Well, for our first meeting, he did show up. Even though I inserted mention of my husband several times through the conversation, he sat there patiently through the discussion, pretending to be interested in Paganism, but was obviously completely uninterested in doing any reading up on the topic (you know, as most Pagans do).
I told him there were tons of great websites and that our local public library has hundreds of books. He said he would rather talk to someone about it. I knew what he was getting at. I am obviously the elder of the group, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, I gave him my contact information.
He emailed me on a Monday, asking me to meet him that afternoon. I replied that I do not live in town, that I only come into town once or twice a week and would need more notice than a few hours. His next email asked me then if I would be coming into town tomorrow, if we could see a movie, and if getting home was difficult then I could stay over at his place.
I was shocked. This to me was a clear message that he was not interested in the club or even Paganism, that he was trying to pursue me romantically. I've been a target for unwanted sexual attention a lot in my life, so I have a rather strong intuition about it now and am seldom wrong. I called him on it -- told him I was married and asked if he was even interested in Paganism.
A few weeks went by with no response from him, so I considered him gone. But then the other day he did write again, saying no, he was not trying to pursue me, that he is married too... What he didn't do however is ask more about the club (did he notice his name had been taken off the mailing list?) or about Paganism in particular. He just wanted to spend time with me.
I asked him -- what if his wife knew that he had invited me, a woman he barely knows, to join a dance club, then to a movie, and to sleep over? In my mind, that leaves no doubt as to what his intentions were, but he pleaded Not Guilty. If my husband did that, I would be through the roof with rage, end of story. I asked this man to leave me alone, and he is harassing me still. I may have to seek help from Campus Security. I am glad, at least, that it was me this man was chasing and not one of the younger women.
This vulnerability includes being subject to cultural misunderstandings about what Wiccans and Pagans do, but never did I consider that we could also be targets for sexual predators too. Maybe I have too much faith in people, I am too trusting, but for someone to sign up for a religious club only to pursue one of its members... to me it was blasphemy.
I was disgusted as a woman to be hit on in this manner, but I was offended that someone would use religion for personal gain. Perhaps I am just naïve, for this has been happening for thousands of years.
One of the other large challenges we face as a small club is that of continuity and leadership. I have been leading this group in the three years since it began, but what will happen when I leave? I'll be graduating soon and probably moving to a different city or even a different country. Will the group be able to sustain itself after I leave?
And because leadership is in the hands of a few (some of the more senior members have taken on a lot of the work too, thank the heavens), those people are taxed with more things to do in their already busy schedules; it's hard for us to keep things going. We certainly don't pretend we can put on ritual and celebrate every Sabbat, because we are students with student schedules and can only do so much. But we are trying at least to put on one ritual per semester.
Which leads to another challenge: space. Where do we have our rituals?
As mentioned above, I live outside of the city. In fact, my husband and I live in a rural area just outside of the city, and it takes 45 minutes to an hour to drive in. Because we are in a rural area, we have lots of space and can have fires, very important to many Sabbat festivals. Getting people here for ritual, however, takes some coordination. Carpooling and scheduling haven't been a problem so far. (And given Pagan time, that's saying something!) And everyone loves the idea of getting out of the city and being in nature to celebrate the cycles of nature.
Last fall for Samhain we had an Underworld that was just a slightly cleared path into the back 40, and people had to navigate it on their own in the dark for their own personal journey. Also, since most of the people in the club are students, they live in residential housing or some other form of student housing, and it is difficult to find another suitable place.
All that said, forming and leading this group has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It hasn't always been easy, but after every meeting or every event where I am in the presence of these young, intelligent, eager, and good-hearted people I am always more inspired and energized myself.