Tag Archives: community

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.

Advertisements

Tampa Bay Interfaith Week 2016 (with Video)

86

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


A Declaration of Spiritual Independence

freedom-in-the-shape-of-a-cross

“When freed from that which binds,
when the lust for life has come to
an end, one is not born again. He
is released now and forever.”

– The Buddha, Dhammapada


Note: Some define “spiritual independents” as those who are unchurched or have left a mainline religious affiliation — like a third-way political party. For our purposes, “spiritual independence” means anyone who insists on critical thinking in religious matters.

On July 15, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed the graduating students of Harvard Divinity School. As the ministers-to-be listened eagerly with freshly-opened minds, he told them, “Let me admonish you first of all to go alone, to refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men, and dare to love God without mediator or veil.”

He spoke of an “indwelling Supreme Spirit,” and of a vision, described by Philip Goldberg of the Huffington Post as “similar to that of the Eastern sages, where we are neither fallen nor depraved, and where divinity incarnates at every instant, not just once in the distant past.”

“God is, not was,” Emerson told the students, and each of us is “an infinite Soul” who is “drinking forever the soul of God.”

The graduates (and religion itself) were forever changed — their minds and hearts opened to a direct relationship with the Divine. The parents and faculty were angry and upset, and Emerson was banned from Harvard for over two decades.

If we are to claim spiritual independence for ourselves, then we need to cultivate a similar relationship with our Source. John Dominic Crossan writes about this kind of life in The Essential Jesus, saying it is the life that Jesus died for — a life “of human contact without discrimination and of divine contact without hierarchy.”

If we are to be truly free, we need to equip ourselves with the appropriate support on all levels and lines, and surround ourselves with the right types. We will need access to sound spiritual teachings, a free-standing system outside the mainline institutions, the right spiritual tools necessary to do the actual work, and the benefits of a rich community of practice.

Teachings

We’ll need teachings that help us to seek inspiration and guidance, and live with heart, for the road will be rough. They will need to be teachings that consider the health of the whole person (body, mind and spirit); that encourage not just temporary epiphanies and insights, but continual freedom (or moksha), spiritual liberation and unfolding, allowing us to “transcend and include” what has come before. They will need to be teachings that remind us to look within for the answer. Teachings that promote right behavior, right action and right speech; that allow for and encourage highly-developed lines of ethics and morality. We also need new stories, updated myths and well-drawn maps of the spiritual territory. Continue reading


Alchemy Fest 2015 [Photos and Video]

photo by Tanya Sharkey

photo by Tanya Sharkey

Thank you so much for making our 10th Annual Alchemy Fest event an amazing celebration of transformation and community. We’re already looking forward to next year.

Thank you to our leadership team and to the rest of the planning committee and all the volunteers. This event would literally NOT be possible without you. Thank you to all of our vendors and sponsors. This event could not happen year after year without your contributions and financial support, and we appreciate you so much.

We saw over 400 attendees over the course of the day, over 90 pre-sold tickets (the most we’ve ever had), 36 completed Green Cards, 3 big raffle winners and 38 satisfied vendors (again, a new record).

I can’t say how happy it makes me to see that this community and family-friendly event continues to grow and stay true to its mission of connecting and showcasing amazing and talented LOCAL people while honoring Earth Day, the arrival of Spring, the spirit of transformation, and so much more.

Thank you, again. I know that next year will be even bigger and better and I know that we will cross paths in the meantime to create more meaningful and transformative events and experiences (though not quite as labor-intensive as this one) for the members of our community.

You have my sincere gratitude.

Looking forward,
Joran

photo by Cassidy Brooks

photo by Cassidy Brooks

Obscure Belly Dance by Caroline Hekate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


#GoodNewsStPete launches in St. Petersburg


Welcome to St. Petersburg, one of the hippest and happiest places to live in Florida – maybe even the world. Every day, so many great and beautiful things happen in our community, yet most of what we see on the news is dirty laundry (or much worse).

#GoodNewsStPete is your chance to create balance in the way the story of our city is told.

Start today:

  1. Take a photo or short video with a caption telling the world about your “good news” from St Pete. Did you get an “A” on your math test? Did someone help you with your groceries? Is there a local event or charity you want to rave about?
  2. Upload it to your social media account with the hashtag #GoodNewsStPete and share the love!
  3. If you’re having trouble finding good news to share about creative, kind, and compassionate people in your community, then go create some yourself!

Follow @GoodNewsStPete on Instagram, or send your good news to GoodNewsStPete@gmail.com for the chance to have it featured!

Photo by Chad Mize


First Thursday Services Beginning February 5

For two years, the small but growing Integral Church community has met outdoors, in the beautiful and spacious parks of St. Petersburg, FL and for two years, the weather on the third Sunday of the month has been gorgeous. We have had the honor and pleasure of gathering to discuss religion, philosophy, science and spirituality accompanied by music and meditation. We have deeply listened to one another and formed lasting and meaningful relationships.

