2019 Camino Peace Pilgrimage

Religion is at the heart of some of the most conflicted places of violence and hatred in our world. Peace between us as nations and the healing of the earth will be served by peace and healing between us as religious traditions.

DatesJune 8 - 16, 2019
LocationCamino de Santiago, Spain
Scholarship AwardAvailable ($800 maximum)
Travel Stipend (up to $500) also available
Application DateMarch 25, 2019
April 5, 2019 (for University of Edinburgh students)


Our 2019 Camino Peace Pilgrimage, a collaboration between Heartbeat and the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy, will consist of 14 people (intergenerational) from many religious traditions and spiritual backgrounds walking 100 miles/160 km of the ancient Spanish Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route together.

Each day will include various spiritual practices (yoga, meditation, and prayer), hearing each other’s stories, and about 10-18 mi/16-29 km of walking. There will also be short periods of time set aside for silence as we walk the Spanish countryside and northern coast. The group will eat breakfast and dinner at each hosting albergue and lunches will be in small-town marketplaces.


We are looking for people interested in the intersection of peace activism, religion and spirituality with a focus on multi-faith dialogue. Because the group will be traveling from the U.K. to Spain, a valid passport and relevant VISA are required.


June 8 – 16, 2019

We will begin in Edinburgh, Scotland with an evening meal together on June 8th at the home of John Philip and Ali Newell, flying to Spain on June 9th, then walking the Camino Del Norte for six days, from Santander to Ribadesella, and returning to Edinburgh on June 16th. Participants will need to arrange their own travel to Edinburgh for the beginning of the pilgrimage. 

General Scholarship

The maximum scholarship award available for the 2019 Camino Peace Pilgrimage is $800.00. When applying, you can select the amount of funds you would like to request. Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.


Successful applicants will pay the full participant fee of $950.00 (*see extra costs below). Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.

Scholarship for University of Edinburgh Students

Successful applicants will pay a participant fee of £100 (*see extra costs below).Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.

Travel Stipend

We ask scholarship recipients to consider raising their own funds through their own network to cover the travel expenses in order to attend the Camino Peace Pilgrimage. In circumstances where this is not possible, a $500 travel stipend can be awarded to accompany the scholarship. Only recipients of a program scholarship will be considered for the travel stipend. In order to be considered for a travel stipend, you must apply at the same time as submitting the program application, completing both by the deadline of March 25, 2019.

Apply for a travel stipend by clicking here.

Successful applicants will receive the following:

  • Airfare from Edinburgh, Scotland to Santander, Spain (and return)
  • Sleeping accommodations for seven nights during the pilgrimage
  • Breakfast and dinner each day
  • Bus and train transportation in Spain
  • Admission to Tito Bustillo Caves Tour in Ribadesellaand Gaudi House in Comillas
  • Guided navigation on the Camino del Norte (northern route of the Camino de Santiago)
  • A complimentary copy of Listening for the Heartbeat of God by John Philip Newell (to be read before the pilgrimage)

Extra Costs:

  • All non-students will be required to pay a $10 application fee
  • Individual travel insurance
  • Lunch each day: $8 / €6 / £5 per day for a total of $56 / €44 / £35 for the week
  • Equipment: each participant will be required to supply their own equipment (small backpack, sturdy hiking shoes, rain jacket, etc.). A packing list will be sent a few months before the pilgrimage
  • Travel fare to and from Edinburgh, Scotland (if applicable)


The Camino Peace Pilgrimage is a physically rigorous experience. Multiple days include walking up to 18 miles/29 kilometers in a day, often with challenging elevation changes and a lot of long and steep hills. Pilgrims are expected to train extensively to prevent pain or injury while on the walk. While some of the accommodations are very nice, some include a bunk bed in a simple hostel, and a few nights include a shared queen size bed with one other person. During group sharing time, participants are sometimes sitting on the ground or floor. All participants will be required to sign a waiver release.

