Her Most Esteemed Beneficience
|37th Matron of the Church of Akrona|
|Assumed office |
23 December 2002
|Preceded by||Šela Alandai|
|High Priestess of Nuvo Province|
14 April 1994 – 23 December 2002
|Preceded by||Šela Alandai|
|Succeeded by||Mena Devražon|
|Priestess of North Dravai Parish|
4 November 1982 – 13 April 1994
Vana Nevran Dandreal
19 January 1950
|Residence||Temple of the Emergence, Crystal Coast, Tavaris|
Vana Dandreal (born January 19th, 1950) is the current leader of the Elders, the governing body of the Church of Akrona, and therefore considered to be the presiding officer over the church and leader of the faith, as well as head of state of the People's Communion of Acronis. She is the first elf, and first non-Orc, to ever serve in the position of Matron or as an Elder. Born in Norgsveldet to unknown parents, she was left at a temple in Osfjord in 1950, through the Church's policy of accepting all abandoned babies left at temples without question. She was adopted shortly after her arrival at the temple by a Tavari couple in Norgsveldet on a mission trip. While she does not use her Line Name (the second of three names in the Tavari naming system), her legal name is Vana Nevran Dandreal and, through her adoption, she is a 12th cousin, once removed of current Tavari Prime Minister Žarís Nevran Alandar.
Vana Dandreal was raised in Good Harbor, the largest Tavari city on the eastern coast of the island of Avnatra. Her parents, Leina and Doran Nevran Dandreal, both worked at Eastern Shipworks, the largest shipyard in the country. On her birth certificate, her parents' occupations are listed as "custodial worker" and "clerical worker." Her upbringing has generally been described as "working class," and the Matron herself has spoken of how she became drawn to the Church after eating at Church-run public food kitchens because her house did not have any food. She has also cited her adoption as a reason for her devotion to the faith: "Had it not been for Akronists, I never would have met my parents. It's likely that, had there been no temple for my birth mother to leave me with for safety, I wouldn't be alive at all."
Vana's mother passed away in 1961 when she was 11 years old. In the course of her work as a custodian, Leina Dandreal was exposed to a particular kind of caustic cleaning chemical that was sold under the brand-name Numinol, which was found to cause lung cancer in people exposed regularly to the chemical. The story happened to catch the attention of a local newspaper reporter who launched an investigation into Numinol that found that executives at Eastern Shipworks had known as early as 1954 that custodial workers were passing away from lung cancer but continued to use Numinol because it was the cheapest cleaning chemical available on the market. This created a national controversy and Doran Dandreal would file a lawsuit against Eastern Shipworks in 1965. The lawsuit was delayed significantly by the Shipworks filing several motions to dismiss the case or to appeal various verdicts. It was not until 1989 when the Supreme Civil Court finally ruled against the Shipworks' last appeal and ordered that they pay damages that had originally been ordered by a court in 1970. Doran had died the previous year, and the Matron, who was then serving as the Priestess of North Dravai parish, was awarded the largest ever payment for damages in a non-class action suit in Tavari history: ŋ750,000,000. Because the Shipworks had successfully convinced the courts to not allow other plaintiffs in the case, and because Vana Dandreal was the only living heir of her mother (who had died 28 years previously), Vana received the entire amount of the settlement. The sum, which bankrupted the shipyard, was donated to the Church in its entirety.
Dandreal is known as a much more "activist" Matron than her closest predecessors. A motto of hers as Matron has been that "our Church is a powerful force for good." She is on the record stating that the Church should take more action domestically as well as internationally to ensure the well-being of life on Urth. On her initiative, the Church began a project of funding the construction of hospitals abroad, leading to more than 50 hospitals being built between 2012 and 2020. The current Matron has traveled more internationally than any other Matron in history, with trips to 38 different countries as of 2020. She has encouraged the faithful to "speak out against injustice whenever you see it, whether it comes from a stranger, your family, your government, your boss, or even your church" and has made statements herself in opposition to what she sees as violations of sapient rights abroad. Over her term as Matron, she has also recommitted the Church to its mission of accepting orphans and finding them parents, citing her own example as reason why to do so. In 2000, Akronist adoption services found parents for 1,456 children worldwide. In 2020, that number had increased to 36,414.
While historically most Matrons are known as very reserved and formal figures, the current Matron has relaxed many of the formalities that have traditionally bound her office. For instance, she regularly appears in public wearing "non-religious" clothing while not performing religious ceremonies. While her clothing is still conservative by any standard, with her skirts regularly reaching to the ankles, she is considered to be something of a fashion icon in Tavaris. She is known particularly for wearing high heeled shoes. She also favors the usage of more contemporary language in ceremonies, and encourages clergy to focus on preaching in ways that reaches out to their temple-goers rather than focusing strictly on formal rituals. She has said that "it is far more important that we do work out in the world - feed the hungry, shelter the exposed, welcome the outcast - than it is for us to earn a perfect attendance award from the local temple." In a more blunt quote, one of her most famous, she has also said "I would rather you sleep in on the full moon and enjoy your day off work rather than come to the temple if all you're going to do is balance your checkbook and hum along to the hymns. You can try again in the next life."
Her style has led to some friction within the Church, as more conservative clergy resist the Matron's urges to move away from established tradition. However, she is far and away the most popular Matron in modern times, with approval ratings regularly over 80%, compared to an average before her term in office of 64%. Of the people who approve of her work in office, 40% report that they feel either "inspired" or "very inspired" to be active in the Church. Despite her famous quote regarding people staying home from temple, in her term in office monthly temple attendance has increased by 14%. Given her popularity, the Church has largely accepted the current Matron's changes with very little public opposition from members of the clergy.
2020 Lantaž Temple Attack
On September 29th, 2020, East Parish Temple in Lantaž, the capital of Rodoka, was attacked. 38 people were killed, most of them Temple administrative employees and individuals who were staying at the Temple's accommodations for the homeless. In response, the Matron gave an internationally televised address that earned plaudits from across the community of Akronist faithful and the world for its passionate, aggressive response towards the attackers.
—Vana Dandreal, responding to the Lantaž terror attack, 30 September 2020.
Dandreal also issued an Edict to reactivate the Order of the Peacekeepers, which was a traditional militia and security force answerable to the Church that had in the past protected Akronist temples. It was dissolved by the Treaty of Sinajärv between Tavaris and Rodoka in 1634, and the Church of Akrona required permission from the Rodokan Native Tribal Administration to station Peacekeepers in Rodoka. More than 11,000 people serving in the Armed Forces Reserves alone applied to join the Peacekeepers in less than 24 hours of applications being opened, and the Peacekeepers have been rapidly deployed. By the end of 2020, the Matron plans to have every Temple in Rodoka and 75% of those on the home islands of Tavaris staffed with Peacekeepers, and every Temple in the world staffed by the end of 2021. On Church property, Peacekeepers are authorized to carry lethal weapons and use deadly force, if necessary. Off Church property, however, Peacekeepers have no legal authority, and legislation to accord them the status of "civil officers of the peace" was rejected in the Diet.