This article ran in the January 19, 2017 edition of the Medford Transcript. (A6)
Join in the Conversation this New Year!
The Reverend Noah H. Evans, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church
Between Christmas and New Years I had some time off from work. During this special week, I was able to unplug from the internet, email and social media. With this sudden openness in my daily life and work tied to electronic jungle of our 21st century culture - I found space and time to rediscover the special old time work of conversation. Spending time joining in conversation with family, friends, and some people I had not seen in years reminded me about the depth of experience and perspective of others that unfolds in conversation. How conversation opens me to see the entire person - not just their positions, or sound bites, or social media statuses. Conversation leads to connection, and I have come to believe, real connection with others changes us. This time in conversation brought me back to why I am involved in the Medford Conversation Project - a project to help convene diverse conversation all across our city.
Medford Conversations is a coalition of more than 20 community groups, whose mission is to include and actively engage a multiplicity of voices in our community. Through conversations, the project hopes to encourage people to create and act on visions for a sustainable, just, and thriving Medford.
I have served at Grace Episcopal Church in Medford for almost nine years, and in just that time I have seen the City change tremendously. Looking back at Medford over the last 25 years, the transformation of the city's demographics is even more profound. As a result of this significant community change, in my experience, social networks in our city are underdeveloped, especially across geography, ethnic and generational differences. And sometime we see that civic involvement is low. Often times people don't know their neighbors, or the perspectives of people who live in other parts of the city. Connections between people across religious, ethnic and socio- economic difference are weak. The extraordinary diversity of Medford is a real gift and asset, and we have an extraordinary opportunity right now for a rich social fabric as we find ways to connect across our difference. I see Medford Conversations as a way to connect and learn from one another and strengthen the civic and cultural life of our City. As a result of our conversations, I am hoping to see a strengthening of our civic society and civic involvement. I also hope to see all of us have a greater understanding of the joys and challenges of living and working together in a diverse community, and be willing to "lean in" to what we need to do to have a just and equitable community.
This winter Medford Conversions is holding its first conversation series. Building on the past work of supporting single-time conversation events (Arts Summit (’15), MLK Day (’16) Envision Medford (’16), and World Café at Medford High (’16)) Medford Conversations seeks to bring together groups of 10 or so meeting in several sessions with a trained facilitator over a several month period. It is our hope that engaging in this type of ongoing in-depth conversation will help to build relationships and understanding in our community that can lead to action for the betterment of all.
Our winter Conversation series "Who Belongs? Dialogues about Race and Ethnicity in Medford and Beyond" begins with an opening event on Sunday, January 29, 2017, 2-4:30PM at Medford High School. Everyone is invited to this event, whether they are able to participate in ongoing conversations or not. Over the following six weeks dozens of people in small groups will meet around the city to further their discussion. We conclude with a citywide event on March 12 with an action forum to ‘walk the talk’ to make Medford an even greater place to live. Come join the effort, what better way to kick off the New Year. For more information, and to register, visit http://medfordconversations.org/.