Interfaith Leaders

The Pilgrimage will be co-led by Ben Lindwall, Executive Director of Heartbeat, and Esti Ziad.

Ben lives in Portland, Oregon USA, where he and his family practice energy conservation in their tiny house. Ben has been leading group experiences for over a decade in various capacities. He has been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell over the past few years and is a certified Spiritual Director. Ben has been the Executive Director at Heartbeat since 2013, working with people from all over the world to advance a vision of healing, transformation, and peace. Coming from an evangelical Christian background, and now like many of his generation, Ben considers himself spiritual without any formal religious membership. He and his wife Jen have two young children.

“A pilgrimage is always an opportunity to be re-born. I’ve seen and experienced the power of leaving behind the safety and comfort of home on a quest for deeper understanding, awareness, and connection. The act of moving our bodies, moving our feet gently upon the earth in unison can be a kind of soul-march. It reminds us of our true identity, our oneness, and creates liminal space to hear and know our calling. In co-leading this pilgrimage, I hope to cultivate an environment for each of us to learn and grow.” – Ben Lindwall

Estifa’a is a final year masters student at Edinburgh University studying Physics. She spent last year in Vancouver conducting research in particle physics.  Estifa’a is an active member of the University Chaplaincy; she was president of the Islamic Society and remains a coordinator of the Syrian teenage tutoring program. She has been part of the widening effort to create support networks and representation for minorities in Edinburgh and more generally in the UK. Estifa’a is of Afro-Arab origins and identifies as a practicing Muslim.

“To go on a pilgrimage is to walk with strangers, yourself amongst them. Each rhythmic step is a chance for reflectance and self-acceptance, a journey to love all, including ourselves. As life has forced me to grow, the path to find light is ever changing and has often felt hopeless. When I’m tired of walking and want to stop, I remember the Camino and the friends who despite the long journey have chosen to walk it with me. ” – Estifa’a Ziad

Peregrinación A La Frontera/Border Pilgrimage

UbicaciónEl Paso, Texas, EE. UU. / Ciudad Juárez, México
Fechasdel 2 al 8 de mayo de 2019
Costo de inscripción$625.00
BecasBecas disponibles
Fecha límite de solicitud20 de marzo de 2019

Vive la Experiencia

La peregrinación a la frontera una experiencia espiritual, educativa y orientada a la acción en El Paso, Texas y Ciudad Juárez, México. A través de la oración, el aprendizaje y el voluntariado, el grupo ampliará su entendimiento sobre las comunidades fronterizas, apoyara en solidaridad y se unirá al movimiento por la justicia de los inmigrantes. Nuestros socios experimentados de Hope Border Institute han ayudado a preparar actividades, enseñanzas y diversas oportunidades en ambos lados de la frontera para profundizar en la resolución de abogacía y ayuda humanitaria.

Cada día incluirá un ritmo de práctica contemplativa, entornos aprendizaje e interacción, reflexión guiada y diálogo.


Estamos buscando personas interesadas en la intersección de la espiritualidad y la acción con un enfoque en la justicia de los inmigrantes. Debido a que habrá múltiples cruces internacionales hacia Cuidad Juárez, se requiere un pasaporte válido (válido hasta julio de 2019). Los solicitantes deben tener 18 años de edad o más, deben poder caminar hasta 15 millas y ser capaces de completar las tareas manuales de trabajo moderadas que se requieren durante el voluntariado.


Manta de solidaridad para los niños recluidos en el campo de detención en Tornillo, TX

Los participantes aceptados deben llegar al alojamiento en El Paso antes de las 5 p.m. del 2 de mayo (approx. 20 minutos en automóvil del aeropuerto) para presentaciones, una comida compartida y orientación. El programa y las actividades concluirán antes de las 10 am del 8 de mayo. Varios ajustes contribuirán a la visión general de este viaje:

  • Formación cultural impartida por Hope Border Institute
  • Visita con migrantes recluidos en el Centro de Detención ICE.
  • Asistir a audiencias de inmigración en el magistrado
  • Voluntario en la Casa de Migrante y la Casa de Anunciación.
  • Conocer a migrantes que viajan a través de la región, así como con defensores de los migrantes y organizadores locales.
  • Visita a Tornillo, TX, sitio del centro de detención de tiendas de niños inmigrantes en el 2018
  • Recorrido por el histórico parque de Hueco Tanks
  • Paseo guiado de peregrinación a lo largo de la frontera.

