brown grasses in foreground with medicine wheel in backgroun
By Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

The story

The Path of Many Faiths at GilChrist was dedicated in October 2002 in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the construction of a natural gas pipeline through GilChrist and neighboring properties. The gardens represent seven diverse spiritual and religious traditions and the path that links them is a symbol of mutual respect and healing. In 2014, the area around the Path of Many Faiths suffered another disruption with expansion of the right-of-way and installation of a crude oil pipeline. Over the years amid physical and emotional upheaval, a number of loving visitors have tended and enjoyed the gardens as a space of peace and rest.

In the past 20 years, we have observed some gardens flourish, while others have met with persistent resistance from the wild. Many individuals from the original community that nurtured the gardens have dispersed, while some remain deeply connected. Our longing for unity, healing, and common ground is as strong as ever, but we are even more keenly aware of how deep our divisions go. As we emerge from a global pandemic, we are wondering what the world needs next from this corner of the GilChrist landscape.

The path forward

For those who observe Jewish practice, much of 2022 is a shmita year—a time every seven years when farmers are called to let the land lie fallow and those who have loaned money are called to forgive debt. As we discern the way forward for the Path of Many Faiths, we are practicing a time of intentional observation, letting the gardens lie fallow with as little human intervention as possible through the end of September 2022. Only after this time of observation will we begin to look for patterns and plan next steps.

To enrich this experiment, we invite our community to document what occurs here through photographs, writing, artwork, and any other means that feel natural. This content will be interwoven with stories, images, and artifacts from the original installation of the Path of Many Faiths. Out of this fertile soil, we can reimagine what’s next for the Path of Many Faiths, honoring both the history of the space and welcoming what wants to emerge. What is possible if we commit ourselves intentionally to stillness and observation?

Invitations to Participate

Please practice limiting your observations to what is, as opposed to what could be. Remain present to pay attention in this moment and listen, rather than projecting into the future.

  • Reflect. What is flourishing? What is struggling? What do areas of the path feel like to you? What do you notice with each sense?
  • Reflect. What do you notice that resonates with your own spiritual path?
  • Review archived materials about the Path of Many Faiths located in the library in WindHill.
  • Post photos on social media using the hashtag #FallowPath.
  • Share your observations in person with one of our staff, by setting up a time through the main office.


GilChrist retreat center logo with white pine sprig

GilChrist is the public retreat center of the Fetzer Institute. We support the Institute’s mission of helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world by preserving a contemplative environment for healing self, society, and the natural world. We warmly welcome both groups and individuals and people of all faiths and affiliations.