Author Archives: Joran Slane Oppelt

About Joran Slane Oppelt

Author, Musician, Interfaith Minister, Chaplain, Public Speaker, Event Producer, Marketing Professional, Husband, Father - Not necessarily in that order. Follow me on Twitter @joranslane.

The Bridge Builder Project: Intergenerational Conversations for a New Age

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photo by Geoff Pugh Photography Ltd

Say Hello to the Bridge-Builders

Some members of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1979) and Generation Y (1980-1994) have found themselves in a strange and unique position. They are dual citizens of the old and new — inhabiting two worlds and straddling two ways of being.

Born in an analog environment and raised during the dawn of the digital age, this generation is destined to build bridges and facilitate new modes of understanding.

They can operate both a Walkman and a Dropbox account. They stream their music from the cloud and still buy vinyl records. They are equally at home in the conservative Bible belt as well as with post-modern multiculturalists.

This Bridge-Builder Generation is uniquely positioned to facilitate courageous conversations between individuals and groups. From interfaith dialogue to intergenerational fireside chats, these young-at-heart adults are holding space for a new expression of integration and interconnectedness. They are fighting for a world where all voices are respected — where the elders can share their wisdom and the youth can realize their unbridled potential. They are writing policy around how we care for newborns and retirees. They are creating programs where children can play alongside the sick and the dying, reducing the symptoms of depression and dementia.

This new world begins with words. It begins by giving our words to one another and engaging in conversations that illuminate and transform.

We may never see the female elders in our community on the morning television shows discussing the process of croning. Our male elders may never have the chance to share with us what they wish they had been told when they became fathers. But we can gather these generations in a room and have important conversations about religion, politics, climate change, the internet, sex, life and death.

If you would like to discover what these generations may learn from one another — and what you may learn from them — then join me in producing and convening these conversations. Join me in building the bridge between these worlds — a generation that is passing from the earth and the generation that will inherit the future.

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What Exactly Are You Doing?

Five Phases of the Bridge Builder Project:

Phase 1: Seeking volunteers from various age groups — Traditionalists (born 1900-1945), Baby Boomers (1944-1964), Gen X (1965-1979), Gen Y / Millennials (1980-1994).

Phase 2: Assembling a core team of skilled facilitators, psychologists, interfaith chaplains, gerontologists, etc. to consult on the project.

Phase 3: Assembling multi-generational pairs and small groups to engage in conversations around various topics including religion, climate change, politics, sex, death, technology and the internet.

Phase 4: Producing high-quality live-streams and recordings of the conversations for archival purposes.

Phase 5: Collecting and curating the recordings for online/digital presentation.

What Can I Do?

  • Click here to donate to the Bridge Builder Project.
  • Click here to become a corporate or community sponsor of the Bridge Builder Project.
  • Click here to volunteer for the Bridge Builder Project.

* All donations made on Tuesday, November 27 will be MATCHED by Facebook. Please consider donating for #GivingTuesday.

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On Facilitating Circles

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Joran Oppelt facilitating an Integral Church circle in Siofok, Hungary.

Recently, at Integral Church, we had what I felt was our worst Circle ever. But when I voiced my frustration about it, my wife surprisingly said she thought it was the best Circle she’d ever been to.

What happened during the Circle that could have been so polarizing?

In my mind, many things had gone “wrong“ over the course of the morning. It was our outdoor circle so I had to get there early and set up the blankets, chairs and altar. I had forgotten to bring the cash box to pay for our childcare. It started raining halfway through (the first time in 6 years) and we were forced to pack up and move to a nearby pavilion. The children came scampering back early from the playground (due to concerns about lightning) and joined us. We reconvened under the pavilion at one of the picnic tables but were now looking more like a rectangle than a circle. I had intended to sing one song but was moved at the last minute (due to the small group) to sing another. I felt like that morning’s selected reading (a work of science fiction) fell a bit flat with some of the participants and those who I’d hoped would be there to participate in the discussion couldn’t make it. We passed the offering bowl and got the least amount of money we’ve ever collected. Because I had asked for a volunteer, the closing meditation ended up being led by my six-year-old (as I whispered prompts in his year).

Now, none of these things on their own are particularly negative experiences, but in the aggregate I felt like I had lost control of the circle. And, therein lay my dilemma. The circles aren’t something that are controlled. They are facilitated. And the next day I had to do some deep inquiry into why I felt so exhausted after facilitating a circle that felt so bad to me and so good to my best friend. Continue reading


Integral Church returns to Hungary for IEC3

We recently returned to Siofok, Hungary for the 3rd annual Integral European Conference. Our circle on Saturday was our largest yet. Just under 50 people from all over the world gathered for Integral Church on the lawn at Hotel Azur on beautiful Lake Balaton.

