"It is not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay, a difference of creed unites men – so long as it is a clear difference.  A boundary unites. ... Friends are the better for being two."
G. K. Chesterton

Two formats: "open" and "panel-exclusive": 

As of March 2017, our trustees have determined that a more "open" approach may be preferable, for a season or more, to the "panel-exclusive" approach that we had been building toward -- and even offered opportunity to present as a tightly moderated panel taped and edited in the studios of our local PBS affiliate, KPTS.

In the open approach, we will retain a panel of principal dialogists but make room for more commenting and questioning from non-panelists.  The panel-exclusive approach requires more from panelists, starting with the process that selects them, and that approach is outlined and detailed in the subsequent subheadings below.

Whichever format New Symposium is in, all of us are invited to join the dialogue that precedes a symposium evening.  That dialogue occurs on this blogsite under the section "Next Symposium."

Simply read or scroll all the way down to the end of text in that section, then click on the small "comments" in the middle of that line.  We try to create a minimum of thought trains or separate strands, so comment on others' posts -- or start your own strand, if necessary.

In your reading on the topic, if you come across well-conceived articles, please apprise us at --  We'll be sure to post links to them.

Again, the subheadings that follow outline our ideal approach to symposium preparation; however, we are currently in the more "open" format -- and requiring a little less from panelists and a bit more from other attendees. 

How we prepare for a symposium

Before each symposium, our trustees [with input from others who have expressed an interest] meet to choose a topic of current or perennial relevance to the lives of the people in our community and a moderator who is willing and able to help guide us into the topic.

Next we try to frame a limited number of proposed definitions and meaningful questions that can be used to construct and deconstruct the obvious assertions and the obscured assumptions which inevitably arise and appear as central features or peripheral context when any topic is engaged in thoughtful dialogue.

Finally, we identify a number of distinct and essential viewpoints from which the topic might be approached by real individuals seeking to make it relevant in their real everyday lives.

At this point we refresh the contents of the Next Symposium blog page setting forth the name of our coming topic and what we have discovered about it. This page will then serve
  • as a focal point for building the thought trains that will carry our new symposium through online blogging to an evening's encounter and later
  • as an archive entry that will preserve ALL our collective work [including all our blog entries and a final video of the evening's encounter] for future reference once the symposium is completed.

  The role of and search for our Featured Symposiasts [Panelists]

Once we have refreshed the Next Symposium page, we begin the search for a limited number of featured symposiasts who will ultimately convene as panelists to bring the viewpoints we need to life via their own personal experiences and studies.

Some will find it helpful to think of this step diagrammatically with our featured symposiasts functioning as skilled archers who can shoot the arrows which will help us identify the boundaries as well as the center of our topic. It is humbling work which requires all the featured symposiasts working together to reveal our topic with a significant degree of clarity. We are obviously indebted to our featured symposiasts ... but finding them is never easy.

If, after reading about the Next Symposium, you have thoughts about persons who might serve us as featured symposiasts, please contact us at And do not hesitate to volunteer yourself ... it can be a life-changing experience. Isaiah 6:1-8

How we select our final [and backup] Panelists

Those who are willing [and we hope desire] to serve the community as a panelist should take the following steps.
  • Read the "Questions for Consideration" on the blog post and browse the "Suggested Readings" at the bottom [including any "Moderator's POV"] to see what ideas strike you as familiar and/or exciting. We hope that the more you read, the more excited you will become as you start to link ideas together into coherent chains of thought.
  • Once you are ready, write a Position Statement [PS] expressing one or more of the chains of thought that you feel are significant in the quest for understanding the topic. Your PS should be 300 words minimum [no maximum except your time]. Please do not wait for some illusive moment of perfection ... your PS is only a starting point for dialogue ... and although it may not be the final destination, it should stir anticipation of an exciting trip ahead.
  • Email your PS to Mike at to inform our trustees of the important things you believe the evening needs to cover. We would like to get dozens of PSs from dozens of panel candidates ... even though there is only space for 4-5 final panelists and 1-2 backup panelists.
  • Wait to hear back from the trustees. They will notify candidates of selection ASAP so that all panelists [both final and backup] can start on their duties below. And rest assured that the trustees will NOT wait to compare alot of candidates looking for some "perfect expert" ... they are looking for a few local folks with a good heart, mind and voice who are available and enthusiastic to serve the community as panelists. So please apply early!
  • As soon as the trustees contact you and can confirm that you are still willing and able to serve on the panel, we will publish your name and PS on the blog page with any other panelists confirmed.

The duties of all Panelists [4-5 final and 1-2 backup]

First we want to say THANK YOU to everyone who takes the time to present a PS for consideration as a panelist. Your authentic willingness to serve the community is as vital to its health and strength as anyone's actual service could ever be. As John Milton said in his sonnet "When I Consider How My Light is Spent" ... "they also serve who only stand and wait" ... and the willingness to serve is everyone's duty.

