As I've been catching up a teeny bit on my blog reading, a thread has been piecing itself together for me. Or maybe it's been two or three threads, coming together to add some heft to an observation I've been mullling over...
First, as I mention in my previous post, I came across the proceedings from the 2009 conference on the Emergent and Convergent trends among Friends. The proceedings appear to lack a point of connection or a direct reference to the Quaker blogosphere that had promoted the concept of "Convergent." That apparent omission from the printed proceedings has not left me.
Then I read Martin's comment to that post, in which he explains,
I have a great concern that some of the most embedded institutional Friends (like some of those at the conference) are all but invisible online. Maybe they should jump into more blog conversations...Shortly after reading his comment, I read Robin M's post on the essentials of Quaker practice, followed by a quick look at the list of blog posts lining up on QuakerQuaker.
Not only is the online community of Quaker bloggers and blog-readers missing out on the voices and perspectives of those long-time established Friends--whether "institutional" or not--but as the number of Quaker blogs grows, it seems that we, as Quaker bloggers, have been falling away from what had been a bit of online etiquette--that of using our name when first introducing the blog or when leaving a comment. Or, if we didn't use our full name, the practice had been that we'd use at least a recognizable part of it.
While crafting this blog post, I updated my post about online etiquette to include my thoughts about the value of using our names when blogging and commenting:
9. Use your real name, or at least a portion of it. Part of what reduces the anonymity of the internet and helps us to be known to one another in the Quaker blogosphere is that many of us have been using our name. Of course, for some of us who have a concern for privacy and internet security--myself included--that gets to be a bit tricky, which is why some of us use our first name and last initial, or we shorten our last name so it won't be [as] searchable through Google.The name stuff is fairly straight-forward to address, but I'm harder pressed to think about the involvement and visibility of long-time, well-known Friends.
In addition to the disciplines of accountability and speaking plainly so that we might support one another on- and offline, using our names has been a great help in practical matters to find one another when traveling to events, such as the FGC Gathering. There's one less layer of society to have to peel away when I can know a blogger right away as "Robin" or "Martin" and not as "QuakerFriend" or "FriendlyWorshiper."
Here's part of a comment I left in response to Martin's remarks:
I'm conflicted about the degree of online visibility to afford to "embedded institutional Friends." On the one hand, these long-time Friends and educators most likely have a long and broad perspective that many of us "free-roaming," less institutionalized Friends don't have. It would be wonderful to have their experience reflected in the blogosphere, much like Brent Bill has been offering.Maybe it falls to the less established, less institutional Quakers to say plainly, "Hey, we need a guidepost right about now. We're feeling a bit lost. What can you bring to the discussion and conversation that might help...?"
I recall that for a while, Friends' pastor Scott Wagoner was maintaining a blog, and also that every now and then, even Lloyd Lee Wilson would offer a comment.
On the other hand, I also think it's important that more established members of the Religious Society of Friends give space for less established Friends to find their voice and grow into whatever gifts and ministry may have been Given to them. Not to mention that some of [us] early Quaker bloggers have taken up new things--families and careers included--that reduce [our] visibility and presence online...
I'd like to think, as the years go by and as my hair is turning whiter, that I'll still be connected to Friends within the meeting and via the Internet. I'd like to think that I'll be willing to speak openly to an issue of concern--all while being "appropriately visible" to the Friends around me and to the body of Friends that may be treading just a few steps behind, to the side, or in front of me.