Heartbeat Pilgrimage Initiative

IMG_8579 - Version 2Over the past few decades John Philip and Ali Newell have carefully developed a model for pilgrimage which creates a dynamic environment for people to be transformed and healed. Harnessing centuries old spiritual practices from various wisdom traditions and distilling them into a week-long pilgrimage experience has been a hallmark of their ministry.

The impact is unmistakable: lives are changed forever.

The ancient practice of Pilgrimage is nothing new in the Christian Household, but a reawakening to its liminal qualities seems to be taking shape. In a world filled with the distractions of technology, horrific headlines of war and earth’s degradation, the process of leaving behind one’s comfort in search of meaning, solitude, spiritual connection, and guidance now feels more relevant than ever.  The path is clear-we must increase our awareness, empathy, compassion, and focus our energy for action. The practice of Pilgrimage can be a galvanizing event for a person intent on engaging injustice and joining a force for peace.

At Heartbeat, our finger is on the pulse of this re-awakening, and we are ready to respond.IMG_8545 - Version 2

The Heartbeat Pilgrimage Initiative

We are collaborating with interfaith leaders, activists, and educators to develop a program to train and support an entire generation of Pilgrimage Facilitators. We will be taking the model developed by John Philip and Ali Newell and offering it to qualified leaders who can then organize and facilitate Heartbeat pilgrimage events.

“We will be taking the pilgrimage model developed by John Philip and Ali Newell and offering it to qualified leaders who can then organize and facilitate Heartbeat pilgrimage events.”

IMG_7342 - Version 2

Fayaz teaching about Islam in during the 2014 Camino Peace Pilgrimage

Many of us know the impact of our journey to places like the Isle of Iona or walking the Camino de Santiago. Imagine now trained Heartbeat Pilgrimage Facilitators offering pilgrimage experiences anywhere in the world. By strategically making use of specific locations for pilgrimage, there is unique potential for these offerings to raise critical awareness and inspire– all the while equipping participants by teaching the spiritual practices necessary to sustain a life of engagement and action.

Heartbeat will also serve as a resource to these trained facilitators, offering spiritual support, a network for recruiting participants, and a base for staying connected and dreaming our way forward.

Qualified candidates selected for the Pilgrimage Initiative will learn skills to fine-tune their ability to lead prayer experiences, facilitate group dialogue, and manage the over all pilgrimage experience; including planning, navigation, and follow up.

Phase 1 of the Pilgrimage Initiative depends on three important components:

  1. Heartbeat Executive Director Ben Lindwall and 2014 Camino Peace Pilgrimage participant Fayaz Alibhai of Edinburgh, UK will lead a second interfaith pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago next year. They will use the experience to form an outline for the necessary materials for training new pilgrimage facilitators.
  2. John Philip Newell, Ali Newell, and Ben Lindwall will host a closed pilot group for the first Pilgrimage Facilitator Training in Santa Fe, New Mexico in July 2015. Additional opportunities will be available to a wider audience after this initial development phase.
  3. Your prayers and support will be necessary to make this plan a reality.

The Heartbeat Pilgrimage Initiative is an incredible opportunity to share the ministry of John Philip and Ali Newell with more people than ever before. It is a program that can serve people for generations to come. Young people are especially interested in experiential opportunities to connect with their spiritual lives. There is so much more to all of this than simply walking!

Will you join this journey?

This is the greatest task we have ever undertaken as an organization, and we need you to help take us to the next level. To make this dream a reality, we need to raise $75,000 for our Annual Fund by the end of 2014. We want to make this program accessible to anyone who is qualified, regardless of his or her financial capability. We can only do this with your help.

Please consider increasing your gift to Heartbeat this year, or making a second donation towards our vision for the Pilgrimage Initiative. Nearly 100% of Heartbeat’s funding comes from individual donations, an incredible testament to our grassroots network of support. But this also means that we depend on your generosity to move the Pilgrimage Initiative forward. Will you make a donation towards this effort today?








Checks can be made out to Heartbeat and sent to:

P.O. Box 11853
Minneapolis, MN 55411 

Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing is a 501(c)3 organization eligible to receive tax deductible donations.