Líderes de viaje

Ben Lindwall es el Director Ejecutivo de HEARTBEAT, actualmente  ubicado en Portland, OR, y ha liderado viajes orientados en espiritualidad durante más de una década. Está certificado como Director Espiritual y también en Primeros Auxilios. En 2011, Ben realizó una peregrinación a la Isla de Iona en Escocia y desde entonces ha sido asesorado por John Philip y Ali Newell.

Ilka Vega es especialista en desarrollo comunitario en Hope Border Institute y originaria de El Paso, TX y Cd. Zona Juárez, México. Las peregrinaciones son una parte esencial de su educación. Ha realizado cinco peregrinaciones formales a Taizé, Francia e Iona, Escocia y trata de implementar prácticas y reflexiones espirituales similares en sus viajes y en la vida cotidiana en la frontera y en su trabajo por la justicia social.

Recaudación de fondos para la Casa Anunciación

Annunciation House/ Casa Anunciación, una organización en El Paso con una larga historia de proporcionar atención y servicios a los migrantes, ha solicitado donaciones financieras para apoyar sus esfuerzos en curso. Parte de la misión de la Peregrinación a la Frontera será responder colectivamente a esta solicitud. Los participantes serán guiados para establecer un objetivo de recaudación de fondos, utilizar sus redes sociales e invitar a apoyar financieramente. Es importante tener en cuenta: los fondos no se utilizarán para los gastos individuales del participante. Heartbeat recibirá donaciones y enviará todos los fondos a la Casa Anunciación.

Cómo Aplicar

Favor de seguir este enlace para la aplicación y completarla  para el 20 de marzo de 2019. Un maestro, mentor, asesor o líder religioso / espiritual que pueda comentar sobre la capacidad del solicitante para participar en la experiencia y participar con el grupo también debe completar esta referencia en línea.  Se requiere una tarifa de solicitud de $ 10 para todos los no estudiantes. Las becas están disponibles por hasta $ 525 según la necesidad financiera. Indique si está buscando asistencia con beca en la solicitud. Los solicitantes serán notificados de su estado de aceptación antes del 22 de marzo.

Ciudad Juárez, México

Costos adicionales, requisitos y avisos

  • Cada participante debe ser mayor de 18 años de edad, ser capaz de caminar hasta 15 millas, y ser capaz de completar tareas manuales de fuerza moderada que se requieren durante el voluntariado.
  • Cada participante debe tener un pasaporte válido hasta julio de 2019.
  • El grupo realizará varios cruces hacia Ciudad Juárez, México y utilizará el transporte en taxi. Todos los solicitantes deben revisar las advertencias gubernamentales relacionadas con el cruce a Ciudad Juárez, México.
  • Cada participante deberá traer dinero para el almuerzo todos los días y dos cenas (un promedio de $ 10 por comida para un total de $ 80).
  • Cada participante deberá comprar un seguro de viaje individual (aproximadamente $ 40).
  • Cada participante necesitará proveer información de su aseguranza medica
  • Cada participante necesitará completar una asignación de estudio antes del viaje que incluye leer artículos y escuchar podcasts.
  • Cada participante necesitará traer el equipo necesario para completar su lista de equipaje
  • Cada participante deberá afirmar nuestros Compromisos de Comunidad Peregrina y el Proceso de Resolución de Conflictos, así como nuestros Compromisos del Código de Conducta si se participa en una manifestación, demostración o protesta.
  • Cada participante deberá leer cuidadosamente y firmar la forma de exención e indemnización de Heartbeat.


