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