How We Gather is Millennial-led spiritual startup collaboration between Harvard Divinity School, the Fetzer Institute and On Being.. What began in 2015 as a student-led exploration of how Millennials are finding and building communities of meaning and belonging has morphed into a ground-breaking study of organizations that are effectively unbundling and remixing the functions historically performed by traditional religious institutions. The early power of the project was in mapping the landscape of innovation that is rising to do this old work in new ways, identifying trends and offering frameworks describing the dynamic practices and purposes that cohere widely diverse efforts.
The work has gained significant coverage, including the New York Times, The Atlantic and PBS News in part because it has exposed a breakdown of old conceptual and institutional silos, including what is “religious” and what “secular”. Perhaps surprisingly, the work has highlighted the deeply religious longings of people otherwise categorized as “unaffiliated” or “spiritual but not religious.” And in a time when many in religious institutions are focused on what is dying, the project has shone a light on the emerging new life at the intersections of community, spirituality and justice work.
The team - Angie Thurston, Casper ter Kuile and Sue Phillips - have hosted gatherings of innovative community leaders from organizations as diverse as CrossFit, Afro Flow Yoga, dinner churches, public meditation groups, makerspaces and many others.
Across the variety of creative efforts, they all spark some mix of personal and social transformation, community building, creativity, accountability, and purpose finding.
How We Gather has also engaged the wider field by convening senior denominational leaders, foundation staff, and elders. Often working in collaboration, they’ve co-convened with Faith Matters Network, the Texas Methodist Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, On Being and the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
A central focus of the work has been learning how best to support the emerging landscape of innovative community leaders. This has included learning to meet pastoral needs through event chaplaincy and offering spiritual accompaniment through a pilot program matching elders with Millennial community leaders to offer spiritual accompaniment and space for reflection. Further work has included hosting conversation space for Nuns and Nones and leading two cohorts of Fellows - the Boston Community Fellows, together with Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and On Being Fellows.
In bringing together unlikely partners and embarking on entrepreneurial ventures, How We Gather has become a proto laboratory for spiritual innovation. The team expects to see this role growing in the coming years.
Angie Thurston is an On Being Strategist and a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, working to deepen spiritual community amidst increasing religious disaffiliation. She is the co-author, with Casper ter Kuile, of How We Gather and Something More, two reports profiling new forms of meaningful community in America. Angie is a leader in the international fellowship of Urantia Book readers. A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Divinity School, Angie began chairing semiannual spiritual gatherings in 2010 and is dedicated to connecting and supporting young community leaders nationwide.
Casper Ter Kuile
Casper ter Kuile is building a world of joyful belonging. He's a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School where he supports innovative community leaders across the secular/sacred landscape. Together with his colleague Angie Thurston, Casper co-authored two reports - How We Gather and Something More - that map this emerging landscape.
Casper co-hosts an award-winning podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, which engages a modern classic through traditional sacred reading practices such as Havruta and Lectio Divina. Casper is also an On Being Strategist and was previously the co-founder of Campaign Bootcamp and the UK Youth Climate Coalition. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his husband Sean.
Rev. Sue Phillips is catalyzing spiritual community in a post-denominational world. A Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, Sue is the co-author with Angie and Casper of Faithful, which calls on traditional religious denominations to adapt and engage innovation. Sue served for many years as a denominational executive, coach and consultant to hundreds of Unitarian Universalist congregations and leaders, and holds a special place in her heart for the faithful, flourishing geniuses who innovate within and beyond traditional religious communities. Sue lives in Tacoma, WA with her wife Tandi Rogers.