array of lit votive candles glowing
By Gillian Gonda, Fetzer Institute Program Director

Just a few weeks before COVID-19 became a global reality and a focus of our daily lives, our teams at Fetzer and Hattaway Communications received the last of the 3,600 responses to our national survey on spirituality and civic life. With curiosity and anticipation, we and our advisors began digging into the data, looking for the nuance of what it means to be and feel spiritual today. 

As a global pandemic has unfolded, people are navigating uncharted waters, trying to make sense of a changing world that seems overwhelming and senseless. Many of us are seeking, reshaping, or returning to spiritual and religious rituals. We are turning inward and discerning what matters most to us. We are also thinking more deeply about our interconnectedness and our responsibility to others. 

The study—and its insight into the many ways people are living spiritual lives—reveals the kinds of spiritual stories we are drawing from in this moment. 

In focus groups and in-depth interviews over the last year, conversations with people from all kinds of spiritual and religious backgrounds revealed they experience spirituality in a multitude of ways, and while some saw a connection to their public and civic action, others did not. What was clear, though, is that spirituality is an essential element of existence that can bring beauty to our lives, help us through challenging times, and animate us in powerful ways. 

The Study of Spirituality in America, to be released this summer, will offer new insight into the religious and spiritual identities of people in the United States. Through personal stories and survey data, the study reveals how the spiritual element of our nature informs our understanding of ourselves and each other, inspires us to take action in our communities, and implores us to access love everywhere we turn. 

As we reflect on the past months of this pandemic, we’ve seen the spiritual dimension of life show up for individuals finding ways to cope with a new reality and in others sustaining or finding new forms of community, and seeking connection in novel ways. This is a moment of deep reflection and an opportunity for greater awareness of our actions and impact.

We will keep all this in mind as we put our final touches on a report exploring our study findings and as we develop a public engagement strategy that invites a continued conversation about this story of inner awareness and outer actions, a story of spirituality today.