Refugee Response: Heartbeat Announces $5000 Grant to Annunciation House

Ruben Garcia, Annunciation House Founder

Ruben Garcia, Annunciation House Founder

“When I speak to congregations, everybody understands the gospel meaning of welcoming the stranger.”  So said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, when I spoke to him last week. While the moral imperative to welcome the stranger is clear in the abstract, it is often difficult to put into practice for many.  Father Garcia has been welcoming migrants and refugees for nearly 40 years at his center in the heart of his downtown El Paso, at the geographic center of the U.S.-Mexico border.  The humble building on a triangular lot has provided shelter to more than 100,000 migrants.  Today he considers the political climate chilling and our immigration system increasingly unjust with devastating consequences to families.

About a month ago, Annunciation House was receiving roughly 1,000 refugees a week; that number has slowed to a trickle.  The U.S. has moved to a detention model for many asylum seekers, and Annunciation House usually receives migrants who have recently been released from detention.  Mexico is ill-equipped to handle the global refugees that continue to pour into their country headed north, after a trek across the Central American jungle, often through as many as eight countries.

We at Heartbeat are concerned with the global refugee crisis, which according to the U.N. Refugee Agency saw numbers of displaced people reach a global high in 2016, surpassing even the numbers from World War II.  The Refugee Fund  that we established last year in honor of John Philip Newell’s father has already funded a group of students who set up solar charging stations on the island of Lesbos.

Annunciation House

Annunciation House

Today, we announce that Heartbeat is providing a donation of $5,000 to Annunciation House in El Paso as they continue their refugee work, meeting not only the immediate needs of individuals and families, but advocating for a humane response to the plight of migrants and fighting against the rampant misinformation that is informing recent policy decisions in the U.S.  While this amount is nominal based on the needs of this organization (food, diapers, clothing, formula, maintenance), we hope to challenge others to support this important work.

We recognize the plight of migrants worldwide, we celebrate the universal human family, and we say to those who are coming here fleeing war and violence, “We Stand With You” and “Estamos con ustedes!”

Vanessa Johnson, Treasurer for Heartbeat

El Paso, Texas

To support future initiatives responding to the refugee crises, please make a contribution to the William James Newell Refugee Fund.

Rob Bell Interviews John Philip Newell

JPN & Rob Bell
“There is an awareness that Christianity as we know it is in trouble.”
-John Philip Newell
Rob Bell interviews John Philip Newell in a discussion that delves into his most recent publication,  The Rebirthing of God . Recorded for the “Robcast at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, USA,  Rob skillfully guides a fascinating conversation that explores the movements within Christian spirituality in our time. The chemistry between these two teachers makes for a conversation that you don’t want to miss!
Click here to stream the Robcast

From Pilgrimage to Creativity Workshops

Last year I received a Heartbeat scholarship for a pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona with John Philip Newell.  It was a unique experience in a magical place, and I am still incredibly grateful to have been gifted that experience.  To be on that island, which has such a long history, where the weather changes every half an hour and the land is so often shrouded in mist, it’s not hard to feel a strong connection to the spiritual.

One of the messages I took from my time with John Philip was that it’s up to me to create the world I want to live in, for myself and for others.

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Iona pilgrims Kathryn Shanks (left), Cami Twilling (center), and Ian Brownlee (right)

There’s a thread that runs through all Celtic Christian teaching that says the world is just fine as it is, and you are whole as you are.  This idea is counter to mainstream Christianity, which is based around the idea of original sin.  When we see the world as a place that has fallen from grace, nature is not sacred, trees are not alive, and nothing that comes innately from ourselves is good.  What a sad philosophy.  It’s no wonder that this attitude has given way to secular western materialism.  The philosophy that comes from the Celtic tradition is much healthier.  It says that what comes from nature is good, and therefore our own human nature is good.  We don’t need to be purified of the evil that is within us, we accept ourselves and embrace our own nature, which includes our sexuality and our creativity.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an artist.  It has always come naturally to me (though whether it’s coming from me or through me I don’t know.)  I have always found that when I try to steer my creativity, or in any way to impose my conscious will on this unconscious process, it doesn’t work.  Creativity is a wild thing that must be given its independence.  If you try to cage it, its spirit will die.

 To be an artist is to be a complete person: to embrace all the parts of ourselves.

