FES conference in a small town
Alicia B. BestEthical Humanist Society of the Triangle
North Carolina is not an obvious place for a Future of Ethical Societies (FES) conference, but after a while of begging the FES community to come and experience the Society I grew up in and value, to my surprise, I got my way. My proposal was not only to have the conference in Chapel Hill (where the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle holds its weekly Sunday afternoon meetings) but also to hold the conference in the living rooms and backyards of the Society's members.
Typically our conferences have been, well, I suppose rather typical. We hold the conference in May, usually in a big city with a substantial Ethical Culture Society. We stay and hold discussions in a hostel. We participate in a service project, reaching out into the greater community and seeing local issues/answers. By the end of the weekend we provide a Sunday platform at the local Society. We do a round of "warm-fuzzies" (a sweet tradition passed up from the YES conference), and then we're off, back to our busy young adult worlds far and wide. My proposal wasn't to recreate this model as best I could in North Carolina, but rather to change this model, at least for the year, and share with the young adults from Societies around the nation my Society. The Society I've grown up with, the Society that has help shaped who I am today.
I have enjoyed attending the FES conferences over the years and there is something to be said about the youth standing together strong. But we've been such sudden and brief visitors to each Society we've been to, there in time to help set up and almost always gone in time to catch lunch somewhere else. We've shared our hopes, dreams, and opinions with the different Societies and it's been powerful, but I've always wished we could stay just a little bit longer. I always wish we could discuss things with the different members to see if any of them are doing similar work as we do. Perhaps we could build a stronger community across generations, across state lines, Society to Society, or connect a Society to a youth who lives somewhere where there isn't one.
Stepping out of our typical form and into the unknown has not been easy (but then again I'm not sure conference planning is my forte to begin with, so even within the form it would have been a challenge). All in all we'll be as connected to the local Society as we can, hosting a Luncheon with them, inviting them to join us in some of our discussions, and even staying at a few members' houses. In many ways there is no way the North Carolina FES conference could be anything like the ones we've had in New York City, Philly, St. Louis, Washington, D.C. or Chicago, and yet in other ways it will be very similar. We, the Future of Ethical Societies, will gather together as a community to inspire, discuss, and share the things that make us passionate with each other, a project in the greater community, and the Sunday Platform at the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle.