Tuesday evening was my final conference call as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS Continental – the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. The CUUPS membership elects Board members for three year terms; the Board then decides who will fill the roles of President, Vice President, and so on. I served one year as Vice President and two years as a Trustee at large.
Had there been a Druid grove in any order in North Texas in 2003 I might never have visited Denton CUUPS. But there wasn’t and I did and it’s been a very good thing for me. CUUPS gave me a group to practice with and experienced Pagans to learn from in my early days. It gave me a church that presented its own opportunities for support, service, and community. It had the flexibility to accommodate me as my experiences moved my beliefs and practices from vaguely Pagan to generically polytheist to devotional polytheist.
I love Druidry and the Celtic Gods are first in my devotional life. But after all this time, I can’t imagine not honoring the Gods of Egypt at Summer Solstice. The past two years we’ve held a Norse ritual at the Fall Equinox and this year we held a Hellenic rite. Our educational offerings for next year start with a very polytheistic class on working with land spirits, but it also includes classes on Herbalism and Tarot. I like the variety and the flexibility and I’ve found a home in CUUPS. I’ve been an officer in Denton CUUPS since my first year.
So when I was approached about serving on the Board of Trustees of CUUPS Continental (we have chapters in Canada – we’re not just “national” any more) I had to say yes. “Giving back” has become a cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s true – I’ve received so much from CUUPS I felt I had to contribute to the maintenance of the organization. But it wasn’t just an obligation – I wanted to contribute.
Unitarian Universalism operates under congregational polity – each congregation is a self-governing, self-sustaining unit. This philosophy extends to covenant groups like CUUPS. Each chapter is self-governing and self-sustaining. The Board of Trustees exists to certify individual chapters, to coordinate work between chapters, to maintain relationships with the Unitarian Universalist Association and other UU covenant groups, and to promote Paganism within Unitarian Universalism.
The job of an officer on the CUUPS Board is very different from the job of an officer in a local CUUPS chapter. I knew this going in, but to be honest, I struggled with the difference. I’m used to short planning sessions where we agree on what we want to do, then we go do them. My job as Coordinating Officer is simply to follow up and make sure things get done on time. With the Board of the Continental group, there is far more deliberation and far more coordination required with other UU groups. And we can’t just talk to each other after the next circle – we’re spread out all over the country. Besides the two other Board members who also live in North Texas, I’ve never met any of my fellow officers face to face.
Serving on the Board has reminded me that I’m not a typical UU Pagan. Our Revisioning Surveys are confirming what I’ve long observed anecdotally: polytheists are a distinct minority. I’ve never experienced any animosity toward polytheism in CUUPS, but the average CUUPS member’s religious priorities are quite different from mine.
Perhaps more importantly, most of my fellow Board members seem to be UUs first and Pagans second. I’m a Pagan first and a UU second. They practice Unitarian Universalism with a Pagan emphasis. I practice Paganism in a UU context. Neither way is right or wrong, but they’re very different.
The end result is that I was not able to accomplish what I had hoped to accomplish by serving on the Board. Were my hopes realistic? Probably not, but I still leave the Board with a feeling of disappointment.
But I also leave the Board with a feeling of optimism for CUUPS Continental. The Board is reorganizing itself in a way that should be more effective for what it actually does. There are three new Board members who start November 1 who bring a new perspective and new energy. And this Board has committed to a Revisioning process that will help CUUPS members, CUUPS chapters, and the CUUPS Board to better align their efforts around a shared vision of UU Paganism.
While my term on the Board ends November 1, I’ve committed to leading the Revisioning process through its completion, which we expect to be sometime in the first half of next year.
If you’re asked to serve on the Board of Trustees or another committee of an organization of which you’re a part, I encourage you to say yes. There is work that has to be done and someone has to do it. If you’ve benefitted from an organization you have an obligation to give back to the organization, to make sure it is healthy and vibrant and that it will be there for the seekers who come after you.
Community is one of the centers of Paganism. Sometimes community is a beautiful ritual that leaves you inspired. Sometimes community is a service project that makes the world better in a way you can see and touch. But sometimes community is work that is mundane, unglamorous, frustrating – and necessary.
I’m thankful CUUPS was there for me in 2003, I’m thankful CUUPS remains my spiritual home, and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to contribute to maintaining and growing CUUPS for the next generation of UU Pagans.