SNS Council & Volunteers

The Society is lead by the SNS Council in terms of major strategic direction. Members are those who have shown a history of commitment and contribution of their time and energies to the mission of the Society. The Council attends a planning meeting once per month over video conference, and works in between in many leadership roles. All volunteers are welcome to attend these planning meetings as well. Contact us if you are interested.

 

Leigh AndersonLeigh Anderson (Administration Director) is recently retired after working 30 years in the aerospace industry, with degrees in computer programming and Cultural Anthropology. A well traveled native Texan, she lives there now near much of her extended family. Her interests include comparative religion, though she prefers not to label her beliefs specifically. She instead blends parts of different traditions and religions to craft her own individual spiritual outlook. Leigh volunteers at a local State Park and enjoys family outings, kayaking, hiking, photography and numerous outdoor activities. The Administration Director is responsible for communications, logistics, volunteer management, scheduling, and other administrative functions. Leigh is also a former Council member.

 

Lindsey Halpern-Givens (Administration Assistant) has a professional and personal interest in understanding and caring for the human spirit. For over two decades she has worked as a hospital chaplain, a licensed counselor, and a parish minister. A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University with an M.A in Counseling Arts, as well as an M.Div. from Meadville/Lombard Theological School (Unitarian Universalist) and a D.Min. from Chicago Theological Seminary (United Church of Christ). Lindsey is a lifelong animal lover. She and her husband Bob currently live with 2 dogs and 2 cats and have four grown children.

 

Rick Heller (Meditation Group Instructor, Council Member) is author of Secular Meditation: 32 Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, and Joy – A Guide from the Humanist Community at Harvard. Rick has led meditations at the Humanist Hub since 2009. His writing has appeared in Buddhadharma, Free Inquiry, UUWorld, Tikkun, the Boston Globe, and more. He received a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University. He also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT.

 

Kyle Kampa (Newsletter Editor, Council Member) is a meditator and spiritual-seeker living in Houston, Texas. His first exposure to Buddhist thought was through Tsai Chih Chung’s cartoon adaptations of Zen sutras, which his father would bring home from his visits to Taiwan. Kyle has found meditation and the philosophy of Spiritual Naturalism to be a profound help in navigating life’s ups and downs.

 

michelle-leblancMichelle L. LeBlanc (Community Facilitator) has been happily married to her husband/best friend (Roger) since 1999. She is a stay-at-home mom of 3 young boys. Her main hobby is gardening (flowers). Her background involves being a spirit-filled, born-again Christian for 33+ years (up until January 2011). She was a worship leader, soloist, and church leader for many of those years. Today Michelle considers herself a Spiritual Agnostic Humanist. Michelle has always had a great desire to inspire people towards finding truth, meaning, and purpose in this life, and says she is very proud to be a part of the Spiritual Naturalist Society.

 

Thomas Schenk (Editing Director, Council Member) says he “has no credentials besides having lived for 50-plus years”. He calls himself a space-age Taoist, Black Sheep Catholic, Perennial Philosophy Pantheist, Dharma Bum, which suggests he is not inclined to commitment. Tom maintains a largely unread blog called the Golden Hive of the Invisible, which can be found at hiveoftheinvisible.blogspot.com. Directors at Large are available to work on special assignments and where most able and where needs are most crucial. Thomas is currently serving on the Board of Directors and the writing staff and helping to foster community by initiating discussions on the member forums.

 

tony-schlisserTony Schlisser (I.T. Director, Council Member) has roots in the Appalachian foothills of Tennessee. He has taken a winding path to live in Louisville Kentucky with his large and extended family as a philosopher and spiritual vagrant. A lifelong lover of learning, over the years Tony’s formal studies at various colleges have included majors in Bible, Christian education, English literature and philosophy, and human services. Having started as a fundamentalist Christian, Tony has followed a peripatetic path through paganism, studying enlightenment meditation, and atheism/agnosticism/ignosticism with peeks into Taoism, Buddhism, Queer/Gay Spirituality, Deep Ecology, and other spiritual paths. He is currently piecing together his own brand of spiritual naturalism that he has termed Sagaianism (a portmanteau word that derives from sage, saga, Sagan, and Gaia). Tony is a self-taught web developer who has helped several non-profit groups and businesses develop their web presence. The IT Director oversees all matters relating to the SNS website, databases, and online functions.

