Prayer and Thanksgiving

In the beginning O God
You shaped my soul and set its weave
You formed my body
and gave it breath.
Renew me this day
in the image of your love.
O great God, grant me your light
O great God, grant me your grace
O great God, grant me
your joy this day
And let me be made pure
in the well of your health.

From Celtic Prayers from Iona by John Philip Newell | Photo by Susan Izard

The Descent of the Spirit

The Descent of the Spirit by Jacques Lipchitz in the cloisters of Iona Abbey

In New Harmony, Indiana, there is a modern place of prayer that addresses [the yearning to bring back into relationship again so-called opposites…the masculine and the feminine…the humanity and the life of the earth]. It is called the Roofless Church. It has four defining walls, but there is no roof. Like the Nunnery [on Iona], it sits open to the elements. It was created under the inspiration of Jane Blaffer Owen (1915-2010), one of the most beautiful and wise women I have ever known. Over fifty years ago, well in advance of today’s earth awareness movement, Jane Owen say that our sacred sites must not be characterized by division from the creatures and from earth’s other peoples and religious traditions.

At the heart of the Roofless Church is a sculpture by the Jewish artist Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973). It is called The Descent of the Spirit. In the form of a dove the Spirit descends onto an abstract divine feminine form that opens to give birth. At one level Lipchitz is pointing to the Jesus story, conceived by the Spirit in the womb of Mary. At another level he is pointing to the universe story. Everything is conceived by the Spirit in the womb of the cosmos. Everything is sacred.

Jane Owen met Lipchitz in New York City at the end of the Second World War through the German-American theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965). Lipchitz had escaped Nazi-occupied France with the help of a Roman Catholic priest in Plateau d’Assy. Even before his escape, he had conceived the idea of the sculpture. In New York he shared his vision with Jane Owen. She commissioned him to create three casts of the piece. One was to be in the Roofless Church of New Harmony. The second was to be in the parish church of Assy in France. The third was to be in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The cathedral leaders agreed in principle to feature the sculpture, but when they saw it, they refused to accept it. It was too explicit in representation of the Divine Feminine opening to give birth. So instead, as Jane Owen explained to me when I met her many years later, they commissioned another artist to create a statue of George Washington riding a horse! The young Jane Owen was upset by their refusal. She went to New York to pour our her soul to a religious sister who told her there was someone visiting from Scotland whom she should meet. His name was George MacLeod (1895-1991). He and his young Scottish community were in the midst of rebuilding Iona Abbey.

I would have loved to be there for that first meeting. Jane Owen was as formidable a feminine presence as George MacLeod was a masculine energy. They later became good friends, but on that first occasion they had only a few minutes together. Jane said to George, “The third cast belongs on Iona.” To which George replied, ” We Presbyterians would find it difficult to live with a sculpture of Our Lady, but if she were to arrive with a dowry we would find it easier to live with her.” So she arrived with a dowry, and that dowry paid for the rebuilding of the cloisters of Iona Abbey.

George MacLeod was right, of course. Scottish Presbyterians would not find it easy to live with a sculpture of Our Lady, and especially its explicit feminine birthing form. Nor would they find it easy to live with Lipchitz’s name for the piece, Our Lady of Delight. They might not know what to do with the Divine Feminine, but they also would not know what to do with delight! So MacLeod renamed the sculpture The Descent of the Spirit, and there she sits in the cloisters of Iona Abbey. Every time I see her I feel that her time has come. More and more it can be said that she belongs to this moment in time. She represents the recovery of the feminine that we are in the midst of, and with the feminine a recovery of the awareness that everything that is born is sacred.

Newell, John Philip. The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings. Vermont: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2014. | Photo by Karin Baard

Prayer of Awareness

All things come from you, O God,
and to you we return.
All things emerge in your great river of life
and into you we vanish again.
At the beginning of this day
we wake
not as separate streams
but as countless currents in a single flow
the flow of this day’s dawning
the flow of this day’s delight
the flow of this day’s sorrows
your flow, O God,
in the twisting and turnings of this new day.

Be still and aware. 