One of the messages I took from my time with John Philip was that it’s up to me to create the world I want to live in, for myself and for others.  He encouraged me to share my perspective and my experience, because my impact on the world is greater than I realize.  As an artist, my way of communicating with others is through paintings.  Art is an extremely valuable form of communication, but it’s not very direct.  I wanted to engage with people more fully, to make myself useful in the world. Through talking with friends, the idea for creativity workshops was born.

I’ve taught art to children and adults, and I’ve found that each requires a different style of teaching.  Kids have a lot of enthusiasm for art: it comes to them as naturally as walking or breathing.  Teaching them is about managing their energy-levels and introducing art-making methods and materials.  With adults it’s much more complicated; they come to me to learn technical skills, but what I find they need more is a renewed connection to their creativity.  They want to be creative, but they find themselves blocked.  Somewhere in adolescence, we’re introduced to the idea that there’s such a thing as “good” and “bad” art, and we want to make sure we’re not doing it badly.  We become self-conscious, and we stop doing things that we love for fear of judgment.  This is very sad to me, because I feel that art belongs to everyone.  Drawing, sculpting, writing, singing, dancing: these are integral parts of being human.  For someone to give up doing something that brings them joy is to bury a part of themselves.

The idea for the creativity workshops was to take what I’d learned from teaching art to adults, drop the emphasis on technical skills and focus on the creative process.  This way the lessons are applicable to any discipline.  The roadblocks that stop one from painting are the same ones that stop one from dancing, playing an instrument, or writing: it’s all self-judgment.

Over the years that I’ve been working as an artist, I’ve also been practicing Zen meditation and mindfulness practice.  I’ve applied that awareness to the creative process, and I’ve confronted a lot of the obstacles that can get in the way of creative expression.  And here’s the funny part: there really aren’t that many.  If we can learn to spot just a few unhealthy thought-patterns, we can avoid the pitfalls that shut-down our creativity.  Once we see how unhelpful many of our thoughts are, it becomes easier to recognize them and move beyond them.

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The baptism of one of our pilgrims, Kate Collins-Thompson, at Columba’s Bay

The other important part of any creativity workshop is play: we make things because it’s fun.  What are you doing if you’re not judging yourself?  You’re having a good time, experimenting, mixing things together, stacking them up, rolling around on the ground, climbing trees, making music with pots and pans: basically being a kid. It’s from that sense of expansiveness and experimentation that all art comes.  Even a novelist who writes about difficult and painful subjects takes joy in the way the words are put together.  So in each session, however deep the  subjects we’re discussing, we always leave time for fun.  We draw without looking at our paper, make sculptures out of unusual materials, and come up with new ways of composing poems.  We also do exercises that get us thinking outside the box, which can expand our capacity for creative thinking.

What I’ve found so far is that there’s a strong desire for this sort of workshop.  Everyone who I’ve spoken with would like a deeper connection to their creative side; everyone has a project or craft they’d like to start or work on more often.  Attendees have told me they found the exercises we did to be powerful and important.  The most exciting parts for me have been when I have stepped back and let the participants share their experiences.  There’s so much wisdom in every roomful of people; sometimes all we need is for someone to suggest a subject to speak on.  The group conversations foster a sense of community and of shared-experience that is vital to any creative life.

So far I’ve held workshops in Minnesota and California.  Those sessions were held to an hour and a half, but the more I look into this subject, the more I realize there is to do.  So next will come a four-part series in my home-town of Asheville, North Carolina, that will allow us to approach this subject in greater depth.

As I plan my workshops, I think about the time I spent on Iona and about the example that John Philip sets for all of us.  He embodies that spirit of play, of self-acceptance, and the willingness to look deeply into the darker sides of life when that is what’s called for.  To be an artist is to be a complete person: to embrace all the parts of ourselves.  When we live in cultures that are built around shame, conformity, and self-improvement, it takes a lot of bravery to accept oneself.  That journey to self-acceptance is at the heart of spirituality, and it’s also necessary to live a full, creative life.

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Ian Brownlee and his wife Kathryn Shanks live in Asheville, NC. Ian received a scholarship from Heartbeat to attend the Iona Pilgrimage with John Philip Newell in September of 2015. Please visit his website, Art By Ian Brownlee and learn more about his Creativity Workshops.

