Writing about Convergent Friends

One of the exciting things that happened during my clearness process this fall was that an article I wrote early last summer, called “A Convergence of Friends” was published in the October issue of Friends Journal, with the special theme of What Are Friends Called to Today?. (If you haven’t read the magazine, get it. I happen to think my article is good, but the whole issue is great. A whole bunch of authors I like. More than one article by someone younger than me! Plus a special treat: an article by the Blogfather himself.)

The process of writing the article, back in May and June of last year, helped me to articulate more clearly what I was seeing and thinking. I framed it around the gathering of convergent/blogging Friends after Quaker Heritage Day last March. I pulled together themes from several of my blog posts, including Call Me Provincial, Quaker History as a Uniting Force?, and my definition of convergent Friends, along with the comments from those posts. It took some work to write for an audience that would be completely new to the topic. Unlike blog posts, I had to write without hyperlinks to provide background or explain what I meant by certain terms.

Writing it gave me several opportunities to talk directly with other people about their perspectives. Since a number of Friends were named in the article, I wrote to them to ask if that was okay with them. The encouragement I got back from Peggy Senger Parsons was very helpful. I admire Gregg Koskela’s willingness to participate, even though he’d never actually met me. I was able to refine my thinking through conversations with Liz Opp, Rich Accetta-Evans and Stephen Matchett. It was encouraging to me just that no one said “no, I don’t believe this convergence is happening, I think you’re wrong.” And this was before I went to FGC, or Newberg or started my clearness process.

The article did not cause a big fuss when it came out. Perhaps because it was surrounded by such high quality writing and similar ideas, it may not have stood out for people. I think it did raise the visibility of the phrase and idea of convergent Friends among liberal unprogrammed Quakers outside of the blogosphere, at least slighly. More people have heard the phrase now, even if they don’t remember where they saw it. At the very least, I have somewhere to refer Friends who want to know more about convergence or my spiritual journey and interests who have never and will never read a weblog.

Also last summer, my Friend C. Wess Daniels wrote an article for Quaker Life, the FUM magazine, on Convergent Friends: Passing on the Faith in the Postmodern World, which raised its visibility among pastoral Friends. He articulated a more academic and emergent church based interpretation of the movement of the Spirit among Friends. I made a point of not reading his article until I had finished mine, and I’m glad. They are quite different but complementary in nature. If I had read his first, I’d have worried more that mine was too informal, too much about me and not serious enough. But Chris M. (my beloved live-in editor) kept telling me that mine was okay, that its strength is its personal tone. What Wess would call narrative theology. Nonetheless, I have been inspired by Wess blogging and talking about his graduate studies in post-modern Quakerism to keep reading, to stretch parts of my brain that had not been used for a while.

I now know that these two articles were read by a pair of Friends in Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), one of whom is on the planning committee for the FWCC Section of the Americas Annual Meeting. Which in turn leads to the upcoming post about their invitation to work with them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, it's awesome to see the kind of process we all go through in writing and thinking about these issues. Thanks also for mentioning me and Chris M is absolutely right. What you and I have written should be read together in my mind, I took the opportunity to talk about some of the "theological" issues and you showed what it looks like in the everyday. We need both - otherwise it could get confusing.

I am glad you dug what I wrote and I am glad we have the opportunity to work together - I've learned tons from you already!

(oh and by the way - I will have Wilson's book finished by QHD).

1/18/2007 12:41 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

I have a dream that one day there will be a conference for Convergent Friends and it will be sponsored and coordinated by Quaker bloggers and it will be easy for ALL of us to attend and there will be take-out pizza and chocolate chip cookies and children and internet access. We will take a lot of photos to put on Flickr or on our own private cyber-photo albums and we will have much to write in our blogs and word will go out that everything IS possible with God.

Just a thought. smile

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

P.S. So glad YOU are in MY life-- via the internet, via the telephone, and on occasion, like this upcoming March, face-to-face!

1/18/2007 4:05 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Oh Wess, I want to know what you think of it! For anyone new to the conversation, he's referring to Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, by Lloyd Lee Wilson of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative). A seminal text of convergent Friends, in my humble opinion.

Hey Liz, me too. Let's see what we can do. Or should I say, let us see what love can do?

1/19/2007 2:03 AM  

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