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Long Stewardship

Hilary of Serendip

©2004, Hilary Powers

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T.I. #95, Summer ’90


My cousins, the two questions about the new Corpora that seem to come up most often are: Just what is a “Society event,” anyway? and Why don’t we talk about “official” or “unofficial” events anymore? So this quarter my quest for Stewardly work simplification takes me back to the mechanics of the SCA.
     A Society event is any gathering sponsored by any branch of the SCA—inter-kingdom wars, canton meetings and fighter practices, and everything in between. There are no hairs to split; if SCA officers and members get together and say they’re meeting as the Society for Creative Anachronism or as one of its branches, it’s a Society event. If they collect or spend any money in the course of the event, it’s supposed to show up on the SCA tax return—and doesn’t need to show up on their own. All their activities are bound by the relevant kingdom and SCA-wide rules. And they have the Society’s full support—the SCA insurance is in force, the branch treasury is available for advance expenses, and the SCA’s officers at all levels can be called on for advice about the event, or for help with any problems that may occur.
     All this is true whether or not the event is on the kingdom calendar. The kingdoms control how events get onto their calendars and how much space events get in their newsletters, but as long as the Seneschal of the sponsoring branch acknowledges an event and makes an honest effort to see that all the members living in the area served by the branch are invited to attend, it’s a real Society event.
     However, some things can only happen if an event has been listed on the kingdom calendar and publicized in the kingdom newsletter. These include Crown and Coronet Lists, Coronations and Principality Investitures, and the proclamation of law, the appointment of Great and Lesser Officers, the establishment and advancement of branches, and the presentation of individual awards and titles. This helps ensure that anything with a long-range effect on the Society gets done out in the open, so all interested parties have a chance to attend and comment. In addition, to simplify the administration of the insurance policy, I normally order insurance certificates only for events publicized in the kingdom newsletter—but the Kingdom Seneschal can intercede for a locally-publicized event in an emergency.

Under the old Corpora, the SCA only took responsibility for “official” events, meaning events that had listings on the kingdom calendar and fliers in the kingdom newsletter. Everyone knew branches did lots of other stuff, but those events and meetings weren’t quite real; they were “unoffi­cial”. No one could figure out exactly how far SCA rules applied to such events, and there was a feeling that the SCA could somehow disown them if they got out of hand.
     Around the time we started work on the new Corpora, the notice for a big baronial anniversary fell out of its kingdom newsletter. The autocrat needed an insurance certificate, but our rules said he wasn’t eligible for one. When I tried to explain the problem to the broker, he said we should ignore it. He said that it didn’t make sense—neither the insurance company nor the park department would ever believe it wasn’t an SCA event, despite the missing newsletter notice, because SCA officers were spending SCA money to get SCA members together. I drafted new rules to say when an “unofficial event” was really an SCA function, but the Seneschal of Ansteorra pointed out that we wouldn’t need any special rules if we just stopped talking about “unofficial” events. The Board and I boggled a bit, but agreed that we either sponsor something or we don’t, and the same term does work for everything. Now the things that used to be restricted to “official” events have to happen at events publicized in the kingdom newsletter, but all events are events, and we don’t go cross-eyed trying to tell them apart.
     So what if you want a gathering that isn’t a Society event and doesn’t follow Society rules? Fine! The SCA doesn’t regulate your outside life, and you can hold all the private parties you please. Even medieval-theme parties. Just keep them separate from the SCA—plan them on your own time, not at SCA branch meetings; raise and spend your own money on them, without using an SCA bank account to avoid taxes; and reserve the site in your own name, not that of the SCA or any of its branches. You may even be able to use a kingdom newsletter to invite people to your party (as long as you make it clear that it is a private party, not an SCA event), but don’t assume you have a right to do so. It’s up to the editor to decide whether or not the party reflects credit on the SCA and is of interest to the members, and also to decide whether or not to charge advertising rates for the announcement.
     Sorting out private parties and SCA events is a duty and a privilege for newsletter editors at all levels. The SCA gets bigger every day—we’re pushing 16,000 on the membership rolls and have over 600 branches around the Known World, and we have got to be able to figure out whether any given event is ours or not. The write-up in the kingdom or local newsletter is one of the main points defining an SCA event. (If an event is too small to appear in any newsletter, the Seneschal’s notes and calendar are what govern—so those records need to be clear enough to answer any questions that may come up!) A proper newsletter notice names the branch sponsoring the event—that is, anything from a canton to a kingdom, but not an incipient branch, and not a household or a private guild. The sponsor may use an incipient branch, a house­hold, or some other group to organize and run the event, and the notice can give them credit for their work—but the sponsor must be a full - status branch, and the income and expenses must go through an SCA bank account.

     It’s a grand thing to have hundreds of branches flung across half the world, all playing essentially the same game. However, to keep up that network, the branches have to pay attention and make sure that they are playing essentially the same game, and that cuts down a bit on local spontaneity. But not all that much. Just keep track of when you’re doing things as the SCA and when you’re not—and remember to call it a private party when you get together outside the umbrella of the SCA!

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