"The Officer"

By Baroness Brianna Je Nell Aislynn of Blue Shadows

The officers provide valuable service to the Society. They are the ones who provide the framework within which we play, verily, the civil servants who administer the rules of the game. They are the interface between the 20th century and the medieval world of the SCA. They record, protect, intercede and, occasionally, admonish. They make it possible for the rest of us to suspend disbelief and become our personas. They also provide another analog of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, by being a model for the various clerics and managers who served the same functions for the Noble classes in period.

The following are the officers you are most likely to encounter (though titles may vary from area to area):

Seneschal-The chief administrative officer for an area, responsible for coordinating with the other officers and who has signatory power for all documents having legal force and effect. Also oversees publicity and is the person in charge of interfacing with the modern world.

Herald-The officer in charge of ceremonies and promoting heraldry.

Marshal-The officer in charge of combat and safety on the fields where such combat is practiced.

Minister of Arts & Sciences-The officer who facilitates educating the populace in the arts and sciences practiced in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Exchequer-The officer who oversees the group's monies and accounts for expenditures and usage.

Lists-The officer who keeps track of the order and results of SCA combat.

Chronicler-The officer responsible for overseeing publications

Constable-The officer responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing safety regulations at an event. Also maintains the Lost & Found.

Chatelaine (female) or Castellan (male)-The officer in charge of hospitality to non-SCA people at SCA events.

Minister of Children-The officer who coordinates activities and instruction for the Children in the SCA.

Captain of Archers-The officer in charge of target archery and safety on the ranges where such archery is practiced.

Secretary-The officer who takes the minutes at meetings

These officers have similarities in functions. They advise the populace in their area of expertise and enforce the rules of their offices. They mediate disagreements and facilitate the populace's search in creating a more period experience. One of the more necessary duties of officers is filing reports. There are event reports, monthly reports, quarter reports and doomsday (end of year) reports. Reports should be timely, accurate and factual. A basic report should include:

a) Chapter Name: (Kingdom, Barony, Canton, College, Stronghold, etc.)

b) Office and Officer's name

c) Date the report was written

d) Type of report (i.e. quarter, event, monthly, doomsday)

e) Brief synopsis of events (this is the point of your report) including problems, issues and concerns. Hopefully this will also include how you solved them.

f) Signature block-this includes you SCA name, modern name, address and phone number

g) For event reports (tourneys, wars, feasts, etc.) also include: the date of the event, the event name, modern location (site name and address), SCA location (barony, shire, canton), Royalty in attendance and/or the ruling Noble, the Officer(s)-in-Charge and the Steward's name.

They should also include praise for the people who have helped you, as it is unlikely that you are superhuman and have done everything yourself (if you did, you're doing it wrong). Disparaging remarks should be made very carefully, if at all.

There are other officers whom most people might not think of as such:

King & Queen-The ceremonial heads of the 15 geographic regions (i.e. Kingdoms)

Prince & Princess-The ceremonial heads of a principality, or the impending successors Their Majesties.

Territorial Baron and Baroness-The ceremonial heads for a local chapter (i.e. Barony).

In addition to Their ceremonial functions, these officers frequently act as facilitators and mediators and are often the deciding vote in disputes among the populace. In the case of the Baron and Baroness, They also act as long range planners and advocates for Their Baronies at the Kingdom level. These officers do not file reports and generally step down with a title.

There are many ways to acquire the experience necessary to hold an office. One can serve as a deputy to the Office. This allows you to see what the job really entails, without being totally responsible for doing it all. You can hold the office at a less intensive level, such as College or Canton, which acts as an unofficial deputy to the Baronial officer. This gives you a local superior to consult and someone who should be able to give you the training you desire. Some Offices are less demanding of experience than others (this does not make them less important or less necessary, just less demanding). An example would be to start out as the Chatelaine instead of jumping in as Seneschal. Or, one can serve as a Guild Steward. This provides administrative experience while working with like minded others in a mutually pleasurable atmosphere. It can also function as an unofficial deputy, depending on what type of Guild it is.

In addition to being warranted for the Office by the Kingdom officer, many Offices require a warrant that certifies a certain level of training in that field. Examples would be the various levels in the College of Heralds and the multiple levels and types of warrant held by the Marshallate (these are the two most elaborate examples, most other Offices have official requirements as well). Some of these Offices can not be held until a certain level of warrant has been earned. Many of the classes and training necessary can be taken at Collegium. Practical experience can frequently be acquired by working with the Officers at events. Volunteer! They always appreciate the help.