Póngase en contacto con nosotros por teléfono (503) 902 – 4820 o por email: info@heartbeatjourney.org

Hebridean Treasure: Lost & Found

In song, dance, and narrative, the inspiring story of a people’s soul

We are beyond thrilled and proud that on March 1, Hebridean Treasure: Lost and Found will take the stage at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

For the past few years, John Philip has been writing and perfecting a performance piece – full of narration and music – that tells the inspiring story of the enchanted Hebridean world that was lost but is being found again in a new sense of the earth as sacred. It recounts the spirituality of the Hebridean people and the impact on them and their land as Christianity made its way into the area. This is a story of beauty, pathos, and hope. If you have attended the second year curriculum of the School of Celtic Consciousness, you might have seen a reading of this very story!

John Philip, from the start, has dreamed of bringing it to a live audience with original music and dance, and what a team he has assembled! The composer and Gaelic singer Mischa Macpherson weaves her spell of ancient and new sound around the equally compelling performance of the beautiful dancer Kirsten Margaret Iona Newell under the artistic direction of Shane Shambhu, achieving what has never been attempted before, a memory of the forgotten influence of India on the Celtic soul.

You can learn more and buy tickets on the Hebridean Treasure website.

Border Pilgrimage/Peregrinación A La Frontera

LocationEl Paso, Texas, USA/Ciudad Juárez, México
DatesMay 2 - 8 , 2019
Registration Cost$625.00
Scholarship AwardScholarships available.
Application DeadlineMarch 20, 2019

The Experience

The Border Pilgrimage is a spiritual, educational, and action-oriented experience in El Paso, Texas, and Cuidad Juárez, Mexico. Through prayer, ritual, learning and volunteering this group will expand understanding about border communities, stand in solidarity, and join the movement for immigrant justice. Our experienced partners at Hope Border Institute have assisted in preparing activities, teachings, and various opportunities on both sides of the border to deepen resolve for engaging in advocacy and relief response.

Each day will include a rhythm of contemplative practice, engaging learning and outreach environments, guided reflection and dialogue.


We are looking for people interested in the intersection of spirituality and action with a focus on immigrant justice. Because there will be multiple border crossings into Cuidad Juárez, a valid passport is required (valid through July 2019). Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, able to walk up to 15 miles, and able to complete moderate manual labor tasks required while volunteering.


Sign of love for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Because God is always with you.” – Joshua 1:9

Accepted participants must plan to arrive at the lodging accommodations in El Paso by 5pm on May 2 (about a 20 minute drive from the airport) for introductions, a shared meal, and orientation. Program and activities will conclude by 10am on May 8. Various settings will contribute to the overall vision of this trip:

  • Cultural training provided by Hope Border Institute
  • Visit with migrants held in ICE Detention Center
  • Attend immigration hearing proceedings at the magistrate
  • Volunteer for Casa de Migrante and Annunciation House
  • Meet with migrants journeying through the region as well as local advocates and organizers
  • Visit Tornillo, TX, site of the 2018 child migrant tent detention facility
  • Tour of the historic Hueco Tanks
  • Guided pilgrimage prayer walk along the border

Trip Leaders

Ben Lindwall is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT, based in Portland, OR and has been leading spiritually oriented trips for over a decade. He is a certified Spiritual Director and is also certified in First Aid. Ben made the pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona in Scotland in 2011 and has since been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell.

Ilka Vega is the Community Engagement Specialist at Hope Border Institute. She is originally from El Paso, TX and Cd. Juarez, Mexico area. Pilgrimages are an essential part of her upbringing. She has made five formal pilgrimages to Taize, France and Iona, Scotland and tries to implement similar spiritual practices and reflections in her travels and daily life at the border and in her work for social justice. 