Giving Tuesday

Will you join us? It is Giving Tuesday and we are hoping that you will take a moment to send a gift to Heartbeat. Your generosity helps us advance our Celtic vision, provide scholarships for pilgrimage and retreat, and create environments for interfaith and intergenerational relationship. Our work is needed now, more than ever, and we need you to help us accomplish our mission!
http://heartbeatjourney.org/donate-now/

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2014 Camino Peace Pilgrimage Cohort

Join Heartbeat’s community of supporters and the movement of healing and transformation by making a contribution today. Together we can make a difference!

A Prayer for Grace

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The ageless mountains are full of your glory
the vast seas swell with your might
the shining skies expand beyond our imagining
so we pause to praise
we wait in wonder
we listen to learn
of the mountain glory within us
of the sea force in our veins
of love’s shining infinity.
Grant us the grace, O God,
to serve this inner universe of soul among us.
-from Praying With the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace by John Philip Newell. Photo courtesy of Chuck Summers.

Christ is our Memory

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One of the greatest teachers in the Celtic world, John Scotus Eriugena in ninth-century Ireland, taught that Christ is our memory. We suffer from the “soul’s forgetfulness,” he says. Christ comes to reawaken us to our true nature. He is our epiphany. He comes to show us the face of God. He comes to show us also our face, the true face of the human soul. This leads the Celtic tradition to celebrate the relationship between nature and grace. Instead of grace being viewed as opposed to our essential nature or as somehow saving us from ourselves, nature and grace are viewed as flowing together from God. They are both sacred gifts. The gift of nature, says Eriugena, is the gift of “being”; the gift of grace, on the other hand, is the gift of “well-being.” Grace is given to reconnect us to our true nature. At the heart of our being is the image of God, and thus the wisdom of God, the creativity of God, the passions of God, the longings of God. Grace is opposed not to what is deepest in us but to what is false in us. It is given to restore us to the core of our being and to free us from the unnaturalness of what we are doing to one another and to the earth.

Christ is often referred to in the Celtic tradition as the truly natural one. He comes not to make us more than natural or somehow other than natural but to make us truly natural. He comes to restore us to the original root of our being. As the twentieth-century French mystic-scientist Teilhard de Chardin says much later in the Celtic world, grace is “the seed of resurrection” sown in our nature. It is given not to make us something other than ourselves but to make us radically ourselves. Grace is given not to implant in us a foreign wisdom but to make us alive to the wisdom that was born with us in our mother’s womb. Grace is given not to lead us into another identity but to reconnect us to the beauty of our deepest identity. And grace is given not that we might find some exterior source of strength but that we might be established again in the deep inner security of our being and in learning to lose ourselves in love for one another to truly find ourselves.

-from  Christ of the Celts: the Healing of Creation by John Philip Newell. Photo by Chuck Summers.

A Prayer for Today | John Philip Newell

Be strong, O my soul,

Be strong this day

To face this moment and feel its pain

To cry with our mothers and weep for our daughters

To stand by our fathers and sons of colour

And defend our true brothers and sisters of the Qu’ran

To serve compassion rather than fear

To invoke wisdom instead of ignorance

 To elect humility over false pride

Be strong, O my soul,

Be strong this day

Be strong this day for love.

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John Philip Newell

November 9, 2016JPN_(Iona_MN)

Board Member Transitions: An Abundance of Gratitude

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Front row from left: Ben Lindwall, John Philip Newell, Robert McClellan. Middle row: Ali Newell, Margaret Anne Fohl. Back row: Frannie Kieschnick, Roy Barsness, Helenmarie Zachritz, Vanessa Johnson, Karin Baard, Steve Romeyn.

John Philip and Ali Newell nominated two people to join the Board of Directors: Karin Baard and Roy Barsness.

Karin was one of the scholars on the first Camino Peace Pilgrimage in 2014 and just finished co-leading a trip with Rob McClellan on the same route. She was also a participant in our Pilgrimage Training last summer. Karin is from Brunswick, Maine and works with women healing from domestic abuse. She is also fluent in Spanish.

Roy is a professor at the Seattle School of Theology and also a psychologist. He has brought two groups of students to be with John Philip on Iona. He has also organized multiple events featuring John Philip at the Seattle School. Roy is married with two children.