Starting in February, we are starting up a new monthly service. On the first Thursday of the month, beginning February 5, we will be meeting in the chapel at Trinity Multicultural Center from 6:30-8 p.m. This indoor service will differ from the Third Sunday services (currently held at Crisp Park) in that there will be chairs, a roof and four walls. For now, the order of service will remain the same at both services but the guests (speaker, musician, meditation) will change at each, so we encourage you to attend both if possible. First Thursdays will allow for our community to include those who just can’t be present on a Sunday morning, and we know there are more than a few of you!

I also want to extend my deepest gratitude to all those who have made the time to gather with us (however briefly) this year and have shared in this experience. I realize that in a circle there is no “back pew” allowing someone to discreetly hang behind and observe while other people read things aloud and participate in group activities. To those of you who continue to show up, there are no words to convey my appreciation. As our services continue to evolve, I rely on you for input on what is working and what is not.

If you believe that ALL of the world’s religions have meaning and that no perspective is completely irrelevant, I encourage you to come and check out what we’re doing. If you are interested in meeting with other people in the spirit of interfaith (religious and non-religious) conversation and integral (radically inclusive) spirituality, I encourage you to come and check out what we’re doing. If you are seeking people committed to personal transformative practice, community service and religious literacy, I encourage you to come and check out what we’re doing.

We look forward to meeting you, learning from you and experiencing Spirit-in-Action together.

For a list of all our gatherings and groups, click here.


Leaning Forward: The Art of Living on the Spiritual Path [VIDEO]

FULL AUDIO: http://uustpete.org/service/2014-09-07/new-beginnings

TRANSCRIPT:

What is your spiritual path?

When we talk about being “spiritual but not religious” or living a “spiritual” life, what do we mean exactly?

There are different ways we can define spirituality (its own line of development, the highest level or stage of any line of development, an attitude toward life – like compassion or love, a peak experience regardless of lines or stages, or the Ground of all being and experience). Spirituality means all of these things (and more) to so many. And when discussing spirituality with others, it’s important to determine which definitions are in play.

But one thing is for certain – the spiritual path should not be confused with our spiritual practice. The path is not what we do. It’s who we are, who we choose to be in each moment. It is the journey to which we are called.

And whatever we are called to do – whichever cause or organization or group of people we’re called to serve, this is also part of our path. It’s a sacred relationship, a spiritual contract held in place by the agreements you have with yourself – that you will serve on your path with integrity.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to having doubts about my own worthiness – and my own qualifications. Not only in my career, but in parenting, in my pastoral and chaplain work, in community leadership, in my writing. Who am I to be deserving of these teachings and experiences that I’ve received? Who am I to be worthy of happiness in my life? Am I deserving of the opportunity to teach others?

Self-doubt sometimes greets you on the sunniest parts of the path.

Continue reading


Interfaith Week is Coming to St. Petersburg!

many hands together

On July 13-20, the City of St. Petersburg will officially recognize “Interfaith Week,” and we would love to see you out and about, visiting new communities, making new friends and learning more about the way our city celebrates the sacred.

For more info, visit the Interfaith Week event page.

Interfaith Week is a chance to see how others practice religion and spirituality in an open, educational setting. During Interfaith Week, individuals and families are encouraged to visit the many churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, meditation centers and spiritual communities in St. Petersburg to gain a better understanding of the people, values, philosophies, practices and cultures that make up our beautiful, historic city.

The week will also include free panel and roundtable discussions at different campuses and venues including such topics as: religious literacy, dialogue and listening, social work and charity, good and evil, definitions and expressions of spirituality, and more.

St. Pete Interfaith Week was inspired by “Other Religions Week,” founded in 2003 by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, and like similar events (i.e. Louisville’s “Festival of Faiths“) seeks to become an annual happening that promotes a message of compassion and pluralism and holds up our city as an example of a community based on mutual respect, cooperation and collaboration.

If you would like to volunteer to help out at an Interfaith Week event, please contact us. If you would like your spiritual community to participate, there are a few different ways we can work together, and all of them are listed below.

1. Be listed on the calendar

We can list any events you already have happening that week, from your normal worship, prayer or meditation services to evening classes, music/dance performances or talks.

2. Participate in a discussion

We’re looking for people from all walks of life (academia, community service, faith-based organizations) to participate in this important and valuable conversation. If you (or a representative of your organization) would like to participate in a public discussion about interfaith relations on the topics listed above, let us know.

3. Host an event / Organize a panel 

If you would like to host or organize an event, performance or interfaith panel discussion, we would be happy to feature this event on the website and help you promote it.

We’re very much looking forward to the beginning of what will surely be an annual event that showcases the rich fabric and diversity of our community and that continues to grow year after year.

