Tag Archives: St. Petersburg

Interfaith Week 2015 Recap [Video + Photos]

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1 week
1 city
2 films, 2 keynote presentations
4 shared meals
7 panel discussions/workshops
Over 15 faith leaders engaged in dialogue
43 events listed on this year’s calendar
hundreds of attendees and participants

and thousands of people made aware of this important event happening right here in our city.

By all counts, the second annual Interfaith Week St. Petersburg was a huge success.

Interfaith Week Graphic Recording copy

On September 13-20, 2015, the community of St. Petersburg, FL celebrated many things — religious tolerance and respect, peaceful activism, deep listening, open communication, leading by example, the building of bridges between people and communities, the healing of deep-seated wounds and historical divides, the planting of new seeds for the future.

In short, the week was an inspiring whirlwind of collaboration and connection that usually happens at conferences and symposiums in towns other than our own. This time, it happened in our own backyard.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Interfaith Week on any and every level. It was truly an honor to be a part of such thought-provoking and mind- and heart-opening activity and dialogue. New friends were made, and we look forward to seeing what grows from the many seeds that were planted.

Here are just a few of the people involved with the planning and production of the various workshops, panel and book discussions, performances, films and keynote presentations that made up this year’s second annual Interfaith Week event.

Imam Abdul Karim Ali, Imam Abdul Q. Aziz, Aiyana Baida, Lisa Brekke, Beverly Banov Brown, Rev. Dr. Lori Cardona, Vandana Dillon, Rev. Jack Donovan, David Enfield, Sepideh Eskandari, Lauren Haddad Friedman, Mayor Rick Kriseman, Erica Leggatt, Bishop Preston Leonard, Cynthia Lukas, Jan Magray, Dr. Kerry McCord, Rev. Doug McMahon, Rev. Russell Meyer, Susan Meyers, Janell Miller-Evans, Eric Rainbeau, Denise Rispoli, Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Rev. Libby Shannon, Katherine Taylor Robinson, Ruth Broyde Sharone, Ashley Sweet, Dr. Frank Tedesco, Rev. Dr. Grace Telesco, Sarah Trinler, Rev. Shinkyo Will Warner, Denise Whitfield, Robin Whitlock, Martha Williams

Thanks also to this years sponsors and promotional partners: St. Petersburg Interfaith Association, Suncoast Institute of Noetic Sciences, The Bridge and The Connection Partners.

If you’re interested in helping out next year, or getting more involved with interfaith activities in your area, please contact me. We’re always searching for warriors willing to wage peace and build a brighter future.

Looking forward,
Joran Slane Oppelt
Founder and Committee Chair, Interfaith Week St. Pete

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Watch the mayoral proclamation of St. Pete Interfaith Week.

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The Offering of the Stones: An Integral Church Tradition

 

 

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Beginning in 2013, Integral Church has held services on the third Sunday of the month in St. Petersburg, FL. The gathering is held outdoors* at Crisp Park, a city park which features a gated area for children to play. Typically, childcare is provided for families who want to bring their young ones.

A wooden “altar” (fashioned out of an old corned beef shipping container) and a pail of stones is placed in the shady area formed by a triangle of trees. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets or cushions to form a circle around it and ensure that everyone can see (and hear) one another.

And, then, “church” starts. But it’s probably not like any church you’ve seen.

Integral Church is a community of people who have abandoned the trappings of the traditional, one-to-many worship experience found in many Christian churches as well as the rigid and dogmatic teachings of many of the Buddhist and Taoist centers.

However, at any given gathering of Integral Church, you will hear those traditions cited (as well as those of Islam, Judaism, Gnosticism, Native American/nature religions and more). That’s because Integral Spirituality includes them all. It is an interfaith and interspiritual group expression — a post-modern approach to religion and a celebration of the sacred.

It honors and includes the goodness, truth and beauty found along the cultural spectrums of the world’s faith traditions while it explores the spiritual tools and practices of its individual members.

It is the path and practice of pluralism.

*An indoor First Thursday service was added in 2015.


What follows is the current Order of Service for an Integral Church gathering. The program usually runs 90 minutes.

  1. Opening music
  2. Introductions and Announcements (6:30 p.m. or 10:30 a.m. sharp; introduction by first/last name, recognition of new guests, community announcements, upcoming events and passing of the friend-sourcing journal)
  3. Toning (the singing bowl is struck three times)
  4. Moment of Silence
  5. Offering of the Stones (see guidelines below)
  6. Music (usually a musical guest, but can be an interactive chant, kirtan or activity)
  7. Spiritual Discussion (sometimes a guest speaker, usually followed by Q&A and open discussion)
  8. Selected Reading (usually a short poem or reading from scripture or sacred text)
  9. Meditation
  10. Offertory (donations are collected in a bowl in the center of the circle)
  11. Integral Dedication (spoken in unison, standing as group members are able, and holding hands)
The beginnings of the stone collection at the very first service held at Straub Park in 2013.