 

 


The Art of Prayer (with Video)

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Kiss of the Muse, Alex Grey

The following is an excerpt from the book, Integral Church: A Handbook for Spiritual Communities.

What, Me Pray?

For most people at a modern or rational stage of development, prayer is something for children and the superstitious. Its etymology is from the Old French preier (“ask, entreat”) which is derived from the Latin word precari, which means to “ask earnestly” or “beg.” And in the modern world, begging is something that poor people do.

Most of my young adult life, I considered prayers to be uttered before meals, before bed each night or to be reserved for when someone was injured or dying. My family didn’t model this behavior, but I assumed other (Christian) families did.

When I discovered the Unity Church and the New Thought movement, my eyes were opened to prayer as a form of dialogue with Source (or Christ Consciousness). I embraced my “allergy” to prayer and jumped in with both feet, studying and practicing the act of prayer and serving as a chaplain for a thriving church community from 2012-2014.

Just like yoga and meditation, I learned that there are different methods (or modes) of prayer, and hundreds of ways to actually pray.

Dialogue and the Other

The idea of God is so personal that the way each individual relates to God (with fear, awe, devotion or worship) is as unique as themselves (not to mention framed by their current geography and cultural worldview and colored by shadow material from the unconscious mind). The Ultimate Other looks, feels and sounds different to everyone.

There are three perspectives from which all of us might describe and experience God (or the idea of God) — 1st-person (the interior of the individual, meditative, internal arising of Spirit, witnessing), 2nd-person (the other, relational, one-on-one/face-to-face, devotion, prayer, God the Father, Mother Earth, various deities) and 3rd-person (the physical universe, nature, science, God-as-the-Kosmos, Spirit-in-Action, all that is observable and that we may witness, tat tvat asam). Put simply, we can talk “as God,” “to God,” or “about God.” These three value spheres (see Chapter 2) are useful when discussing or contemplating spirituality. All three are very real perspectives, and all three simultaneously arise together.

It is this 2nd-person language (talking “to God”) that we use when we pray.

Prayer is sometimes looked down on as being a subservient act. When most people think of prayer, they think of a plea or an appeal to God(s) in the sky for their desired outcome to be granted. Part of the reason we may not be comfortable with this form of dialogue is that the “other” is 1) outside ourselves, 2) invisible and 3) more powerful than we are. Most of us are told, when we move into the stage of development known as modernism – and are exposed to the branches of science and philosophy – that no self-respecting human being would prostrate themselves before this kind of creator God.

But this assumes that the power (to create meaning or change) resides somewhere outside of ourselves. And for the traditionally religious, this is true (or, at the very least God remains worthy of our reverence, awe and devotion).

Post-modern forms of prayer (centering, affirmative) simply assume and strive to express what already is. When you pray in the affirmative, you declare that you are not broken or fallen or diseased, but that you have the infinite power within you to heal yourself, and to live your highest potential. When you practice centering prayer, you invoke the perfection of the moment and all thoughts that may be arising (including the prayer itself).

When you pray, you are engaging with Spirit-in-Action in 2nd person language (addressing the “thou” or Ultimate Other). And unlike meditation, where the goal is to let thoughts go completely, prayer is the training of our actual thoughts to be more positive, kind, gentle, loving and forgiving.

Prayer is a way of aligning your mind with the Divine (or what Sri Aurobindo called Supermind). If meditation is the act of being unattached from your thoughts and simply letting them drift away, then prayer is the act of holding onto and turning your thoughts, one at a time, over and over in your hands until they are perfect. Until they have been smoothed like stones in a river. Continue reading


The Burgeoning

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[a poem by R.D. Stone]

The story of how it began
everything in celestial space
raw, hot and clustered, out of the hands
that rewrite the breath
bubbling up, pouring forth,
the eyes of lightning flashed
as thunder rolled, bulged and spat
fire and sparks, the galaxies expand.

Bendings shaped from dust
bright-blue elements blowing
through the universe who made us
from mighty power spreads the flowing
with a rise to rule the days,
wondrous beginning of newness birthing,
the ordained cosmos would obey.
Bursting, formed by the word
to reveal power and vision
shown through vapors of new worlds
hour by hour with enchanted precision
every expanding voice
in the universe flared up
and planets would rejoice
as the miracle took flight
delivering everything in life’s cup.

And it was said: come forth! forth!
spangle into flight
thought of thoughts
emit darkness into light!

And from the girth
to all corners of the night
the birth of effervesce
creation appeared and uncurling
the spontaneous exhale
came the surge with brilliant unfurling
and the gathering ethereal praise
came a bursting forth to share its ways.

(Special thanks to Fox Institute of Creation Spirituality)


Integral Church Expands to Hungary

Erzsébet Vizinger – instructor at Integrál Akadémia – recently led a circle at the Everness Festival in Balaton, Hungary (pictured) and will be starting up a regular monthly circle (every second Sunday) at a beautiful outdoor location in Kecskemét, Hungary.

