It's that time of year, in the scattered communities of the neo-Christendom alt.worship tea-light-handling Folk called Beaker, when trainee druids are joining their new communities to be trained in their craft. And so, as is the way in these things, Jennii, our trainee druid, is going off with our best wishes to be assistant archdruid at the Corded Wear Folk of Caddington. And Charlii has a new victim - sorry, trainee - to break in. So I'd like you all to welcome Noldor. She comes to us with a degree in Tea Light Studies and a Masters in Lavender Oil from the Angular, Rusty University.
Obviously, Noldor is the latest in a series of trainees we've had here. So I feel qualified to give you some advice on how to look after them.
First up - time management is very important. So the first thing I always do with a trainee druid is get their diary and get them to write the word "Work" on all the working days. That is, weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. And Christmas Day, obviously. St Francis would approve.
Some say that the newly-inducted trainee Druid should ensure he or she makes time for their family. And I can see the importance of this. It is bad modelling of leadership for a druid to neglect the family. Which is why I always think it's a good idea to select single people for the trainees in Husborne Crawley. People are always banging on to trainees about "make time for God and your family" - but clearly doing Community admin, dusting the worship focus table and digging the Community vegetable garden are all making time for God. George Herbert, whom I always think is just the trainee I could have done with myself, put it best when he wrote "Sweep the floor for Jesus, That's how to get to heaven." I'm paraphrasing of course. But nobody ever tells trainees to "make time for yourself". So let's not start giving them ideas.
Inculcating a sense of guilt in the trainee is always a good start. Though, unusually, you'll actually have help from the lay people on this one. Makes a nice change from everything else you try to do with them. But tell everyone that a Self-Supporting Druid (or "Not a Proper Druid Like Eileen") is entitled to a Sunday Off every month, and somebody will suggest that the best use for a Sunday Off is to be worshipping in the congregation rather than up front. Nice and restful. Or leading the children's work. Not that you'd expect anything specific from them. It's just nice to have them around. To talk to. Or hold things. Or, if you're short of a prayer ministry person, to step in for a bit of laying-on of hands. Before you know where you are, they'll be telling you not to bother with Sundays Off - they're too much like hard work.
Likewise, encourage the trainee to regard weekly Days Off as "study and sermon preparation days". After all, all that peace 'n' quiet will get to them after a while if they don't have something to think about. And since learning and discipleship are the key objectives of the trainee period, they've got to fit it in somewhere when the other six days are all about ministry and administration.
Bear in mind that, although in past lives the trainee may have been a musician, children's worker, social worker or teacher, that they are now first and foremost a trainee druid. In other words, they've got to add "youth worker" to the CV for the next three years, even if they can't stand youth. And, let's face it, after three years who could?
Consider also that Self-Supporting Druids have often been working all day - sometimes after long commutes. So make sure you reschedule all your meetings to the evening so they are able - nay, feel obligated - to attend. You may need to prod them occasionally to wake them up, or maybe make them Secretary of all the meetings, so taking minutes can help them stay awake.
Trainees have notoriously small brains, unable to know the names of everyone in the Community even after two or three days. And people can get offended. I deal with this by bar coding every member of the Community on the forehead, and giving the trainee a scanner linked to the membership records. It's a bit reminiscent of Revelation 13, but hey, why should the Devil have all the good organisational ideas?
On the subject of whether married or single trainees are more useful, I have mixed feelings which, thanks to the Discrimination At Work Act, I am completely at liberty to exercise. There's special exemptions for religious organisations for this kind of thing. I mean, obviously the tendency of a trainee's family to turn up outside the Moot House - kids' little faces pressed against the glass as they ask "is that our mummy?" can be distracting when the trainee is 7-hours into an all-important 9-hour meeting to discuss what wattage the replacement light bulb in the toilet should be. On the other hand, if the trainee is single, we have other things to worry about. There are mixed views as to whether it's right for the trainee to have a romantic attachment - even a chaste, paradigmatic, leading-properly-to-marriage attachment - to a member of the congregation. But I always reckon it's probably acceptable. Let's face it, they're not going to meet anyone else are they? Not if you've been doing your job properly.