COGCOA Moontree
 

Covenant FAQ


Covenant History

Despite popular belief, the Covenant was not found in a cabbage patch. Here's the real story of how we were born.

In 1990 a group of female Wiccans decided to start a legally recognised church in Alberta. For various reasons many of the founders drifted away. In 1991 one of them approached a new, mixed-gender group to discuss the possibility of continuing the project as an Eclectic, instead of Dianic, church.

We started with a small Board of Directors: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Seven people were interested, so we decided that each office could be held jointly by two people. This rather unorthodox arrangement allowed everyone to participate. It has also proven useful when one person is unable to come to a meeting.

The original name was to be the Covenant of Gaia. The Alberta government had other ideas. They want a church to be called a church and they also asked for the "of Alberta." The resulting official name, the Covenant of Gaia Church of Alberta, is awkward so you will most often hear it called The Covenant or COGCOA. We tend not to use COG because that might confuse us with the Covenant of the Goddess, a U.S. church. COGCOA is not affiliated with COG.

Over the next months we wrote the Articles of Faith and By-Laws. Much of the preliminary work had already been done by the original group. The Articles of Faith were interesting to write because they had to define us, yet allow for the wide diversity present in the Craft because the Covenant does not have a specific tradition. It is composed of autonomous congregations, each of which worships as it sees fit within the framework of our Articles of Faith.

The Covenant is a congregational church, but we define a congregation as one or more people. This gives covens and solitaries equal status on the basis of "one person, one vote."

In 1991 we started holding sabbats in a member's living room. Fewer than a dozen people attended that first event.

One fine Bealtaine a year later we had over 30 people in the same living room with a cauldron fire in the centre. We decided that it was time to rent a hall before something or someone was barbecued.

This led to the question of how we would raise the rental money. It was decided that a donation jar would be left by the door and those who attended were asked to give $2-$3 toward the rent. This system survives to this day and seems to work fairly well, although rising prices have raised our suggested donations to $5.

The Covenant holds eight sabbats a year. Members submit bids to perform the sabbat rituals in whatever manner they wish. Some bids are submitted by covens, some by groups of solitaries. As a result each sabbat is different and participants receive exposure to a variety of traditions. When possible the dates are chosen to be at least one day off the official festivals so that people who wish to celebrate privately can do so. The average attendance is about 60 to 80 people.

In 2003 something happened that was (so far!) unique in the Covenant's history: We cancelled a circle. A snowstorm left a blanket of heavy, wet snow all over the city. One family couldn't leave their house becuase the snow had blocked the doors. Another ruined their vehicle while trying to get it out of a side street. Even major roads were all but impassible. Our ministers managed to leave a note on the door for anyone who could not be reached by telephone.

Around each Bealtaine the Covenant holds its annual general meeting. At that time the Directors resign and new Directors are elected. To help prevent burn out, no director can serve more than three consecutive terms. In addition to the officers there are also positions for up to 11 directors-at-large. These positions are usually filled by people who want to work on specific projects during the next year.

On February 12, 1997 our web site became active. It took a few months to be listed with the various search engines. Over the years the web site has changed its look several times. In March 2001 we registered our own domain, cogcoa.ab.ca.

We have several on-going projects from small to large. Each year we raise money and food donations for the Interfaith Food Bank. Since 2000 we have had a weekend summer camp. We also have a ministerial program. We have individuals and groups that provide religious training and initiation for mature, reasonable candidates. The Covenant does not presently offer services in prison ministry, or religious education by correspondence.

At the 2003 Annual General Meeting the members voted to adopt a new set of by-laws, the first ammendments since the Covenant began.

What will the future hold? We've started to get members in other cities. We'd like to hold a weekend festival and invite people from other areas to see what we do instead of us always going somewhere else.


Covenant Logo

Now you'll find out what the green oval is all about.

