Reflecting on Gravity’s One Year

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism.

We have much to celebrate—the press and publicity, the sold out retreats, the tens of thousands of people we spoke with at conferences or on campuses or on book tour, and the nearly quarter of a million dollars we raised this past year.

A year ago, we set out to create.

To create something new.

A year ago, we determined to do something.

To do something different.

And today we want to reflect on what it was we set out to do.

Gravity is fresh.

Gravity is honest.

Gravity is human.

The start-up was quiet and undramatic, but it was, and for that matter still is, very important work.

On a confessional level, starting the Center allowed space to reflect on failures we experienced in our personal lives and in our community—sifting through the ways we used ourselves up personally, spiritually, and emotionally in two decades of demanding social justice work.

If we are honest, if we are completely candid, our motivations in starting this Center for Contemplative Activism were birthed out of our own pains, our deep longings to help people do good better.

We felt compelled to launch the to Center to serve humanitarians, practitioners, and activists who frequently take better care of others than they do themselves—folks who seem to perpetually teeter on the edge of burnout hoping that they can in fact do good better if they can just keep it together.

Ultimately Gravity exists to help the women and children in red-light areas, refugee camps, sewers and slums who deserve better. Who can’t afford another painful loss or sad goodbye. Who don’t need young idealists to show up in their neighborhoods with promises of hope or freedom only to last a couple years before they decide they want to go back to grad school or pour coffee 20 hours a week while figuring out what else they want to do with their privileged freedoms.

Looking back on nearly 20 years in international work among those in poverty has given us an opportunity to reflect deeply and build off of that reflection, creating something new—something beautiful that doesn’t exclude or condemn, but rather affirms and celebrates.

Today there are more people enslaved than any other time in history. Unthinkable numbers of people have no access to clean drinking water. Disparity between rich and poor has never been greater. Wars continue to rage. And our planet is eroding before our eyes.

The way we’ve been living, serving, and giving of ourselves to the world is not working.

We need a new way to live our faith, express our potential, and give of ourselves for the good of the world. The future of our existence in an increasingly pluralized global reality depends on it.

It is time for contemplative activism.

It is time to do good better.

Change stirs up the best and worst of us. A year ago we set out to launch Gravity and the response of friends, family, and supporters was mixed. We knew we were taking a risk. We knew we were laying the entirety of our lives down, in the hopes that new life would emerge.

It didn’t come without resistance. In fact, some of the most hurtful letters we’ve ever gotten in our 20 years of non-profit and mission work, have come since we’ve started the Center.

Many looked on with suspicion.

Some of our supporters—people who had partnered with us for 10, 15, 20 years—quietly slipped away. Some of them were honest enough to tell us why they pulled their donations—blatantly rebuking us, charging us with not being “Christian enough.”

Ironic, because our faith has never been deeper.

Others courageously dared to believe in something more and stayed with us. Daring to believe that there’s a way to live our faith that doesn’t exclude, and a way to heal the world that brings unity.

And then they came.

Those dreaming of a better world came to offer their support and solidarity.

Today, people from all walks of life are beginning to grasp the crucial connection between contemplation and action.

We want to thank the people who’ve gotten behind us this year.

We want to thank the people who took a risk.

We want to thank the people who actually believed in this crazy, audacious vision.

And this is just the beginning.

• On October 2 we will host our 2nd annual fall contemplative retreat—bringing together 50 leaders from all over North American to cultivate sacred silence, solitude, and stillness.
• In December we’ll partner with New Monasticism’s School for Conversion for our 2nd 21st Century Freedom Ride, a pilgrimage of solidarity and hope.
• 2014 we’ll initiate the long-awaited-for Asia and Africa pilgrimages.
• Throughout next year we’ll continue to work with various churches, universities and communities in facilitating contemplative retreats and speaking forums.

A new world awaits us.

A world that includes.

A world that unites.

A world that celebrates everyone.

We can’t realize this dream alone.

We need each other.

We invite you to join us in making the world a better place—not only with our bare hands, but with our consent, with our silence, with our solitude, with our stillness. With a renewed imagination, with a holy ambition.

We’re asking you to join us.

Together we can make this world a better place.