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November 7, 2005
You've worked with Matt the Web Dude for three years and you've never met? Buddy asked. He was the first to arrive for the Fall FarmFest. Buddy is the voice of the eMos, reading them in his Mississippi accent for people who visit the website and want to listen instead of to read. The accent makes the eMos sound a great deal more profound than they really are.

Well, online. And we've spoken on the phone a few times. But mostly online.

Hmmn. Well, it'll be good to meet him, then.

Buddy had arrived with a large box, obviously from a bakery. You've got to see what they gave me, he said, when I asked them to put some geraniums on top. He lifted the lid to reveal a cheesecake the size of a wagon wheel, frosted thickly in white and studded with lurid red roses and bright green leaves on it.

Wow, I said. Geraniums sure are different on Staten Island.

We sat at the table under the dogwood tree and waited for other people to arrive.

I wonder what Matt the Web Dude looks like, I said. I had a mental picture of Matt: a thin twenty-year-old with a scraggly beard, wearing a Wolfman tee shirt and baggy jeans. He was bringing the future Mrs. Matt with him to the FarmFest. I had not yet begun to picture the future Mrs. Matt, but she would certainly be a wonkish young woman who didn't judge a book by its cover.

Here they are, said Buddy, and we both got up. The real Matt the Web Dude and his bride-to-be were walking up the drive, looking not at all as expected: he was tall and strong-looking, with short dark hair. She was tall and blonde and beautiful. They both wore office casual, and they had brought a quiche and some challah.

By now, everyone was here: Debbie from HodgePodge, with a pot of wonderfully aromatic soup, a pan of rolls and a pie; Buddy with his lurid cheesecake, Noodle standing on the other picnic table to get a good stare at people as they arrived. Deacon J came last, in the baseball cap she wears to cover her shorn head as it grows out after chemotherapy, bearing another pot of soup and a trunkful of other delicacies.

What kind of pie is that, I asked. Maple Walnut, she said, putting two pies on the counter with a small cooler containing the ice cream to go on top. That made three pies and a cheesecake.

It was warm and sunny -- incredibly so for November 6th, everyone kept saying. We are to have a harsh winter, they say, but you wouldn't have known it yesterday. The dogwood dropped an occasional red leaf on us as we tucked into our soup and bread. Noodle was nowhere to be seen now: she had taken one look at DJ's dog Emmy Lu and run, her tail as big around as a bottle brush.

It was a fest, not a business meeting, but Matt had brought some statistics about the Farm. I didn't understand most of them, and still don't, but they show that thousands of people read and listen to the eMos, visit the HodgePodge and More or Less Church, light candles and post prayers on the vigils page. Look, we 're in 68 countries, Debbie said. Imagine that.

This was just what I wanted the Farm to be: a place to which people from everywhere could come at any time of any day or night, using the mysterious new world of Internet communication as a way to grow closer together, rather than farther apart. Where people could share and pray, read and think. Where the good things people do in churches could happen in different ways and in different settings, where people could enter into the thoughtfulness of the spiritual life in a new way -- not necessarily a better way, just another way.

Because God never has only one way of doing things. There is always room for one more.

+Never visited the Farm? Now's as good a time as any --
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