Reflections on Intersection – Our 2018 Theme

This year, Spirit & Place is exploring the theme of Intersection, or what happens when two seemingly different forces or topics come together and how that creates differences in power. In advance of this year’s Festival, the Spirit & Place staff is further exporing this theme in their own words. 

Why is intersection a theme Spirit & Place wants to design a Festival around?

“Coming off the POWER year in 2017, we wanted to provide the community the opportunity to explore the ways in which complex issues, ideas, and even power structures, intersect with one another. We thought INTERSECTION might possibly give people the freedom to dig deeper into some of the issues they explored in 2017.“

“Spirit & Place itself thrives at the intersection of art, religion, and humanities and in the places were ideas, people, and organizations connect to make meaning, develop new solutions, and build community. We see these intersections as potent interchanges for creativity, collaboration, and civic conversation. In this way Spirit & Place serves as “bridging capital,” the term Robert Putnam uses to describe he necessary glue of healthy, thriving places.”

Is there a definition of intersection that resonates most with you?

“The artist Piet Mondrian, a 20th century Dutch painter whose work featured simple geometric elements, said, “Vertical and horizontal lines are the expression of two opposing forces; they exist everywhere and dominate everything; their reciprocal action constitutes ‘life.””

“I like how as a noun, “intersection” can mean a place where two roads meet. But if you remove the last three letters of the word it becomes a verb – intersect – which means to cut or divide by passing through. We do not live in a nice, neat, black-and-white world. It’s complex and messy. Subtle differences can mean a great deal and “intersection,” as a word and concept can embody all that.”

What does intersection mean to you (either you as an individual or S&P)?

“To me, intersection is all about a “place of meeting.” That place can be a mutually supportive space where ideas, people, and beliefs complement each other or it can be congested space filled with competing ideas and values. Either way, intersections are places where we need to slow down, assess what’s going on, and work with others to navigate our way through.”

“For me, intersections are opportunities for discovery and relationship-building. The meeting point of differing ideas and people is a powerful place for creation. American businessman and educator Clayton M. Christensen: “Almost always, great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.”

What does S&P hope will come out of an exploration of this theme (event submissions, responses from the community, etc.)?

“As Program Director, my hope is that we’ll see a mash up of unique collaborative partnerships between groups not typically thought to have intersecting interests or identities. I’m a big believer there always connections to be found between people and I’d love for our event partners to model that in their collaborative efforts.”

“What I love about Spirit & Place is that is absolutely impossible to project what will happen. But we do know from 22 years of experience, that creating the opportunity for people to make new connections is a potent tool for strengthening communities and enhancing civic vibrancy.  It’s also my hope that the ideas explored this year will seed ideas for 2019, when our theme is R/EVOLUTION.”

What is an example of an intersection that is most interesting to you?

“I was a big fan of 2017’s POWER theme. So, I’m personally interested in exploring power-related intersections. I’ve currently been doing some research and reading based on Zeynep Tufekci’s work which explores the intersection of power, authority, and (big data/social media) technology.“

“I’m interested in the spiritual and social dimensions of making music, particularly group-singing.  As cofounder of SongSquad and Justice Choir-Indianapolis, I believe that group-singing teaches us to listen to each other more deeply, strengthens and activates our voice in the world, connects us to each other and to what we hold sacred, provides a window to other cultures and traditions, and provides a powerful source of communal joy. And it’s the cheapest form of therapy you can find!“

The list of events for this year’s Spirit & Place Festival will be announced later this summer. Keep an eye on this blog, our website and Spirit & Place’s Facebook and Twitter pages for more information. In the meantime, Spirit & Place encourages you to examine intersections in your own life and community. Where do different forces intersect to create the but, and, or in your life?


In ancient times, people gathered around the warmth of the fire to share tales of their ancestors: stories of brave conquests, legendary heroes, and tragic deaths. In the telling are lessons of courage in the face of adversity, hope in the midst of defeat, and enduring love in the face of death.

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Our stories give shape and meaning to our lives — in times of celebration as well as in times of sorrow and loss.

While modern day living for most of us no longer involves folktales passed from generation to generation, we likely all know someone in our circle of acquaintances who carries on the tradition of telling and retelling significant family anecdotes —sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always memorable.

Where do we go today to pass on the tales of our ancestors? Do we have safe places to share the stories of our loved ones who are no longer physically here?