Fundraising for Annunciation House

Annunciation House, an organization in El Paso with a long history of providing direct respite care to migrants, has requested financial donations to support their ongoing efforts. Part of the Border Pilgrimage mission will be to collectively respond to this request. Participants will be guided in setting a fundraising goal, reaching out to their own social networks, and inviting financial support. Please note: funds will not be used for the individual expense of the participant. Heartbeat will receive donations and send all of the funds to the Annunciation House.

How to Apply

Please follow this link to the application and complete by March 20, 2019. A teacher, mentor, advisor, or religious/spiritual leader who can comment on the applicant’s ability to engage in the experience and participate with the group must also complete this online reference form. A $10 application fee is required of all non-students. Scholarships are available for up to $525 depending on financial need. Please indicate whether you are seeking scholarship assistance on the application. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance status by March 22.

Ciudad Juárez, México

Additional Costs, Requirements, and Notifications

  • Each participant must be over 18 years of age or older, able to walk up to 15 miles, and able to complete moderate manual labor tasks required while volunteering.
  • Each participant must have a passport valid through July 2019.
  • The group will make multiple crossings into Cuidad Juárez, Mexico and make use of taxi transportation. All applicants must review government warnings associated with crossing into Cuidad Juárez, Mexico.
  • Each participant will need to bring money for lunch each day and two dinners (average of $10 per meal for a total of $80).
  • Each participant will need to purchase individual travel insurance (approximately $40).
  • Each participant will need to provide medical insurance information.
  • Each participant will need to complete pre-trip study work including reading articles and listening to podcasts.
  • Each participant will need to bring any gear needed to complete the packing list.
  • Each participant will need to affirm our Pilgrimage Community Commitments and Conflict Resolution Process as well as our  Code of Conduct Commitments if participating in a rally, demonstration, or protest.
  • Each participant will need to carefully read and sign Heartbeat’s Release and Indemnification Waiver.


Contact us by emailing info@heartbeatjourney.org or call (503) 902 – 4820.

The Forum with John Philip Newell

The Forum is a series of stimulating conversations at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco about faith and ethics in relation to the important issues of the day hosted by Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral. This month, John Philip Newell was honored to be a guest on The Forum to discuss the inspiration and challenge of naturalist John Muir. Watch their entire conversation below. Thank you to Grace Cathedral for sharing!

About the conversation 

John Muir – naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, co-founder of the Sierra Club and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States – exemplifies, according to author William Anderson, “the archetype of our oneness with the earth.”

In this conversation with Malcolm Clemens Young, John Philip Newell, the celebrated author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, and one of the most prominent Christian teachers of spirituality in the Western world, re-examines Muir through Celtic Christianity, in which everything is essentially spirit, clothed upon with flesh, with leaves, with water, or that harder substance called rock.

About the host

The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young is the dean of Grace Cathedral. He is the author of The Spiritual Journal of Henry David Thoreau and The Invisible Hand in Wilderness: Economics, Ecology, and God, and is a regular contributor on religion to the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner.

About The Forum

The Forum is a series of stimulating conversations about faith and ethics in relation to the important issues of our day. Grace Cathedral invites inspiring and illustrious people to sit down for a real conversation with the Forum’s host, Malcolm Clemens Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral, and with you. Guests range from artists, inventors and philosophers to pop culturists and elected officials, but the point of The Forum is singular: civil, sophisticated discourse that engages minds and hearts to think in new ways about the world.

Prayer of Awareness

At the ending of the day
in the quiet of the hours
at the interplay of light and dark
we wait with the earth as it rests
that we may give thanks for darkness
that we may open to night’s senses
that we may remember the ground from which we come
and know You
as Presence in the mystery
as Evening Breeze in our soul
as Everlasting Strength in earth’s body.
At the ending of the day we wait
that we may know You
as Lover of the night
as Lover in the night.

