I remember the afternoon when Chris Stedman and I hopped on a call with Matt Black and Alisa Roadcup, who were then working for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. I was standing in Central Park in New York City, right after leaving work as a Chaplain Intern at Mount Sinai Hospital.
It had been a sunny day. But throughout a largely sunny landscape, raindrops began to fall. I found my way to the cover of a big tree. But the conversation we were having was so engaging that I barely noticed the rain at all.
It was a conversation that would help lead to the launch of State of Formation. All of us realized that too little was being done, even within the burgeoning interfaith movement, to bring emerging religious and ethical leaders into conversation with each other. We were all in formation individually. The question was whether we could come into formation together, across traditions, geographic boundaries, and backgrounds.
I had generated an idea, and Chris had honed it and made glow. We had received the wonderful input and insights from Stephanie Varnon-Hughes and the rest of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue staff. It was a team effort from the start.
Now it was time to road test the concept with colleagues from other organizations. Would other groups be willing to collaborate with us to bring State of Formation into existence? Did they perceive the same lacuna that we did?
The answer, in short, was yes.
Work moved quickly from there. We found organizations with which to collaborate, connected with our website designers, and started reaching out to seminaries, divinity schools, and graduate programs across the country. State of Formation readily generated a momentum of its own. Before we knew it, it was a lively, exciting, transformative forum for emerging leaders, as much as for those who staffed it.
State of Formation continues to grow and flourish. It has had two annual retreats for emerging religious and ethical leaders at Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School. Its website and social media presence are as vibrant as ever. Its staff guides, Honna Eichler and Ben Barer, bring creativity and insight to all that they do. It is supported organizationally as a program of the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE) and its directors, Rabbi Or Rose and Dr. Jennifer Peace, continue to envision new paths for its growth. Stephanie Varnon-Hughes remains a bastion of support for it and an incredible visionary of its ongoing organizational formation.
Yet, as we started to approach another wonderful academic year, I approached the realization that I can no longer serve the role I once did at State of Formation. The process was one of careful transition of roles within our hybrid Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and State of Formation staffs. But one that should be made public to the entire State of Formation community.
Having decided to accept a post as a congregational rabbi, I can no longer be around for 10:00 p.m. conference calls and 8:00 a.m. editing, gchatting with prospective Contributing Scholars, and responding to inquiries from seminaries near and far. It is time for me to transition, with the knowledge that State of Formation has long been in good hands and from its early steps has been a collaborative endeavor, relying on so many people with so many good ideas. It is with confidence that I step aside with knowledge that others may continue leading with clarity of vision and passion for their work.
Even as I say adieu to my old role within State of Formation, I look excitedly to my new one. Rather than helping to direct State of Formations as a member of the staff, I can remain onboard as part of the community of writers, envisioning and gaining new insight into my own formation. As a new rabbi, ordained on May 5 of this year, I have a lot of learning to do and a long way to go on my path of continued personal, professional, and spiritual growth. I have begun but a new step in my learning.
Thankfully, I have a wonderful community of emerging leaders just like me, looking for answers and embracing the search.
Thank you for being my community. Thank you for sustaining me as I remain in a state of formation.