In my book, HEART GUIDE: True Stories of Grief and Healing, I interviewed close to 50 people about the death of loved ones. Sharing the memories of those we love and telling their stories is important to our healing. Listening to the personal reflections of others is also useful. In doing so, we may discover something that helps soothe our suffering. We may acquire a source of strength to go forward in the world after loss. We may gain courage, knowledge, or comfort.

We may also find glimmers of hope in the stories of those individuals who have traveled this rugged trail of bereavement before us.

As Janet Brown (who lost both parents) points out in HEART GUIDE, “It was important for me to hear other people’s journeys while I was going through mine … not advice but just telling their stories. That’s valuable.”

Our stories of grief and healing are powerful heart medicine.

Sandra Harris, (who lost her daughter to suicide and her husband to cancer), states, “When we gather as a family, we tell stories. … We think that telling their stories is a good thing to do, and it speaks to the fact that the people we love are still with us.”

With time, the stories may change and evolve. Those who play a meaningful part in the narrative may come and go. New lessons may emerge. Yet always, what remains is the story of our deep love for those we hold close to our hearts.

Author Bio

Diana J. Ensign, JD, is an Indiana writer and author of ‘Heart Guide: Trues Stories of Grief and Healing.’ Her prior book is ‘Traveling Spirit: Daily Tools for Your Life’s Journey.’ (Her books are available on her website and Amazon She also blogs on Spirituality for Daily Living at  Diana is one of the panel speakers at the Spirit & Place event, Words Matter! Writing for Healing, Action, and Change, Friday, November 10, 7:00 – 9:00 PM. Panel members also include writers Phillip Gulley, Amber Stearns, and Barbara Shoup. Presented by First Friends Quaker Meeting 317.255.2485

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Spirit & Place Selection Committee Spotlight


It will be a few more weeks before we officially announce this year’s lineup for this year’s Spirit & Place Festival, but today we’re giving you some insight into how events were chosen. During Indiana’s bicentennial year in 2016, Spirit & Place Festival explores the definitions of “Home” as a place, a space, and an idea. Some submitted events fit exactly with the more literal interpretation of home, but as past Spirit & Place Festival attendees know, the multiple interpretations of the theme is what makes this Festival unique.

Organizations or individuals interested in submitting events for this year’s Festival submitted an application that answers questions related to the design of their event, the goals of the event and collaborators. After those applications are submitted to Spirit & Place, the volunteer selection committee came in to discuss events and make the final decision about event inclusion.

The selection committee is made up of individuals representing a variety of ages, races and professional backgrounds in Central Indiana. Some individuals have been involved with the committee and Spirit & Place for years, while other committee members provide new voices and perspectives. Each event is evaluated on its individual design and how it fit into the Festival as a whole.

According to veteran committee member Heather Hall, “Spirit & Place is a fantastic opportunity for neighborhoods, faith centers, community groups, and arts organizations to creatively collaborate in showcasing their stories within the framework of the festivals theme. I continue to participate in the Spirit & Place selection process because it is a unique opportunity to see Central Indiana communities through the lens of the arts, humanities, and religion.”

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The Festival is a platform for experimentation, celebration and reflection for Central Indiana residents. Committee members took this into account as they chose events as well.

As new committee member Uroosa Khan says, “Spirit & Place … amplifies the Hoosier voice and it is the core and heart of who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re headed. It is a celebration of the light within us. I was honored to serve on the selection committee to help find the brightest of these voices.”

The 2016 Spirit & Place Festival will run November 4-13, 2016. Stay tuned for an official announcement of events that will be included in the 2016 Festival in the next few weeks!

Photo blog: Before I Die recap

Spirit & Place was honored to work with the IU School of Nursing this past weekend on Indy’s — and America’s! — first Before I Die Festival. Thanks again to Bishop Gwendolyn Phillips Coates for leading faith leaders through a day of reflection and skill-building on how to create courageous conversations with their congregants and to Light of the World Christian Church for their generosity in hosting the event!

Bishop Gwendolyn Phillips Coates is the author of Waiting for my Lunch Date: A Journey Through Grief and a Path to Joy and pastor of God Answers Prayers Ministries in South Los Angeles.

Bishop Gwendolyn Phillips Coates is the author of Waiting for my Lunch Date: A Journey Through Grief and a Path to Joy and pastor of God Answers Prayers Ministries in South Los Angeles.


Photo cred: Facebook – Jennifer Vines

















The weekend was packed with even more events, including the Crown Hill Cemetery Before I Die Wall walk. See the full list of events and partners here and check out more images from the weekend here.