The beginnings of the stone collection at the very first service held at Straub Park in 2013.

Offering of the Stones: Community Guidelines

by Joran Oppelt and Catherine St. John

Each month, we dedicate a section of our service to intentionally working together to create a “well” of love and healing for our members to tap into any time they need. The idea behind the “Offering of the Stones” ritual is a synthesis of an improvisational Neopagan “reclaiming” ritual, the candle-lighting ritual of “Joys and Concerns” from Unitarian Universalism and traditions as far-reaching as Catholic Taize prayer service and the Quaker “spirit of the meeting” — four very diverse religious ideologies.

In lieu of having a physical building or location for us to visit when we need prayer, meditation or spiritual support, we work together to create a “well” of intentions — a place to store our gratitude, love and healing; a place that may be returned to in our hearts and minds between services anytime we need.

Continue reading


Join the Resolution Revolution on December 15

Resolution-Revolution-flyer

Don’t let another year pass you by.

Stay motivated and accountable to yourself and to others by attending the Resolution Revolution event on Monday, December 15. This event is designed to help you create clarity around your goals and a blueprint for achievement.

Don’t make resolutions this year … make decisions. This powerful event will help you map out your major objectives for the year and provide you with the tools to successfully move forward with the right ATTITUDE and ACTION.

Learn how to:

Set realistic resolutions and keep them.
Get fit using wellness wisdom from around the world.
Prepare yourself for greater financial well-being.
Give your body, mind and spirit the motivation it needs.

Learn from the best in the field:

Dr. Joel Bennett, President of Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems, author of 4 books including Raw Coping Power, and developer of effective wellness programs including “The Wellness Retreat” and “Team Resilience.”

Alina Hall, certified yoga teacher, dancer, marketer and Reiki practitioner, teaches at several Tampa Bay studios and offers a variety of wellness classes and workshops through her company New World Martial Arts and Yoga.

Gary Loper, a recognized Twitter expert, Mindset Coach, motivational speaker, trainer, radio host, life and business coach, and entrepreneur, helping people master the business of life.

Joran Oppelt, author, marketing and media professional as well as an interfaith minister with 20 years of community-building and event experience.

RESOLUTION REVOLUTION presented by GO TO HEALTH, LLC
JOIN US on Monday, December 15

Unity Campus • Friendship Hall
460 46th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33703
5:30 – 6:30 (Networking and Dinner); 6:30 – 9 p.m. (Program)
$15 in advance, $20 at the door
*Dinner included in ticket price (courtesy of Rollin’ Oats)
Limited seating. Get your tickets today!

Sign up here: http://bit.ly/resolutionrevolution

A New Year, A Newer You!


UN International Day of Peace at Straub Park on Sunday, September 21

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In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly designated September 21 as International Day of Peace, a day of cease-fire and peace building activities to be celebrated around the world.

33 years later, the St. Petersburg Interfaith Association is keeping the tradition alive, and invites the community to participate in free, fun family activities; interfaith dialogue; and meet with community groups and organizations working for peace.

On Sunday, September 21 from 2-4 p.m. you can bring the entire family to South Straub Park in Downtown St. Petersburg to the UN International Day of Peace and enjoy music, activities and special guests. South Straub Park is located at 198 Bayshore Dr. NE. St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.

It’s a celebration of global peace, harmony and justice.

It’s a concert in the park that is free and open to the public.

It’s a chance to hear local leaders share their vision of peace in St. Petersburg.

Performances by: Tampa Bay Children’s Chorus, Love First Christian Center Choir, Ismaili Community Council for Florida Choir, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Choir.

Speakers include: Karl Nurse (Councilman for 6th District), Assistant Police Chief Luke Williams, Professor Bill Felice (Eckerd College), Janel Miller-Evans (president St. Pete Interfaith Association) and more.

Participating organizations include: CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), Refugee Services program of the Department of Children and Families, Edible Peace Patch and St. Petersburg Police Department.

For more information, visit http://un.org/peaceday. Those interested in sponsoring or participating, please contact Sharon Cook at 727-686-6875 or sharonfcook@gmail.com.

What: St. Pete Interfaith Association presents UN International Day of Peace
When: Sunday, September 21, 2-4 p.m.
Where: South Straub Park, 198 Bayshore Dr. NE. St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
More: Free and open to the public. All ages. Parking and restrooms available along Beach Dr. http://un.org/peaceday   #peaceday

RSVP on Facebook

DOWNLOAD FLYER:

UN-peace-day-flyer


Interfaith Week St. Petersburg 2014 (Photos and Video)

interfaith week st. petersburg proclamation

(L-R) St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Interfaith Week founder Joran Oppelt, and Ron Magray.

The first annual Interfaith Week was a success.

Thank you to everyone who attended or participated in our panel discussions and opened their campuses and communities up to those seeking to learn more about other faiths and forms of worship.

There were some great conversations, and many new friendships were started, but this is only the beginning.

