The Convergent Dinner in Boston, March 2007

[This is a long delayed report on the convergent dinner in Boston that I dreamed up as soon as I realized how close Providence, Rhode Island is to Boston, Massachusetts. How could I come that close and NOT go up and meet some of the Quaker bloggers in Boston? I couldn’t.

I emailed Rob, of the now defunct Consider the Lilies blog, issued an invitation here, and Will T. kindly offered to host the dinner in the comments. Liz Opp found a way to combine several things she wanted/needed to do on the East Coast so that she could come too. Amanda, Will T and Chris M. also blogged about this right after the fact. Here, finally, is my travelogue.]

On Sunday afternoon, I rode up to Boston with Jeff Hipp, who had also attended the FWCC meeting in Providence. We talked about our spiritual journeys and he pointed out the Boston landmarks as we passed, including Mary Dyer on the statehouse lawn.

Beacon Hill Friends House is an old, beautiful brick row house. There’s probably a technical word for the Boston version, but it was just as old and odd as I had pictured. There was just enough snow to make the brick sidewalks even more picturesque. I felt like such the country bumpkin as I walked around with my neck craned back to look at everything. Clearly, I am going back to Boston one day. Maybe one of my kids will become a resident of BHFH some day.

When we arrived, the Weed Lecture had just ended, but there were still plenty of cookies. We were let in by Holly, the director of the house and I got to take a minute to catch my breath in the entryway while Jeff went back to do something with the car. I hadn’t even gotten down the stairs before I met Will T. At the bottom of the stairs I hugged my Friend and blog elder Liz Opp. I also ran into a former attender of my meeting, Ben Guaraldi. now a member of BH Monthly Meeting, I believe. And Frederick of SAYMA, and Raul, from El Salvador YM, both of whom I had met in Providence. I met Tom and Liz Gates, and a bunch of other people whom I hope will leave a comment here one day. I kept introducing myself to strangers and finding out that they were already invited to dinner. Even one stranger, who I’ll call V. because I’m not sure how to spell his name, from German Yearly Meeting. He happened to be in Boston for a work conference and looked up the nearest Quaker meeting for worship. When he arrived on Sunday morning, he heard there would be a lecture in the afternoon, so he stayed around. And then he got invited to dinner too. A bit of a stretch for him, I suspect, to get into a car with this crush of enthusiastic strangers, but hey – we’re all Friends.

And as I said several times this weekend, convergent Friends are some of the most fun people I know. I’m sure that has a lot to do with my own crazy sense of what’s fun, but let me tell you, this was it. Six of us piled into Will’s family minivan. At least three other carloads followed, including Holly with Liz, Tom, and Raul. Other Friends from Fresh Pond Meeting joined us at the lovely home of Will and Lynn T.

Time out for some thank yous: Will and Lynn had very graciously agreed to host an unknown number of people. They had cold and hot drinks and yummy mushroom turnover bites ready when we got there. We ordered pizzas and Will had made chocolate chip cookies too. A perfect convergent meal!

Folks started talking in the kitchen, then the living room, then the dining room – many people already knew at least some of the others, or most of them. People took turns translating for Raul, with Ben, his Friend from the World Gathering of Young Friends in Lancaster and Kenya, doing most of the work. Will reported on his blog that there were 26 people there. He wrote that he usually thinks of being with Quakers as like herding cats, but in this case they were more like puppies, all wanting to be in a big pile, as close together as possible, so as not to miss out on anything.

At one point, Will and I consulted in the kitchen. First we placed the pizza order, then we reviewed the agenda for the evening. It was clear that people could keep talking all night. But at this gathering, since so many of the people did know each other well, the conversations were tending to be about such and such an upcoming committee meeting. We decided it was time to break out some queries. We looked over the list that had been prepared for my FWCC workshop, which were in turn based on the queries Wess Daniels had developed for the convergent dinner at his house last summer (but which we never got around to at his house.)

We decided to wait until after dinner and to use a pair: What do you love about the faith and practice of your own branch of our tradition? What about your faith and practice do you find unhelpful? These turned to be very good. The transition to a worship-sharing type format was a bit awkward, but we tried to keep it light and fun with regular applications of cookies round the table. Like worship-sharing though, I won’t report here the responses, but I can say they were all very convergent.

After a few people had to leave, we morphed gently back into conversational mode and discussed how one discerns a leading. Consensus: it’s a messy process.

We finally realized we needed to leave Will and Lynn’s comfortable chairs and go home to bed. The ride with several young adult Friends, from Arlington through Cambridge to Beacon Hill, was awesome. Beautiful, historic and fun. Laughing all the way, as the song goes. And yet not. We also talked about the WGYF in Kenya, and the trials of young Friends in New England (of which I was the only one “not like the others”). Sobering but still richly blessed and, you guessed it, my crazy idea of fun.

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Blogger Liz Opp said...

Ah, the memories! I would say I unite with your crazy idea of fun!

I am so glad you have been following those nudges and have been open to being led across the country and who knows where else next!

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

5/24/2007 12:58 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Liz, I'm so glad you came. I'm looking forward to seeing you again in only five weeks.

5/25/2007 12:11 AM  

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