Monday, February 28, 2011

Pressing the Flesh

One of my favorite parts of my job as FIC administrator is meeting the public and talking about community. Some fraction of that is talking with reporters (which is an occasional live radio broadcast interspersed among a steady diet of phone interviews). Another chunk is doing presentations and workshops at events. While I enjoy both of those things (and do them regularly), I enjoy the most simple conversations with people who are curious about community and cooperative living.

This happens during informal chats while I'm staffing the Community Bookshelf table at events; it happens in random phone calls at the FIC Office if I'm the one who picks up the phone; it happens around the edges of my work as a group process consultant; and it happens at FIC soirees like the one we hosted at Edgehill Methodist Church in downtown Nashville last Saturday night.

About 25 people showed up. Most lived in our near the Music City, yet some came from as far away as Murfreesboro (35 miles to the southeast). We spent 2-1/2 hours talking community. The group included:
o Two couples (Martin & Cindy; plus Howard & Katie) who were ex-members of The Farm (their tenure went back to the pre-1983 days and the original collective economy)
o Daniel & Amanda in their 20s who were part of a new intentional community, less than two years old and eager for news from other groups
o Andrew, who was enrolled in divinity school at Vanderbilt and hoping to seed a group house in the Edgehill neighborhood, under the auspices of the church we were meeting in
o Chris, who had left mainstream culture as a young man and raised a large family immersed in rural Amish country, learning the sustainable practices of the "plain folk"
o Pam & Karl from the Nashville Greenlands, a local Catholic Worker House, servicing the homeless and dedicated to pacifism; plus Don who lived for many years with the Open Door community in downtown Atlanta—a well-established Protestant version of the Catholic Worker theme
o Ted & Woodley, long-term stalwarts of the Edgehill congregation (and friends of FIC Board member Harvey Baker)
o Randall and others connected with the Cumberland Greens and Transition Nashville, couple of vibrant meet-up groups
o A sprinkling of others wanting to connect their work in prisons to community, or hoping to discuss the link between community and food sustainability, plus others who came just to soak it all in.

We did an opening go around where everyone got to introduce themselves and what drew them to the circle, followed by a brief introduction to FIC and an open discussion about community—both of the intentional kind, and of the how-can-you-more-of-it-where-you-are kind. When we opened the circle at 8:45, most lingered for an additional 45 minutes in small group conversation, extending the good feeling.

While there's no telling what seeds might sprout and prosper among the myriad sown Saturday night, it's highly satisfying blowing on the coals of hope for a more cooperative future and seeing the glowing faces in the room. The FIC Oversight Committee has concluded its weekend meetings [see my blog of Feb 25, Plainly Speaking, for why I was in town] and today we disperse for home. With any luck, some of the cross fertilizing accomplished two nights ago will lead to connections than will abide for much longer.

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