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.
Affordable Christmas is a shopping event, hosted by the Greater Ridgecrest YMCA and Urban Young Life in Largo, that invites low-income and middle-class families to browse the “aisles” to find gifts they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. The gifts are then wrapped for them while they enjoy a meal (and child care), courtesy of the amazing volunteers!
Sounds awesome, right?
Our involvement as a sponsor means the following:
We’ll be donating some new (unopened) toys and games to Current for the invited families
If you don’t have toys to donate, you can donate money (even the smallest amount helps, and $20 buys a new toy)
We’ll be volunteering that day at the event – Volunteers are needed to help out as cashiers, personal shoppers, gift wrappers and more!
This event is always lots of fun. And, we can bring our families along to help! The young ones can even play with other kids in the day care while we volunteer.
It will be held on Sunday, December 14 at the Ridgecrest YMCA in Largo from 3-6 p.m.
All you need to do to sign up is visit the Affordable Christmas site and under “Largo Event,” click “Donate” or “Volunteer.” It’s that easy. If you are in the Tampa Bay area and have new/unused items to donate (that meet the criteria on the site), and won’t be able to volunteer, you can drop them off with us. Just shoot us an e-mail.
NOTE: This is an invitation-only event. Families who are in need of help will need to register through Pinellas Urban Young Life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* 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.
ou know that moment when the sand at the bottom of the hourglass starts to cave in toward the center? And it seems like suddenly the grains start to quicken, to pick up speed. But it’s an illusion, right? They don’t really move any faster, do they? Time doesn’t speed up if we have less of it. Or does it?
2012, The Year of the Dragon (my birth sign) is coming to a close and I was told to expect both profound “promise and demise.” Looking back on this year, I suppose both of those things are true. On one hand, I wasted most of the year — beating around the bush, hesitating out of fear, trying on old habits, instead of taking a deep breath and stepping onto the end of the diving board. And on the other hand, I also took my time and I meditated. I’ve finally come to a decision, deliberately and purposefully, about what my next steps should be. Something in me has been building steam for quite a while, and it’s high time that I tell everyone what I’ve been up to. Not just to share the news with you — my friends and family — but in hopes that by giving voice to my intentions, by articulating my plan, I will help to further realize it in my own heart and mind.
I am forming a non-profit, religious organization called the Integral Church. Something that is, in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, a brand new religious denomination. Something that until very recently, hasn’t existed.
Religion means so many things to different people, that for our purposes here, we should make an attempt to define it. “Religion,” in my opinion, is not just dogma, doctrine or creed — which all refer specifically to passages of scripture, koans, mythology, mantras, law, ethics, etc. These are parts of religion, yes. But they are not the whole story. Religion, to me, relates to the way an individual understands their own consciousness, it is the method in which they are self-aware, and it is the way that person struggles with or attempts to answer life’s big questions. The big questions like, “What is my purpose,” “What (or who) is God,” “Where did the universe come from,” “What is the nature of time,” etc. These questions can be tackled by personally investigating the nature of the self and the universe — by doing the experiment and seeing with your own eyes, they can be contemplated and interpreted through mythology and storytelling, or both. But the big question is usually centered in the “I.” How do I relate to the universe/God? What happens when I die? And it’s through the exploration of these questions that a spiritual practice and ways to honor the cosmos or God are consciously developed (or not).
You don’t have to tell me — religion has been a less than perfect solution for a lot of things. But that’s why now, more than ever, we need to build something new. Something that the world has never seen before.
The reason for starting a religious organization, and not simply another community non-profit, is the next logical step in a personal journey that began in the woods of Central Wisconsin as a teenager. That is where I experienced my first epiphany — a vision of the universe as a spinning record, and myself as the needle. I was nudged down this path when asked by a dear friend of mine to officiate my first wedding (I have grown to further appreciate and understand the deep importance of ritual in family life and have since performed my sixth wedding, a memorial service and countless fatherhood rituals). An intellectual seed was planted when I discovered the writings of Arthur Koestler and Ken Wilber, and began to sprout when I realized that their life’s work was a continuation of those who came before them — Sri Aurobindo, William James, Aldous Huxley. When I finally discovered the writings of the modern Catholic reformers — those who had been exiled from the institutionalized religion that they loved for demanding further reform and more inclusive liturgical structures (i.e. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and Fr. Richard Rohr) — I began to see the forest for the trees. I also saw the path that cut straight through the archaic wilderness to the heart of a post-modern center. I understood that we needed to build something new.
