This year’s Equinox brought with it rumors of Spring as well as rumors of changes at Cherry Hill. While Spring has yet to be confirmed in parts of the Midwest, I can tell you that there have been a number of changes at Cherry Hill—some of them exciting, some of them regretful goodbyes, and all of them reflected in the changing seasons that inform our Pagan worldview.
I am sorry that you have not heard from me until now. My own changing seasons have delivered to me a dual and conflicting challenge of both health issues and career advancements, meaning that I have had to slow down a bit and take care of myself in the past few weeks, but at the same time also take care of university departmental business and preparing students for their presentations at the regional American Academy of Religion. Thank you for your patience during this time.
Changes in Staffing-- At our March meeting, the CHS Board of Directors elected the following officers: Nikki Bado-Fralick, President; Kirk Thomas, Vice-President; and Cynthia Jane Collins, Secretary. The position of Treasurer remains open, but is currently overseen by the President. Directors at-large include Sue Curewitz Arthen, Debbie Fields-Berry, Judy Harrow, Michael McDermott, and Macha NightMare. Todd Berntson remains on leave until early fall.
We offer heartfelt thanks to exiting interim President Gail Schiesser whose persistence, long hours of hard work, legal/business expertise, and genuine wisdom have been crucial to our moving from a fledgling all-volunteer school to a more stable, professionally-managed organization.
We also wish the very best to our founder, Kirk White, as he leaves the Board to pursue other challenges. Kirk’s vision, passion, and inspiration encouraged us to take up the cause of higher education as preparation for Pagan ministry. Kirk, his long-time friends and co-founders, Laura Wildman-Hanlon, and Cat Chapin-Bishop, can now be seen on a new Founders Tribute page at our web site (content still being added). Thank you, Kirk, for your many years of service to Cherry Hill Seminary.
In March we also bid farewell to Laura Wildman-Hanlon, who has served CHS tirelessly in various capacities over the years, not the least of which was to reassure us all that Cherry Hill was worth the sacrifice of our personal time and talent. We cannot thank Laura enough for her years of dedicated volunteer service as Academic Dean and Registrar, which she carried out during her own tremendous life changes—such as adopting children and completing a college degree! Thank you Laura, for your devoted service to Cherry Hill Seminary.
Eddie Cranford, Dean of Technology, resigned in March, after providing outstanding technical support since Spring 2007. With Eddie’s assistance, our staff were able to work with more confidence in our infrastructure than we'd had in a good while.
After putting on an excellent Winter Intensive at PantheaCon, Brighde (Patricia Allen) reminded us in January that her original commitment to Kirk White of six months as Dean of Students had stretched out over more than two years, and that she felt she could no longer maintain that work in addition to her job and other personal commitments. She remains with us through May 30, and in that role will complete the year of work with our first field education student, Ms. Dorothea Basili, placed with us by Pacific School of Religion.
Holli Emore continues as our Executive Director, affirmed by a special vote of the Board in March. You may recall that Holli was recruited by Kirk White nearly two years ago to help him develop a board of directors since Cherry Hill was about to receive its nonprofit ruling by IRS. Holli reluctantly agreed to serve as our first Board President while we grew in our leadership. By the end of her first year, we had recognized a valuable talent (and her many years of experience as a nonprofit manager and consultant) and we asked her to consider leaving the Board to become our first Executive Director, which she did in January.
Finally, over the first weekend in March, the Board met for a wonderful retreat and strategic planning. Many of us met face-to-face for the first time, and we were hosted grandly by the Gaia’s Rising CUUPS group in Columbia, S.C. At that time we reviewed our by-laws and adopted a new set (which will be posted online soon). A notable outcome of that decision is that Cherry Hill Seminary is no longer owned by, affiliated with, or answerable to the Communitarian Church. We made important decisions about going forward with our pursuit of accreditation, and set up task forces to guide the work of the seminary.
While many of these changes may feel sudden, I can assure you that they result from and represent the past year’s hard work by leadership to move Cherry Hill to a more professional level, with strong viability for survival and growth. Some of our changes have involved moving us into compliance with state and federal regulations, as well as into best practices in nonprofit management.
Change always creates new challenges, and sometimes apprehension, or even friction, as we confront the unknown. But remember, the Goddess changes everything She touches, and take heart in Her blessings as we continue to grow and learn together.
During this time of change I ask each of us to focus closely on the mission of Cherry Hill Seminary, which (as refined and adopted at our board retreat) is "to provide quality higher education and practical training in Pagan ministry."
The Board also adopted the following vision statement–
CHS supports Pagans and their communities by:
* Providing an extensive education in diverse aspects of Pagan philosophy, practice, and skilled ministry;
* Supplementing existing ritual and magical skills with training for professional ministry and counseling;
* Serving as an ongoing resource for individual continuing education; and
* Providing a forum for scholarship and community
Education for Pagan ministry is what Cherry Hill is about. It is the reason we exist, and must be the basis for every action or decision we make in carrying out the work of Cherry Hill. This is the time to release anything that does not serve this mission and vision. And it is the time to embrace and support the work that makes us stronger, more efficient, and better able to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Many of you have served the vision of Pagan ministry education for years now, with only token pay, or none at all. I know that I follow in the venerable footsteps of leaders who have gone before me. Please accept here my earnest gratitude for all that you have done and for all that you have given to Cherry Hill. I also ask for your support as we go forward.
This year I challenge us all to nurture the new growth of Cherry Hill Seminary in the following ways:
Challenge 1: Double our enrollment by the start of Spring 2009.
Challenge 2: Raise awareness of and respect for Cherry Hill Seminary.
Challenge 3: Improve our efficiency of operation to a new level.
Each of us can support these challenge-goals by simply speaking up for Pagan ministry education at every possible opportunity. We can encourage our local, regional, and national Pagan communities to take advantage of the stellar programs we offer. We can work together to help our administrative staff revamp procedures and infrastructure.
I dream of a day when all who find meaning in earth-based religions can find their ministry and counseling needs met by competent, trained professionals. Please accept both my thanks and my challenges as we move into that future together.
Blessings for the new season!
Nikki Bado-Fralick, Ph.D.
President, Board of Directors
Cherry Hill Seminary