For the 4-5 final panelists and the 1-2 backup panelists, your timely and diligent [but never onerous] attention to taking the following specific duties will greatly enhance the experience for everyone.
  • Send us your Bio [or a sharable link thereto] which tells us what you feel is significant about you as a person. We will link your bio to your name on the Next Symposium page.
  • [Optional] Send us the name of and/or website link to an organization that has been an important part of your vocation or avocation in life. We understand that you will not be representing any official positions this organization might have, but if knowing the organization is important to you might help us enrich the background to your thoughts then we welcome this knowledge.
  • Read and consider the PSs of all your fellow panelists as they are published.
  • Put your now wider thoughts into rough context with theirs by entering a single "Comment" [limited to 4096 characters] at the bottom of the Next Symposium page. Put the header "FEATURED COMMENT by Xxxxxx Yyyyyy" at the top of your comment so we know who is speaking. Your featured comment, along with those of your fellow panelists, will form the vertebrae in the backbone that will support our blogging as we "Reply" to you and to them in the weeks before the evening's event..
  • Lastly, feel free to "Reply" [as often as you wish] to any featured comment [including your own] to help us fuel the thought train engines that will hopefully propel us forward in our blogging efforts prior to the evening of the actual symposium.
  • All final and backup panelists should plan to attend the actual evening's discussion and should notify us ASAP if anything prevents your presence. We have backup panelists for a good reason.

Blogging guidelines for other symposiasts

Even if you are not a final or backup panelist, your participation is vital to our progress. There are a few things we hope you will do to share in and enhance the important pre-symposium blogging on the Next Symposium page.
  • Read panelists' PSs and browse "Suggested Reading".
  • Once the panelists' FEATURED COMMENTS begin to appear at the bottom of the blog post, read them and Reply as often as needed to help us build robust and distinct thought trains. It can enhance our dialogue if those of us who are not panelists abstain from entering a Comment but rather express our thoughts [as often as needed] as a Reply to one or more of the featured comments.
  • Enter a Comment [instead of a Reply] if you feel the need to break new ground. Put the header "INDEPENDENT COMMENT" at the top of your Comment to signify that this is outside the scope of what you have been able to find thus far in the featured comments and replies. Originality is needed and always welcome.
  • Plan to attend the evening's dialogue at which you may get an opportunity to ask questions of one or more panelists.

The importance of blogging

For some blogging is therapeutic and for others it is punishing ... but regardless of how YOU feel about it, we encourage EVERYONE to read the suggestions on Blogging Tips then go to the bottom of the Next Symposium page and join in the blog. This is important because blog Comments and Replies before the symposium always probe and reshape the initial questions as well as raising new questions which need to be considered.

Segments & Questions [S&Q] for the evening

Some time during the week or so preceding the symposium, the evening's moderator and the panelists will work together using
  • the "Questions for Consideration",
  • the panelists' PSs and
  • the blog Comments and Replies
to formulate 3-4 discussion segments [each with several questions] which we will show as a powerpoint during the evening's actual dialogue. By putting an S&Q link at the bottom of the Next Symposium page, everyone can know in advance the lines of thought that seem to have risen "above the fray" for more focused discussion by our panelists during the evening.

The S&Q is not intended to be more than an e-canvas [refreshed every 20 minutes] which may help the audience to more clearly discern the colors and lines the panelists will reveal to us during the evening ... it is not intended to limit their flourishes in any way. As you know [or will soon learn], live dialogue has a mind of its own ... and that is precisely what we are looking forward to seeing.

Questions & Answers [Q&A] for the evening

After each segment of the evening's dialogue, we allow 5-10 minutes or so for audience Q&A directed to a specific panelist or to the panel generally. And, of course, for those who have time to linger after the symposium, there are always some 1-on-1 opportunities to talk to the panelists.

AV recording of the evening

We use best efforts to arrange to have the evening's dialogue audio-video-recorded. And after any editing, we post the audio-video on You Tube and place a link to it as the final item on the blog post as a record for posterity ... in case some want to return to our evening in the future.

If you or somebody you know has the ability and passion to help us with audio-video enhancement of our evening's symposium, please contact ... we will be very glad to have your assistance available.

Time to begin

So there it is ... if we follow these simple guidelines, we have a good chance of experiencing an exciting and productive symposium ... from conception ... to introduction ... through panelist selection ... to pre-symposium blogging ... culminating in a great evening of face-to-face fun and friendship ... as we rescue discourse from the political parties!

This is what we would expect the Next Symposium blog page to look like after
  • featured symposiasts have entered their featured comments and
  • the rest of us have shared our thoughtful replies to the featured comments.

Finally, comments and replies
  • are limited to 4,096 characters [including spaces] and
  • cannot contain hyperlinks.
So be concise and use your own words ... good rules in all dialogue.

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