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Tending the Soil: Sharing Our Intention & Plans for this Season

A Message from Glean Network Founding Director, Rabbi Elan Babchuck
Image Description: A peaceful garden setting with a set of garden tools in the foreground set beside two healthy seedling plants, ready to be planted into the earth.
Image Description: A peaceful garden setting with a set of garden tools in the foreground set beside two healthy seedling plants, ready to be planted into the earth.

Glean Network is soon to embark on its seventh year since launching - a sabbatical year of sorts. And while there will be plenty of holy activity during this period, I am inspired by the words of Rev. Susan Beaumont, who noted that “the natural human response is to resist liminality and to strive backward to the old familiar identity, or forward to the unknown identity.”

So I thought I’d share with you a little bit about what we’ve learned from looking back on six tremendous years, some more about what we’re excited about as we look ahead, and - most importantly - what our intentions are as we step into this transitional moment for our work.

When we first launched, we sought to fill a growing void; the language of “spiritual entrepreneurship” was nascent, training and resources for folks who were ready to launch new spiritual ventures were few and far between, and the journey for so many of them was a tremendously lonely one. And here we are six years later, with so much to celebrate:

  • We have trained over 250+ spiritual entrepreneurs across six START cohorts,

  • Our alumni have collectively raised over $24 million to build just and equitable new worlds for their communities and beneficiaries,

  • We have grown our core “Glean Team into the largest and most capable and diverse team we’ve ever had,

  • We have deepened our commitment to centering Women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ leadership in our programs, internal working groups, and faculty, and

  • We have witnessed (and in some cases incubated) the launching of multiple new fellowships helping to fill this void over these past few years, as well.

More importantly, the world beyond our little corner has shifted, too. The ongoing trends of disaffiliation and spiritual-seeking have accelerated, putting more pressure on spiritual leaders to adapt. World-changing movements have emerged to respond urgently to systemic racism and climate change, among others. The Great Resignation has been accompanied by a corresponding (but under-reported) Startup Boom. And the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a staggering 5.7 million lives, moved us all onto Zoom, and more deeply polarized an already tenuous political moment.

Things just aren’t what they used to be when we first launched six years ago. And after six years of exponential growth across our programs and network, neither are we. So as we set our sights on the tremendous opportunities ahead in our seventh year, we intend to do so with great care, patient curiosity, and unabashed optimism.

In the Jewish community we are currently in the midst of a sabbatical year - a biblical year of radical rest for land, animals, and all humans. A year of flattened hierarchies so that “there shall be no needy among us”. A liminal year for justice and compassion created thousands of years ago, but seemingly designed for this very moment in time.

Rav Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) posited that “a year of solemn rest is essential for both the nation and the land, a year of peace and quiet...a year of equality and rest, in which the soul reaches out towards Divine justice, and peace reigns over all in which there is the breath of life.”

What this means for us at Glean Network is that we will move with great intention through these coming months to tend to the soil in which we have grown firmly rooted. We will sit in quiet sometimes, and in loud, boisterous gatherings, too. We will hold deep gratitude for how far we’ve come, and unabashed optimism about where we’re headed. We will listen to you - all of you, and we will also listen to the still, small voice within.

We’re excited to share our intention and plans for:

  • A timely refresh of Glean Network’s Guiding Principles, Network Tenets, Operating Values, and Racial Justice and Equity commitment, all of which follow months of generative internal conversations.

  • A national field study on the State of Spiritual Entrepreneurship, including in-depth reporting and case studies from Spiritual Entrepreneurs,

  • Frequent and regular network gatherings and opportunities to connect with fellow Spiritual Entrepreneurs, both established and emerging

  • More proprietary tools to support your community building, such as the “Belonging Index” - a new tool for communities to measure belonging, in development with Springtide Research Institute

  • New roles for network members to try on including supporting new communities of practice in local and national settings,

  • Enhancements and upgrades to our existing program offerings to better support a significantly larger group of spiritual entrepreneurs each year

As we enter this beautiful, liminal time, we hold tightly to the words of Father Richard Rohr: “All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence.”

Please support Glean Network in taking these important next steps by contributing to our Spring Fundraising Efforts. We are only a few donations away from reaching our $5K Goal by April 30th, 2022!

To stay updated on our work, please sign up for our newsletter.

In faith,

Elan on behalf of the Glean Network Core Team


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