From Praying with the Earth by John Philip Newell | Photo by Karin Baard

The First Breath of Day


It is in the depths of life that we find you
at the heart of this moment
at the centre of our soul
deep in the earth and its eternal stirrings.
You are the Ground of all being
the Well-Spring of time
Womb of the earth
the Seed-Force of stars.
And so at the opening of this day
we wait
not for blessings from afar
but for You
the very Soil of our soul
the early Freshness of morning
the first Breath of day.

Be still and aware

John Philip Newell | Praying with the Earth | Photo by Jonas Weckschmied on Unsplash


John Muir Pilgrimage Reflection from Ali Newell

In May, John Philip and Ali Newell led a group of University of Edinburgh faculty and students on a two-day pilgrimage along the John Muir Way in Scotland. Below is a reflection from Ali about their time together, and after her reflection you’ll also find a short video made by one of the participants, Adam Hussein.
John Muir Way in Scotland | Photo by Ali Newell

John Muir Way in Scotland | Photo by Ali Newell

I would say there is no better way to reconnect to our Mother Earth and to know her as gift than to go for a walk!

John Muir said, ‘Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves’ (John Muir, Our National Parks: 1901).

For two days, eighteen staff and students at Edinburgh University walked thirty two miles of the John Muir Way in Scotland. Our pilgrimage route took us along the coastal route from Aberlady Bay to North Berwick and then inland before finishing at John Muir’s birthplace in Dunbar.

We listened to John Philip expand on John Muir readings along the way reminding us of Muir’s prophetic vision of ecological consciousness arising from Muir’s study and deep appreciation of nature. As we stood amongst blue forget-me-nots surrounded by trees in a magical wood, Muir’s words written about a different forest connected also for us.

John Philip Newell on the John Muir Way in Scotland

John Philip Newell on the John Muir Way in Scotland | Photo by Glen Cousquer

‘Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish’ (John Muir,  The National Parks and Forest Reservations).

Glen Cousquer, our wilderness guide helped us pause and notice as he introduced us to the birds, animals and plants of the area – the whole hidden world alive around us.

‘How many hearts with warm red blood in them are beating under cover of the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining! A multitude of animal people, intimately related to us, but of whose lives we know almost nothing, are as busy about their own affairs as we are about ours’(John Muir, Our National Parks: 1901, Chapter 1).

Glen also brought home how much the ecosystem was affected by the farming and the many golf courses around us and drew our attention to the importance of the Aberlady Bay nature reserve and other Scottish conservation areas.


John Muir Way in Scotland | Photo by Ali Newell

John Muir wrote powerfully about the thoughtless destruction of the natural environment and campaigned tirelessly for wilderness parks.

‘These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar Dam, in the valley HetchHetchy. As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man’ (John Muir, The Yosemite: 1912, Chapter 15).

Our contemplative times in silence on the pilgrimage were opportunities to take time to value more deeply the sights and sounds around us and be present to nature’s healing and reenergising power.

‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike’
(John Muir, The Yosemite: 1912, Page 256).

At Canty Bay where we stopped overnight, we had an amazing meal of vegetarian haggis and rhubarb crumble prepared by two French students, Tiffany and Pela. The food was locally sourced, fresh and organic and, for us weary pilgrims, it was a taste of heaven. In the evening, Beth led us in a beautiful earth-honoring liturgy round a fire on the beach. In the mist, Adam danced a piece on the sand which he had choreographed for the pilgrimage. We listened to Donald playing fiddle tunes (Muir loved fiddle music and ballads) and then as a full moon rose over the hill, we had nothing to do but gaze and join the moon in its prayer of light.

Donald fiddles for the group on the beach | Photo by Ali Newell

Donald fiddles for the group on the beach | Photo by Ali Newell

‘My fire was in all its glory about midnight, and, having made a bark shed to shelter me from the rain and partially dry my clothing, I had nothing to do but look and listen and join the trees in their hymns and prayers’ 
(John Muir, Travels in Alaska: 1915, Chapter 2).

 On the second day we finished at John Muir’s birthplace to remember his prophetic gift to Scotland and North America and paused at the end to become aware of what environmental actions or campaigning or change in lifestyle we might like to take as a result of spending time on the John Muir way.

Looking back on our time together, one of our reflections afterwards about the second day was that we would have preferred slowing down more as the pace was very challenging. Muir had something interesting to say about just that which relates to pilgrimage and its sense of walking in order to value what is sacred.

