Helping People Understand the New Spirituality

In the last 200 years, we have learned more about our nature as spiritual beings, the other planes of life, and communication with people living on other planes than at any time in humankind’s history. The result is a sea change occurring in people’s worldviews. The old religions based on dogma and practices that evolved millennia ago among tribal people in different ages with different perspectives on life are not relevant to the new worldview. As a result, a new spirituality is emerging. The old religious traditions focused on external sources of knowledge, dogma dictated by authors and religious functionaries, and mindless rituals. The new spirituality focuses on the inner person and personal growth through contemplation, openness to all new insights, and social interaction, with no dogma, sacred texts, or ritual.

At the forefront of the new spirituality are people in small groups who are changing the spiritual perspectives and practices of their members. Some are new groups and circles. Others are reorientations of existing groups such as churches.

Nolleen Kelly’s Spiritual Self-Care: Techniques for Mind and Heart

Nolleen Kelly, an AREI member, is one of the pioneers helping the groups she is associated with to embrace the new, inner-directed, contemplative spirituality. Nolleen has served as a Hospice Social Worker, Bereavement Counselor, and Community Mental Health Counselor for eight years. She has an M.S in Psychology and Pastoral Counseling, and formerly served as a Catholic nun for 23 years.

Nolleen is now helping her First Congregational United Church of Christ in Hendersonville, North Carolina, learn to engage in spiritual activities based on basic principles of the new spirituality. She calls the activities “Spiritual Self-Care: Techniques for Mind and Heart.” Her descriptions of the basic principles follow. This new spiritual group has the following qualities:

Passion Driven – The church is loosely structured so people can follow their bliss.

Diverse – The doors are open to every single person, and we are working toward loving all who enter. No formal doctrine sets up correct belief. If we had to identify core beliefs, they would be that God is all-inclusive love, and we are to have a heart of compassion that is all inclusive.

Compassionate – There is a strong emphasis on social justice. The initiative comes from the people of the church community. Often, this takes great courage, especially in the face of opposing societal beliefs.

Transparent – Small groups gather frequently. Gradually, people feel safe enough to allow themselves to be known. Emotional and spiritual growth then begin. The pastor helps to set this tone in the pulpit, in small gatherings, in the public eye, and in everyday relating. My pastor said to me, “It is all about relationships.”

Educational – When decisions must be made affecting the whole, there is always education in several forms. For example, several years back when my church decided to become open and affirming of the LGBT community, there were presentations from the community at large, study groups, prayer, and plenty of research before an actual decision was made. The process took two years. Some people left; some new members joined. This education before, during, and after important decisions is fostered by a weekly forum that congregation members participate in before the worship services to discuss the issues. Speakers and facilitators are scheduled to address a WIDE variety of topics. Recently, an Episcopal priest came for the church service and shared his calling to resign as a pastor and to organize a center that focuses on spiritual practices.

Contemplative – This attribute is currently evolving. Periods of reflective silence have entered the worship service, and the core group and I are providing weekly classes on meditation and spiritual practices. This area has been my one note since arriving at the church, and there is a core group that sings the note with me.

Celebratory – In our worship and in our life together as a community, there is both joy and a commitment to standing with each other in sadness. The music minister draws both from us. We celebrate each other’s lives regularly. We frequently eat at the same table in small groups or larger gatherings. The love is palpable.

Concern for the environment – Matter matters. For nearly a year, a group of about eight people worked on acquiring solar panels for part of the church roof. The dialogue about climate change and our responsibility as human beings continues. There is a ministry called OAC (One with all Creation) that is not yet fully functioning. We continue to evolve.

Meeting Schedule

The Saturday-morning meeting schedule illustrates the content of the meetings that encourage growth in the new approach to spiritual practice.


The first hour each week (10:00 – 10:50) will explain and demonstrate a spiritual technique (e.g. setting intentions; visualization; affirmations).

The second hour (11:00 – Noon) will be devoted to orientation to and practice of meditation. After a brief introduction, we will meditate; then a short period of feedback will conclude the hour.


September 10 –
10:00 – 10:50 – Setting Intentions
11:00 – Noon – Meditation/Contemplation/Mindfulness/Centering Prayer

September 17 –
10:00 – 10:50 – Exploring Prayer Life: Overview
11:00 – Noon – Meditation/Contemplation/Mindfulness/Centering Prayer

September 24 –
10:00 – 10:50 – Using Affirmative Prayer: Appreciation and Gratitude
11:00 – Noon – Meditation/Contemplation/Mindfulness/Centering Prayer

October 1 –
10:00 – 10:50 – Praying for and with Others
11:00 – Noon – Meditation/Contemplation/Mindfulness/Centering Prayer

October 8 –
10:00 – 10:50 – Forgiveness
11:00 – Noon – Meditation/Contemplation/Mindfulness/Centering Prayer

October 15 – No classes today due to our church hosting Distinguished Lecturer Series.

October 22 –
10:00 – 10:50 – Letting Go
11:00 – Noon –Meditation/Contemplation/Mindfulness/ Centering Prayer

October 29 –
10:00 – 10:50 – Walking the Labyrinth
11:00 – Noon – Meditation/Contemplation/Mindfulness/Centering Prayer