Hearts of hate to hearts of love

Kent%20Headshot%20DigitalBy Dr. Kent Millard

In March, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. started a voting rights demonstration in Selma, Alabama to change U.S. laws so that African American citizens could register and vote.

Dr. King asked pastors, priests, rabbis, nuns, and lay people from all over the nation to come to Selma to march for voting rights.

Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister in Boston, responded to Dr. King’s invitation.   Rev. Reeb went into a Selma café, and, when he came out, he was hit over the head with a club by segregationists and died from brain injuries.

“We would be doing what another minister from Boston had been killed for doing the previous week.”

Dr. King called Boston University School of Theology and asked seminary students to come to Selma and join him in this struggle for voting rights.

I was one such seminary student and joined my fellow students on a trip to Selma to participate in the marches.

I was well aware of the risk, since we would be doing what another minister from Boston had been killed for doing the previous week.

For me it was a question of faith.  I thought “how can I ever ask lay people to take a risk for their faith, if I can’t do it myself?”

“My experience in Selma taught me to take risks for my faith, and that God can change hearts through the power of prayer”

I went to Selma, was trained in non-violent resistance, and marched from a Baptist Church to the Selma courthouse amid the hatred and shouts of segregationists.

At the courthouse, a Black pastor prayed for all the people who were shouting ugly words at us that God would change their hearts of hate to hearts of love.

Forty years later in 2005, I spoke to a United Methodist ministers’ retreat in Alabama.  I shared my Selma experience with them, and afterwards a pastor came up and told me that he was also in Selma in March, 1965, but he was one of those shouting hateful words at the marchers.

I asked him, “What changed you?”  He explained that he went to a church service where he knelt in prayer, confessed his sin of hatred, and God came into his life and changed his heart.  Then he decided to become a United Methodist minister to try to build bridges of love rather than walls of hatred.  I thought about how the prayer of the Black pastor 40 years earlier had been answered: a heart of hate had been changed to a heart of love.

My experience in Selma taught me to take risks for my faith, and that God can change hearts through the power of prayer.


Dr. Kent Millard served as Senior Pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis for 18 years and retired in 2011.  Dr. Millard is President of the Indianapolis Interfaith Hunger Initiative, member of Downtown Rotary, serves on the Gleaners board and is a co-author of Lead Like Butler.

All the Crazy Parts

By Callie Smith, Program Manager for Lifelong Theological Education, Christian Theological Seminary

One of my most memorable dates happened at a seafood restaurant. I’d never eaten lobster, and it was obvious. I coped by being playful: cracking jokes, acting silly. My date chimed in, and we were having a great time. Then my hand slipped. Food flew right into his face. Even when the rest of the food had dropped down to the table and floor, he still had one damp kernel of corn stuck to his forehead. Believe it or not, we got a laugh out of that, too. Believe it or not, he even asked me out again.

“Playfulness can redeem just about anything. Imperfections and mistakes are okay when we’re playing.”

Sometimes I think that playfulness can redeem just about anything. Imperfections and mistakes are okay when we’re playing. Children at play are learning and getting new experiences. We give them space to fumble. When adults do things in a playful spirit, we give each other permission to fumble, too.

“There’s a certain playfulness among people who come together with all the crazy parts of our lives and try to figure out how we’re going to live with ourselves and with each other.”

Willingness to run with imperfection is one thing I love about playfulness, and it’s something I love about spirituality, too. For all the rules and regulations we may associate with organized religion, my experience with people of faith is that a lot of us are coming together to figure out how to handle life. Mistakes, conflicts, suffering, the curve balls that surprise and frustrate us – there are so many things in life that would never in a million years count as “right.” Yet, there’s a certain playfulness among people who come together with all the crazy parts of our lives and try to figure out how we’re going to live with ourselves and with each other: neighbors, strangers, and even the divine.

I suspect this 17th year of the Spirit & Place Festival will be my favorite one yet since the entire week of November 2 – 11, 2012 will be devoted to the theme of ‘Play.’ On November 3rd, it will be our pleasure at Christian Theological Seminary to welcome Carrie Newcomer, Phil Gulley, Scott Russell Sanders and Krista Detor for the show Miracles, Myths, Lyrics and Lies, a humorous study in story and song of the playful side of spirituality. Believe me: between now and then, I’ll be doing my best to live up to this year’s theme!

The Playful God


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By Dr. Lewis F. Galloway, Senior Pastor, Second Presbyterian Church My grandparents were wonderful loving people who devoted much time and attention to their five grandchildren.  They took us on outings to introduce us to the new things going on … Continue reading