‘Albert Palmer tells of a conversation he had with John Muir on the trail. He asked Muir, “Someone told me you did not approve of the word hike. Is that so? Muir’s blue eyes flashed, and with his Scottish accent he replied: “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them’ (John Muir, as quoted by Albert W. Palmer,  The Mountain Trail and its Message).

Ali Newell

Film by Adam Hussein on the John Muir Way in Scotland, May 2018


Rob Bell Interviews John Philip Newell


In February, Rob Bell and John Philip Newell got together again for a riveting night of conversation, contemplation, and, when Rob Bell is involved, of course laughter. Recorded live at Largo – a stalwart and intimate music and comedy club in Los Angeles – their conversation was then converted into an episode of Rob Bell’s podcast, The RobCast. When these two teachers get talking, it’s electric. And it doesn’t hurt that they enjoy being together!

This interview uses John Philip’s book Christ of the Celts as an anchoring point, but covers a wide range of topics – original sin, the true meaning of being “born again”, the diaspora of the Christian household, grace, and more. Trust us – you don’t want to miss this stimulating, thought provoking, and at times delightfully glib and cheerful conversation.

Here’s what Rob Bell has to say about John Philip Newell:

“There are distinct moments in your life when somebody came along and their words were exactly what you needed for that next stage of your path…either they were showing you what’s possible at the exact moment you needed it or they gave language to the thing that you’ve been feeling but didn’t know what to call it…I discovered JPN a couple of years ago and when I started reading him, I was just overwhelmed..He seemed to be naming things that I had been feeling but didn’t have the depth or understanding for.”

And John Philip Newell on Rob Bell:

“I love Rob Bell, his open-eyed wonder at life, his understanding of pain and struggle, and his faith-filled capacity to keep unfolding. And, not least of all, he is more fun than any spiritual teacher I have known.”


  • Listen on Rob Bell’s website here.
  • Listen on your favorite Podcast app by searching for RobCast and looking for Episode 203, released on July 2, 2018, titled “Live from Largo with John Philip Newell”.

Reconnecting with Spiritual Practice

Hermit's Cell on Iona

Hermit’s Cell on Iona

One sign of rebirthing, not only within the Christian household but also in the lives of many in the Western world today who do not identify with any particular religious tradition, is a reconnecting with spiritual practice. In the last two decades there has been an enormous burst of interest in yoga and other practices from the East, based on ancient teachings and disciplines that combine physical rigor with spiritual awareness. Likewise, we have seen a resurgence of labyrinth building in our church and public parks, and a reclaiming of other simple contemplative tools that speak of the desire to recover practices from the past to promote the rebirthing of spiritual well-being today.

One of the stations of the Iona pilgrimage is the Hermit’s Cell. It sits at the heart of the island. No more than a circular ruin of stones, it is the remains of an ancient Celtic beehive hut. Legend has it that Columba and his brothers would retreat there in turn for periods of solitude and prayer as a balance to their life together in community. The Hermit’s Cell stands as a sign of the relationship between contemplation and action, silence and expression, solitude and relationship.

On pilgrimage to the Hermit’s Cell I was once asked how many monks used to live here – a question that reveals the disorientation among many moderns in approaching the ancient practices of solitude and stillness. An interesting feature of the Iona Hermit’s Cell is its location. It is hidden amid hills in the interior of the island, so people often get lost trying to find it. They become disoriented. Similarly, so much of our culture, including our religious inheritance, has felt lost when it comes to spiritual practice. But we are in the midst of a reawakening.

One of the things that we remember on pilgrimage as we approach the Hermit’s Cell in silence together is that reclaiming the relationship between stillness and action, or between solitude and relationship, is part of the desire to come back into relationship with the wisdom of nature’s rhythms. The earth knows its patterns of night followed by day, of winter barrenness succeeded by spring energy and summer fruiting, of long periods of infolding and dormancy followed by seasons of unfolding and the expression of seed-force. We know that if we do not give ourselves over to the darkness and dreaming of nighttime, entering its intimate invitation to sleep and rest, we will be only half-awake to the demands and creativity of the day. Yet at other levels we forget the natural patterns that we are part of. Or we pretend that we can be deeply engaged and productive while pushing ourselves and others in ways that are antithetical to the essential rhythms of earth’s cycles and seasons.

