Friday, July 14, 2006

Conference Envy

There were lots of exciting Quaker blogposts emanating from the recent gathering of Friends General Conference and especially the Convergent Friends' Interest Group. It seems that an awful lot of Quaker bloggers were there and got to meet each other in the flesh, some for the first time.

Alas, I wasn't there. My life-direction of recent years hasn't lent itself to much travelling or conference-attendance. It's been quite awhile since I even made it to my own Yearly Meeting. So when I read about it on, for example, Robin's blog I get a strong "wish-I-was-there" feeling, and a yearning to meet and speak with all those Friends.

Connected to this is a yearning I also feel to communicate the spiritual/intellectual ferment of the Quaker blogosphere to Friends I know from my own Meeting, but who are not active bloggers.

It reminds me in some ways of the Young Friends of North America Conferences I attended in the late 60's/early 70's and the need some YF's felt then to meet with each other in other places and also to spread themselves out through the S of F in North America. One result was a number of "caravans" of YF's who travelled together in groups visiting local meetings and yearly meetings and holding threshing sesions on issues like draft resistance, war tax resistance, women's and men's liberation, and simplicity. In this way, those who participated got to know each other better, know Quakerism better, and communicate some of their ideas and passionate commitment to the wider (older) body of Friends.

Now, for the same reasons that I don't get to conferences I would not personally join any such "caravan" if one were formed by a group of bloggers today (and maybe most of the bloggers are too settled and geographically stable to do such a thing). But if it were formed and it wanted to visit NYC I would be very excited for them to come to my meeting, and I would work to help coordinate local hospitality.

I wonder if that could happen?



Blogger Robin M. said...

So ya know, we don't get out of California all that often. Going to FGC for the first time was a big deal for us. But we do come to southern New Jersey every year to visit family. Perhaps we could arrange that the next time we do, we could come up into the City - which we haven't done in eight years or so, but now our kids are big enough to enjoy the Museum of Natural History as part of the excursion, and possibly to appreciate visiting the place where their parents met and were married - and meet up for a convergent type dinner party or picnic at a home/park near you. It seems to be a workable model.

Just thinking out loud here. I'm always full of an excess of good ideas.

But you don't have to wait for us. There are more than a few blogger/convergent type Friends closer to you that might be able to make a day trip, now that they know you are interested.

8:23 PM, July 14, 2006  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hi there, Friend.

We New England YAFs are fairly good at caravans. I know people have packed schedules, but I bet I could scrape up a half dozen of us to come to 15th Street one least 2 of us bloggers!

10:15 PM, July 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Er, just to be accurate, knowing that our Friend Martin is reading, my mom lives in central New Jersey. The southern part of central New Jersey. Or the very northernmost tip of southern New Jersey. But definitely not in South Jersey. :)

Rich, Robin was just about ready to jump on a plane this evening to visit you this weekend! If she didn't have a Quaker Center board meeting tomorrow, she just might have. :)

Thy Friend,

Chris M.

12:16 AM, July 15, 2006  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

With family and poverty I can't travel as much as I'd like. I haven't been to NYC in forever. Then again, 15th St is about the last meeting I'd feel comfortable visiting, sigh... But maybe the New Englanders will make it. These kinds of meet-ups are happening all over.

The important thing about the FGC Interest Group wasn't so much the handful of bloggers as it was the fifty or so participants. It seems like the blogs are becoming a way of meeting interesting Friends who geography and institutional affiliation would have kept us from knowing pre-blog. I wouldn't have met Robin without the blogs and while I knew LizOpp to say "hi" to, we never had the opportunity to get too deep into the sort of deep, searching questions about faith that have happened online.

It does feel like some of the YFNA stories I've heard but with the difference that the caravans are in part virtual. Those of us who are parents of small kids could probably never do the sort of roaming YFNA caravan, but we can blog at 2:30am when the baby's FINALLY gone to sleep. I sometimes think of this as a parent-friendly traveling ministry.

10:21 AM, July 15, 2006  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Rich, thanks for sharing some history about Friendly caravans and for planting the seed about a possible resurgence.

Like you, I have been jealous of the get-togethers on the coasts... Perhaps I shall suggest that us Minnesota bloggers (most notably Pam and Paul L) plan a little get-together or something.

As for a gathering in New York: My folks live in the central part of New Jersey... or the southern part of northern Jersey. Not sure how to put it. ...About 45 minutes due west from Manhattan.

