Alternate Title: Why running a group, temple or organization isn’t as simple as it looks.
There is a lot of discussion within the Kemetic community about modern temples and organizations. As it currently stands, we only have a handful of functioning Kemetic temples within our community (Kemetic Orthodoxy and Temple of Ra) and there is a good reason for it:
Setting up a temple, and making it function properly, is hard.
I know a lot of people like to take stabs at those who currently run Kemetic organizations, usually criticizing the methods employed for running these groups and how effective those methods are. To be certain, there is room for improvement in every single organization out there, but there are a lot of people whose criticism is nothing more than senseless picking. I think a lot of this picking comes from a lack of understanding in what it takes to actually run one of these things.
Alongside of this, I’ve had a handful of people either:
A. Bring up that anyone out there should work on creating a new temple.
B. Approach me, telling me I should work with XYZ to create a functioning temple
My response is always this: The time isn’t right and it’s a lot harder than it first looks.
I’ve had a little bit of experience in trying to lay down the foundations of a temple with a group of people, and I’ve spent more time than is probably healthy considering what it would take to properly set up and run a temple or organization. And to be honest, the sheer amount of stuff you need to consider to do it right the first time is quite mind boggling.
So let me break it down to show you what I mean.
Let’s start with the simplest stuff- what kind of temple will it be? Will it be recon, recon-slanted or modern? Will it be entirely online, in person, or both? Where will you get your materials for teaching your members? Will you teach your members anything? Will you have rituals? Will they be solitary, group oriented, or both? Will they be in person, online, via chat, something else? Will these rituals be daily, weekly, monthly, whenever-ly? Will you make these rituals up yourself or use other sources (such as Eternal Egypt) as your basis? What will you do about potential copyright issues if you use other sources? Will you copyright your own rituals just in case?
How about festivals? Will those be based off of the Egyptian calendar? Or will you make up new festivals? Or will you disregard festivals all together? And speaking of calendars- where will you get one? Will it be a civil calendar, or one that you re-orient every year? What about travel expenses and time zones?
And we’ve only scratched the surface!
How about a website or forum? Where will you get the funding for that? How will you code it or create it? Will you need to hire a coder or designer? Speaking of money- will your members have to pay dues? Is it fair to make them pay dues out of the gate? Will these dues be monthly, yearly, one time only? If you don’t levy membership fees- where will you get the money you need to run the place?
What will happen if you get sick? Will you have someone else to help manage the forums/membership and website while you’re gone? How will the admin on your forums work? What will you do if an admin steps out of line? How about if a member steps out of line? How will you work through member disputes and disagreements? What types of protocol will you set in place for letting go of members or admin?
Do you see how this adds up?
In regards to members- how will you ensure that members are active? Will you mandate that they have to participate in the forums or rituals a certain amount of hours or time per month? How will you ensure that that time is quality driven, and not empty posts? How will you handle that if there are no new posts on the forums, or no new topics to discuss? How will you handle the aspect of ritual attendance if the person is in a weird time zone? How about if life is just busy and they have to step back for a while? How does this affect their membership status? And if you don’t want to have rules on participation- how do you ensure that your members are in fact participating, and not members by name alone?
What about making members read stuff? Should they be required to have a general knowledge of Egyptian religion or history first? How will you provide those materials to people who don’t have money? Or will you turn them away? Do you write all of the knowledge yourself and have them read it via email or Internet? How do you ensure that they actually read and retained that information? How do you ensure that you don’t get that material stolen?
Obviously- there is a lot to consider and lay out before you even get to the process of actively recruiting members or creating a website. There are so many aspects that have to be considered- the style of temple, the membership structure, disciplinary issues and protocol, learning, participation, etc. And these are just the basics of the basics.
Beyond even that, I believe that we don’t have many temples or organizations within our community because in all honesty- we are not ready for them yet. Most of the people I’ve met in the Kemetic community don’t want that type of responsibility, or are not capable of handling that type of responsibility. Not all of us are geared to handling member disputes without breaking out the all caps. Some of us aren’t secure or strong enough to tell a member that they need to stop, or face being banned- and then hold up that promise when the member doesn’t back down. Some of us are not tactful enough to write nice responses when people send us hate mail. Many of us want our temples and organizations to include everyone, when the fact of the matter is- you can’t have everyone in your group. It’s not feasible.
You can not be all things to all people.
So you have to figure out where to draw the line- and many people are incapable of drawing that line. And so when the line continually gets pushed- you end up with an organization that no longer looks like what it originally did- for better or worse.
So many of us lack the basics in people skills to actually make these dreams a reality.
The fact of the matter is, in order to be successful in a temple setting, we need to quit looking at ourselves and what we want, and look at the bigger picture.
Let me tell you a story about Shinto.
There are tons of Shinto shrines in Japan. Every shrine (with staff) answers to one overseeing group- the Jinja Honcho. Within every shrine, you have quite a few priests, priestesses and other staff that help to make the shrine run. And you might be surprised to know that not every single one of these people necessarily agrees with how the Jinja Honcho runs certain things. Each year, different changes are made, or things are decided upon that can affect how the shrines run and how money gets spent, etc. – all of which gets decided by the Honcho (I’m simplifying this greatly). And yet, despite these changes and decisions- each of the shrines uphold these decisions regardless of their opinions on the decisions (and if they don’t like them, there are formal ways to go about overturning decisions, etc). Why do they do this?
Because they realize that there are more important things out there than their own specific wants.
Japan is very big into the concept of the whole being better and more important than its individual parts. And this shows in their religious community as well. The various priests don’t rip each other apart or scream and have fits because the Honcho made a decision they don’t like. They don’t create a huge scene and throw a temper tantrum in front of everyone else and decide that they are going to leave everything omg right now because something they disagreed with occurred.
I guess you could say they are busy looking at the bigger picture. Something we can’t seem to wrap our minds around.
Now take a look at any Kemetic forum (or any Pagan forum, really) and see how we would react. The Kemetic Orthodoxy Reorganization that occurred a few years back is a good example of how many people react to changes in doctrine/protocol/hierarchy (the answer is poorly). But you don’t even have to go to such a large scale to see how this sort of thing happens on a regular basis – go look on Tumblr or Facebook where people are regularly cut down into nothingness because the culture there seems to think it’s okay for an argument to be reduced to drama, all caps and profanity.
And while caps and swear words may be okay for some forms of interacting, a formally recognized temple or organization is not one of them. And from where I currently stand, little to none of us have the composure and restraint to heavily edit each of our responses when the proverbial shit hits fan. Too many of us are too preoccupied with satiating our need to sink our teeth into people we disagree with to properly remove ourselves and handle the situation like adults. We’re too busy being focused on ourselves instead of looking at the bigger picture, which in this case- the bigger picture is making sure that the group or temple is run smoothly and professionally. The bigger picture is the well being of the community and doing what the community needs, not necessarily what we want.
And that, my friends, is a tall order. An order that I think we as a community are still much too young to fill properly at this point in time.
- An Open Letter to the Kemetic Community
- Dusken talks about (Pagan) Community
- The Loneliness or Community iz Hurd
- Freedom isn’t Free and Neither is Community
- G is for Group (i.e. Why Your Words Matter)