Newell, John Philip. The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New BeginningsVermont: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2014. | Photo by Karin Baard


Photo by Luca Campioni on Unsplash

Photo by Luca Campioni on Unsplash

The Spirit is doing a new thing.  It is springing forth now in our consciousness, among every people, in every discipline, in every walk of life.  Do we see it?  And shall we serve it?  A new Pentecost is stirring in the human soul.  Will we open to this moment of grace and be led into relationships of oneness we could never before have imagined?[1]

This is how the 2011 A New Harmony concludes, noticing a new consciousness and asking in succession “Do we…” “shall we…” and “Will we…”  Seven years later, it would be tempting to offer a negative response.  It does not seem as though we see it, nor that we shall serve it, nor even that we will be open to it.  But, this would be a premature conclusion.

Harmony is a fitting concept, notes coming together, distinct yet working in concert to make a beautiful sound, one that can onlybe made by a coming together.  When we look at what is happening along the southern U.S. border, and the reverberations across this land and around the world, we might better describe it as dissonance.  The cries of the children torn from parents under the illusion of showers, these children left lying under foil blankets reportedly drugged.  Dissonant.  The cries for justice from those of us seeing these pictures, clutching our own children more tightly and blanketed by our own sense of helplessness. Dissonant.  The different tunes not sung but shouted at one another by those on distant ends of the political scale.  Dissonant. Will these notes come together again to sing some semblance of a song?  In moments of such angst, Newell often refers us to the Dalai Lama who maintains with his joyful disposition that the future is not yet decided.  What part shall we play in that decision, in a tuning process?

There is reason to believe we are closer to harmony than we may think.  If you have ever tuned a guitar to itself, you will know the familiar sound of playing two notes in succession, audible waves emanating at intervals that indicate the distance between the two notes. The closer the notes get to being in tune, the faster the waves pulse and the more unsettled the sound is.  Then, with little warning, the waves align, and the notes come together as one.  It is uncomfortably dissonant just before the notes release into one another.

Just as Newell reminds us that fundamentalism, the tight grasping onto the old, the desperate yet futile grabbing onto what is slipping away, is one response to change, we can choose to respond differently.  We can honor the passing away and make room for something else to come into being, and we can dare to think that new thing could be something more beautiful.  Are these death pains we are experiencing or birth pangs?  Perhaps, they are both.  Bandages often lay at the scene of each, accompanied by sweat, sometimes blood, and always tears.  Always tears. We can bury our tears and drown out the sounds of the struggle that accompanies each of these realities, or we can be fully present to them and allow them to touch us.  If we are there for the death, we will be on hand for the birth.

Newell concludes The Rebirthing of God, written closer to our time, by naming this historical moment as uncertain.  He points us to our dreams as source for new beginnings.[2]  Yolanda King, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., the great Civil Rights activist, the great lover of Jesus, was asked to speak at a rally that arose in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  At only 9 years old, it was Yolanda’s presence that was as remarkable as her words, a living link to one who helped us dream a different way of being into reality.  At an accompanying interview her words spoke of another dream, one connected to this old dreamer.

The interviewer asked the young King, “You never knew your grandfather, but knowing that everything you have heard, what do you think that he would think about you and this movement?”

King responded, “He would probably be amazed that all of these people are getting together.”  Her answer seemed simple enough…and then she continued, “And a few days ago, I had a dream about him.”

“You did not!” gasped the interviewer in surprise.  New realities breaking in are hard to accept, but the interviewer recovered, “Tell me about that dream.”

Yolanda described seeing her grandfather in a museum, and he’d come back to life.  It was fuzzy—that’s how dream reality is—but she could see all these reporters and cameras gathered around him trying to interview him, and while she could not recall precisely what he said, she took from the dream sequence that her grandfather was with her in these times.[3]  Think about that image, people leaning in to hear King’s voice again, the prophetic voice from beyond us and yet somehow clearly deep within us.

Something is happening.  We are told that when some heard the voice of Jesus, they thought he was John the Baptist from beyond the grave, others Elijah, and still others other prophets.  The prophets are speaking again.  Do we hear it?

