Thursday, August 19

Chautauqua : Enter the Conversation

Despite my best attempts to the contrary, I appear to be unable to not weigh in on the firestorm du jour which is "threatening to destroy all of western civilization if we don't do something nownownow". As the 'du jour' suggests, the problem changes from day to day and week to week. What seems to be constant, however, is the lack of coherent information, respectful dialogue and a recognition that we can have differences of opinion without any side being 'less than'.

I mention this here, as opposed to in my GP blog, because there is a spiritual and practical element to this. If we believe that, free from the chains of hierarchical doctrinal dictates, we are to follow the directives of our own conscience, then it is our duty as reasoning beings to inform ourselves as thoroughly as practicable so that an informed decision is made. I've been pounding on that rock for a while, but between recent media events and the education committee last night, things just snapped into focus.

What I am looking at trying here is a variation of a 19th century tradition, the Chautauqua. Originating in New York on the banks of Lake Chautauqua, it was a type of retreat, where people would hear speakers and discuss matters of importance at length in an atmosphere of respect and deference. During its heyday, the Chautauqua was a valuable transmitter of culture and information to rural people throughout the country.

For the 21st century, I'm envisioning evening sessions as opposed to weekenders but more frequently (twice a month vs. annually). Each night would be dedicated to a single topic (probably chosen by the chautauqua audience of the previous meeting) with a speaker or two in front to provide information and perhaps experiential data, followed by a discussion session. The target audience would be both the parish and the wider community, with a strong emphasis on encouraging those who feel they have minority opinions or feel that they are voiceless to attend.

That's what I have so far. Thoughts, rants and raves are all welcome.

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