Twenty-nine percent of Americans identify as “nones”, checking “no religious affiliation”. Yet, there is a growing trend of people identifying as SBNR, spiritual but not religious. People are longing for connection, community, personal and social transformation, and purpose. Casper ter Kuile provides research and insights about spiritual seekers in the 21st century in the book Power of Rituals: Turning Every Activities into Soulful Practices. He documents stories of millennial seekers, skeptics and believers, working together to redefine spirituality during times of deep longings for community.
The energy, creativity and wisdom of these skeptics and seekers is reshaping the landscape for not just millennials but also baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Z. There is a cultural shift unfolding as a growing number of people, across the generations, seeks meaning, connection and community.
Author Casper ter Kuile is trained to be a minister of non-religious people. Co-Author Angie Thurston fosters spiritual growth among increasing religious disaffiliation. Their paper, How We Gather, outlines how millennials are seeking and creating opportunities for spirituality and community that leads to a meaningful, purpose driven life.
The ten case studies outline the ways that millennials are redefining a spiritual community. Crossfit, SoulCycle, US Department of Arts and Culture, Millennial Trains Project, Live in the Grey, Camp Grounded, The Sanctuaries and more give the SBNR new lenses on what it means to be spiritual. The roots of each movement illustrates the essence of the deep desires for connection, reflection, wisdom and purpose across the millennial generation.
I would add it is also a deep desire for people in transition and in their Third Half. Longings for community, connection and spirituality are intergenerational.
Exploring new ways of spiritual practices stretches us to be curious about what is possible when people take action to find new ways to explore purpose and connection. To read Power of Rituals is to practice stretching, asking questions, and wondering. What’s your reaction to a podcast called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text? or a Tech Sabbath? or The Dinner Table, an online platform for people who have recently experienced loss to gather over a meal.
One example of a spiritual practice transformation is the pilgrimage. The ancient practice of a pilgrimage has become so popular that over 200,000 walk the Camino de Santiago each year with 10% increase in pilgrims each year. Yet, Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston spotlight the more accessible Millennial Trains Project. The Project is crowd funded and combines personal development and shared discussions with mentors and participant led projects. Founder Patrick Dowd refers to the ride as “an inner and outer journey”, here in the US.
What rituals are you adopting to create community? connection and purpose?
How are you developing spiritual practices that bring you a deeper personal and social transformation?
How might we bring multiple generations together to transform the longings of millions of NONEs and SBNRs?
And for those of SRSKB (my acronym for spiritual, religious, seekers, skeptics and believers), have faith that whether you are outdoors in nature, a place of worship, in a yoga class or at cross fit, we can as they say at Westminster Presbyterian “welcome the believers, the seekers and the skeptics”. Together we can form a community of connection, inspiration, reflection and spirituality.