The Convergent Conversation Continues
Lord knows I have plenty of opportunities to work on my own struggles with both. But what I really wanted to address was her admission that it surprised her to read about people she doesn’t know talking about convergent Friends.
It’s funny how we come to this sense of ownership of a word. Liz herself used to think it didn’t apply to her. I have struggled with this same concern since I realized that there were other people for whom "convergent Friends" was a resonant phrase. My (unpublished) report to my anchor committee from July 2007 includes a reference to the fact that the phrase has already taken on a life of its own. It was very odd for me to read Rachel Stacy’s term paper on the subject back in 2007. It felt strange to read in someone else’s words about work I was doing. This summer, Angelina Conti wrote an article about a workshop that Wess, Martin and I co-led, and it felt much less strange to hear her take on it. Maybe the difference is that I had already met Angelina when I read her article, and I didn't meet Rachel until quite a while after she wrote her paper.
Over the last four years, the phrase “convergent Friends” has come to mean different things to different people. People are using it in different ways and projecting their own interpretations onto it, both positive and negative. Earlham School of Religion used it in their newsletter and Friends Journal in their fund raising appeal. Articles have been published in meeting newsletters, magazines and journals in the US and UK.
Discussions (that I know about) have happened at Pacific Yearly Meeting, Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative), Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and Friends World Committee for Consultation gatherings. I have organized some of them. Wess and Martin and Liz and Chris have been part of some, with and without me. Betsy Blake and Stephen Dotson, Scott Wagoner and Tony Lowe, Shawna Roberts and David Male, Will Taber, Erin McDougall, Micah Bales, Anthony Manousous, Rachel Dean and Rachel Stacy have been part of others. These are just some who have been in dialogue with me at various points. There are others who have read or attended something and gone on to organize or write something else with other people. Probably more than I know of. I think this is a sign of health in the Religious Society of Friends that this cross-branch, cross-country conversation is taking place.
But is it a movement? Is there a common thread? Is there a leadership cadre? Are there just humble servants of the Lord taking it day by day? I don't know.
I personally struggle with my own participation. Over the last couple of years I have gone back and forth between wanting to be a leader of something and feeling content with just being a footnote in history. It was about the time I quit my last job that we had the first convergent dinner at my house. Then I had two and a half years to travel and write a lot. Even then, there wasn’t enough time to do everything. Now, I have even less time and energy for this ministry. But it’s not all up to me. It’s not about me. I’m not in control. I’m not alone. I’ve said this before and it is a good reminder.
What originally got me into this was an opportunity to meet other blog readers and writers over dinner. I’d like to propose another convergent dinner party, possibly to include take out pizza and homemade chocolate chip cookies but they’re not required, in the Baltimore area on March 21, 2010, Sunday night, after the FWCC gathering.
Would anyone else be interested? Know a good place where we could meet? Leave a comment or send me an email!
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