We are honored and excited to support her in this endeavor and I hope you join me in thanking and congratulating her in the comments below.

Our “we” space just got a lot bigger. Say “Hello!” to our sister Integral Church community in Europe.

* If YOU are interested in starting an Integral Church in your community, please drop us a line.


Barbara Marx Hubbard on the Integral Church [Video]

Barbara Marx Hubbard

In July of 2015, Barbara Marx Hubbard (author, futurist, founder of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution, and 1984 Vice Presidential Nominee) hosted a conference call entitled, “Sacred Journey of the Conscious Evolutionary.” In the series (offered by the Shift Network) she recalled the Building the New World Conference which had just taken place at Radford University on May 28-31, 2015.

In this excerpt from the call, she describes meeting Joran Slane Oppelt (founder of Integral Church) after his presentation with Amy Edelstein, “A Brilliant Matrix: An Integral View of the World’s Religions” and discussing the future of integral spirituality and spiritual communities.


Five Buddhist Contemplations for Before Your Thanksgiving Meal

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Image Source: publicdomainpictures.com

Some Thanksgiving blessings from the Buddhist tradition, courtesy of Thich Nhat Hanh.

  1. This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard, loving work.
  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
  3. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.
  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

Read the full post at Plum Village.


Tampa Bay Interfaith Week 2016 (with Video)

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L-R: St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, Dr. Frank Tedesco (True Dharma International), Alchemy Oppelt, Imam Abdul Karim Ali, Joran Oppelt (Integral Church), Dennis Lemmermann and Catie Warren (Community Tampa Bay) and Soledad Loba (Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater).

Three years ago I had a vision for what Interfaith Week might be. It was a grand vision. And because my background is in marketing, media and events, that vision included lots of complicated moving parts. It included big corporate sponsors like Best Buy and ValPak and Dex Imaging and Bloomin’ Brands — local companies that could get behind the cause of tolerance and peace and pluralism. Community-based companies that could afford to cut checks so that we might get the message out to as many people as possible using billboards, print, radio, and TV.

The vision included bringing famed keynote speakers to town like Karen Armstrong, Krista Tippett, Richard Rohr, Eboo Patel and the Dalai Lama. I imagined that we would screen documentary films and enjoy music and dance performances from well-known artists and musicians. My vision was that we would put on a show — because that’s what I knew and that’s what I’m good at.

What actually happened is that we opened up the programming to the community itself. And I never could have predicted the outcome. Proposals began to come in from faith communities willing to collaborate with one another to create something really special and unprecedented — not from the top down, but from the ground up.

What Interfaith Week has actually become is greater than I could ever have hoped.

This year, our opening ceremony was hosted by St. Mary our Lady of Grace Catholic Church and featured calls to prayer from Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim communities from all around the bay. Hearing Imam Azhar Subedar singing the Arabic call of the Muezzin in that sanctuary was simply sublime. And hearing Frank Tedesco talk about the lack of theology in Buddhist traditions in the hallowed halls of Catholicism was unforgettable.

This year, over shared meals all across this area and over the past seven days I have seen faith leaders and communities come together to plant the seeds of relationship, and enter into dialogue, in order to find solutions together. These solutions look like cooperative service projects and community cleanups, increased collaboration with city government, inter-congregational visits and sister community programs, increased religious literacy among neighborhoods, more support and programming for our youth and our children, and a concerted effort to focus on nonviolent language and demonstration.

What I have seen this year is not merely a show put on for the public. What I have seen, and continue to see every year, is the actual work of interfaith dialogue and bridge-building being done in our city. This year’s event saw an increase in geographical participation as well, taking us across the bridge to Tampa and north to Clearwater. This means not that there’s more work to do, but that there are more people willing to do it.

If the purpose of this week is to get together in a safe collaborative and educational place in order to talk about our faith and beliefs, then here’s what I believe — I believe that as the future of Interfaith Week and the work you all are doing unfolds, so unfolds the future of religion itself. Continue reading


The Future of Religion in 5 Minutes

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I was recently asked to prepare a five-minute talk on “The Future of Religion.”

I thought five minutes would be easy, compared to the 30-minute talks or 90-minute workshops I’ve led. I was surprised to learn that the shorter the presentation, the more difficult it becomes.

Ignite Tampa Bay forced me to refine things I have been teaching and talking about for years. It encouraged me to make my language more accessible and less academic. It is probably the talk I’ve given that I’ve learned the most from.

Below is the video and full transcript. I owe a huge thank you to Matthew Fox, Stephen Prothero, and Ken Wilber who inspired portions of this talk.

We’re told not to talk about sex, politics, or religion. Continue reading