We have often considered our religious traditions for what they have to say, but perhaps the gift they have to offer us all now is how to listen.  Can we listen for the heartbeat of God that is pulsing through creation, affirming the sacredness of all things, reminding us to reach not for our fundamentals but for our fundamental oneness?  Out of this rhythm, let us then speak, let us put our bodies where bodies are being torn apart, and let us be living instruments of this tuning.  Let us hear it.  Let us serve it.  Let us be open to it.

Rob McClellan
Heartbeat Board

– – –

Last year, Heartbeat created our Refugee Fund in memory of John Philip Newell’s father who had an incredible passion for helping refugees the world over. While our Refugee Fund is only one of our initiatives at Heartbeat, it typifies why we exist as a foundation: to foster and support compassionate action. Last year, Heartbeat granted a $5,000 grant to Annunciation House in El Paso to support their work with refugees. Annunciation House not only meets the immediate needs of individuals and families (many being released from detention), but also advocates for a humane response to the plight of migrants and fights against the rampant misinformation that is influencing recent policy decisions in the U.S.  Heartbeat is committed to continuing to support the work of Annunciation House and other similar organizations working to care for migrants and refugees. You can contribute to this work but giving to Heartbeat’s Refugee Fund, by clicking here.


[1]John Philip Newell, A New Harmony:  The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul(San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, 2011), 175.

[2]John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God:  Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings(Woodstock:  SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2014), 124.


My Faith Compels Me To Act

Frannie Kieschnick with other women of faith in Hildago, TX Photo Credit: David F. Choy | Facebook: David F. Choy | Instagram: @davidfchoy

Frannie Kieschnick with other women of faith in Hildago, TX
Photo Credit: David F. Choy | Facebook: David F. Choy | Instagram: @davidfchoy

In an email to us before she left for Texas with a delegation of twelve other women of faith to bear witness to the experiences and protest the treatment of migrant and refugee families on the border, our dear friend and board member Frannie Kieschnick so simply and powerfully wrote, “my faith compels me to act.”

She also referenced a sermon by Susan Russell at All Saints Pasadena who quoted Salam Al-Marayati, the president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council and who has been recognized for his commitment to improving the public understanding of Islam and policies impacting American Muslims: “I have seen the face of extremism in many parts of the world; extremism which is the violation of one simple principle and commandment of all our religions: Defend human dignity. And when you tear families apart, you violate the very essence of who God calls us to be.”

The face of extremism can be found right now at our country’s border, in our homeland, as people seeking and begging for dignity are violated. John Philip Newell wrote in his book A New Harmony“think of the hubris of our lives. Think of our individual arrogance, the way we pursue our own well-being at the neglect and even expense of other individuals and other families. Think of the hubris of our nationhood, pretending that we could look after the safety of our homeland by ignoring and even violating the sovereignty of other lands…the way of hubris pretends that we can be well by oppressing, by exploiting another people in order to serve our own people…it pretends that we can be well by depriving, by denying to others and to other species what we ourselves most cherish.”

We cannot love God and hate or hurt others. For truly there is no other – we are all one. The Oneness, the Sacred, is at the heart of all people, and it is a falseness to believe that we can love ourselves and demean others.

Please follow the delegation’s journey at @Revfhk1 and @FaithPublicLife on Twitter and Facebook. We, at Heartbeat, will be following and sharing their updates from the border. In the next few days, we will also be sharing ways that you can support the work being done at the border to help our neighbors.

To Frannie and the other women of faith in Texas, and to you reading, we pray, “In body, mind, and spirit may you be well this day, and may you be strong for the work of healing in the world.”


Heartbeat board member Frannie Kieschnick  Photo credit: David F. Choy | Facebook: David F. Choy | Instagram: @davidfchoy

Heartbeat board member Frannie Kieschnick
Photo credit: David F. Choy | Facebook: David F. Choy | Instagram: @davidfchoy

HEARTBEAT Annual Report: 2017

Birds over Iona's shores

Birds over Iona’s shores

A Word from the Founder

February 22, 2018

In last year’s annual report I spoke of the HEARTBEAT Refugee Fund that we had created in memory of my father and his passion for helping refugees the world over. Interestingly last night my 22 year-old son, Cameron, spoke to me from a refugee camp in Thessaloniki. He was wrapped up tight in blankets and many layers of clothing in the wake of the cold front that is moving across Europe, as are so many of the refugee families he is working with.

