By Ellen McBride
Spelling God with Two O’s, by Arthur Dobrin, retired Leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Long Island, was first published in 1993. It was updated and republished in 2009, and it is available for purchase at Ethical. You can take a look at it on our book table on Sundays or check it out online. Spelling God with Two O’s was developed at the Long Island Society, evolving from a group Arthur led that met regularly to reflect and meditate on the many questions of life.
Today the book serves as the basis of our Colloquy program, in place here at the New York Society for Ethical Culture and many other of the Societies. At each session we share and develop our thoughts on making a moral life. The Leader or moderator of the month has a pre-chosen topic and sits with participants around a table. Sometimes there is music as we take our seats. Often the moderator opens with a poem. The subjects of the colloquies can ranges from subjects as deep as “Mortality” or seemingly mundane as “Working.” (You’ll find many more colloquy topics in the book.)
Moderators vary in how they handle the session, but there are rules. The major rule is that there is no conversation or crosstalk. We do not respond or answer each other, though one person’s thought may spark another. We speak in the first-person: “I think,” “In my experience.” It is personal. It is your reflection, not a conversation — on the subject.
The moderator may start the session with a poem or a parable on the subject, then start subsequent two or three rounds with quotations or anecdotes. The moderator might also choose to pose a question on the subject. Participants are free to talk or pass their turn. Usually the session ends with poetry or music.
Those who’ve participated in Colloquy for more than two decades and those who are newcomers to the program value these reflective sessions, these opportunities to pause and consider important aspects of our lives in a comfortable atmosphere.
For more on Colloquy, please take a look at the book and also the video recording, “About Colloquy,” where Arthur Dobrin and I discuss this program. You will find it in the Members section of our website.