grove is my spiritual family. My social circle is the group I am able to meet up with and share life when schedules permit. When I am incredibly fortunate with time and means, occasionally they overlap.
But that is the part that requires my effort.
My grove home has made spiritual Hospitality available to it’s members. When I am able, I try to offer reciprocity outside ADF sponsored time. But I had to step aside from my own feelings to understand that first, Facebook status updates don’t mean my friends do not care about me. And secondly, that what are seen as cliques, are often just people spending time together due to shared interests and connection.
I ask that if you feel that our grove is not providing you with your spiritual needs, please speak with someone and see how we can make it feel more inclusive. But if what you are seeking is closer connection with the people in the grove, I encourage you to think on it, pray on it and communicate that with those you want to get to know.
Hospitality is a virtue that requires effort on both sides and until I figure out telepathy, I encourage people to let me know if I can help make our grove more available to your spiritual need.
Love and light,