The more I study such “sacred activists” as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day, I realize that not only is an activism that is grounded in spirituality more effective and more sustainable in creating social change than one that is not, it is also increasingly impossible to personally separate my own spirituality from my work in the world. As activists, we often preach what we think are solutions to issues, but a deeper change has to take place within the hearts of those serving as well as those being served. That is where my work in this world comes in. As my own connection to Spirit expands and deepens, there is no separation between Love and expression of that Love. This is “being the change.” This sense of spirit in action informs my work, especially as I connect with the homeless youth of NYC, through the Reciprocity Foundation. For example, as I teach meditation and how to find peace in mind, body, and soul, I have to work on my own peace. Spiritual practices inform my actual job, but it is much more than that. My spirituality requires a movement outward in action; simultaneously, this call to service requires a spirit-centered approach.
The ideas I’d like to develop are multifold. I want to connect to those who consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious” (SBNR), which is the fastest-growing faith-identification among millennials. SBNRs have no communities in (or with) which to receive spiritual nourishment and growth. Many of my generation have rejected their birth religions that seem to be riddled with corruption, out-of-touch hierarchies, and tired rituals. I envision myself facilitating, as opposed to preaching to, small groups of people who desire a safe and supportive environment to explore spiritual practices in the absence of dogma. Rev. Diane Berke, the director of my seminary, and I have been developing a framework for an intergenerational gathering of spiritual practice and communion. Also, my young seminarian friends and I have talked about starting a once-a-month supper club for discussion and sharing with other young people studying in other faith traditions.
I find that many SBNRs have a burning desire to be of service in the world and the activists I meet tend toward the SBNR mindset. Not only do I want to inspire individuals’ spiritual growth, but I also want to motivate groups to bring their spirituality outward into service. I have spent a lot of time wondering, how do we get these two groups of people (activists and aspirants) to meet and work together? I am in the process of developing an organization that would host community events that combine spirit, the arts, and service. Imagine something that’s part TedTalk, part community fundraiser for social justice groups, part networking between people who want to serve and groups that need support, with more than a strong dash of deep spiritual connection and heart. The MLP conference would be an invaluable opportunity to make connections and continue the union of service and spirit.