This month in Houston, we started a new weekly meditation and discussion program at a local community center. More on this later, but first let me describe how it is a part of our general plans with SNS, no matter where you are.
We have certainly learned a lot in over seven years of operation since SNS began. We are always learning more about what works and what is better done another way.
Part of the Society’s mission has always been about promoting the growth of community (of all kinds) for Spiritual Naturalists – be they secular Buddhists, Humanists, Pantheists, Stoic naturalists, UU naturalists, Humanistic Jews, or Christian naturalists, or from other traditions.
How we do that is another matter. Because we are scattered about and often in the minority, SNS (as an inter/national organization using its online outreach and resources) has been a great way to make new connections. Many people have met virtually and some have become good friends. Many great discussions have taken place. Some have even met in person.
We began with online forums, but could never get enough traction, as it seems that social media has deflated the number of people who utilize forums as much as they used to. So, we discovered that social media was a better outlet for these kinds of exchanges (we have both a Facebook page and a group). In addition, last year we tried out a number of different online video chat programs. While some like to attend these, it is not the majority to be sure, and that’s ok.
Although we’ve formed quite an online community, we are always looking for ways to help foster Spiritual Naturalists being able to exchange ideas and fellowship. While we’ve had some successes doing this virtually, we’ve come to realize there substitute for face-to-face interaction with others. That’s why we’ve decided to expand our efforts to helping more local groups, using each vehicle (online and in-person) in the ways that suit each other’s strengths.
So, our articles, newsletter, online groups, and other educational materials will continue to help bring all of us together, talking and learning from one another. But in addition, we’ll also be looking for ways to help encourage and support people meeting face-to-face in local events.
The new weekly meditation program in Houston is an example of this. There have been similar programs in Houston for a while now connected with SNS, but this is the first time it will be weekly, which I believe will help build a consistent and growing local community.
What that means for everyone in SNS, is several things:
- SNS Houston can serve as a test-bed and example for new groups.
- We will be offering reports on our topics and sharing materials on the main SNS website so that people anywhere can benefit.
- Local groups can also share materials, topic ideas, and handouts on the main site so other local groups can make use of these materials and share their own as well.
- SNS can alert members in an area when a local group is starting.
- The inter/national organization can also be helpful in that the weekly articles and voluminous collection of resources can provide topics for discussion at local groups.
In the near future, we’ll be reaching out to groups in other locations to try to create a more consistent working relationship and help share their voices and reports. I would also like to take another look at our Local Group Center and refurbish that section of the SNS site, to these ends.
Lastly, it is my hope that we can develop special packets that could be sent to new and other interested groups, which will help provide some guides to format, content, etc.
If you have ideas, input, advice, or interests in local groups, please let us know. We could also use a “Local Groups Liaison” on the staff who could help with this, so please consider if that’s right for you.
Not everyone prefers in-person modes and some are unable. But whether you live near an area where a local group is possible or not, I think these efforts will be of use and benefit. Not only will the materials shared online by the local groups be useful to online users, but these groups will help to infuse the SNS national organization as they come together online too.
Thanks so much for reading. I’m looking forward to reporting more on this soon!
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.