During our brief FaceTime conversation, two connections were striking me. The first was that Cameron is continuing the work of his grandfather, even though it is in the simple way of teaching English and making music with refugees for a month in Greece. The second was that Cameron’s work is primarily among the Muslim community from Syria, and that early in his life he had been given the opportunity to pray with Muslims.  I believe that both of these connections are significant.

When he was only a boy, nine years old, Cameron sat next to me on the floor of a yurt in New Mexico. The local Sufi Muslim community was using it as their place of prayer. Men and boys knelt shoulder to shoulder on one side of the yurt and women on the other. To my left was the leader of the community and to my right was Cameron. I felt the Muslim leader ecstatically bending his whole body to the ground in prayer and then back up as we chanted the names of God. To begin with I felt young Cameron’s body not at all sure what to do. After all, Presbyterians don’t rock in prayer! But after a while I could feel him letting go to the movement and by the end of prayer he was in full motion, freely experiencing the ecstasy of Sufi worship. I believe that that moment still lives in him, and always will, and that that experience is part of what took him to a largely Muslim refugee camp.

HEARTBEAT’s Refugee Fund is only one of our initiatives but it typifies why we exist as a foundation. Whether it is study and spiritual practice at our School of Celtic Consciousness or walking alongside women and men of other faiths on our Camino Peace Pilgrimage, or supporting Annunciation House in El Paso in their work to care for refugee families seeking sanctuary in the US, the goal of every Heartbeat program and initiative is compassionate action. I know that I will never be the same for having knelt in prayer with Muslims or having walked in pilgrimage on the holy island of Iona.  These experiences of the sacredness of the earth or the beauty of the faith of another shape us. And every time I get to host a Celtic School or an Iona Pilgrimage or an Interfaith Encounter I witness others being changed, forever.

I urge you to continue to support our work. It translates into action. And compassionate action is what we need, urgently. It changes the world, one relationship at a time.

With my gratitude to you and blessings,

John Philip

HEARTBEAT’s Path Forward

I am aware that we are sending HEARTBEAT’s Annual Report later than usual and I want to thank you for your patience. It’s been a difficult season for me – I lost my older brother after his three-year struggle with brain cancer on January 21st and then my dad passed after decades of heart disease on May 1st. I spent a lot of time in the last few months back and forth between my home in Portland, OR and Reno, NV and St. Paul, MN caring for and spending time with both of them. I have felt a lot of love and support from our HEARTBEAT community and am getting back into the flow of my work. Now, I think you will be pleased to learn more about what we accomplished in 2017.

Last year we awarded 51 scholarships. That’s twice as many as the year before, sending recipients on pilgrimage and learning experiences from California USA to the Isle of Iona in Scotland. The recipients are folks who would not otherwise have the financial means to participate, many of whom are activists, clergy, and helping professionals who dedicate their life’s work to making the world a better place.

HEARTBEAT also began more intentional publicity efforts to ensure that as many people as possible attend John Philip Newell’s events and lectures, as well as get a first look at his publications. In our first year of tracking we counted 2,533 people who attended different events, many for the first time.

This is what gets us excited about our work. We know that the Celtic Vision of John Philip and Ali holds a message that people are thirsty for. Many of us have experienced the transformative blessings ourselves. And we are determined to reach more people with a greater impact on the world around us.

As you read through our Annual Report, I hope you will get a clear picture of what we have done and what we plan to do together as we find our own unique role in the healing of the world. Thank you for participating in this essential community and joining the movement. We look forward to another year of working together to advance the Celtic Vision.


Ben Lindwall
Executive Director, HEARTBEAT

Advancing the Celtic Vision

School of Celtic Consciousness 

John Philip has been diligently overseeing the development and expansion of the School of Celtic Consciousness (SCC). In 2017 he launched two new locations – Richmond, Virginia at the Roslyn Retreat Center and Madison, Connecticut at the Mercy by the Sea Retreat and Conference Center. He also continued the ongoing direction of the SCC in Colorado and California. John Philip is continuing to refine the curriculum as each location progresses through the program. Later in 2018 a second offering of the SCC will be held at the Richmond Hill Retreat Center in order to accommodate the extraordinary demand in Richmond, Virginia. And John Philip will be launching the first offering of the SCC in Canada at the Five Oaks Retreat Center in Paris, Ontario. Further expansion of the School is planned for new locations in Colorado in 2019 and California in 2020.

