If peace is the goal, conversation is the mode to get there. That's why a Conversation CafE will be a highlight of the second Peace Fair on Sunday, Sept. 19, on Circular Street in Saratoga Springs.
Conversation Cafes were started in Seattle in 2001, piloted by three friends who decided to see what would happen if informal gatherings to talk were organized and open to the public. Held in coffeehouses and in classrooms, the discussions spread to nearly 70 cities around the United States the world and now Saratoga.
Between eight and 15 people get together to have conversations about a topic and the idea is to have a spirit of inquiry, rather than a debate, said Margie Ingram, who will facilitate Saratoga's very first cafE.
The talking circle is just that"a circle of friends and strangers talking, not debating"and Ingram said that's the difference between making real progress toward peace and just circling the wagon.
"That's the thing really different about these. It's not to convert people to your point of view, it's a time to be reminded and consider the bigger picture and all the options," said Ingram. "These are important for people to become more open-minded and have conversations that will be conversations rather than conversions you run into trouble when people box themselves into looking at situations in one way."
The Peace Fair, sponsored by the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Saratoga Peace Alliance and Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga, the theme for this year is "Peace-ing it Together."
There will be two 45-minute Conversation CafE sessions with a different topic or question posed at each. The questions will deal with piecing things together.
The first at 1 p.m. will ask, "Where do you see reason for Hope?" Ingram said it targets those that may feel discouraged or hopeless about something. The second at 2 p.m. will explore, "How can we balance our personal needs with the needs of the community and larger world?" Each conversation follows six specific guidelines to maintain order and encourage productivity: open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity.