In our country there is a deep and abiding faithfulness to our religious traditions and institutions, alongside which a growing number of Americans are identifying as “nones,” and “spiritual but not religious,” and many religious institutions are seeing dwindling membership and attendance numbers.
In scanning this broad and changing landscape, two Harvard Divinity School graduates have been identifying “decentralized communities that thrive beyond institutional edges.” Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile, founders of what has become the How We Gather project, have been working with groups, projects, and programs in the United States that are spiritual in nature and “blossoming just outside the denominational landscape.”
At Fetzer, we are extending our work with Harvard Divinity School and our friends at On Being in a growing exploration of the many ways we gather spiritually. Central to our vision are individuals supported in their own spiritual paths by communities small and large. Over the next four years, we will work with and learn from this project as Casper and Angie expand their team to help build the infrastructure for belonging and becoming among the approximately 50 million millennials in America who are seeking social connection and spiritual support. One of their early efforts is to pair emerging leaders who seek mentorship with established religious and spiritual counterparts who can share their experience leading spiritual communities, and in doing so also create a broader multi-religious and intergenerational learning community. They are also working with more traditional religious institutions who find themselves living “in the dance between past and present,” seeking ways to embrace institutional transformation in this ever-shifting landscape.
In their effort to stimulate a larger conversation “about how religion can be faithful to its purpose today,” How We Gather is bringing on board Rev. Sue Phillips to take the lead on fostering innovative community leaders around the country, as well as engaging religious institutions in flourishing in the emerging community landscape. Sue was most recently New England Regional Lead for the Unitarian Universalist Association. She brings decades of organizational and pastoral leadership and an intimate familiarity with the work of innovation from within existing systems.
Our friends Krista Tippett and the On Being team are also deepening their collaboration with the How We Gather project by joining as core partners. They will continue to host gatherings at On Being Studios on Loring Park in Minneapolis, support the Alt*Div learning lab for moral and spiritual leadership, and launch a cohort of ten On Being Fellows to strengthen the connective tissue among emerging community leaders.
We are excited about this adventure and the many connections and thoughtful collaborations it may bring. And we want to hear from you! Is there a spiritual community you are nourished by?