Charles LaFond has also been actively involved with the development of the SCC since joining the HEARTBEAT Board of Directors last year. Together he and John Philip are laying the groundwork to bring on additional instructors and expand to more locations in new regions. John Philip is in the midst of a writing project and the finished product will serve as a textbook for new instructors and participants. We are thrilled at such a vibrant season of development for the SCC!

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 4.20.33 PM

2017 Colorado School of Celtic Consciousness Participants

Promotion and Marketing

We believe that there are countless people who are hungry to hear John Philip Newell’s message for the first time. Publicity is therefore a core component of our outreach. Heartbeat leverages Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Email Marketing, and a state of the art website to promote John Philip’s writings, speaking engagements, pilgrimages, and SCC opportunities.

Once again our website was the foundation of our online outreach in 2017, garnering thousands of pageviews and users. After another year of growth, our email database now boasts 7,392 active contacts as we continue to build an effective platform for sharing news, event listings, and updates from HEARTBEAT.

In order to measure our marketing success, HEARTBEAT started tracking attendance at John Philip’s events last year. We identified attendance capacity at each event, estimated the number of people who might attend, and then tracked how many people actually show up. Our goal is to assist in the individual event promotion and marketing and fill each event to capacity. We are happy to report that 2,533 people attended an event with John Philip in 2017! It’s our expectation that this number grow by at least 20%, depending on the number of events offered each year.

Fostering Engagement

Scholarship Awards 

HEARTBEAT’s Scholarship Awards Program continues to grow and enabled recipients to attend events at the School of Celtic Consciousness across the United States, Iona Pilgrimage in Scotland, retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, as well as HEARTBEAT themed programs on the Camino de Santiago in Spain and Pacific Coastal Trail in Oregon.


In 2017 we doubled the number of scholarships awarded by supporting 51 recipients and increased our annual scholarship awards by 48% for a total of $34,305.

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Walking Pilgrimage

Ben Lindwall continued to lead our walking pilgrimage program, which replicates the model formulated by John Philip and Ali Newell. Ben co-led the fourth annual Interfaith Camino Peace Pilgrimage along with Adam Hussain, leading a group 16 people diverse in religious tradition, race, and nationality across the northern coast of Spain. This walk traverses a 100-mile mid-section of the Camino del Norte, from Santander to Ribadesella. Along the way practices are facilitated that cultivate awareness, understanding, and relationship amongst the differences represented in the group. Each pilgrim takes a turn sharing their story, about their religious background, and spiritual practice. The combination of sharing meals, praying together, navigating the inevitable struggles that arise, and experiencing the beautiful Cantabrian countryside creates space for transformation on many levels. One of the pilgrims shared the following reflection:

My heart is full from my time on pilgrimage, my life is full of new friends and resources, and my leadership is forever touched by this experience. I know that we all have returned to our corners of society more healed, transformed, or simply more connected to the infinite Source and able to walk with hope towards peace.”

In September of 2017, Ben co-led the second annual Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage walk along with Stephanie Escher in his home state of Oregon. The intention of this group was to reconnect with the Earth and discern how each of us might participate in the world’s healing. They walked 36 miles over the course of five days along the northern coast – across beaches, through coastal rainforest, and below towering bluffs. Similar to the Camino program, sharing story and spiritual practice help each pilgrim embody the experience.

The walking pilgrimage prototype continues to attract young participants from a myriad of backgrounds and provides an exceptional setting for dialogue, spiritual practice, and transformation. To learn more and apply for the upcoming Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage click here.

2017 Camino Peace Pilgrimage Participants

2017 Camino Peace Pilgrimage Participants

Pilgrimage Leadership Training Report

Michel Gribble and CJ Dates were the first leaders to emerge from HEARTBEAT’s newly founded Pilgrimage Leadership Training Program. The goal is to train more leaders in our unique program model in order to offer additional pilgrimage events We want to leverage this spiritual practice to provoke transformation, grow in awareness and improve understanding. As apprentice-leaders, Michel and CJ accompanied Ben Lindwall on the 2017 Interfaith Camino Peace Pilgrimage. They assisted in the planning, preparation and took turns facilitating portions of the program. This modality provided the ideal setting to teach HEARTBEAT’s philosophy of leadership, coach during critical decisions, and reflect in real-time on the various aspects of the experience. Michel Gribble has recently scouted a new pilgrimage route in her own region from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This event, which traces the famous walk led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is an effort to explore racial reconciliation and will be co-facilitated with African American leadership.

