How We Gather is Millennial-led spiritual startup collaboration between Harvard Divinity School and the Fetzer Institute. 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 and the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. In 2018 the team was incubated by the On Being Project.
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 is creating spiritual formation experiences for the 21st century. She is dedicated to connecting the inner life of spirit to the outer life of action for social change. Convinced that we need each other to become who we're meant to be, Angie supports an emerging field of leaders who are deepening community and combating our modern-day crisis of isolation.
Angie is a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, and the co-author of How We Gather and Care of Souls, two reports profiling new forms of social and spiritual connection. Her work has been featured in The New York Times and on NPR.
A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Divinity School, Angie loves helping people come together to co-create something bigger than themselves. She used to do that as a New York City playwright and more recently as co-convener of more than 20 spiritual gatherings across the United States. She is a student of the Urantia Book and hosts bi-weekly study groups in her home. Angie lives in Somerville, MA with her husband Vipin Thekk.
Casper Ter Kuile
Casper is building a world of joyful belonging. In the middle of enormous changes in how we "do" community and spirituality, Casper connects people and creates projects that help us live lives of greater meaning and depth. Nothing makes him happier than learning about religious tradition and reimagining it for our modern context.
He co-hosts Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, a podcast engaging a modern classic through traditional sacred reading practices like lectio divina and havruta. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and on PBS.
Casper holds Masters of Divinity and Public Policy degrees from Harvard University, and remains a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School.
Born and raised in England, he was previously the co-founder of Campaign Bootcamp and the UK Youth Climate Coalition and endures the endless disappointments of being a Leeds United fan. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his husband Sean Lair.
Rev. Sue Phillips is relentlessly curious about the crossover spaces between traditional religious institutions and the landscape of spiritual and community-building innovation. An ordained minister and former denominational executive in the Unitarian Universalist Association, Sue is passionate about cultivating spiritual entrepreneurship, building thriving meaning-making communities, and supporting emerging leaders. She credits radical Catholic women religious, feminist and womanist liberation theologians, and other prophetic women for activating her lifelong passion for justice.
Sue is a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School and the founder of FAITHIFY, the first denominationally-affiliated crowdfunding site, and is the co-author with colleagues Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile of Faithful and Care of Souls which explore emerging models of spiritual innovation. A graduate of Colgate University and the Episcopal Divinity School, Sue has taught at Harvard Divinity School. She lives in Tacoma, WA with her wife Tandi Rogers.