There are some publications that will assist you in being an officer. They are:

a) the handbook of the Office. Most Offices have a handbook of rules and regulations for that office.

b) Corpora-the bylaws of the SCA, available from the SCA Marketplace

c) Kingdom Law-the bylaws of the Kingdom, available from the Kingdom Seneschal

d) The Society Seneschal's Handbook-a book of good advice directed at the Seneschallate, but with good problem solving suggestions for the general officer, check with the Kingdom Seneschal

e) The Power Principle, Influence Through Honor by Blaine Lee. Not an SCA publication, but probably one of the best books I've ever read on self image and how to work with others. A veritable blueprint on what a true Noble should be and how to become one. Available at most bookstores.

Being an officer is one of the most rewarding and one of the most frustrating things you will ever do.

If you are looking for "power", this isn't the way to achieve it. The perceived power of most officers is based more on the officer's personal competence, integrity and charisma than on any power inherent in the office itself. This being a volunteer organization, you cannot force anyone to do something. You can motivate, cajole, persuade or even (shudder) manipulate them, but you can't compel. Being an officer is a chance to be a leader. Literally this is jumping in and doing what needs to be done and hoping that others will follow you. It is setting an example. Motivation can be accomplished by acknowledging and praising those who assist you. An office can lend a certain weight when you write a recommendation letter. It provides you with a bully pulpit to have those whom you think are deserving of recognition recognized. Do keep in mind the SCA is not the Boy Scouts ™ and that awards are not merit badges. Just because you recommend someone for an award, doesn't mean they will get what you think they deserve, officer or not.

You have the potential to do great good by being competent and doing what you say, AND the potential to really mess up. The work you do will speak for itself. This does not mean you should be so self-effacing that you cease to exist, but it does suggest that shameless self-promotion is self defeating. Be honest in your self-assessment and use this to better your performance. Do your best to serve the entire group. This means there will be days when you have to work with those you don't like or respect. Deal with these people on a professional level, using courtesy and good will. Treating them differently than those you approve of does not hurt them as much as it will destroy your integrity and personal honor. Above all, an officer must strive for objectivity and remember that they are members of a team striving towards common goals. You don't have to like someone to work with them (though I will admit it helps). You also don't have to like someone to respect them. Finding someone's admirable qualities makes working with them much easier. If you find you cannot do these things, you might want to seriously rethink your desire to hold an office.

So what do you get out of being an officer? You can look forward to the satisfaction of a job well done and the pleasure of working with others toward a common goal. If you give your best and are reasonably competent, you can look forward to increasing the respect you receive from others in the Society. These are the intangible rewards. Sometimes this respect will evidence itself as an award recommendation. A word of warning, if you expect awards, you are sure to be disappointed. Expectation of awards is not a very noble reason for taking an office.

Holding an office is an opportunity to stretch in a fairly safe environment. The SCA is a very supportive place to try different things. An honest effort is met with appreciation and a good job will usually receive effusive praise. A lot of people are willing to offer advice and/or assistance if you are trying out new skills. This is a wonderful place to learn management and leadership skills without putting your life or livelihood on the line.

Volunteering and community service look good on a real world resume and can be substituted for paid job expertise. Volunteering demonstrates commitment and a certain depth in personality to an employer. This is an especially good trade off for students who are just entering the job market or those who are reentering after a hiatus from paid employment. To make it easier to list your SCA experience on a resume, here are some of the real world corresponding job titles:

Seneschal-chapter president (though I've seen Kingdom Seneschal listed as regional vice-president)

Herald-protocol officer

Marshal-athletic and safety officer

Constable-safety officer

Chronicler-newsletter publisher

Exchequer-treasurer

Chatelaine-hospitality officer

Lists-recording secretary for athletic events

Baron/ess-Chapter director

King/Queen-Regional director

Steward or Autocrat-committee chairperson for tournament (tourney), banquet (feast), regional officer investiture (Coronation), regional convention (war), seminar (Collegium)

Awards can be listed as either artistic, service or martial arts and at the chapter (Baronial), regional (Kingdom) or life time achievement (peerage) levels.

Perhaps the greatest benefit you can receive from being an officer is what it can do for your self-image and self-esteem. It is a good way to prove to yourself that you can "do it", that you have worth and that others value you and your contributions. I truly believe that you only get out of the SCA what you put in. I know from personal experience that the bonds formed from working together can develop into deeper relationships. Many of us can attest to SCA friends rallying around in times of sorrow or loss, pitching in when there is work to be done and rejoicing with us at times of great happiness. Holding an office is a great way to start forming or to continue building those bonds.

My thanks to Lord Christopher Thomas for his ideas and input. This article is based on the class we co-taught at Collegium, Spring 1998. I would also like to thank the officers with whom I've had the privilege and pleasure of serving, you were the inspiration and models for this article.


Copyright 1999 by Je Nell Hays

Permission to reprint this article for use in the Society for Creative Aanachronism is granted so long as the complete article is printed with proper attribution to the author using both her modern name and SCA equivalent. Please notify the author if this article is included in any SCA publication or used as reference material in a class.

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