I have come a long way on my ADF journey. I made a false start in 2008, and after attending a ritual and reading a bit, I felt led to give the Christianity of my upbringing one last try. (Blame Rich Mullins). I had not been a practicing Christian in years, but that was my childhood religion, and even though I had essentially left it behind (a few times!), its echoes continued to reverberate. So I put pagan religion aside and found an Episcopal church nearby. (My own heritage is United Methodist, but I wanted something a bit different.)
The experience was not bad, but nowhere near as satisfying as I had thought it might be. Despite the eagerness with which I had started, even arranging to meet one of the priests for morning coffee and conversation, I was ready to call it done in just a few months.
After Lynda moved in in 2011, we joined ADF together, and that was when it really started to click. I tackled the Dedicant program with enthusiasm and delved into study and practice. It's important to say, though, that I was not committed to the path. I took seriously the idea that the Dedicant Path is intended to help the beginner figure out whether paganism in general and ADF Druidry in particular, is the right place to be. I've heard some describe finding ADF, or another pagan path, as being like "coming home." For me it was more like walking around a strange town and trying to decide whether I liked it. I even left that town a time or two during the exploration. Those departures, though, were short-lived and, rather than looking around for something else, ADF was the only place I wanted to return to. When I had completed all of the Dedicant study and the time came to write and then swear the final dedicant's oath, it came easily.
It is my will to walk the pagan way. By the gods and by the dead and by all the spirits. I swear to live by the virtues given by tradition, to strive to act mindfully to do good in all I do. I swear to keep the feasts and observances of the Druid way, keeping the wheel of the year. I swear to seek the truth of the elder ways, to learn the lore and meaning of our ancestors' wisdom. I swear to cultivate the habits of piety, contemplation, prayer and study.
I am certain that if I had not undertaken the study program, I would not have reached the point, at least not in the time that I did. The DP, for all its faults (and there are a few), is a a very well-crafted program for leading the student to both knowledge and experience. Those who take it as a serious opportunity to learn, rather than a requirement to check off, will be well-rewarded with a deeper understanding of why various aspects of the ritual and religion are there, what purpose they serve, and how far they can be stretched without losing their essential importance. As the DP also requires a regular mental discipline practice and rituals to mark the eight high days (at a minimum), the student comes away with a feel for what ADF practice is all about as well, a good base of experience from which to decide whether it suits.
I have felt a call to clergy for most of my life. Twice I considered leaving my profession and attending seminary as a United Methodist, and came very close to actually doing so once. But it never felt quite right. Now I am pursuing ordination with ADF and have completed the preliminary coursework necessary to apply for admission to the First Circle. As I found with the DP, the curriculum is well-designed to increase the base already established. In the past eight months, from finishing the DP through finishing the six CTP Prelim courses, I think I've gained an even deeper understanding.
Where I falter is regular practice, and it is here I will have to apply the most effort as a clergy student, or even just as a follower of this religion. I have a hard time maintaining regular habits of piety and meditation, but I am eager to set about changing that.