But none of this justifies the foolish act of starting a religion, does it? Starting a religion is a crazy thing to do, right? Especially in Florida. Nobody does that.
Let me be perfectly clear: the reason for this undertaking is not just because we need a new vision of the world, a world where religious tolerance is the rule; where religions are not seen as warring tribes, but as neighboring families that each contain their own spectrums of consciousness — from traditional conservatives to modern progressives. A world where believers and non-believers alike can find a common language and a sense of context. There are too few places where compassionate atheists and humanists can get involved with environmental causes or helping the less fortunate. Our vision of the world includes the creation of — and access to — these types of programs. But, it also includes children being taught mindfulness and modern (peer-to-peer) informational literacy, it includes cities being built (or re-built) around biodiversity, community farming and cooperation. It is a world where everything is a Holon¹ (a whole and a part) and where “spirituality” is understood (and practiced) in very real terms, knowing that there is indeed an energy in me that is identical to the energy in you. In an integral context, that means an individual approach that at once includes meditation/contemplation, exercise/nutrition, sustainability/environmentalism, and community service/civic engagement². In this new world, being open-minded is celebrated, “transcending and including” is the new norm and those who change their mind can more easily imagine a changing world³.
The reason is also not simply because many of us are finding that we have a shared set of beliefs — a belief that God is beyond gender (neither male or female), that human gender roles and sexual behavior do not exist discretely as male or female but as points along a continuum†. A belief that science and philosophy are tantamount in answering life’s big questions. A belief that new gender-balanced mythologies (that have yet to be written) are necessary for our modern age — stories that take into account how we interact with the technology and computer networks that we’ve built to encircle our planet and how we use these networks to communicate with other nations and nationalities around the globe, sometimes on a daily basis. And, finally, a belief that the First Cause that created the universe is simply unknowable and that love may very well be all you need‡.
The reason for starting a religious non-profit — for building a “ministry” — is to spread the message that we change the world by living in it ∞. That our personal unfolding, our continually-expanding consciousness, the ability to take more and more perspectives, the primordial drive toward increasing biological complexity, is directly related to the evolution of the entire cosmos. We — our interiors and exteriors — are all part of that whole. It is one action. In fact, it is Spirit-in-Action. Continue reading
Thanks to everyone at Feeding Children Everywhere who hosted a food packing event in Ybor City during the 2012 Republican National Convention. Our shift alone packed 100,000 meals in two hours that were sent to hungry families within the United States, and the event lasted for three days.
Hoola for Happiness was on-site providing hip-gyrating warm-up activities while we waited for our shift to begin. We were honored to serve alongside all the other churches and community members that came out to support and volunteer.
One of the most anti-climactic and disappointing elements of the traditional church service, to me, is not the message clouded in hyperbole. It’s not the sermon — delivered by motivational speakers with drawn-out, dramatic pauses. It’s not the church politics or the passing of the plate.
It’s the music.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envy the job of the church musical director — keeping an eye out for new talent among the congregation, readying material with little time for rehearsal, limited budget for session players or name acts, politics from the board of directors who have family members who “love to perform.”
I understand it. But I don’t have to like it.
I’m a musician after all, and I have a hard time finding a musical service that both pleases the ear in composition and tonality and also moves the soul to the kind of heights necessary to attain spiritual reflection and illumination.
There is no sheet music for this, there is no cheat sheet or chart. It has to arise in the moment. And when it does, the whole room can feel it. Is this kind of performance too much to ask?
Please take a second to answer this one-question survey in the comments section below.
“I would go to church every Sunday (or more) if the band performing at the service was ______________.”