Thursday, September 21, 2006

Service in the SCA, or The Inability to Say "No".

Like many people, I held a number of positions in my local group, that being the Shire of Lyndhaven. In vaguely chronological order, they were Exchequer, Seneschal, Chronicler, Herald, Company Captain of Archers.

When our group first became incipient (aka "group in training"), everyone got a position. That's what happens when there's a small group of people - everyone gets to be a General and nobody has to be a Private. I guess I got the short straw because I got to be the Exchequer, commonly known as the Treasurer in most groups. It was a pretty easy job at first, since we had no money and didn't spend any. Filing a bunch of "zero reports" was simple. Things became more complicated once we finally started holding events, and the position became a real pain in the butt. The hardest part of the job was chasing down autocrats (event organizers) to get them to cough up the financial details of the event. Often there was a discrepancy, in the order of ten or twenty dollars, between the receipts and the cash on hand. That was the real difficulty, trying to figure out WHY. I was the shire Exchequer for ever, as nobody else wanted the job no matter how many times I asked for help.

I became Seneschal after Dave Westwick headed for greener pastures. I can't remember what kind of election process was held, if any, but I got the job. I stayed in the job through our lengthy incipient period until late 1997, when I resigned and Aetheric took over.

Being Seneschal of an incipient shire (especially an inactive one like Lyndhaven was) could be both easy and difficult. It was easy because reports were simple - "we did nothing". It was difficult because after a while, the regional seneschal started asking why we weren't doing anything. At the time the Northern Regional Seneschal was Master Harold von Auerbach. Harold and I became friends and I credit him for keeping Lyndhaven around. I think many other people would have said "give it up" but Harold was always positive and encouraging. Not to blow my own horn, but after Lyndhaven became a full shire Harold told me the only reason he didn't can us was because I kept on diligently filing reports. Hope springs eternal.

Regrettably, every volunteer group has politics and the SCA is no exception. Once Lyndhaven became a full shire, my job as Seneschal became far harder. There were a few factions within the group working to different purposes, one separatist group, and several people who clearly hated each other. It made for some difficult conversations and a lot of mediation. It didn't help that at least one person actively worked to sabotage my position through others (I'm not going to name names).

It really became apparent to me that it was time to move on when I was accosted by someone at one event I attended and encouraged to step down. They had been sent by this person and I thought it was particularly low to get some innocent person to do your dirty work. I figure that if you have a problem with someone, as an ADULT you have two options: 1) go talk with them and work it out, or 2) get over it. There is no option 3, backstab.

In any case, I resigned as Seneschal late in 1997 after a ten? year run. It was past time for me to go.

I was the Chronicler of the group for a few years in conjunction with my then-wife. I remember producing the newsletter on my Amiga, which shows how long ago that was. I think we did a good job with the newsletter, and indeed I have continued with newsletter production in the CRHA until recently. The struggle with many newsletters is finding people to write for it. I remember I produced one "All Rupert" edition.

For a short time I was the shire Herald (Pursuivant), after resigning as Seneschal. I confess I did a poor to nonexistent job and I feel bad about that. I'm not entirely sure now why I took the job but mercifully I didn't hold the position too long.

I trained as an archery marshal and as such became the shire's Company Captain of Archers by default, being the only marshal in the group. We had some good archery practices but in general they were poorly attended. I confess I could have done a better job of evangelizing archery. I was the Captain during the latter half of my SCA career where my enthusiasm was rapidly declining.

I vaguely remember training as a heavy list marshal but I don't believe I ever completed the training.

Outside of the Shire, I was the Regional Exchequer for Canada (whatever the SCA name for that was). That was challenging at times, especially trying to talk about finances with people from Quebec who barely spoke English. This was actually the last position I held in the SCA before my retirement.

All in all, being seneschal was the most enjoyable and the most frustrating. I do recommend serving your group in whatever capacity you can. Everyone is a volunteer in the SCA and someone has to do the administrative stuff so everyone can have fun playing. To those who serve... vivat!

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