Tell your story to a group of like-hearted peers and find the deep patterns between your experiences.
Reflect on the people who have supported you over your life and enrich your sense of gratitude.
Assess your core values and try a powerful visualization practice.
Explore the spiritual wisdom of Mary Oliver’s poetry to help you articulate your current struggles.
Ask for practical support and encouragement from your group mates and extend care to others.
Be seen in your deepest gifts and gain a new understanding of where you can find support in your life.
The Nearness is a place to explore life’s big questions with like-hearted people.
Our 6-week courses in spirituality and self-inquiry center on 90-minute conversations in supportive small groups, with guidance from world-class teachers from diverse traditions.
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 our journeys 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:
To learn more about these principles, check out this blog post here.
The Nearness is created by a growing team of community-builders, spiritual seekers, writers, and volunteers.
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, Jacobin, 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 all the previous Nearness members who have contributed so much to what this community is becoming!
No. 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 our journeys identify in many ways–as spiritual, agnostic, religious, seeking, or as something that existing words don’t quite capture.
But we get it! Anything that speaks to spirituality, community, or religion especially, can feel uncomfortable or even dangerous. If you’d like to learn more, check out this blog where we share more about our leadership team, and the structures of oversight, transparency and dignity that we have in place.
For each Nearness course, we offer an early-bird signup discount, so it costs $169 - which means that each gathering costs around $20.
If you attend the first three small group conversations and decide The Nearness isn’t for you, we will fully reimburse you.
Also, scholarships are available! If you need financial support (or would like to cover the cost for someone else), please email us at email@example.com and let us know you're interested in our pay-what-you-can option—no questions asked! We want everyone to be able to participate in this course.
Small groups meet weekly for 90 minutes over our 6-week courses.
When completing your sign-up form, you’ll be asked to indicate a time when you can meet every week. We’ll then match you with others who can also meet at the same time.
Before each gathering, small groups receive a Guide Sheet, 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. You'll also receive video guidance at the start of your journey. With these resources, small groups will be equipped to rotate who is the informal “Reader” for the week's gathering.
You can choose from one of these consistent weekly meeting times:
Small groups in our next journey will meet for 90 minutes at one of the consistent weekly meeting times below. You can choose whichever one of these times works best for you:
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.
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:
Though we travel different paths, may we find comfort and hope in the gift of each other’s company.
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.
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.
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.
Further, 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.
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!
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.