Assistant Organizer for a day
I run, and assist with, almost a dozen local groups… the smallest, and newest of which is Drinking Skeptically-Richmond. We’ve met monthly – since our beginning in December.
Last month, a new member showed up. Many of the other members spoke to him about skeptical issues but my conversations with him were more about his experience as an Assistant Organizer of two other groups – unrelated to religion. He was concerned that we only met once a month – to which I told him that with all my other commitments I simply did not have time to set up addition meetings. He instantly volunteered to lead a second event a month and I figured it couldn’t hurt.
The next day, I made him an Assistant Organizer. His first decision was to post a joint event with two other groups. At this point I was mildly concerned. I know many members come out to our events specifically because they want to hang out with like-minded people… which obviously wouldn’t be the case during a joint event with two other large groups. However the bigger issue was that one of these groups was a singles group and I know from running other meetups in the past that combining these two is a recipe for disaster. I tried to talk to him about it and in the process of that conversation, and through some investigating online, I learned that he was a pagan and believed in the paranormal. Some of the events he had planned for other groups were geared towards embracing religion and superstition. When I questioned him about this it was obvious to me that he was not a skeptic and we didn’t have the same goals in mind for the group.
I was afraid I had made a HUGE mistake. Clearly I should have checked into this in advance but at this point I couldn’t go back in time and I hoped simply to not make this into a bigger mistake. I tried to talk to him but, after sleeping on it, I thought it would be best just to tell him now that it wouldn’t work out.
This is, in part, what I said:
“Unfortunately I don’t think this is going to work out – it seems that you are entirely closed to even the possibility that a joint event may not be the best approach. While I was considering a wait-and-see approach I’m concerned that even if this did not go well I would be unable to convince you otherwise.
I hope you continue to be involved with the group but, if not, I understand. I completely acknowledge that much of this has to do with a failure on my part to not have discussed all this with you in advance. I made too many assumptions from your discussions of working with other groups. Perhaps if you’re really interested in being involved with a skeptic group that holds joint events with others, you might consider starting your own Meetup group.”
I tried to keep it simple. I really didn’t want to make this able his beliefs but I’m sure the implication would have been there regardless of what I wrote.
His response was to send me a nasty letter, post a comment on the group page about how much of a “bitch” I was, leave the group, and to write to a few other members with the same message. Nothing has happened since then.
Through this whole ordeal I’ve learned to be a bit more skeptical myself. In larger groups, I require a member to have attended several events before planning one on their own. Obviously the same rule should apply regardless of group size.