Salat, Communion, and the first 20 miles

On our second day on the Camino we stop on the outskirts of Viveda in Cantabria. It’s an ideal spot for Mohamed to teach about salat and lead our group in prayer since there is a water spout for the ceremonial washing. Most of us are learning and participating in salat for the first time. As Mohamed sings the call to prayer a deep sense of reverence fills our hearts. After this first experience, Mohamed invited us to join him whenever he pauses for prayer throughout the week. There is much gratitude for his invitation and hospitality in his spiritual practice.

Later in the day we arrive at Posada Ijanas. Before dinner our Norwegian pilgrim, Annette (a lutheran pastor), leads us in a simple communion ceremony. She tenderly speaks of her love of the ritual as a way of celebrating community and a love that is as expansive as the universe.

Finally we fall in bed having walked almost 20 miles/32 km in the first two days. Already we feel the landscape begin to fill us with wonder and possibility as we walk, talk, and pray.


Mohamed leading our group in salat.




Conversation with Camino Scholar Karin Baard

Karin Baard

Karin Baard

Heartbeat: What is something you learned on the Camino?

Karin: I think the impact of this pilgrimage will continue to develop and reveal itself for a long time, which is, in itself, a gift. Though I can feel (and I feel it profoundly) that it has had a deep impact on me, I’m finding it difficult to articulate. One of my biggest take aways, however, is my restored belief in the possibility of change. The other group members, who in their own ways are all thoughtful, compassionate, caring people dedicated to working for peace, reminded me that when we come together and actually listen to one other, great things are possible.

Heartbeat: Before embarking together on the Camino, we each shared our own personal “intention” for our week of walking. What did you share?

Karin: My intention presented itself in one word: wholeheartedness. When asked, it was the first thing that popped in my head; but I also wasn’t sure what it meant. I discovered some about what it means to me throughout the pilgrimage, but to be honest, I’m still exploring. What I did realize is that, for me, wholeheartedness means an interlacing web of things: finding the balance between my head and my heart, embracing vulnerability, and slowing down to, as best as possible, live in and enjoy the present moment.

Heartbeat: What was your most memorable moment?

Karin: My most memorable moment was our dinner conversation on Wednesday, which is inextricably linked to the best part of the experience: the other people on the trip. I had never before had the privilege to be a part of such an honest, challenging, and yet deeply respectful conversation. I find it’s so easy to get defensive, or offensive, and to shut yourself off to what someone else might have to say. But to sit around a table with other people who were so ready and willing to really listen and be open to what everyone had to say was an amazing honor.

Heartbeat: Can you tell us about the biggest challenge for you on the Camino?

Karin: My biggest challenge actually came before the trip even started. I was nervous ahead of time, feeling under prepared (both physically and mentally) and worrying that I did not belong on a pilgrimage. I was afraid that everyone else would be so enlightened and spiritual, and I would have nothing to contribute to the group because in recent years, I have had many doubts and questions about my own spirituality and faith background. Thankfully, I realized quickly, that these worries were actually a significant part of what I could contribute and why I think I was meant to be on this trip.

Heartbeat: Any other comments or thoughts?

Karin: I want to thank, with the deepest gratitude and appreciation, Heartbeat for not only the opportunity to go on this trip but also for all the hard work, dedication, and detail management that went into it. As well as Ali and Philip for donating their time, thereby giving us all such a wonderful gift. I will hold onto this trip for a very, very long time.

IMG_7448Karin Baard from Brunswick, Maine is an advocate for women who are victims of domestic violence. She helps “clients discover, or rediscover a sense of peace in their lives, both physically from harm and emotionally from heartache.” Karin is fluent in Spanish and was an incredible blessing to the group as she tirelessly helped us navigate roads, meals, and anything else that arose. 

What made the Camino Peace Pilgrimage unique


Piyush snapping photos on the Camino in Camillas, Spain.

Faith journeys have always been emotionally calming and spiritually nurturing experiences that have returned me with immense positivism. I have undertaken part-walking, part-vehicle driven pilgrimages to Badrinath in the Himalayas, the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu & Kashmir, Lord Venkateswara’s Temple in Tirumala Hills of South India and the Dargah Sharif of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Western India. These pilgrimages however were generally done with family and friends of my ‘Hindu’ faith. The Camino pilgrimage was unique as it was with followers of different faiths, most of who were also unknown to me before. Talking to them, partaking in their stories and sharing their faith lessons, from lived experiences made this a truly humbling trail. My pilgrimages in the past were about seeking, this time it was about receiving – unasked, unprepared, and often unusual… beautifully designed by the Almighty!