See you in July!

Sincerely,
Joran Oppelt


Integral Church Turns One Year Old

Carl Sagan Birthday Meme

On November 13, we will celebrate our one year anniversary, and I wanted to say thank you to everyone reading this for being a part of this community / organization / mission and also take some time to honor those* responsible for getting us this far. Looking back at this year, it’s truly amazing what we’ve accomplished with little to no resources, and it’s an honor to have been a part of it, to watch it be co-created — something new, alive and evolving.

With all of that said, we are not impervious to change, and there are currently a few open seats on our Board of Directors. If any of you are willing to step into those leadership positions in 2014, please let me know.

One of the primary areas in which we need help is the reviving of our community outreach programs. This involves researching and/or developing ongoing programs that give back — including community service, helping families in need, volunteering at local gardens, etc. We’ve had some really great ideas in this area, and have made inroads with other local non-profits (who could definitely benefit from our help) but we need someone compassionate and skilled at managing other people to really breathe some life into this and move it forward.

Another area we need help in is the planning of our monthly interfaith services — this would include coordinating with the city on our calendar, and the scheduling of future speakers and musical guests. We also need committee members for the planning of future events and workshops, including the upcoming Religious Literacy series and our 9th annual Alchemy Fest fundraiser.

We also need to hear from you. We need your input and ideas. The friend-sourcing journal was originally instrumental in guiding us toward the types of projects our community members would like to participate in and what our community might be able to sustain. But we need to continually build feedback loops and structures (virtual or otherwise) that will allow us to nominate, vote on, organize, implement and execute these projects — as well as solicit ideas for new ones — so that we may actually serve the community in a greater and more effective way. This will not happen without your voice.

Most importantly, as we continue to unfold (as Spirit-in-Action), we must remain committed to living a life that is mindful, optimal, meaningful and sustainable.

Thank you again for participating (even if you’re just following along on the blog) in everything that’s happened this past year. I look forward to growing our reach, deepening our relationships and continuing to do meaningful work — including the small things like spreading goodness, beauty and truth wherever we go.

If you have any questions or if you feel that you might be ready to get involved, please reach out via e-mail, phone, Facebook, Twitter, telepathy or smoke signal.

Looking forward,
Joran Oppelt
Integral Church

* Joey for planting the seed and starting the argument (and the Google Doc); Rev. Russell Heiland for the encouragement; Lorrie for inspiring us to give in greater ways; Christa and Jessica for an amazing Alchemy Fest; Kevin, Max, Nimo and Ivan for energizing the men’s group; Los, Catherine and Shanna for stepping into their roles as board members; Shannon for watching the kids; Denise for her huge and powerful heart; Jacqueline for sharing; Jake for always being there; Jason Sowell for his friendship and guidance; Lynne McTaggart for showing up; Stephen Prothero and Howard Rheingold for their work; Paramahansa Yogananda for pretty much everything; Amir Ahmad Nasr for his story; Fr. Richard Rohr for his wisdom; Rev. Temple Hayes for her wing; Chris at Palehorse for seeing and hearing it; all the volunteers at all of our events … and Jennifer for her infinite patience.


Best-Selling Author, Lynne McTaggart, Coming to Tampa on September 20

Lynne-McTaggart-2013

Scientific discoveries over the past century have led to the realization that our visible world is part of a vast sea of invisible energies that link everything in the universe. The human mind and body, rather than being separate from the environment, are a power center that is constantly interacting with this field of quantum energies and influences.

The implications are enormous — consciousness and intention are central in shaping your world.

Lynne McTaggart is the author of the international bestsellers, The Bond, The Field and The Intention Experiment, she is also the editor of the wellness journal What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and the world’s foremost expert on the science of intention.

On Friday, September 20, Lynne will appear at HCC (Dale Mabry Campus) to discuss how we can bridge the worlds of science and spirit, and announce the launch of the first Intention Project in Tampa Bay! She will build on her discoveries to offer a radical new blueprint for living a more harmonious, prosperous and connected life.

Topics will include:

  • Bridging the worlds of science and spirit
  • Moving past competition
  • Enjoying close relationships
  • Achieving a more connected family, workplace and community
  • Becoming a powerful agent of change – in Tampa Bay & Beyond

Who: Lynne McTaggart
Best-Selling Author of The Field, The Bond, The Intention Experiment and What Doctors Don’t Tell You
When: Friday, September 20; 7 – 9 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Hillsborough Community College
Student Services Building Auditorium, Room 111
4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd. Tampa, Florida 33614-7820
How Much: STUDENT: $15*, $30 in advance, $40 at the door. * requires student ID at Will Call
More: Sponsored by The Connection Partners, Integral Church, Enliven Wellness Works, Inkwood Books and Creative Loafing

Get your tickets now at bit.ly/lynne2013

RSVP on Facebook