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From the Editor - January/February 2019

Just after our 20th Anniversary issue came off the press, I traveled by plane, train, and automobile to the Trinity Retreat Center in West Cornwall, Connecticut, where this magazine was first imagined. The retreat was my idea, which came to me because I was out of ideas. What to do for the next 20 years? I hadn’t a clue. But I knew my old boss, Bob Scott, now director of faith development at Trinity Church Wall Street, could figure out a structure for a gathering and find funds to make it happen. I also knew that Dede Taylor, who had been Trinity’s director of communications, could pull it together. We’d gather the magazine’s original launch team as well as a new group of deep thinkers to imagine future scenarios for S&H. Otherwise, this issue might have remained a blank slate.

I love the Retreat Center. It’s on a beautiful bend in the Housatonic River situated between my two religions (downstream from some spectacular rapids where I have kayaked and upstream from the calm waters where I became an oarsman). At the entrance to the retreat, which has been lovingly renovated over the last few years, there’s a gorgeous stone chapel that makes me happy and sometimes want to cry. Inside the main house is a poster listing Trinity’s core values: Faith, Integrity, Inclusiveness, Compassion, Social Justice, Stewardship. I always trip over the Faith part—and at this gathering I was once again among keepers of various faiths: priests, pastors, theologians, chaplains, and a rabbi, as well as spiritual directors and a paraglider. It raised an old question: Trinity spent millions to launch a magazine for spiritual development and then cut it loose with a rower/kayaker/journalist at the helm. Why? I feel really lucky, but maybe it was my lack of faith. Rowers travel backward and kayakers get used to swirling upside down. Maybe that’s the faith of seekers.

Anyway, this first issue of our next 20 years turned out to be about faith. Bob and Dede do a fine job describing future faith scenarios—from the spiritually sublime (and potentially boring) to Armageddon—in “The Next 20 Years of S &H.” (page 52) Meanwhile, Rabbi Rami returned from providing Roadside Assistance in the Holy Land, where it seems every stone is sacred enough to fight over. (46) Then our favorite rabbi rushed off to Ontario, Canada, for the Parliament of World Religions, where thousands of people representing hundreds of faiths came together to hash things out. Just the thought is enough to make one’s head spin. (22)

To me, what was really exciting—and hopeful—was getting the chance to spend retreat time with the many faith leaders who wrote this issue. The Rev. Stephen Blackmer is a forest activist who “rewired my brain” to create The Church of the Woods. (40) The Rev. Daniel Simons grew up thinking evolution was his “greatest threat” and now finds it a “lived experience and one of the most spiritual ways of witnessing the cosmos.” (38) Pastor Gabby Wilkes is a spirited entrepreneur who just launched the Double Love Church in Brooklyn, which really sounds like fun. (26) I also got to spend time with Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, who got famous for creating All Saints and Sinners in Denver and then left on a new adventure with a new book called Shameless. Pastor Nadia is the Brené Brown of pastors, and even more entertaining. (58)

This issue also includes Mary Bemis’s wonderful guide to planning your own retreat. (Jon Kabat-Zinn [120] and Adyashanti [24] likely have the awakened clarity to live in a state of retreat, but the rest of us should travel.) (87) A great retreat is a walk-in placebo—a place and experience that allow the body to heal itself. A great retreat restores faith, which can be the most powerful personal and community-building placebo of all. I hope you find this issue is its own retreat: a gathering of passionate community builders representing the breadth, depth, heart, soul, and—most of all—the kindness and inclusivity of the best of modern religions. Thank God!

Stephen Kiesling

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