-Piyush Roy, Camino Peace Pilgrimage Scholar. A photographer, videographer, and accomplished journalist “hailing from the Hindu faith”, Piyush is a columnist for the Orissa Post and his latest piece on song and dance in Indian cinema can be found here:

Camino Update!

Our group has now traveled nearly 40 miles and is now foraging for lunch in San Vicente de Barquera (0ur internet connections have been few and far between!). As we pause in this village by the sea, it is fascinating to note the way the dynamics of a group form while walking an ancient pilgrimage route.    We’re learning to pray in each other’s tradition or expression of faith, we are learning each other’s songs, and we continue to move our feet together in unison as we seek to understand each other.

We have watch our landscape change from urban to rural. From highway roads to country trails. From rolling hills to distant snowcapped mountains. Always we are held by the hospitality our hosts, the barking dogs, and the common blessing, “Buen Camino!”

Because of our lack of access to internet here on the Camino del Norte, we’ll be spreading out our posts over the next few weeks while still trying to give live updates while we are still on The Way. More to come!




I wish to represent a positive, peaceful, and open-minded Islam | Camino Peace Pilgrimage

PhotoJohn Philip and Ali Newell will be leading a group of 11 young adults on the Camino in Northern Spain June 1-8. Below are few inspiring words from one of the selected pilgrims, Adam Hussain. Stay tuned to this blog for live podcasts, videos, photos and more during our journey!

What do you hope to learn from this experience?

I hope to learn about the commonalities and differences within each faith tradition and to have an opportunity to discuss and reflect on interfaith topics. I intend to make new friends; have a greater self-awareness through meditation and a communion with nature. I’d like to improve my mental and spiritual wellbeing through contemplation, discussion and practical activities. I wish to instill peace within myself and represent a positive, peaceful and open-minded Islam.

Please describe why you would like to go on this pilgrimage with Heartbeat and the Edinburgh University Chaplaincy.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.09.30 PMThis would be an invaluable experience as a young artist who is embarking on a spiritual journey as a Sufi Muslim. The pilgrimage would provide me with the opportunity to create artwork directly in response to my experience of the pilgrimage.  My current work explores aspects of interfaith and spirituality by presenting a contemporary Muslim perspective in a Western art context. It would be a wonderful chance to exhibit a new body of work to ECA and beyond; documenting my journey, my interaction with nature and sharing the knowledge and experience I have learnt from listening to others. I would love to be a part of a pilgrimage where peace between faith traditions is made possible and mirror this approach in my own life.

Describe your faith background and current approach to spirituality.

Although I consider my religious identity as a Sufi Muslim I feel my faith is married to my spiritual identity. I’d describe the concept of ‘spirituality’ as the collective spirit of humanity. It is the ability to show compassion and sincerity towards humanity and the earth which lies within each individual. And to be spiritual is to witness the living reality of God manifesting in every moment of my life whether this is during my social relations; private moments of contemplation and reflection or a connection with nature. My central approach to living spiritually is to live holistically where the choices I make are in tune with the choices God has predetermined for me. I strive to live as an integrated being where there is no part of me I am not willing to see. I approach spirituality daily through a connection with the existing creation around me. And in return I use my spirit to create a conversation with another spirit through the medium of art.

Adam Hussain is 20 years of age from Huddersfield, UK. He is studying Intermedia Art at Edinburgh College of Art and enjoys contemporary and religious forms of dance/movement meditation, loves writing and reading poetry inspired by Islamic literature. Adam likes going for long walks in the country and regularly participates in spiritual and educational retreats. 

There is a real power to the physical journeying of this pilgrimage | Camino Peace Pilgrimage

PhotoJohn Philip and Ali Newell will be leading a group of 11 young adults on the Camino in Northern Spain June 1-8. Below are few inspiring words from one of the selected pilgrims, Robert McClellan. Stay tuned to this blog for live podcasts, videos, photos and more during our journey!

What do you hope to learn from this experience?