COGCOA logoThe original design is Babylonian-Assyrian and is called a moon tree. We first encountered it as a description in a novel, The Sword of Orley by Stewart Farrar. We modified the design a bit, added colours and presto! we have a distinctive logo.

The green background represents the Earth, the mother who contains us all. The three steps are in the colours of the Crone, Mother and Maiden, the three aspects of the Goddess. They also represent the three degrees common to many traditions.

The stem is silver, leading upward to the bowl (crescent moon, a Goddess symbol) cupping a golden solar disc (a God symbol).

Using the moontree as a graphic link

If you want to link to our site using our moontree as a graphic link, here's how to do it:

  1. Copy the moontree graphic to your server. Usually you can do this by clicking and holding the right mouse button over the graphic and selecting "Save image as..." Save the file as moontree.gif. Do NOT link to the image on our site.

  2. Add the following XHTML to your web site

    <a href="http://cogcoa.ab.ca/">
    <img src="moontree.gif" alt="COGCOA Moon Tree" height="101" width="60" border="0"/>
    </a>
  3. 3. That's all!


Attending Circles

We prefer to meet with new people in person before inviting them to our circles to allow both parties the opportunity to get to know one another. We are happy to talk with people who just want to know more and/or do not wish to become members at this time.

First meetings are generally held in some neutral place such as a coffee shop. We appreciate that contacting an unknown religious group is an act of courage and we try to make our first meeting as safe as possible for all concerned. When we cannot fulfil a seeker's needs we may be able to direct the person to some other, related community that is more suited to them.

Minors are welcome to contact us for information but may not attend church events unless they have written parental consent. Parents have the right to know what organisations their children are joining. If you are truly interested you can study on your own until you are 18, or we would be glad to discuss our religion and church with your parents if you think it would help.


Community Circle Etiquette

Welcome! We hope to offer you an opportunity to celebrate the passage of the seasons and honour the Sacred with other Wiccans in ways that will seem both new and familiar. There are many reasons why we hold community circles: to honour our Deities and lend some of our energy to the turning of the Wheel; to receive from our time in Sacred Space some energy for use in our own lives; to share the work of creating ritual and experiencing each other's magic so that we may all learn and grow, and to meet and work together in and out of circle so we can become friends and neighbours. Each circle is different and each takes on a life of its own, perhaps becoming more than its planners hoped, but always a little surprising after the Deities have joined us. We ask your cooperation in respecting Sacred Space and helping each other to enjoy these circles. The following points provide guidelines for us all. If you have questions, please ask one of the ritual presenters.

  1. The hall will be open by 7:00. A pre-ritual quiet will begin about 7:20. The door is locked at 7:30 when the ritual begins. Someone will announce the quiet time. Bathroom space is scarce for those who like to wear robes, etc., so prepare as soon as you can. If you know in advance that you must be late, call one of the organizers and try to get a promise that someone will open the door for you. The rite usually lasts about two hours and then people socalise and feast together.

  2. Someone will explain the ritual and a printed outline with any song lyrics will be available. If you have questions, please ask one of the ritual presenters. Different teams of people creates the rituals -- this is their gift to us all.

  3. Please participate in the circle. Watchers from 'outside' the Circle seem not to be in sympathy with the circle and you may be asked to leave. However, if you wish to 'sit out' a particular part -- for example a spiral dance when you cannot move quickly or a Cone of Power which is being done for a reason to which you you cannot whole-heartedly lend your magic -- then do quietly move a step back and wait. Our 'ale' is never alcoholic -- usually it is fruit juice or water. It is served in individual glasses to eliminate the problem of sharing colds as well as the energy.

  4. Once the Circle is cast, please respect its boundary. If you must leave the Circle, cut a gate near the main entrance. If you don't know how to open a gate in the Circle, ask someone to do it for you. When you return to the Circle, please use discretion as to when you enter. Do not enter if a Cone of Power is being raised or if other easily disturbed work is being done, such as a guided meditation.

  5. Conversation within the Circle is limited to matters relating to the ritual. The feasting afterward is available for socialising -- please wait until then.

