I spent last evening with an exceptional group of folks having some great conversation. Among the nine of us, it was billed as a debrief session for The Great Emergence conference with Phyllis Tickle a few weeks back. The four of us panelists/workshop leaders (Jamie Howison, Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Lesley Harrison, and yours truly) met together with the organizers (Christine Longhurst, Kara Mandryk, and Michael Boyce along with spouses Rachel Twigg Boyce and John Longhurst) to discuss the event just passed. I have to say it was some great conversation, both when it was on and off-topic.
The conference itself was quite good, and video is now online for the plenary sessions. (The Q&A is unavailable and the panel discussion was not recorded.) The organizers have also posted links to other reviews and resources from the conference, including an annotated bibliography. Rather than downloading the videos, you can view them online below.
Winnipeg, October 31, 2009 — Plenary II
Among the ramblings were a few items which got me to thinking about this and that. While we were discussing some of the notable speakers that have been to Winnipeg for various conferences and events in the past few years (and possibly in the next year or two), it occurred to me that the way Winnipeggers experience faith conferences is different than the way the majority of others might. Winnipeg is not normally on the ‘A’-list conference circuit (though we do luck out occasionally) as you can’t afford to do a conference here where the speaker requests a $5-10,000 fee (or more), because in this “market”, you wouldn’t have much hope of breaking even — and this is particularly true with “controversial” topics like the emerging church or anything on its periphery. At the same time, most Winnipeggers don’t travel to a lot of conferences as often as I’ve seen others do, grabbing a flight to a nearby city for several days with a famous speaker in a large conference setting. Instead, we usually bring the speaker to us, and it usually needs to be a speaker willing to come for a much smaller fee than what is often commanded on this sort of speaking circuit.
This made me realize that attending a conference in another city could easily cost someone $9-1,200, depending how far away and for how many days. A week-long stay would be double. For this, they get to sit in a room with 1,000 other people and take notes in person, perhaps connecting with and meeting a variety of other people with similar interests in a diversity of contexts. And those conversations with people who don’t get near the platform are often highlights of the event.
But if you had one or two dozen people in a city who wanted to have an event of this sort close to home, they could each toss in $100 or so and bring a speaker or two to them. And in a very different kind of approach, they could spend a weekend connecting, talking, questioning, and gleaning whatever they could from one another on a wide variety of topics, allowing the conversation to flow naturally and quite specifically into areas of greatest need or interest. You might imagine a format like this to be not only casual, but at the same time quite intense in terms of the ground you could cover as you talk and share meals together, maybe even working in a bit of shared leisure time. Host the event in someone’s home or move house-to-house, and take home-cooked meals together. Such an approach could be cost-effective, provide greater opportunity for learning, be potentially less taxing on a speaker, and be far more likely to “scratch where it itches.” After covering the speaker’s expenses, you could still give him or her a $1,000 honourarium.
I figure if house concerts are a new big (or small) thing in the music industry, why not house conferences? I’d certainly be game for something like that. I don’t know, maybe it’s kind of a Post-Conference thing. But I like it.