Mary Abele, pastor of All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, and Sue Dixon, special gifts coordinator at Shelburne Farms, joined nearly 300 luminaries and spiritual activists from diverse faiths and wisdom traditions around the world last week for the “Awakened World 2012: Engaged Spirituality for the 21st Century” conference in Italy. The seven-day gathering in Rome and Florence was structured as a facilitated conversation to advance global awareness and focus attention to shifting paradigms in our world today–including concern for human rights (and responsibilities) and the environment.
Religious scholars point to the “Axial Age” (roughly the first millennium BCE) as the period of the dawn of the classical religions that we know today. A central premise of the recent conference was that we have entered a second great tuning on the religious axis, a “Second Axial Age.” If the first brought the individual to the forefront; the latter shifted our focus to the global dimension of ethical, religious, and spiritual awareness.
“If ours is indeed an age of value shift,” said Abele, “And, I believe it is, then the world’s people have a unique opportunity right now, at this moment, to embrace the possibility of peace, to champion the causes of justice, to advance environmental stewardship, and to demonstrate compassionate service in the face of human need today.” By adding their voices to the Awakened World dialog, Abele and Dixon brought homegrown ideas from Shelburne into this international conversation. “We all left Italy with a deeper commitment to charting a course that inspires hope for the future of every child born on the planet today,” concludes Abele. “At All Souls, we look forward to keeping this conversation alive in the days ahead.”
“Whether we realize it or not,” observes Dixon, the volunteer chair of All Souls Board, “We’re all spiritual beings. For me, this incredible week in Italy affirmed the significance of our work here at Shelburne developing an interfaith conversation and community. I feel blessed to be part of the surging sea of change underway around the globe. Awakened World 2012 galvanized leaders of all faiths, reaffirming our shared committed, despite the indisputable challenges of our time, to deeper spiritual understanding and action.”
Abele and Dixon, along with other members of the All Souls community, look forward to continuing the dialog of the Awakened World conference with neighbors in our homes, our community and our places of worship such that we may be inspired to, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”