This month SNS is coming up on its seventh anniversary! In the past several years we have accomplished a lot. We’ve published hundreds of articles on Spiritual Naturalism, several books, and made available online educational resources, videos, and podcasts. More importantly, we continue to reach out to, and connect with, spiritual and religious naturalists from all traditions – building our community and raising dialogue.
SNS was started as a national/international organization because, at the time, there were no organized efforts that specifically focused on naturalistic forms of spirituality or religion. Its enthusiasts from many traditions were few and far between, or at least their connection and awareness of one another was. They could (and can) certainly be found sprinkled throughout Humanist, UU, and other religions. But with SNS came the opportunity to start a conversation on this huge area of overlap in which we meet – the natural and the sacred.
Since that time, many online pages, sites, organizations, and groups have emerged from many varieties and traditions of naturalistic spirituality and religion: from Contemplative Humanists, to Secular Buddhists, to Naturalistic Paganism, Christian Naturalism, and more. A lot of this was synergy of the right time in history, but SNS is thrilled to be a part of this growing community.
Now that more connections are getting formed, we would like to put a lot more emphasis into developing local communities. There are certainly strengths to inter/national organization, and so we will continue these online outreach and publication efforts we’ve worked hard to establish. But there are also things uniquely possible with face-to-face, local communities.
By “developing local communities” I want to make clear we are not looking at that as only, merely, or even mainly, as establishing ‘official SNS chapters’. We are certainly open to that, but we imagine the bulk of these efforts will be in helping independent groups and groups of other associations to grow, while helping to strengthen their interactions and communities. The “SNS logo/name” is not our mission. Our mission is raising awareness of naturalistic spirituality, and growth of its broader community wherever that may be.
It is important to let you know we are aware that different personality types may prefer online or in-person interactions (and some a mix). Therefore, we will be aware of this and make all options available. This is also good because sometimes, even when people want face-to-face groups, there may be none currently in their area.
How We Will Proceed
1) Local Work
First we will be doing more by example. We are already honored and happy to have Rick Heller’s help in sharing his local group’s meditations with all SNS members online each month. His example is an inspiration.
In Houston, Texas we have had on-and-off groups of various styles for quite some time, but have been on hiatus a while. We have been looking and believe we’ve found a place to begin in January. There we will be hosting weekly Spiritual Naturalist meditations and discussion groups. Occasionally we may also engage in special activities such as rituals, or even just have socials.
This will be our first time doing this weekly, which I believe will be key in building a consistent attendance and close community. Importantly, we will be looking for ways to synergize these local efforts with inter/national SNS by sharing our topic notes, reports, and possibly eventually audio/visuals. This way, people from anywhere can benefit online, but these may also be useful for other local groups.
2) Reaching Out to More Existing Local Groups
By ‘existing groups’ we don’t mean they necessarily identify with the term “Spiritual Naturalist” or “Religious Naturalist”. What we mean is any local group that meets face-to-face and is interested in naturalistic forms of spirituality, practice, or religion. This means:
– Any Tradition: Naturalistic Paganism, Christian Naturalism, Secular Buddhism, Humanism, Stoicism, and more.
– Any Format: Discussion, social, practice, ritual, etc.
– Any Organization: Independent, part of a religion or church, part of a larger organization, etc. As long as they are ok with multiple partnerships or at least dialogue/friendships with other groups, so are we!
And, by ‘reaching out’ what I mean is that we want to begin doing systematic searches and contacting of these compatible groups wherever we can find them. When we contact them, we will want to invite one of their representatives to join a conversation list, and invite them to be listed on a Local Groups link list on the SNS site. In this way, it is hoped that the resources we spend on outreach, might help visitors find their way to their groups locally. This is the minimum of what we mean by ‘connecting with’.
Beyond that, as various groups want, they could become more involved – sharing their educational materials, reports of their meetings, and more. This is the great dialogue we hope to foster, but also so that it becomes helpful for any local group to be a part of this so they can draw ideas, content, advice, and support from it. Even now, the weekly articles from SNS could serve as discussion ideas for local groups!
3) More Assistance for New and Emerging Local Groups
There are so many existing local groups with shared interest in forms of Spiritual Naturalism that we must do all we can to respect and acknowledge their value and build connections with them. But there are also many areas where no such groups exist. And, there are many people who may be interested in starting new groups. We want to be there for them when this happens. We already have some tips and guidelines on our site, but it would be nice to develop a more complete package we could send out to potential group founders. Founding a new group is not easy and takes time and patience for it to take root. There may be a lot of ‘no-show’ events and people can get discouraged or realize there was more to it than they thought. But if we can help by letting SNS members in their area know about the new group, and giving them advice and resources, then we’d like to get a lot better at this.
It is also worth noting that our recent efforts to have curators for the Traditions pages on the website is going well and many of their contributions of materials could easily find their way into materials for local groups to chew on. I’ll comment more about this in our next member newsletter.
What is Needed
To really do a good job with this, we need your help. We need volunteers who:
- are good with people and organization who can help us find, reach out to, and communicate with other groups.
- can help us put together resources and materials.
- can list groups by editing our WordPress website.
- would be willing to approach existing compatible groups in-person in their area.
- might be interested in starting new groups where non exist.
- can offer feedback, ideas, and support
We could also use extra funds to put together these packets and address other outreach costs that emerge from this campaign. In other words – we could use more Supporting Members.
Thank you for reading about our agenda for 2020. I hope you feel as excited about these efforts as I am. Please let me hear from you and I hope you have a wonderful week.
With love and thanks,
Daniel at SNS
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The Spiritual Naturalist Society works to spread awareness of spiritual naturalism as a way of life, develop its thought and practice, and help bring together like-minded practitioners in fellowship.
2 thoughts on “Getting Local!”
I have recently, as in one meeting, started a group for reflection and sharing which is to be inclusive of many paths. Naturalism would be welcome.
Pagan folks have established formal small groups within various Unitarian Universalist congregations. Spiritual naturalists might want to establish similar formal small groups within UU congregations. Many UUs are in fact spiritual naturalists.