Be still and aware

By John Philip Newell | Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace

Photo by Margie New

Journey of Willingness

Dear Heartbeat family,

Our team’s visit to the border last October stretched me. I tend to worry a lot and leading up to the pilgrimage I was hesitant, if not a bit scared. We planned to cross into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a few times. This is a city that is on the State Department’s travel advisory list. “Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” the warning reads. These words pricked at my tendency toward anxiety, and at times I had to dig deep to find the willingness to do my part to make the trip happen.

After arriving in El Paso, I was inspired by my friend Bianca’s resolve, and I learned a lot by watching her. Bianca’s work is very grounded in reality. She facilitates yoga, spiritual accompaniment, and offers counsel to families considering organ donation. While in Juárez with our team, Bianca had a chance to use some of her skills when she met a woman (who we will call Maribel for her safety) from El Salvador. Maribel was trying to decide if she could risk being separated from her children by crossing into the U.S. to claim asylum. Maribel shared about the violence back home, about having a gun put to her head and seeing a man’s throat slashed in the street. Bianca listened with a radical willingness to offer compassion and presence in that moment. It was a difficult story to witness. “If they take my son away, I will die. I will die,” she told Bianca. We don’t know how Maribel decided to continue her journey, but we pray for her often and hold her strength and fortitude in the highest regard.

John Philip Newell often reads an excerpt from the poem “The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts” by Mary Oliver:

every rose
opened in perfect sweetness
and lived
in gracious repose,
in its own exotic fragrance,
in its huge willingness to give
something, from its small self,
to the entirety of the world.

I’m amazed at what can happen with any amount of willingness. Sometimes it feels huge, like a force (what I see in Bianca and the woman she spoke to). But in my case, it can sometimes feel like it is barely enough.

During our time in the border region, I learned a lot. “I take my kids back and forth all the time,” Vanessa Johnson, one of our hosts and Heartbeat’s former Board Chair, told me. “I grew up crossing back and forth, and I cross back and forth every day,” said Ilka Vega who is a staff member at Hope Border Institute, another one of our hosts. No one was implying that certain precautions shouldn’t be made. No one tried to gloss over the danger. But it all made me wonder about the narratives that I have been told and the ones I buy in to. And of course the State Department doesn’t hesitate to play on people’s fear – this sort of ‘fear of the other’ also serves the energies that make villains out of neighbors and is the impetus for the building of divisive walls. These women – Bianca, Vanessa, Ilka and Maribel – showed me what the strength of willingness looks like. Without knowing it they helped make space for me to grow. To learn to navigate worry and also reflect on my own privilege, since it’s all connected. I am forever grateful.

Heartbeat Border Pilgrimage Group and staff at Hope Border Institute
From left: Edwin, Stephanie, Yadenee, Marisa, Ben, Frannie, Ilka, Eric, Bianca, Michel, Emily, Diego, and Edith

And our Border Pilgrimage trip was asuccess, if you could call it that in the midst of tragedy and injustice. Weprotested in Tornillo, TX where over 2,000 migrant children are detained. We volunteered with Annunciation House in assisting immigrants recently released by ICE. We raised over $7,000 to buy basic supplies for some of those immigrants. We learned, we witnessed, and we prayed.

Protest sign for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX
Protest and signs of solidarity for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX --- "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Because God is always with you." Joshua 1:9
Heartbeat Border Pilgrimage group at protest in Tornillo, TX

I will return to the border next year, co-leading two Heartbeat pilgrimage groups. My willingness is growing, and I wonder if you will join us on this journey. Each year Heartbeat reaches thousands of people with the vision of the Celtic world, partnering with John Philip Newell to offer The School of Celtic Consciousness and organizing pilgrimages. We are making space to join in the healing of the world by honoring the earth and restoring relationships across divides. None of this happens without your financial support. It is your ‘huge willingness’ to give that is propelling a movement of healing and transformation and makes Heartbeat’s work possible. Would you be willing to send a financial gift today?

