Warning: insider Quaker conversation to follow.
Over on her blog Robin M has a great post looking at the Convergent Friend conversation now. It’s kind of State of the Convergent Friends report. It’s very good and well worth a read and makes me wonder again where exactly I stand.
Even though I was around at the gestation and birth of the term, and even though it originally referred to a small group of bloggers who I all love, I go back and forth between using and refusing to use the label. I don’t feel the need to always be explicitly “convergent.” Sometimes I can just embody the spirit of it, which as a renewal movement is really just the same old spirit of Quakerism, which as its own renewal movement is the same old spirit of Christianity, with is just that spirit which animates the world.
See: it’s too easy to throw up terms as a defense shield or as a way of boosting ourselves. I know I’m prone to this trap. I’ll say “I’m doing this as a [Convergent Friend/Quaker/Christian]” as if that explains anything, as if careful listening to the Holy Spirit isn’t all the authority that any of us needs.
I think a central part of the convergent experience is stepping outside of the institutional boxes and walking into the discomfort zone of our brand of Friends – asking the thorny questions and pointing out the inconvenient elephants. If “Convergent Friend” ever settles down into a set definition and annual rituals (like a Gathering interest group?), we’ll see our own brier patches take root along those inconvenient pathways.
I’ve noticed Friends with bright ideas brand and sell themselves, and have wondered to myself how freely the gospel spirit is moving after ten years of Gathering workshops and Pendle Hill workshops. I’m not so much purist that I don’t understand that sometimes those of us led to the ministry have to push through doubts and present things we’ve promised to present even if we’re not in the best mood (praying that we find that groove). But I’ve also sat through committee meetings that felt like the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, where I look around and realize the same people have been sitting in the same room having the same conversation for twenty years, and everyone is just so tired and the feeling is they’re all reading a script and would want to be anywhere but where they are.
A friendly amendment to Convergent
Just the last thing is that for me if our work isn’t ultimately rooted in sharing the good news then it’s self-indulgent. I don’t want to create a little oasis or hippy compound of happy people. Friends aren’t going to go to heaven in our politically-correct smugness while the rest of the world is dying off. It’s all of us or none of us. If we’re not actively evangelizing <liberal translation: sharing the spiritual insights and gifts we’ve been given />, then we are part of the problem. “Convergence” is Quaker lingo. When we say it we’re turning our back to the world to talk amongst ourselves: a useful exercise occassionally but not our main work.
I’ve been reading a lot of seeker blogs where Quakers are mentioned and I’m struck by how so many of the words we routinely use in our blogs and self-statements are totally alien to others.
It may be too late to throw a switch on the quickly-gathering-steam train that is the “Convergent Friends” express. But here’s my friendly amendment: Convergent Friends need to be ready to get out of the Quaker conference centers and need to be ready to put aside the Quaker arcana we’ve accumulated over the years. If all we’re doing is sitting around talking to roomfulls of Quakers in our hopeless-inaccessible lingo then we’re fooling ourselves that any real renewal is happening.
Frankly, I have no idea what this would look like. I’m as clueless and scared by the possibilities as most of y’all. I just know we need to do it. Even if I had all the travel money and time in the world (I have neither), I don’t know if I’d have enough motivation to get to the next Barnesville / Greensboro / Richmond / Newberg / wherever conference (I just realized I’m reinforcing my last Quaker post!). I love meeting other Friends and I soooo miss seeing other Friends in my current relative isolation. But. But. I wish I had a better ending to this post. I guess I’ll just throw it out to the comments: what are we being called to do to send this work into the world?