  6. Most but not all movement is the Circle is done clockwise, following the sun's path in the sky. This is also described as deasil (sunwise).

  7. Please contribute to the food and drink we share after Circle. Bring whatever you would like from chips to cassaroles, bread to bottles of pop.

  8. Please help with cleanup. We are asking people to help based on their last names. Tasks include washing dishes, moving chairs and sweeping the hall. Your aid is always greatly appreciated.

  9. Please contribute to hall rental and ritual costs. We cannot afford to run at a loss. We are trying to cover part of the costs of the presenters as well as the hall rental. A donation of $5 is suggested.

  10. Respect the confidentiality of the circle. Do not reveal identities of participants or identify other people's experiences. You may speak of your own experience or refer in general terms to the experiences of the group. The is a very sensitive issue for some. All of us have the right to choose how private we need to be.

  11. Respect the sacred space of the circle. Do not come to Circle with animosity in your heart. Refrain from drunkenness or possession or use of any illegal substances, or you will be asked to leave.

  12. There is a Priest/Priestess on Call after the Circle to help with any concerns you may have about your ritual experience or any other concerns.

  13. Your own children are welcome at most rituals. Busy bags are available for the younger children during Circle. Please do not bring the children of non-Pagans.

  14. The ritual presenters have put a lot of effort into the ritual. Please do not touch any member of the team unless invited to during the rite since they could be in trance. For about 10 minutes after the ritual the presenters will need private time to wind down and ground themselves. If you wait, they will usually be happy to answer questions or say hello. Outside Circle some of us are extroverts, others are quite shy.

  15. You may notice that we don't criticise or analyse what went on in the ritual, especially the magic, right after it ends. This is called the 24 hour rule -- all magical work and prayers are left alone for a day to have a chance to work before we start analysing them. However, we do like to evaluate our work and get feedback on the rite. Please tell us -- but wait a day.

  16. If you wish to invite someone to a Community Circle, phone the Covenant machine or the ritual leader and advise them who you are and who your guest is. YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PERSON BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE RITUAL. Go over the points in this handout with your guests so that they will be comfortable. Keep track of them during the ritual and help them ground if needed. Introduce them to some people. Check back with them the next day to find out if they have any questions or concerns. There may be a grounding meditation after the Circle -- check with the ritual presenters.

  17. We truly hope that you will find these celebrations happy and fulfilling experiences. If, for whatever reason, you have had an unhappy experience, please tell us. We do care, and need to know. There are several ways to do this. You can ask the Priest/Priestess on call for advice, or our ministers. There is also a Letter Box at events where complaints (or compliments) may be dropped off.

  18. If you like the Circles, why not become more active? HELP TO TURN THE WHEEL IS ALWAYS NEEDED. MERRY MEET INDEED!!


Membership

We try to make our events as safe and as comfortable as possible. For this reason we like to meet with new people before they attend their first event. These meetings are usually held at a mutually convenient coffee shop and allow us to get to know one another a bit to make sure that we are right for each other. Some seekers may be more comfortable with another group.

You do not need to be a member in order to attend church events. In fact, we encourage people not to join until they get to know us and vice versa. People's practises and beliefs differ and we believe that it is important for everyone to feel comfortable.

Minors (those under the age of 18) must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, or must provide a written, signed parental permission to attend our events and have an adult sponsor. We will meet with the parents before hand to ensure that any questions they have are answered. Minors may not bring guests.

If, after attending several events, you do decide to become a member then application forms are available from the Secretary who also receives the completed form. The application typically will be processed by the Board of Directors at their next business meeting (which usually occur once a month).

Everybody starts as an associate (non-voting) member for the first year. After that you may apply to become a full member which means that you get to vote and run for the board of directors. Full members must also swear before the congregation to uphold the by-laws and articles of faith of the Covenant.

The Covenant recognises that religious affiliation is a personal and private matter. For that reason all information about our members is confidential.


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