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!

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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: ben@heartbeatjourney.org
Communications Coordinator: Karin Baard of Portland, ME / Email: karin@heartbeatjourney.org
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.