Normally I would seriously consider flying out to the NY area, but my heart is growing heavier each month with the thought of flying, something I have been doing each of the last six years to attend FGC's Central Committee outside of Baltimore. But when I think about the fuel used to propel me and 130 other passengers, well, it's turning my stomach in a way I cannot ignore so easily any more.

Perhaps I would feel more easy about making another flight to the east coast if I could double- or triple-up on some of my visits. After all, my grandmother is going to be 101 this October, about two weeks before Central Committee sessions get underway...

I'll watch the conversation and see if Way opens for a New York-bound caravan.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

10:26 AM, July 15, 2006  
Blogger ef (Pam) said...

I think intervisitation is a great idea, and often a lot of fun.

I'm not a convergent Friend (in fact, I feel sometimes like this whole group of people is "converging" away from me, but maybe I'll post on that on my blog sometime) so I'd be disappointed if that was the "theme" (because I wouldn't get to play) but it's important to lots of people, so I can see it as a "good"

But I would really love to see local face-to-face interactions among quakers about these sorts of issues. Somehow it can be easier to get into it on the internet than in person. Paul is having a post-gathering potluck debriefing today, so maybe it will be some like that. Perhaps I should start hosting potlucks for such a purpose. Hmmmm.....

My sweetie is hoping to go to a booksellers conference in NYC sometime in the next year, and we were talking about driving out together and staying with family (I haven't asked yet!) and I would love to meet with NYC quakers if I ever get out there again! I'm terribly curious as to why Martin isnt' comfortable with 15th st. meetinghouse, I'm excited to visit it someday!

Then again, I was working with junior gathering during the interest group, and probably would have gone to a different one had I been free (the sweatlodge issue is heavy on my heart) and I had to run off shortly after I found the after-party that night, so I WAS there and didnt' really meet most of the bloggers that I had hoped to.

well, there's always next year (Wisconsin is lovely, folks!)


11:29 AM, July 15, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

I'm impressed that so many people responded so quickly to the idea of visiting us in NY. Maybe way will open.

I don't want to raise expectations too high about hospitality. I myself am not in a position to put anyone up, and I would need some leadtime to explore whether others in the Meeting could. With leadtime I would also have a very good shot at arranging an after-meeting discussion group or worship-sharing group or whatever form seems most appropriate. Maybe even a potluck! (warning: styrofoam cups might be used).

I'm sorry Martin feels that my meeting is the last one he would feel comfortable visiting, though I think I may know why. It's possible that with some private communication offline it would be possible to raise his comfort-level a bit.

Once I've absorbed all the comments so far I will follow-up with those who think they might visit and see what we can do.

- - Rich

11:49 AM, July 15, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Like Pam, though perhaps for opposite reasons, I fear that I am not a "convergent Friend". Sometimes I feel more "divergent" than most since I diverge from the liberal theology of most FGC meetings, from the pastoral model of ministry in most FUM meetings, and from the relatively withdrawn and hedge-protected traditionalism that I perceive (perhaps wrongly) as a tendency in many Conservative Meetings.

If some kind of visit to the New York area occurs, it seems to me that the focussing "topic" (if there needs to be one) could be the ongoing dialog about these issues, rather than any pre-decided position on the conclusions Friends are coming to.

Or perhaps there could be a different focus altogether, such as Marshall's earth-care ministry.

By the way, a visit to NY needn't just be a visit to 15th Street. Brooklyn Meeting, Flushing Meeting, Morningside Meeting, Staten Island Meeting, and Manhattan Meeting (pastoral) are all in the same quarter and might conceivably be enticed to hold some kind of joint event with visitors. (Not that I can promise this right now, of course!)
- - Rich

10:38 AM, July 16, 2006  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hi Rich: for what it's worth, my only working definition for "covergent" is someone who grapples with the Quaker tradition and how it relates to their own experience. Your thoughtful posts certainly do that.

I wonder if a certain sense of dis-ease with all the official branches isn't a kind of necessary component. After all, those who think they have all the answers have no need to engage with dialogue with those "other" Quakers who have it all wrong. While I know it's not true, I sometimes wonder if I wouldn't be equally at home and equally not at home in any of the Quaker branches.

12:12 PM, July 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just glad Liz took the bait about New Jersey geography. Robin didn't tell me you've got parents in New Jersey! :)

We got married at 15th Street Meeting, we're always happy to go there, not that we get a chance very often now that we live in S.F.

Chris M.

1:51 AM, July 18, 2006  

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