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Long Stewardship

Hilary of Serendip

©2004, Hilary Powers

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T.I. #108, Fall ’93. Life is change. Before the magazine with this column hit the mail, the organization described here had already been adjusted somewhat, and I expect to see additional fine-tuning for the next few years. At the October Board meeting, the By-Laws were amended to assign the titles of President, Secretary, and Treasurer to members of the Board. Administrative duties remain in the hands of the officers described here as long as the jobs are filled, but re-arranging the titles allows Directors to step in on an interim basis when the jobs are vacant.


My cousins, by the time you read this, the office of Steward will be no more. This column is my farewell to an era in the life of the Society and in my own life, and I believe the best use for it is to sketch for you what is happening and why, and what it will mean to us all....
     This year saw the first major growth in the Society’s administration since 1982, when the Stewardship became a full-time job and the Board expanded to seven members. In the interval, branch count nearly doubled and member­ship tripled. Workloads spiraled upward, but the burden was largely invisible outside the central structure—it was and remains a high priority to keep the mechanics of the corporation from impinging on the kingdoms, so the people who’d agreed to carry the load did so quietly or fell by the wayside. It finally became clear that the staff—both paid and volun­teer—was near the limit of its capaci­ty... while the Society itself was very far from the limits of its size and demand.
     My job was one of the main stress points. As Presi­dent/Steward, I’ve been responsible for the whole Society, managing its communications with outside authorities, drafting its basic rules, directing its Public Relations, coordinating the corporate officers and Kingdom Senes­chals, and fielding an endless stream of questions—“Where is my nearest branch?”—“H­ow do I get a chainmail jock­strap?”—“Why won’t my kingdom do what [I think] it should?”—“Is it true that [fill in the rumor]?” In the beginning I had plenty of time to do all this and still take on special projects and pursue my own interests as well, but gradually everything but the basic job got pushed aside. At last, one person couldn’t deal with it properly any more, so we split it up. I can’t introduce the people who are serving you now—the T.I. schedule requires me to write these words before the choices are made—but I can describe what they’re doing for you.
     The SOCIETY SENESCHAL has the parts of the Steward’s job you’ve seen most: coordinating the King­dom Seneschals and interpreting Corpora and the other basic rules as needed to keep the Known World running smoothly. When you have general questions about coping with life in the Current Middle Ages and can’t find answers in your own kingdom, the Society Seneschal is the one to turn to. The job is defined in the By-Laws as Vice President of the Society.
     The EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR has the remaining management functions—coordinating the corporate staff (including the Society Seneschal), taking care of PR and government liaison, and making sure that planning and training get done as needed. The job carries the title of President, and the duty of serving as a non-voting member of the Board. It has no medieval-equivalent title, because (like the rest of the Board) it has no direct role in the Society’s historical re-creations. You can bring comments or queries about relations between the SCA and the rest of the world to the Executive Director, but please refer internal problems to the kingdom and Society officers—it will only delay attention to your concerns if you try to take them “straight to the top”.
     Meanwhile, the Corporate Office has been expanded and retitled the MEMBER SERVICES OF­FICE. Many of the routine and helpful things that occupied my time and that of my deputies—insurance papers and assorted lists and directories—come from Member Services now, along with an ever-increasing line of supplies and publica­tions. Among other things, they always have the latest update to the Organizational Hand­book, and it’s a good idea to check every so often to be sure your copy is current. (PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: We reprinted the Organizational Handbook in May, including changes to Corpora and the By-Laws approved at the April ’93 Board meeting or earlier. However, the 1989 edition is still usable, if you have the April ’93 update and the latest one for the new book. The 1993 edition got its first update in June or July, to implement the reorganization. Single copies of the updates are free; just ask Member Services for them.) When you have questions or suggestions about things the Society might already do—or should consider doing—for members, branches, schools, libraries or whatever, write or call Member Services first.
     My role will be to assist the transition and serve as two-legged memory for the Society administration for the first few months after the July turnover, while the new officers settle in and get a grip on the resources. But I’m tired and I need my life back. By the end of the year at latest, I hope to be purely playing in the Society again. Sewing up some of that closet full of linen and silk and wool I’ve accumulated. Clearing the years-deep backlog of how-to articles from my personal do-list. Accepting more of the invitations to travel and teach that come my way. And who knows? Maybe a fifty-year-old female knight can get to be a threat on the field as well as off....
     The Society faces a host of problems and challenges, and no single stroke can solve and answer them all. We still need to figure out how to support as many kingdoms as we’re likely to need—and to learn how to tell when and where we really need new kingdoms. We need to find ways to bring the flood of new members into the society of the Society, so we’re all playing the same game... or at least all playing games that mesh together with chivalry and kindness into a coherent whole. We need to preserve our volunteer spirit and encourage individual initiative, even as more and more offices grow too large and costly for unpaid volunteers. We need to improve the quality of work and research in our historical re-creations, without making authenticity a dreary chore or an excuse for discourtesy. We need, in short, to adjust the details of the design, so that the overall reality of the Society holds onto the essence we cherish as it operates on ever-larger scales.
     It will help to have more and fresher minds and hands in the Society offices, but we can’t leave it all to them. There is work enough and to spare for everyone. Look around you. Share your insights about the Society as a whole with the people who are carrying the burden of central administration. Help the Society live up to its potential in your own branch. The Society is the sum of all our choices, and its future is ours to build with love. I’m still part of the process.... Be with me. Valé and fare well, and not good-bye.

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The West Kingdom History Website was created by and is maintained by Hirsch von Henford (mka Ken Mayer).