Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recent Blue Plum Festival Excitement on June 3rd&4th!

This past weekend, (Friday&Saturday June 3rd&4th) S.A.N.E. had a tabling event at the annual Blue Plum Festival hosted in downtown Johnson City, TN. Majestic Park hosted the various non-profit groups/entities to give ample space for engaging the masses. Several members helped to give a face to the Skeptics and Atheists Network at ETSU both by being at the table and by actively meshing with local people. We had at least a couple members stay the entire day on Saturday which is to be highly commended. Having several members at these tabling events is crucial to making it a success and this seems a good example of just that.

There were a few highlights of the day's events, on Saturday, such as having a meaningful and respectful conversation with a local pastor from the New Harvest Missionary Baptist Church in Johnson City. After about an hour's worth of deep questions Jon Webstar cordially asked if he would be interested in continuing the discussion via the web as well as hopefully leading towards having a future debate with the pastor. The responses seemed to be warm from both ends of the discussion even when being confronted by myself, Jon, and Perry Winters. The pastor was a genuinely nice guy and wasn't abrasive whatsoever. Overall it seems to be where we should be headed with regards to having an open dialogue with people of all belief structures.

We had people of different viewpoints pop by and gander at our distinctively different material while some cautiously snuck a few pamphlets and fliers from the table when we weren't looking. It seemed as though most people either took one of two approaches when dealing with our table: either they blatantly ignored us completely, or they chose to make some effort at getting material or having a conversation of some sort. While there were the few errant folks that snuck some materials from the table in hopes of not being seen, the sense I and other members got was that we had a place in our community and that the issues are worth openly discussing without fear.

It was exciting to be situated across from several christian based table setups that ended up being an almost competition of ideals. Nothing hostile in the intentions of either side and to some extent it was healthy and exciting. I actually found myself being given pointers from one of the coordinators from the church group directly across from us to elicit more people to our table. It was really electrifying to caterwaul phrases such as, "free atheist material" and "you might be an atheist but not yet realize it" towards the crowds and the reactions we received immediately afterward. To be fairly honest it was nowhere near the wicked looks I half expected. If anything it seemed to embolden me and a few other members to be more outright in our being a member of the S.A.N.E.

The responses we received overall seemed wonderful considering it was our first venture into the community in the thick of it all. We literally went into the belly of the beast as it were of Johnson City and fared exceptionally well. I am quite optimistic that we will have future tabling events around town. I look forward to having more discourse with people in the community and make aware competing views of all kinds to get the mental juices flowing. The more we can openly discuss these matters the more we can have a healthy community that truly cares about one another.

If you have any thoughts regarding our event and how we did well or could do better then please leave feedback either in the comments below or shoot an email to any of our executive board. All ideas will be carefully looked at and perhaps your ideas will be the basis for our next event.

Joseph Rasch

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