Our Society is built on the ideals of chivalry and courtesy, but runs by the concept of service. Without cooks, marshals, teachers, tent-raisers, hall-decorators, and so forth, no one would get to enjoy any of the activities we have come to know and love. The opportunities for service are practically limitless and the best part is, when everyone gives a little, nobody has to give a lot! Let us consider the types of service in the Society and learn about the reasons and rewards for serving.
“The SCA is not simply about what I get out of it; much more it is about what I put into it. To serve at an event, behind the scenes, or in my day to day interactions and by doing so to lift up others and honor their service is far more reward than any scroll I’ve ever received.” — Señor Santiago Ruiz de Zaragoza
There are two main types of service in the Society: group service and event service.
As you begin to participate in the Society, you will quickly come to discover that the everyday, ongoing activities of the Society take planning, coordination, and execution by the members of its groups. Whether it be local fighter practices, business meetings, arts and sciences workshops, or any other gathering, someone usually has to organize it, plan it, run it, and clean up after it. By serving in your local group or for your kingdom, you help the Society to function on a daily basis.
The main individuals responsible for ensuring that the activities in any group are held are the officers. From the Seneschal who directs the business of the group, to the marshals who coordinate combat practices, to the herald who helps research names and devices, the officers of a local group or kingdom oversee and promote nearly every type of activity we do. Whereas many officers’ activities put them out in front of fighters, classes, and crowds, many officers act behind the scenes, such as those who balance the books, organize and file event paperwork, and sort heraldic submissions. There are many opportunities to serve from the comfort of your computer desk, leaving you free to relax at local events (or serve there, too).
In addition to serving as an officer, you can also serve by helping out at workshops, teaching classes, participating in demos, or assisting the group or individuals with projects. The best way to find out what opportunities for service exist is by attending the activities of the local group.
Ask a SCAdian: What’s the best way to start with service in my local group?
“The easiest way is by offering up ideas when the group is planning an event as it often helps the group think outside of the box or get out of a rut. You can also help with the loading and unloading for an event. Help is always needed and you get to know more local folks. There are also demos and educational activities, parades, etc. where you can start out as a learner yourself and also help fill out the ranks. Becoming a deputy to an office you are interested in is also a great way to get to know the ins and outs of a group. It is never too early to start volunteering. The group will have more opportunities to get to know you the more you ask if you can help.” — Bantiarna Muirenn ingen Donngaile
As the ongoing activities of the Society are maintained through its local groups and kingdoms, one of the most important parts of our organization are its events. Without a doubt, this weekend some group somewhere is hosting an event, probably in your kingdom, and possibly right down the road. Most local groups host anywhere from one to three events each year, so there may be a hundred or more opportunities to attend and serve at an event in your kingdom.
For as many opportunities are there are to serve in your local group, there are that many more positions that need to be filled at any given event. For example, the average small armored combat tournament needs at least one marshal, one list master, one field herald, one person to run cards between the list table and the heralds, not to mention a handful of people to set up the field. If there are additional needs such as multiple fields fighting simultaneously, a large number of entrants, or a large list field to cover, the need for volunteers may double or triple. It may take ten or fifteen people working together to run one tournament, and this is only one of the activities that may be taking place at any given event!
No matter what your experience level, there are plenty of areas to serve at an event. Feasts need cooks, servers, and dishwashers. Collegiums need teachers and coordinators. Whether you give an hour or a whole weekend, even the smallest amount of volunteer time can make a huge difference in both the stress level of the event staff and the enjoyment of the attendees.
You do not have to be a member of the group hosting the event in order to serve. Check with the relevant officer or event staff member to see if they will need help. If you like to help out in the kitchen, contact the head cook. If you like to herald the field, drop by the list table and ask for the lead voice herald. If you see someone setting up a pavilion, offer a helping hand. The worst thing that can happen is to be told they already have enough volunteers and that’s not such a bad thing to have at all!
Why Do We Serve?
Service in the Society is a means to an end. Without someone running the tournament, there is no tournament. Without someone registering names, nobody gets a unique name. Without someone cooking the feast, nobody gets to eat. By volunteering at local events, you make it so that others can come and fight, feast, and have a good time. Then, when it’s your turn, you’ll hopefully find those others in their own kitchen or marshalling their own field so that you can play, too.
Ask a SCAdian: How important is it that I find a way to get involved?
Being involved is probably the most important part of being in the Society. Our groups is based on volunteering and being part of the group, whether it’s helping run events, making things, cooking, fighting or listening to stories. The main aspect that sets us apart from Renaissance Faires — which many of us enjoy — is that we are always participants, not just spectators. We make the magic happen. — Master Liam St. Liam
That said, there are also substantive benefits to providing service in the Society. Every kingdom in the Society has a series of awards and orders designed to recognize those who participate in their realm, either through arts and sciences, through martial activities, through service, or by other means. By that token, every kingdom has specific awards that recognize acts of service to local groups or to the kingdom at large. Many of these awards increase your rank or precedence within the kingdom, and some come with special titles and regalia.
Should the “end” of our means of service be recognition with an award? Generally, no. While aspiring to be recognized by your fellow Society members and your kingdom’s Crown is never a bad thing, serving only for the sake of getting an award will generally leave you anxious or disappointed. In the Society, service is more about providing for the needs of the group or the event to ensure success and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a job well done. Getting an award always feels good, but knowing a hundred people had fun because of how you helped out feels even better. If you serve faithfully and consistently for twenty years, will you rack up the medals and tokens? Perhaps, perhaps not. But in that time, what else will you have accomplished?
You will have helped countless events run smoothly, aided newcomers in learning and growing within the Society, ensured the success and longevity of your local group, and earned the esteem of your fellows who see the sweat of your brow and appreciate all that you have done. Serve from a heart of dedication and from a sense of duty to your local group and kingdom and you will never find yourself unfulfilled.