 

Eric Steinhart (Outreach Director, Council Member) grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. He received his BS in Computer Science from the Pennsylvania State University, after which he worked as a software designer. Many of his algorithms have been patented. He earned an MA in Philosophy from Boston College and was awarded a PhD in Philosophy from SUNY at Stony Brook. He has taught at Dartmouth College and William Paterson University. His books have concerned Nietzsche, the logic of metaphor, mathematics, and life after death. He has published several dozen academic articles. He has been interested in using new computational concepts to solve old philosophical problems. He is especially interested in new and emerging religions. He loves New England and the American West, and enjoys all types of hiking and biking, chess, and photography.

 

daniel2DT Strain (Executive Director, Council Member) is a Humanist minister, speaker, and writer on the topics of ethics, spirituality, and ancient philosophy. Rev. Strain is founder of the Spiritual Naturalist Society and serves as its Executive Director. He leads meditations and speaks on occasion at Jade Buddha Temple and for the V.A. Hospital meditation program. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Stoic Registry. His Humanist Contemplative group and blog inspired a similar mindfulness group at Harvard University. He is former president of the Humanists of Houston and has served in the Chapter Assembly of the American Humanist Association. He has written for the Houston Chronicle Belief page online and his work has appeared nationally in other magazines, on Houston PBS television, and the journal “Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism“. DT Strain has studied the intersection of Eastern and Western ancient philosophy for over ten years, with a specialty on the overlap of concepts between some varieties of Buddhism and Stoicism.

 

Emeritus Council Members & Staff

aron-gammanAron Gamman (former Membership Director and Council Member) is a deeply curious nature lover, husband and parent to two wonderful boys. He is also a sometimes writer, drummer, guitar player and poet (when the muse strikes him) with deep cultural roots in Judaism. He has explored the philosophies of many traditions including Buddhism, neopaganism, etc. to spiritual naturalism he embraces, today. He graduated from Ohio Dominican University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science focusing on environmental issues and recently received a Paralegal Certificate from Columbus State Community College. The Membership Director is responsible for cultivating a healthy, thriving, community within the membership. This includes promoting member inter-communications, activities and events, welcoming new members, the newsletter, and other ideas for encouraging a satisfying social, intellectual, and spiritual experience for members.

 

B.T. Newberg (Former Education Director and Council Member) is an author, editor, teacher, and husband. Since 2000, he has been practicing meditation and ritual from a naturalistic perspective. Upon leaving the Lutheranism of his raising, he experimented with Agnosticism, Buddhism, Contemporary Paganism, and Humanism. He now blends all these experiences into his life as a Spiritual Naturalist. After founding the community blog HumanisticPaganism, he currently writes the column Naturalistic Traditions at Patheos and contributes writing and course design to the Spiritual Naturalist Society. Professionally, he holds a master’s degree in education and teaches English as a Second Language. Having lived in England, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea, B. T. Newberg currently resides in the place of his birth, Minnesota, with his wife and cat. As Education Director of the SNS, he is responsible for the Society’s educational programs, such as course design and collection of supporting materials in both the archives and courses. This also includes helping to select and manage mentors.

 

Dr_Jay_Forrest150x150Jay N. Forrest (Former Education Director and Council Member) is a Spiritual Naturalist and a Humanist Meditation Teacher. Jay is a Council Member of the Spiritual Naturalist Society, as well as being an ordained Humanist Celebrant and a member of the American Humanist Association. Jay is a Certified Meditation Teacher, having been trained in both Zen and Vipassana meditation practices. Jay has taken courses in Buddhism from Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia. He is also on Staff at the Secular Buddhist Association. Jay did his undergraduate work at Central Bible College and Berean University, and received his Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Christian University. Jay is the author of a number of books including Practical Buddhism: Wisdom for Everyday Life and Secular Buddhism: An Introduction.

 

Many other volunteers serve in various important capacities within the Society at times, for which we are grateful. If you would like to become a volunteer, please see this page and contact us!

In addition to our writing staff and our Advisory Board, our present and past volunteers include:

Murtadha Ahmed
Aminata Mansaray
Julie Strain
Darren Bell
Jeremy Mattocks
John Klemesrud
Rick Heller
Jean Schlisser
Nicholas Johnson
Jacob Pewitt