In his second year on the board, Steve Romeyn was elected chair, replacing Vanessa Johnson. Vanessa will stay on the board through next summer, fulfilling her term. John Philip and Ali expressed deepest gratitude to Vanessa for her leadership and guidance during her two years of service in this capacity. Steve moves into the position with extensive business experience as a property developer in the Atlanta Area and with membership on the board for Habitat for Humanity.

Finishing their terms, Helenmarie Zachritz of Española, NM and Mary Ann Bumgarner of Tulsa, OK were honored for their extensive work and guidance as early partners in Heartbeat’s formation. Mary Ann was one of the founding board members for the organization which was first known as The Friends of John Philip Newell and Helenmarie was the first paid director. She resigned and joined the board of directors when Ben Lindwall became Executive Director in 2013. Both Mary Ann and Helenmarie were given Celtic crosses from the Isle of Iona to commemorate their involvement.

Our Journey Forward

Image 11-3-16 at 11.17 AMOver a year ago the Heartbeat board launched a project to create a strategic plan to bring clarity and focus to the organization’s work. A survey was sent to Heartbeat supporters on February 15, 2016 in an effort to understand perception and hear feedback. A special committee convened in Palo Alto, CA on February 22, 2016 to lay a foundation for this process, led by consultant Ted Scott of Larkspur California. Ted was recommended by board member Rob McClellan because of his extensive experience in guiding churches, non-profits, and companies through change. He was instrumental in naming Heartbeat’s work and guiding the board on a path to move the process forward. After the initial meeting, Steve Romeyn, Ben Lindwall, and Ted Scott continued the process and worked with the entire board to make adjustments, understand, and commit to the plan that was being developed. The plan was then presented and approved during the Annual Board Meeting.

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During this process, it became apparent that it was time to update Heartbeat’s Identity Statements to more accurately reflect the work of the organization. The subtitle was slightly adjusted from “A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing” to “A Sacred Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing”. We also developed new purpose, mission and vision statements. They are as follows:

Purpose:

Advancing the Celtic vision of John Philip and Ali Newell, listening for the heartbeat of the Sacred in all things.

Vision:

Healing in the world by honoring the earth and strengthening relationship across faiths, nations, races, genders, generations, and economic divides.

Mission :

Expanding sacred vision, deepening spiritual practice, nurturing reflective community, and enabling action for change.

This guided the finalization of our strategic plan, which has three specific goals, each containing a list of strategies:

Advance the Celtic vision of John Philip and Ali Newell

  • Promote JPN Message
  • Promote JPN Events
  • Support Celtic Consciousness Schools
  • Promote Heartbeat activities

Foster engagement through pilgrimage and action initiatives

  • Develop action initiatives
  • Expand Heartbeat Pilgrimage Program
  • Develop Heartbeat Gatherings
  • Offer scholarships for pilgrimage, retreat and special projects 

Increase funding for operations, scholarship, pilgrimage, events, and projects

  • Solicit funds through letters, advertising, meetings and phone calls
  • Cultivate Heartbeat donor community
  • Grow new donor base
  • Win Grants

We expect this plan to bring clarity and focus to the work of Heartbeat as the organization grows and matures.

John Philip Newell Launches Schools of Celtic Consciousness in California, Colorado, New England, and Virginia

Iona SunriseJohn Philip Newell has launched an exciting new initiative, the School of Celtic Consciousness. Its purpose is threefold.

  1. To extend the study of Celtic spirituality
  2. To deepen spiritual practice
  3. To nurture reflective community and enable action for change

The School of Celtic Consciousness (SCC) will convene with John Philip Newell as teacher four times each year:

  • The California SCC (Winter)
  • The Colorado SCC (Spring)
  • The New England SCC (Summer)
  • The Virginia SCC (Autumn)

Each school will be on an individual three-year track. Participants are welcome to join at any point (starting during the first year, for instance, is not necessary). In 2017 the dates and locations will be as follows:

(Each of the regions will also host quarterly gatherings to nurture study, spiritual practice, community, and action.)

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John Philip Newell

For many years now John Philip Newell has been regarded as one of the most prominent teachers of Celtic spirituality. In a statement to Heartbeat he said, ‘We hope that the School of Celtic Consciousness will be a legacy of Celtic wisdom for today, to further enable the sacred work of healing and transformation in our lives and world.’