Hopefully these new relationships and ongoing conversations can create a lasting effect in the greater community, whereby individuals and groups begin to see their own faiths, communities and cultures as part of a pluralistic whole. Something that exists in relationship to others, and depends on those others to give (and reinforce) meaning to their own beliefs.

Below are videos of the mayoral proclamation, the Interfaith Service at Crisp Park and a slideshow of images from the entire week.

Please keep checking back for more interfaith events.

 Mayoral proclamation of “Interfaith Week” before St. Petersburg City Council on 7/17/14.

“Faith, Hope, Love” by Ed Woltil

Ed Woltil and Swami Jinendra Kothari were special guests at the Third Sunday Interfaith Service at Crisp Park.

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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


Alchemy Fest 2014 [Photos and Video]

UPDATE: See photos from the 2014 event!

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Alchemy Fest is St. Petersburg’s 9th annual family­-friendly event featuring live music, interactive arts and crafts, food, an organic vendor marketplace, kids games and activities, dance performances, yoga, meditation, massage, workshops, magic and more! Bring the whole family and enjoy a beautiful day packed with music, art, education and fun!

Entertainment confirmed so far includes Hymn For Her, Good Graeff, Red Feather, Rebekah Pulley and Luxury Mane, plus the Noisemakers All Stars, Revolutions Dance, playshops by Rising Light, live art by Jerry Cahill and an opening ceremony featuring Jennifer Real.

There will be seven “Transformation Stations” set up throughout the event. To be entered to win the grand prize, containing donations from our sponsors and vendors, attendees must visit all stations and submit their completed “Green Cards” before the end of the day!

Visit the event page.

What: Alchemy Fest 9
When: Saturday, April 26; Noon – 6 p.m.
Where: First Unity Campus, 460 46th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 33703
Who: Live music by Hymn For Her, Good Graeff, RedFeather, Luxury Mane and Rebekah Pulley, plus the Noisemakers All Stars, Revolutions Dance, playshops by Rising Light, live art by Jerry Cahill and an opening ceremony featuring Jennifer Real.
Tickets: $10 in advance at enlivenwellnessworks.com, $12 at the door, Kids 10 and under Free; Parking available on 46th Ave. N., all ages, plenty of parking and restrooms, stroller and wheelchair-friendly

RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/661768430510307/


Alchemy Fest 2013 a Huge Success in St. Petersburg

Alchemy Fest 2013

This year, our 8th annual Alchemy Fest event was held at First Unity Spiritual Campus in St. Petersburg and as expected, this year’s event was the biggest and best so far, doubling past records at well over 4oo attendees.

This year’s event committee – Lorrie McMurrian, Jennifer Oppelt, Christa Leonard, Jessica Respondek, and Shanna Gillette – did an amazing job pulling together a much more ambitious event than we’ve done in years past – including live music, dance performances, workshops, a vendor marketplace, and 7 interactive “Transformation Stations” which included everything from guided meditation and chair massage to hula hooping and face painting.

We’re also very grateful to our huge crew of volunteers (Jake Respondek, Dan McMurrian, Tanya Sharkey, Lil Reisman, Sarah Davis, Charlie Forsyth, Ashley Butler, Chelsea Greene, Trina Hill, Dwayne Scheuneman, Joel Conrad, Catherine St. John and Gina Smith), as well as the amazing staff at First Unity (Denise, Neil, and Sharon).

Shanna captured some amazing photographs of the festivities as well as performances by RedFeather, Geri X, Sons of Hippies, The Gita and Rise of Saturn. Check out the gallery below.

This year’s presenting sponsors were Thank You Mama and Number 9 Salon.

If you were there and have stories and/or feedback from the event, please share it in the comments section. I can’t express how thankful I am to everyone that has helped grow this event into such an amazing and meaningful annual gathering for our community. Every one of you have my sincere thanks and profound gratitude.

Joran Oppelt
President, Integral Church

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Video of the Opening Ceremony, featuring Joe Terrana and Raihan Alam


Religion 2.0: The Formation of the Integral Church

You 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.

Why?

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


Juicing Workshop at First Unity Campus on November 17

Why is everyone talking about juicing and why should you care?

Integral Church is proud to be a sponsor of this upcoming workshop alongside Enliven Wellness Works. The workshop will be led by our good friend Kelly Lessem (Squeeze Juiceworks, Kelly’s Yoga and Massage Garage).

Join us on Saturday, November 17 from Noon – 2 p.m. for a discussion on home juicing, cleansing, and what the heck it all means. See a live demonstration of real, raw food being juiced and taste the delicious results. A Q&A session will follow with some socializing, snacks and refreshments.

Register here / RSVP here on Facebook.

Juicing 101 [Workshop]
Saturday, November 17
Noon – 2 p.m.
First Unity Campus – Friendship Hall
460 46th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33703; (727) 527-2222
$10 in advance; $15 suggested love offering at the door

TESTIFY: Read Joran’s transformative daily journal from his five-day juice cleanse.