Apart from getting the wrong bill and almost being charged $85 for my breakfast rather than $16, the time we spent together (around an hour) was pleasant and enjoyable, and I would readily share a meal again with anyone from the group. Angus dropped by briefly toward the end, and various others happened by for short interactions as well. Steven wasn't able to come, but I had a nice lunch with him and his wife (and an ever-rotating cast of others) on Monday before heading to the airport.

And, in this I was pointed toward a very intriguing contrast.

With Jason, one-on-one, before everything began, we spoke about some things that could be contentious as far as history and Paganism were concerned, and we did so in a pleasant manner. I certainly felt as though I learned something from the experience.

Steven asked some really excellent clarifying questions about things he had heard or seen earlier at events where I was present. Almost everyone, including Pagans, would feel somewhat uncomfortable asking some of the questions he did (about gender, identification, theological nuances, and so forth), and might even feel more uncomfortable with some of the answers I gave, when face-to-face with someone. But, Steven is a person of unimpeachable character, in my opinion, and I respect and admire him more and more every time I meet him, even though we are unlike one another in a huge variety of ways (and are similar in a variety of unexpected ones, too!).

With the group of us on Sunday morning, though, I noticed something upon later reflection that made me question this entire endeavor slightly. While getting together via Skype or in person and having a nice beverage or a meal is wonderful, and on this occasion proved that John Halstead and I can break bread together at the same table and not have the universe explode (and there is photographic evidence of this forthcoming!), the urge to be nice to one another because we can physically see each other has an impact of its own, and results in the total avoidance of certain topics—and the larger the group, the more this tends to be the case. Our conversations stuck to topics that were pleasant, small talk, sharing of personal anecdotes, and so forth. These things are fine, and I enjoy them—especially when getting to know and meet someone in person for the first time—but then that leaves a great many more difficult and often important conversations left unsaid, essential issues unaddressed, and some important work left undone.

I am very happy to be friends with nearly anyone (as long as they're, at the very least, not racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, or anti-Pagan, and they're working or willing to work on improving in whatever other areas they might lack awareness or sensitivity), and it's great to have friends of a diverse variety.

However, if I am to be colleagues with someone in my religious community, or they are considered colleagues within my greater religious umbrella, then more is required. No matter how well I get along with someone and how much I value them as a friend, if I have not been in ritual with them and cannot work with them, there's less of a draw to get closer to them. I'll still try to be as friendly and respectful toward them as I can be and as is appropriate to our contexts, but there will be a distancing on some matters that will inevitably occur. If it isn't an important enough subject to talk about with someone, then likely the variety of relationship involved won't be as important to either of us as well.