Greeting and Salutations!
Letter from the President, 2010
In years past, this letter, which I jokingly call the “State of the Farm Address,” has been a litany of accomplishments… goals achieved, projects accomplished, milestones attained. This year, those topics have been addressed in articles in the calendar, so I won’t bore you by repeating them (and now you have another reason to read the articles in the calendar!).
The short version is that this has been a year of extremely challenging projects: heavy labor with short deadlines (the Loft, the Dormitory), policy review and enhancement, and strategizing for the future. And you know what? Building a dormitory is hard work, but so is thinking! I shouldn’t be surprised when I’m exhausted after a Board meeting, but I am, every time. It’s not about the topics discussed, or sacrificing that last 30 minutes of sleep, or even whether any of the issues were contentious… it’s just that the responsibility of Church operations weighs heavily on all our shoulders, whether we’re discussing how to handle a current situation, or how to avoid ugliness in the future. The Board members take this responsibility seriously, and we all want to do what’s best for the Church in the long term… and that’s not always easy to see.
In warm weather, we build things. Over the winter, we review policies… what works, what doesn’t, and what to do about that. Some topics from last year include enhanced enforcement of the drug/controlled substance policy, which seems to have worked pretty well, and a new approach to approach to winterizing campsites and reducing the amount of trash in the spring shrubbery. As you’ll see when we can get back into camp in the spring, we’re still working on that one. (Please keep in mind that the week after Beltaine, all ‘dead tents’ become trash. And even if you don’t still want that gear, please take responsibility for cleaning it up. Staff is busy enough cleaning those fancy flush toilets!)
Sometimes what seems like the right thing for here and now is also going to benefit the future, like building a dormitory. It enabled us to accommodate a new group of people who not only have shown strong support for Four Quarters, they’re pretty cool and groovy folks as well! And in the future, the dormitory will allow us to extend our event season into the colder months, with heated space for sleeping, ceremony, and workshops. That’s an easy one.
Other decisions aren’t so simple. Sometimes we have to give up something now for a potential gain later, or maybe it involves imposing a limit now in order to retain resources for later. Like rationing your cookies so you still have one for dessert on the last day of an event. Sometimes this involves policies that may not be welcomed by everyone, especially when the change seems like a limit in the short term but has the potential to broaden our scope in the longer term.
Strategizing for the social, financial, and popular trends of our greater society is a lot like throwing darts in the dark sometimes. It requires endless scrutiny and analysis of the kind of news that most people don’t want to be troubled by; it requires looking at facts, if you can dig them out of the opinions that are published as “news,” and actually thinking about how those facts add up. So far we’ve managed to stay ahead of the financial tsunami. We’re a bit behind on social trends, but we’re catching up fast, and doing so in ways that emphasize our original values rather than compromising them.
Many of us have a tendency to think of the campground as an insulated sanctuary, somehow separate from “the world.” The reality is that membership in our small community does not negate our membership in the larger society, and we have to remain functional within those parameters. Whether we agree with them or not, there are laws, judgments, and opinions “out there,” as well as consequences for failing to acknowledge them. Our challenge is to foresee and navigate the razor’s edge between the societies.
Much as I could wish for one, we don’t have a perfect divination system to help us with these decisions. What we do have is a group of people of good heart and brain, who are willing to examine an issue from all sides, pick apart each others’ viewpoints (and sometimes their own!), and to ask for input from Members and guidance from gods when it seems appropriate.
Turnover in Board personnel is a constant; board membership takes a heavy toll on time for life, and sooner or later, the most devoted Board member will need some time to tend to personal matters. Thus the faces change, the viewpoints shift, but the intent remains. This year saw the addition of four new Members Advocates: Mike McConnell, Tony West, Jon Noll and Rena Damsky. And Carrie Krystek became a Seated Member of the Board of Directors.
This year also saw the induction of 12 new members of the Church. This, more than anything else, tells me that the Board is doing a good job of listening and guiding the Church in directions that matter to the membership. One of the areas that I look forward to emphasizing in 2010 is a return to the core of the Church… the reasons and values that cause people to commit to Four Quarters as a longterm, year-round spiritual environment. It’s that solid foundation that has sustained us since 1995, and will continue to guide the Board of Directors through making the tough and tricky decisions… because when it comes down to brass tacks, the “smart” choice is the option that best supports our mission. Pretty simple, really. But then, the best things usually are.
In perfect love and perfect trust,
Kailin Miller, President
Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary