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Connect more deeply with yourself, the world around you, and the people you love.

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Connect more deeply with yourself, the world around you, and the people you love.

SIGN UP
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What is it?

A 6-week journey
to nurture your spirituality

January 23, 2023 - March 5, 2023

Weekly Small Group

90-minute ritual conversations where you can be open, vulnerable, and honest

Expert Guidance

Structured practices, conversation prompts, and support along the way

Inspiring Workshops

Inspiration from poets, activists, and wisdom teachers

As Seen In

Info sessions

Want to learn more, have a taster experience, or ask a question?
Sign up for an upcoming info session!

Sunday

December 4th

3—4pm Eastern
REGISTER
Monday

December 5th

12—1pm Eastern
REGISTER
Friday

December 9th

9—10am Eastern
REGISTER
Sunday

December 11th

7—8pm Eastern
REGISTER

Info sessions take place on Zoom and will give you a sense of what a small group experience is like, offer the chance to meet other people who are interested in this journey, and allow you to ask any questions that you may have.

There are further sessions scheduled for early January. Check them out and register here.

KIND WORDS

“The small group gatherings have become the absolute highlight of my week. I count down the days between gatherings. I just love the shared sense of togetherness so much.”
Roos M.
“I found comfort when the world felt upside down. Everyone showed up with humor and kindness, and without dogma and rigidity. I could create a spirituality that felt right to me.”
Prerna R.
“The Nearness felt safe. It nurtured me in the exact ways I needed — and in ways I didn't realize were possible.”
Erica O.
“My experience in The Nearness so far has been profound. It’s given new energy to my own spiritual practices, provided enlightenment on key questions I’ve been holding, and provided a rhythm and community to my spirituality which, while simple, has been genuinely transformative.”
WILL F.
“I knew I’d be connecting with people from all walks of life but it was unexpected and beautiful how true it was. It feels like love, honestly.”
Nancy L. G.
“I loved the new companions I found for the road ahead.”
Derrick S.
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“The small group gatherings have become the absolute highlight of my week. I count down the days between them. I just love the shared sense of togetherness so much."
ROOS M.
Portrait of Prerna R
“I found comfort when the world felt upside down. Everyone showed up with humor and kindness, and without dogma and rigidity. I could create a spirituality that felt right to me."
Prerna R.
Portrait of Erica O
“The Nearness felt safe. It nurtured me in the exact ways I needed — and in ways I didn't realize were possible.”
Erica O.
“I knew I’d be connecting with people from all walks of life but it was unexpected and beautiful how true it was. It feels like love, honestly.”
Nancy L.G.
“My experience in The Nearness so far has been profound. It’s given new energy to my own spiritual practices, provided enlightenment on key questions I’ve been holding, and provided a rhythm and community to my spirituality which, while simple, has been genuinely transformative.”
Will f.
Portrait of Derrick S
“I loved the new companions I found for the road ahead."
Derrick s.
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SPIRITUAL Principles

1

There is something larger than us that we encounter in experiences of wonder and love.

2

This mystery calls on us to love others, ourselves, and the world around us.

3

The goal of our spiritual lives is to answer this calling.

OUR COMMITMENTS

We are a cooperative

Being a cooperative means that we co-create our experience together and adhere to the internationally recognized cooperative principles.

We are open-minded and caring

When joining a small group, everyone affirms the community Covenant, which you can read here.

We are varied

That means that we all have our own practices, beliefs, backgrounds, and contexts. And everybody is allowed to be fully themselves.

Is this for you?

This is for you if...

  • You’ve tried meditation, journaling, or spiritual books and podcasts, but feel like there’s a missing piece
  • You want to connect with a variety of people committed to their spiritual growth
  • You'd like a weekly rhythm but institutional religion isn’t a fit

This isn't for you if...

  • You're not ready to talk about your spirituality
  • You're looking for therapy to deal with religious trauma 
  • You want an academic study of different religious traditions
SIGN UP

What to expect

1

Fill out your sign up form by midnight ET on Sunday, September 25th.

2

Pay $21 per session.
(Total for the 8-week journey is $169.)

If you attend the first three small group ritual conversations and decide The Nearness isn’t for you, we will fully reimburse you.

3

Download Geneva, our community app.

Geneva is a community app designed for cozy, virtual, face-to-face hangouts. This is where you’ll meet your small group each week.

4

Join your small group in the week of October 10th.

fAQ

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What is The Nearness?

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The Nearness is an 6-week journey to nurture your spirituality.

Each week, participants get together for 90-minute small group conversations that meet in our community app. Everyone receives expert guidance through structured conversation prompts, practices, and support along the way. Plus, there are monthly workshops from poets, activists, and wisdom teachers.