Rob McClelland and wife Sherri Hausser

Rob McClellan and wife Sherri Hausser

 I hope to learn what can happen when diverse peoples come together to be open to the blessing of one another.  Though I have experience in interfaith engagements, I hope to learn the blessing my own tradition has to offer and the ways in which other traditions may enrich my own.  I am eager to do this through people, living embodiments of the traditions, rather than abstract ideas.  I also simply hope to learn the lives and stories of others who feel called to travel this journey, for I have a feeling these are the types of travelers one encounters again and again on the road.

Moreover I hope to learn how to make space for people to have these types of encounters in ways that are constructive and meaningful.  I hope to be a part of the next generation that teaches the world to listen for the Heartbeat.

Please describe why you would like to go on this Pilgrimage with Heartbeat/Edinburgh University Chaplaincy:

For me, Heartbeat captures better than any other movement the sacred possibility lying within us.  It is easy to grow jaded with concern over either ecological or ecclesial degradation, but there is a path to rebirth.  This type of experience both signifies and enacts the journey we all must take to renewal.

Throughout my life, my greatest experiences of God, my sweetest taste of friendship, and my truest sense of self have all come in groups of people trying to live with sacred intention for one another and the earth.

There is a real power to the physical journeying of this pilgrimage.  We will not just be together, but we will walk together, integrating body, spirit and sacred landscape.

As I consider my own role as leader in the church, I know that our hope lies in the God who shows up in such transformative encounters.

Describe your faith background and current approach to spirituality:

I am an ordained Presbyterian Minister serving in a large affluent congregation north of San Francisco, CA.  I grew up Presbyterian, but had my most formative spiritual experiences in outdoor ministry and retreats, which gave me a helpful lens with which to bring to the church.

Spirituality for me is about connection to that which is truest and deepest within us and among us.  I believe the oneness to which we are called is rooted in the particulars of different traditions, not just the sameness across them.  I’m a committed follower of Jesus, but know he leads me to the well where I will meet others.  Now more than ever, the world needs is for people to tell their stories and for others to hear them. We yearn to see not only God, but each other, face to face.

Rob McClellan is Senior Pastor and Head of Staff of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, CA.  He has a M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a M.A. in Rhetoric from the University of Wisconsin, and a M.Div from Columbia Theological Seminary.  He is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Rob has also worked as a facilitator in the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia’s Walking the Walk, an interreligious service and dialog program for high school youth. He has a love of preaching, teaching, pastoral care and transformative mission and is passionate about ecotheology and spirituality.  He is married to Sherri Hausser, also a Presbyterian Minister, and together they have a son, Liam, born Oct. 13, 2012. 


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. Stay tuned to the Heartbeat blog to follow live podcasts, interviews, stories, photos and more!



Our 2014 Camino Peace Pilgrimage will consist of young adults from many religious traditions walking 100 miles of the ancient Spanish Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route together. Teaching will be offered by John Philip and Ali Newell with intentional time for guided meditation, reflection, and dialogue.

Pilgrims and Teachers

Young adults (roughly between the ages of 20-40) from many religious traditions and with a special interest in multi-faith spirituality, environmentalism, or peace activism are invited to apply. A valid passport for the U.K. and Spain are required.


The Pilgrimage will be led by Ali Newell (Associate Chaplain of Edinburgh University) and John Philip Newell (Celtic Scholar and Peacemaker) under the auspices of the Edinburgh University Chaplaincy ( ) and Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing ( ).


May 31- June 8, 2014

We will begin and end in Edinburgh, Scotland with an evening meal together, flying to Spain on 1st June, then walking the Camino Del Norte for six days, from Santander to Ribadesella, returning to Edinburgh on 8th June. Participants will need to arrange their own travel to Edinburgh for the beginning of the pilgrimage.

Puerto_del_Palo_(1439318460)****The deadline is now past and we are no longer taking applications. Please consider joining us in Minneapolis, MN this summer for the Pilgrimage for Change ( with John Philip and Ali Newell.


Many thanks to John Philip Newell who is donating his time to this endeavor, and to the major funders who have made this trip possible: Frannie Hall Kieschnick, Peter and Maria Rippe, and Rob and Amy Heinrich as well as countless others who have contributed to the ministry of Heartbeat. May your gifts be seeds of peace in our world!

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