My mom and my sister are members of the Sea Organization, which is the religious order of the Church of Scientology. Sea Org members are dedicated Scientologists who are responsible for the management of Scientology churches worldwide, for the execution of the Church’s global outreach as well as social betterment campaigns (Human Rights campaigns, anti-drug campaigns, the Volunteer Ministers, etc), as well as ministering the advanced services of the Church of Scientology.
It’s that latter duty that both my mother and my sister & her husband have been engaged in each for over 20 years now, each of them working at the Church of Scientology’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida called Flag. I wrote a longer article about what Sea Org members do here, if you’re interested.
Seeing as my family just got back from yet another amazing trip to Flag (I’ve written on prior trips here and here), I wanted to use the opportunity to illustrate a bit of what my relationship is like with my family who are in the Sea Org. They lead extremely busy lives, and by-definition are extraordinarily passionate individuals who have dedicated themselves now and into the future toward helping others. But – it’s notable the volume to which they care about family, which I think makes this illustration of our inter-relationship pretty important to elaborate upon.
My wife and I are both second-generation Scientologists, and met while my wife was on church staff in Washington, DC where we both ended up working together for some time. My parents were already Scientologists when I was born, and were parishioners at churches in Boston and Portland, OR while I grew up. The year after my sister finished high school (at the same amazing boarding school I went to), she decided to join the Sea Organization. My sister always had just the kindest heart, so her decision (which very much originated from her) surprised precisely nobody. My mom decided to join the Sea Org shortly after this as well.
What are Sea Org Members and What Do They Do?
In the Scientology religion, local churches & missions around the world (like ones you’d see in Sydney or Budapest) are run by Scientology church staff members. These are the churches that provide training, ministerial and counseling services up to the State of Clear for their local areas. They also provide all of the various outreach activities that the Church of Scientology is known for including coordinating volunteer disaster response, doing drug education & human rights education, and vastly more. My dad has been a Scientology church staff member in DC for the last 24 years (at this writing). Scientology church staff are extremely dedicated folks, andalso have families, and live, commute, shop, etc.
Sea Org members, by contrast, are primarily engaged in the management of the Scientology religion, the execution of broad-scale communications (media & public relations) work, the production & distribution of the church’s religious materials themselves, as well as the administration and delivery of the higher levels of Scientology training & counseling.
Members of the Sea Org have dedicated their lives to voluntary service of the Scientology religion. They live communally in church-provided housing, and have their expenses, meals and uniforms cared for by the church. Originally, Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard‘s development & initial delivery of the higher-levels of Scientology auditing occurred off the crossroads of life on ships. So, the Sea Org’s initial function of management and delivery of Scientology worldwide was born as a nautical tradition. I heavily recommend watching this video on the Freewinds as it gives the background for this, and how that extends to present day:
The Scientology Network has a number of other amazing videos showing Sea Org members in action – as all of the staff of the International Dissemination Center, Bridge Publications, of Scientology Media Productions, and of the Freewinds motor vessel are all Sea Org members. Each one of the uniformed individuals you see in the videos linked above are all real Sea Org members, and they have AMAZING jobs.
The largest Sea Org-staffed organization in the world however is the Church of Scientology’s spiritual retreat in Clearwater, Florida known as “Flag”. Flag is simultaneously a number of things – being the only location where a number of higher-level counseling procedures are done (with facilities built expressly to accommodate such), as well as being far-and-away the largest and most comprehensive training center for both the delivery of Scientology Auditing, as well as the training of church executives (the Flag Executive Briefing Course, discussed here.) Scientologist both public & staff come from all over the world to Flag, delivery happens in something like 18 different languages and it’s a wild & multicultural place to be.
Please do watch this video as it goes very in-depth about what Flag is, who works there, and what happens inside the many beautiful buildings.
My mom, my sister and her husband are all Sea Org members at Flag.
What Exactly my Mom & Sister DO as Sea Org Members
The jobs they do there, I’d be happy to explain to any of you readers individually – but it’d take me a whole blog post apiece just to give the context for the part of the organization where they are, in order to get to a decent layperson’s description. But each of them has gone through quite-literally DECADES of training in the delivery and the precision-skill of SUPERVISION of Scientology auditing, including the delivery & supervision of the OT Levels (the highest levels of Scientology counseling). Whilst my mom’s job primarily involves the training & bettering the people who deliver those highest levels of auditing, my sister & her husband are supervising that auditing itself, making sure its delivery is laser-perfect at all times, and making sure everyone who comes to Flag does indeed get the results they should be getting from their auditing.
Scientology as a religion is only as valuable as it works, and as such the very existence of our religion rests on their shoulders. It’s pretty intense, and it’s never advertised as an easy job. The hours are long and they work quite hard.
I talk to my sister regularly though, and her life has a very sustainable balance for her. She gets as much or more-regular exercise time than I do, with time set aside for it in the evenings, and the food at Flag is really quite incredible. She lives with her husband in a nice apartment provided by the church, and life’s set up such that she can do what she’s fabulous at and what really amounts to her core purpose in life, and is able to focus on what she loves.
On their Relationship to my Family & Kids
My family has always been very close. My sister and I have always been particularly good buddies, and she’s always found ways to make family time a big part of her life, no matter her schedule. In my experience, even the most shiftless & sedentary of individuals can put on an act that they’re “too busy” to write-to, create-upon and be close to family. It’s a personal choice and a life priority that comes from the individual, and “being an awesome Auntie” or “awesome grandma” has clearly been part of their priorities.
Much of this relationship is very fresh-in-mind given that we just came back from a few weeks visiting at Flag with the family. My mom & sister made sure to take off all 3 weekends while my family was around and we had a blast despite the oppressive heat (I’m a northern boy, so Florida in July is particularly intense for me).
But we got multiple weekends at the beach, which was a revelation to my kids who are used to ice-cold Oregon water temps. The fact that the water temps were in the 80’s made it just lovely to swim & play in.
This trip, as well as my previous trip to Flag in May this year, I was also able to get literally dozens of walks, hikes, bike rides and dinners in with my sister – who’s just always been my best buddy.
This sort of thing has always been our thing. We’ve done a bunch of Christmases in Florida, but every time we don’t, my mom & sister go all-out on Christmas prep, in many cases far-out-doing the amount of physical creative work my wife and I put into it. My sister’s always had a calligraphy hobby, so she hand-makes these great super-artful birthday cards for each kid every year.
Lastly, just because it’s fun for me, here’s a photo of my mom with me as a baby, and then as a grandma, holding my son (we took the train down to FL when he was a month old so they could get baby snuggletime).
I wanted to give the above illustrations of their connection to our family. We’ve all met people who simply are so focused on one single area of their life that every other thing (their marriage, their hobbies, their family, their health even) just go to the wayside and they create a big set of excuses around how “they just don’t have time” for parts of life that are really important.
To me its indicative that someone’s doing something very healthy in life when they’re able to be massively, truly INTENSE about their core interests while also keeping themselves, their health, their family, and their friendships in great shape as well.