The journey begins on January 23rd and runs until March 5th. The deadline to sign up is 11:59pm Eastern Time on January 15th.

Learn how The Nearness works here.

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What do you mean when you say “spirituality”?

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People participating in The Nearness have a wide variety of beliefs, practices, and backgrounds. We don’t ask anyone to believe in any dogma; instead, we welcome difference. People in the 6-week journey identify in many ways–as spiritual, agnostic, religious, seeking, or as something that existing words don’t quite capture. 

What is important is to be open to these principles:

  • There is something larger than us that we encounter in experiences of wonder and love;
  • This mystery calls on us to love others, ourselves, and the world around us. 
  • The goal of our spiritual lives is to answer this calling.

To learn more about these principles, check out this blog post here.

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Who’s leading this project?

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The Nearness is created by a growing team of community-builders, spiritual seekers, writers, and volunteers bringing their gifts to create this new model of spiritual community. 

Co-Founder Casper ter Kuile is the author of The Power of Ritual, a former Harvard Divinity School Innovation Fellow, the co-founder of research and design firm Sacred Design Lab, and the co-creator of podcasts Harry Potter and the Sacred Text and The Real Question. He lives with his husband in Brooklyn, NY. 

Co-Founder Alec Gewirtz is a community-builder and a writer published in The Boston Globe, Tablet, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He was a Fulbright Research Scholar at The University of Toronto while living and working as a caregiver at an interfaith community for people with disabilities. He’s served as a writer and advisor to senior politicians and a contributor to projects for The Atlantic and Time.

The Nearness is supported by a range of wise elders and advisors. Our Spiritual Advisory Board includes Derrick Scott III, Creative Producer for Studio Wesley, Elizabeth Oldfield, former Executive Director of Theos, the largest religion and society think tank in the U.K., Sr. Mary Dacey, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and Serena Bian, who co-leads work on loneliness and connection for the U.S. Surgeon General.

Beyond these named individuals, we are profoundly grateful to the dozens of advisors, investors, donors, volunteers, and many others who are helping to bring The Nearness to life. A special thanks to those Nearness members who were in the spring 2022 pilot and the fall journey. You have contributed so much to what this community is becoming!

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Is this a weird cult thing? Or a front for a church?

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No. But we get it. When anyone talks about spirituality and community, it risks sounding weird, even dangerous. Most of us are aware of the many ways things can go wrong in community life. Did you see Wild, Wild Country or listen to the NXIVM podcast?! And nobody needs reminding of the pain and trauma caused by patriarchal religious institutions. 

We were only willing to co-create The Nearness because we were confident in our team’s training and the structures of accountability to ensure everyone’s wellbeing.

There’s a lot to say about this, so please check out this blog with details about our team’s training, the support and accountability structures we have in place, and a key insight on the difference between cults and thriving communities. 

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How do the small groups work?

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Small groups meet each week for 90 minutes each week in the 6-week journey.

When completing your sign-up form, you’ll be asked to indicate a time when you can meet consistently over the eight weeks. We’ll then match you with others who can also meet at the same time.

Each week, small groups receive a Circle Guide, which provides step-by-step guidance for the ritual conversations, including words to say to open and close a meeting, timing guidelines, and prompts for sharing. Members also receive a weekly 5-minute audio guidance, through a podcast feed, which offers helpful pointers for your conversations. With these resources, members then rotate as the informal “Host” of their small groups.

Learn more about how small groups work here.

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How much does it cost? Are there scholarships?

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Each session and workshop costs $25, so the price for the full 6-week journey is $199.

If you attend the first three small group ritual conversations and decide The Nearness isn’t for you, we will fully reimburse you.

Also, scholarships are available! If you can't afford the membership fee, or if you'd like to cover the cost for someone else, please email hello@thenearness.coop.

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What does being a cooperative mean?

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Being a cooperative means that we co-create our experience together and adhere to the internationally recognized cooperative principles.

All of our members, workers, investors, and founders will share in governing the organization and in the distribution of any future profits. To this end, 50% of all future profits will be made available to members of The Nearness in a communal treasury to fund local initiatives, such as creative projects, block parties, and service initiatives, and 10% of profits will be allocated to workers.

Unlike an extractive company, where a small group of people hoard all the wealth and power, The Nearness is incorporated as a cooperative to ensure that our workers and members will have shared decision-making within our board and that the profits that the business generates will be redistributed fairly.

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How does the community stay safe?

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First, The Nearness has a firm anti-harassment policy, which we take extremely seriously.

Second, community in The Nearness is built around a covenant. A covenant is a commitment for how to “be” together. Unlike a contract, which is all about what to “do” together, a covenant is designed to hold people in relationship when we can’t be sure about what lies ahead.