Thank you for your accompaniment on this journey of willingness. Thank you for your gift in every form, whether prayer, volunteering, or financial contributions. With hope and faith we look forward to the work ahead.




Ben Lindwall

p.s. Please click the donate now button below to make a contribution online or find additional information on how to give a financial gift.

George MacLeod

Iona Abbey | Photo courtesy of Susan Izard

George MacLeod* was born in 1895 into a family that was probably the greatest ecclesiastical dynasty in Scotland. The MacLeods of Morvern on the west coast had given more than 550 years of ordained service to the established Church. MacLeod’s was a privileged as well as an ecclesiastical family. He had childhood memories, for instance, of a written menu for the evening meal and being waited on by maids. His background was broadened by periods of study in England, at Winchester and Oxford. When the First World War came he served as an officer with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, seeing heavy fighting on the Western Front, and his bravery won him the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

The war profoundly affected MacLeod. He witnessed, as did so many, the slaughter of friends and companions. So shaken was he by what he saw that he later described himself as falling apart at this point. Going through half a bottle of whisky and 50 cigarettes a day, ‘I was going to hell in a hurry,’ he said. But as he travelled back to the front after a leave of absence, MacLeod reached a critical turning-point in his life. Not even waiting until the train reached its destination, he knelt down in the railway compartment and gave himself to Christ. It was typical of the man to act as soon as he had heard within himself the compelling truth that he needed to change.

It was of course years before he understood many of the implications of his sudden conversion experience in the railway carriage, but after the war MacLeod trained for the Church of Scotland ministry. His father was a Presbyterian, his mother a Quaker, and during his years at Winchester he had been confirmed as an Anglican, so he now described himself as ‘a walking ecumenical disaster’. After training for the ministry he became Assistant Minister at St Giles’ in Edinburgh, Scotland’s principal Cathedral, and then Collegiate Minister at the prestigious Church of St Cuthbert’s where he was a very popular preacher. But increasingly he became aware of what he called ‘the two nations’ of his country, the rich and the poor. So disturbed was he by this division that in 1930 he accepted, to the surprise of the establishment, a call to the Parish of Govan, the shipbuilding area in Glasgow marked in the hungry thirties by severe unemployment and widespread poverty.

It was during this period that MacLeod moved from a fairly straightforward form of High Presbyterianism towards a more mystical as well as a more political spirituality. This combination of the mystical and the political is what is so remarkable about MacLeod. The true mark of Christian spirituality, he now declared, ‘is to get one’s teeth into things. . . .Painstaking service to humankind’s most material needs is the essence of Christian spirituality.’ In other words, to move more deeply into life, and especially into its places of struggle and suffering, like those he was seeing in Glasgow, is to move closer to the life of Christ, the light that is within even the darkest of situations. The word ‘spiritual’, he believed, was often dangerously misunderstood. People generally imagine that ‘to go mystical’, as he put it, is to turn away from the affairs of the world. It is rather to go more deeply into life, to find God at the heart of life, deeper than any wrong, and to liberate God’s goodness within us and in our relationships, both individually and collectively.

From Listening for the Heartbeat of God by John Philip Newell

*George MacLeod (1895-1991) is known for mainly things and perhaps mainly for his peace activism, but his greatness lies in having brought Celtic spirituality’s way of seeing back into the Church’s formal life. in 1938 he made the decision to begin to rebuild the ancient Abbey on Iona, where in the sixth century St Columba had based his Celtic mission. In part the work symbolized the need to rebuild or rediscover the spirituality that Iona represented for him. Thus began the present-day Iona Community, which initially consisted of MacLeod, young ministers in training and unemployed craftsmen. They were committed not only to the restoration of the monastic buildings on the island but to rediscovering a discipline of prayer and rebuilding justice in their lives and in the cities.

