The Convergent Conversation Continues

This post began as a comment on Liz Opp’s blog about pride and privilege.

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 My (unpublished) report to my anchor committee from July 2007 includes a reference to the fact that the phrase has already taken on a life of its own.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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Blogger Unknown said...

I'll be there, but I'll be in Camas. If you want to have a virtual Convergent Friends Meeting let me know. We can round people up in various locations.

11/17/2009 1:02 AM  
Anonymous Raye said...


This is just a note to check in from the humble servants of the Lord taking it day by day category. (c:

The Lord is taking me places, literally, and I have been meeting all kinds of people, Friends and not, having opportunities for conversation and developing good relationships in spite of differences.

The stated purposes of my travels vary, and none that I can recall have been strictly oriented toward Convergent Friends activities.

But here I am, a little Ohio YM Friend, (sometimes the first Conservative Friend a Quaker has ever seen) listening, and sometimes chatting, sometimes answering questions that people seem almost hesitant to ask.

That's my report from this part of the field.

Always good to read your posts.

11/17/2009 8:12 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

I'm about 45 minutes from Baltimore and would love to attend a Convergent Dinner, provided I could find transportation (I'm unable to drive that far). I might also be able to host the dinner, but our house is small (8-12 people, max) and I'd have to check with my husband. Let me know.

11/17/2009 2:25 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Wess, I hadn't really thought about trying to make a virtual thing happen. I just know that I'll be going as a PYM rep to the FWCC meeting in March. Which has been the impetus for much of my traveling over the last three years. And as long as I'm making the trek to Baltimore, I'd love to see more local Friends while I'm there. But maybe we should see what else is possible.

Raye, thanks for your field report. Your description of your traveling ministry sounds so much like my own (minus the being an official Conservative Friend part). Thank you for your contributions, online and in person. They are much needed.

Tania, it would be great to meet you. The FWCC meeting is actually at a camp near Reistertown, northwest of Baltimore. You are to the east, right? Maybe we can find something that will work... At the very least, we have time to work on it. That's why I wanted to post this sooner rather than later.

11/17/2009 11:01 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Thanks for taking the time to elaborate on all things Convergent... I've got to take the time to reply to comments left on The Good Raised Up...

But in the meantime, thanks for the early heads-up about FWCC meetings outside of Baltimore. There is an outside chance that I'd be in that part of the east coast, always dependent on my grandmother's health. (She is now 104 years old with a fair amount of dementia going on.)

I'm thankful for your reports, your wonderings, your reminders of where any of us started from, even before there was a word to describe this current phenomenon.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

11/17/2009 11:41 PM  
Blogger Chris M. said...

Thanks for your update, Robin. It's a helpful overview.

I'd like to say that Friends are also always warmly welcome to talk with Robin and me at San Francisco Friends Meeting, Firstdays at 11 am. If we don't have other activities going on, and if the children aren't too restless, we would be happy to chat over refreshments and beyond -- perhaps even to the Civic Center playground for which Robin was a community advisor (see 2nd photo on the page).

11/18/2009 12:00 AM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

No sleep till Baltimore! Sounds good to me, definitely a road-trippable destination from here. We can check in with Kevin-Douglas Olive--the meeting he's helping get off the ground in Baltimore is pretty explicitly convergent and Micah Bales & Faith Kelley aren't far away in D.C.

My own battered ego tends toward ideas of grandiosity at times, but I've realized that's a trap that kills any authenticity in my following of Jesus. I'm more caught up in the idea than in the actual day-to-day simple acts that make up 99% of faithfulness. The labels we carry aren't as important as the love we share (love of one another, of truth, of God).

One red-flag for me is when I start replacing "a" with "the." I once worked for "THE only pacifist book publishing house." Later on I worked for "THE denominational body for liberal Friends." While these are perhaps fair descriptors of the respective institutions, they close off the wonderful diversity of how people come together. QuakerQuaker's subtitle is "A Convergent Friends Community". Just one. The movement is bigger than any one of us and the mover--TH Mover--is the source of any lasting authority these labels might carry.

Off to pick up Theo from gym practice. Kids make good reminders that it's all the little acts strung together that count!

11/18/2009 6:34 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I think we will find other interested Friends in the Baltimore area as well. But perhaps we could simply join the Old Town Friends for their regular meeting for worship and potluck...

11/20/2009 11:30 PM  
Blogger Kim Ranger said...

Hi Robin,
I can't make FWCC but will you be at FGC annual gathering this year? I'm finally going to attend.

12/01/2009 8:49 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Kim, no, I won't be at FGC this year. In my new job, I don't have enough vacation time to even go to my whole yearly meeting. But I hope it's great and that you'll write about your experience!

12/01/2009 10:06 PM  

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