Refugee Response 

In partnership with the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy in Scotland, UK, Ali Newell accompanied by John Philip organized and led a sponsored Sanctuary Walk for Refugees. They walked with fifty students, faculty and friends of the University of Edinburgh in pilgrimage to 2 ancient Celtic sites of hospitality to support the growing vision of sanctuary for refugees in their university, city, and nation. Importantly, they were joined by six young Syrian men who have found new beginnings in Edinburgh. HEARTBEAT joined in the effort through sponsorship and £20,000 was raised towards scholarships through the Humanitarian Assistance Fund of Edinburgh University. This is now being used to support newly arrived refugees at Edinburgh University with their studies.

HEARTBEAT also awarded a $5,000 grant to the Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas. This organization is committed to “accompanying the migrant, homeless, and economically vulnerable people of the border.”Our grant joined efforts in 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 affecting recent policy decisions in the U.S.

Pilgrims walking in silence on the Sanctuary Walk

Pilgrims walking in silence on the Sanctuary Walk

Operations and Funding

Staff, Board of Directors and VIPs

Karin Baard on El Camino de Santiago

Karin Baard on El Camino de Santiago

Karin Baard was hired as the part-time Communications Assistant in November of last year in response to the growing administrative demands of Heartbeat’s publicity needs and of the expanding SCC. Karin joined our staff amidst an ongoing journey with HEARTBEAT. She successfully applied to receive a Scholarship Award for the 2013 Camino Peace Pilgrimage and also served for two years on the Board of Directors. Her quick, diligent and dynamic work has provided the means necessary to support Heartbeat’s over all growth and allowed the Executive Director to focus more attention on fundraising, program development, and improving organizational systems. After six months of first class work, Karin’s title was changed to Communications Coordinator and her hours were increased from 20 to 30 per week.



Ben Lindwall on El Camino de Santiago

Ben Lindwall on El Camino de Santiago

Ben Lindwall celebrated five years serving as Executive Director for Heartbeat last summer. He first joined the Board of Directors in 2011 after receiving a scholarship to attend the Pilgrimage for Change on the Isle of Iona with John Philip and Ali Newell. In 2012 Ben began contract work for HEARTBEAT, initiating new fundraising strategies and supporting communication outreach. Ben became the Executive Director in 2013 and in partnership with John Philip, Ali and the Board of Directors led the organization through significant growth. Since 2013 HEARTBEAT’s income levels have increased by an average of 44% each year. Ben has developed the Pilgrimage Leadership Program, carried on the facilitation of the Interfaith Camino Peace Pilgrimage for a fifth straight year, and created a new pilgrimage route on the Pacific Coast Trail in his home state of Oregon. He has thrived while navigating the fresh challenges of shepherding a growing organization and we are grateful for his contribution to furthering HEARTBEAT’s mission.



HEARTBEAT Staff and Board of Directors

HEARTBEAT Staff and Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Chair: Steve Romeyn of Roswell, GA
Vice Chair & Secretary: Rob McClellan of Fairfax, CA
Roy Barsness of Seattle, WA
Margaret Anne Fohl of Lancaster, VA
Frannie Hall Kieschnick of Palo Alto, CA
Saul Kohn of Philadelphia, PA
Charles LaFond of Albuquerque, NM
Honorary: John Philip Newell and Ali Newell

Staff and VIPs:

Executive Director: Ben Lindwall of Portland, OR / Email:
Communications Coordinator: Karin Baard of Portland, ME / Email:
Recording Secretary: Joni Mack of Jackson, WY
Books and CDs: Elizabeth Cauthorn of San Antonio, TX


After another successful end of year campaign, we exceeded our fundraising goals, bringing in a total of $169,500 in 2017 – a 22% increase from the year before. These funds provide scholarships for those with limited income, fueled our media outreach, and sustained HEARTBEAT’s operations. The graph below illustrates our ongoing growth in development income, which demonstrates the growing desire to be a part of such a vital movement and community.


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Click here to view a copy of our 2016 tax return.