Most Important Moments

Photo Courtesy of Margie Nea

Dear Heartbeat Friends,

During my time on Iona last September, we had two back-to-back pilgrimage weeks amidst the glory of Hebridean sunshine, rain and storm.  One of the pilgrims said to me that the time on Iona had been the most important week in his life. He is not alone in this. Pilgrimage week after pilgrimage week, season after season, year after year, I hear pilgrims speak of the life-changing energies of time together on Iona.

As many of you know, Iona was the birthplace of Heartbeat’s vision and formation. Next year our board and leadership will return to the island to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our beginnings, to give thanks for the ways in which people all over the world have been blessed by its birth, and to prayerfully ask what our next ten years might look like. Please hold us in your hearts as we plan this time, praying that we may be visited by angels of Gratitude, Wisdom, Imagination, and Vision.

What has emerged in our first decade of work is a threefold focus for Heartbeat:

  • Pilgrimage
  • The School of Celtic Consciousness
  • Commitment to Prophetic Action

Let me briefly expand on these as a way of pointing to the heart of our vision and the need for your support.

Pilgrimage, especially the Iona experience but others like it, such as the annual Interfaith Peace Pilgrimage on the Camino in Spain, is a signature piece of Heartbeat’s work. It reflects the resurrection of pilgrimage practice that is happening throughout the world today in all great religious traditions. There is a desire to use the body in spiritual practice and a yearning to do so in the context of earth, sea and sky and to walk side by side with those from whom we have often been separated by the boundary lines of religion and race.

Our School of Celtic Consciousness similarly reflects the widespread desire to more intentionally access ancient wisdom, to link it together with spiritual practice, and to translate this study and practice into compassionate action. The four initial locations of the School in the United States and the one in Canada have been so strongly attended and deeply engaged with that we are multiplying the sessions of the School in these original locations to try to address the hunger. Also we are preparing the formation of other teachers so that in time we can add new locations of the School on both sides of the Atlantic.

Commitment to compassionate and prophetic action is the primary reason for our Pilgrimages and School of Celtic Consciousness. The latter serve the former and, without commitment to action, our pilgrimage and study initiatives would be ungrounded. The prophetic tradition in which we stand is twofold, to denounce what is false and to announce what is true, to resist injustice and to assist in the rebuilding of a just world.  Our current initiative of pilgrimage to the American-Mexican border to speak against the unjust separation of families and to support those who are caring for the affected families is an important example of Heartbeat’s commitment to prophetic and compassionate action.

Let me be as clear as I can when I say that none of this work would happen without you. Pilgrimage, the School of Celtic Consciousness, and our Action Initiatives all depend on the administrative support of our staff and financial support for our compassion initiatives. Similarly our Scholarship Programmes that enable participation by men and women who could not otherwise afford to be involved is entirely dependent on your generosity.

We have the opportunity to be part of what will sometimes be ‘most important’ moments in people’s lives. This is sacred work. I urge you to help in whatever way you can.

With blessings to you and gratitude,




John Philip Newell

Evening Prayer

Photo Courtesy of Karin Baard

Bless us this night, O God,
and those whom we know and love.
Bless us this night, O God,
and those with whom we are not at peace.
Bless us this night, O God,
and every human family.
Bless us with deep sleep.
Bless us with dreams that will heal our soul.
Bless us with the night's silent messages of eternity
that we may be set free by love.
Bless us in the night, O God,
that we may be set free to love.

Bendíceme esta noche, oh Dios,
y a las personas que conozco y amo.
Bendíceme esta noche, oh Dios,
y a las personas con las que no estoy en paz.
Bendíceme esta noche, oh Dios,
y a cada familia humana.
Bendícenos con un sueño profundo.
Bendícenos con sueños que sanen nuestras almas.
Bendícenos con los silentes mensajes nocturnos de la eternidad
para que el amor nos libre.
Bendícenos en la noche, oh Dios,
que podamos ser liberados para amar.

From Sounds of the Eternal and Sonidos de lo Eternal by John Philip Newell. Translation by Carlos Eduardo Expósito Irarragorri and María Cristina Borges Álvarez