A Conversation with Heartbeat Pilgrimage Scholar, Brother Timothy Joyce

Brother Timothy Joyce, of Hingham, MA is a Benedictine monk at Glastonbury Abbey. He was one of the first recipients of Heartbeat’s Pilgrimage Scholarship Award and consequently made the journey to the Isle of Iona for a retreat with John Philip Newell last month. “I have recently celebrated my 80th birthday,” he told us, “I want to mark this rite of passage in my life with an experience such as Iona. I have led Celtic Spirituality retreats and workshops. I want time and space such as the Isle of Iona, with its natural beauty, can provide. I am learning more about myself as well as God, the Christ, the meaning of life in an evolutionary world. Closeness to nature has become very significant in my search.”

Why did you want to go to the Isle of Iona?

I was looking for a place in nature for a retreat to mark some important passages in my life. The opportunity to go to Iona seemed like a providential call. This had been a sacred place on my previous visits and I relished the time and space to pray, reflect, celebrate.  I had also read John Philip Newell’s works and resonated with his teachings.

Br. Timothy Joyce at the Nunnery Ruins on the Isle of Iona.

Br. Timothy Joyce at the Nunnery Ruins on the Isle of Iona

The opportunity to go to Iona seemed like a providential call.

What stood out to you about the experience?

It was a total, embracing experience. Truly a thin place, Iona is a sacred environment – the land, the air, the sea, the abbey church. Then there was this group of 36 wonderful people who were caring, supportive, loving and very open. The meals, the talks,the hiking together, the prayer times in the abbey church were all  joyous encounters with God and each other.

How did the experience impact you?

I believe I came away with a little more urgency of living and spreading the gospel message in all its social dimensions.  I also may be more free to speak and live this message.

Anything else you want to share?

I am truly very grateful for this rich opportunity. It was more than I had hoped for.
Overlooking Columba's Bay

Overlooking Columba’s Bay



Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

The Antithesis of Terrorism

DSCF3960by John Philip Newell

In 2007 there was a terrorist attack at Glasgow International Airport in Scotland. Ali and our younger son, Cameron, were traveling that day.They arrived at the airport just minutes before the Jeep that had been packed with explosives drove through the front window of the terminal and burst into flames. If they had arrived a few minutes later, they would have been checking in at exactly that spot in the airport. As it was, they were inside the terminal getting close to the ticket counter. Then suddenly in front of them hundreds of people were running in the opposite direction. Ahead of them they glimpsed the Jeep and one of the terrorists on fire.

 “I was listening for the moment of explosion. I was trying to decide when to throw myself over Cameron.”

People were desperately running to get away. Our son- in-law Mark was with Ali and Cameron. He had taken them to the airport and was helping with their luggage. He said, “Drop your bags. Run.” As the three of them ran, Mark, in later recounting what was going on in his mind, said, “I was listening for the moment of explosion. I was trying to decide when to throw myself over Cameron.”

This was not Mark boasting. This was a candid, straightforward expression of his heart. He would not put it this way because he does not claim to be religious. But for me this was an expression of the heart of God. It was an expression of the true depths of the human soul. Deep within us is the desire to love.

click to order

click to order

In the end, the explosives did not detonate. Scotland was spared the sort of carnage that many places in our world are subjected to on a regular basis. How can we be part of transformation in our world so that such acts of terror do not pull us further apart? For us as a family, we will always remember Mark’s willingness to risk himself for Cameron. It was the antithesis of the fear and hatred that motivated the bomb plot. How can we nurture the willingness to sacrifice? In other words, how can we nourish the desire to love, a desire that is within us all, although often confined to the smallest circles of relationship and family, yet a desire that can be equally although more challengingly applied to broader spheres of relationship in our world? There are many stages to transformation, including the detailed deci- sions of how to reenvision and restructure the relationships of life, whether between nations and species or between individuals and communities. But unless there is a willingness to be compassionate and to bear the cost of love, we will move nowhere except into further separation and division.

 A New Harmony (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) 164-165.