At first, a covenant looks like a beautifully written list of commitments that you read once and never look at again. But a covenant only lives in a community when we return to it again and again, actively reflecting on how we’re living into it. That means celebrating where we’ve upheld it and recognizing where we’ve fallen short.

Mistakes in our community are inevitable, and this covenant is designed to help everyone find a way back to one another after they happen. A covenant isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, the covenant below will act as a continued invitation for your heart, one that you will read aloud time and again in each of your small-group conversations. In this way, it will serve as a ritual, shaping everyone over time into the people – and the community – that we aspire to be.

The Nearness Covenant

We covenant to center ourselves on the sacred:

  • Listening to each other with an open, tender presence;
  • Showing patience as we attempt to articulate our innermost intuitions;
  • Cherishing the beautiful resonance between us when we share our struggles;
  • Refusing to feed or defend our egos, which crave social status, dominance, and praise;
  • Countering marginalization in all its forms;
  • Honoring the richness of our shared silence;
  • And opening ourselves to the presence of something larger than us, which calls us to love others, ourselves, and the world around us.  

Though we travel different paths, may we find comfort and hope in the gift of each other’s company.

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Why the Nearness? Why now?

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Life feels increasingly anxious and unmoored. Many of us are disconnected from the people and things that matter most in life – focused instead on the endless tasks on our to-do list or pointlessly scrolling through social media feeds. 

Historically, religious institutions have often helped focus our attention on life’s meaning and beauty: caring for one another, cultivating virtues like compassion, justice, and generosity, and inviting us to celebrate and grieve together. 

But with more 50% of Americans now disconnected from a local congregation, we know we need new structures of belonging and new rhythms of life to help us focus on what matters most. 

Structures of Belonging

The rapid changes in technology and transformations in how we work, live, and love, mean that affiliating with a religious tradition just doesn’t work for many of us. Instead of a place-based, denominationally-affiliated congregation of 100+ people, we want deeper connections in small groups of friends, one-on-one conversations with coaches and therapists, and transformative community experiences. We’re looking for new structures of belonging. 

Starting with the weekly small group journey, The Nearness works to provide some of these new structures. Using “spiritual technologies” like small groups and covenant, we’re cultivating new spaces to help you live a life of connection to yourself, the world around you, and the people you love. 

Over time, we’ll co-create a number of ways to gather meaningfully, both on- and offline, with existing friends and family, and with others who live in your city or neighborhood. 

Rhythm of Life

These structures of belonging each have their own rhythms. Small groups work best when they meet regularly and without too much time passing in between each meeting, while organizing a group trip with family friends is something you may only want to do once a year! 

As The Nearness grows, we’re exploring how we can co-create a rhythm in time that deeply nurtures your spirituality. For example, we’ve learned that communities that form online usually want to meet in-person after a few months. So, down the line, we’re excited to co-create an annual gathering in a beautiful natural setting for Nearness participants to connect face-to-face. We’ve also got some fun ideas about local volunteering opportunities and days of action to support causes our community cares about. Perhaps also gatherings over a potluck meal, or opportunities to craft together, to practice rituals, or sing! 

For now, though, we’re starting with the weekly rhythm of a small group. We’ve found this is the best place to start and hope you’ll join us. Sign up by January 16th to claim your spot!

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What are your social justice commitments?

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The Nearness recognizes that we exist in systems of oppression that abuse the working class, are anti-Black, and remain mired in a colonialist worldview, and we commit to doing our part to name and dismantle these systems and, in their place, to co-create more just societies. 

We commit to a reparational payment of 24.4% to all contractors and employees who are descended from African people who were enslaved in the United States and Caribbean. (This percentage reflects the median wage gap between white and Black Americans, according to the Economic Policy Institute.) We are committed to continual learning and hope to grow our organizational justice commitments over time.

For centuries, white people have misrepresented the traditions, teachings, and practices of people of color, and The Nearness is extremely sensitive to this issue. To the extent that we invite wisdom from multiple traditions, The Nearness will always have teachers from within those traditions be the ones introducing, reviewing, or sharing it. We recognize the prevalence of sloppy syncretism and spiritual tourism, and we will never present concepts or practices divorced from the lineages or worldviews in which they're properly situated.

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Is this experience only in English?

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The Nearness is just in English for now – but with a number of participants for whom English is their second language. In the future we hope to have Nearness groups in many different languages!

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What is your privacy policy?

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The only data The Nearness collects is from your intake form, which we keep safe and secure, and for our own use only. We will never share this information.

The Nearness uses Geneva for community chat and bulletins. You can read their robust privacy policy here.

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I have more questions!

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Great! Please feel free to reach out to us with questions at hello@thenearness.coop :)