SPIRITUAL RADICALS
Spirituality & Health|Jan/Feb 2021
WHAT’S NEXT? THESE SEVEN TRAILBLAZERS ARE HELPING DEFINE THE FUTURE OF SPIRITUALITY.
MALLORY CORBIN

When I see things that don’t work, I sit and I think, and I contemplate and I ask for guidance and I download. I come to new thinking and new practices and certainly new ideas.” That’s how Rabbi Wayne Dosick describes being a radical.

It’s not easy being innovative. A person can see things differently and come up with new solutions only by putting in the work.

These seven spiritual leaders represent a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and traditions. They are creating change on the ground, touching lives, and helping to define the future of spirituality.

To read their complete interviews, check out spiritualityhealth.com.

REVEREND JES KAST

JES KAST FELT CALLED to be a minister from the time she was just five years old. “I did not see a woman being a minister leading me in a church service until I was in seminary. So that was 23 years of my life. I never saw a woman leading me, but I kept at it. I did not let the dream inside me die.”

Kast’s sexual orientation adds another degree of difficulty. She is married to a woman. “I had to deal with my own internalized homophobia and my own inner voices of religious traditions that I was taught. And I had to deconstruct them,” she says. “I think anybody who feels like an outsider at any time has two paths in front of them,” Kast says. “Two big choices: to leave it, which is okay, and that needs to be blessed, or to dig into it more. And I chose to dig into it more.”

Kast is currently the pastor at Faith United Church of Christ in College Station, Pennsylvania, but she credits two other states with molding her. “Michigan raised me and New York formed me,” Kast explains. Michigan taught me about the value of caring for your neighbor, showing up with a casserole, checking in and watering your neighbor’s garden when they’re out of town. Michigan taught me so much about the joy of sitting around a campfire and talking and just being together. Michigan taught me about a slower spirituality that I value a lot.”

“New York gave me so much, gave me the space to come out, gave me the courage in my spirituality. New York reinforced the chutzpah that I’ve always had in my life. It was almost like a sanctuary for me of 8.4 million interreligious people constantly in dialogue in this great cosmopolitan city. New York was, is, and continues to be such a spiritual place for me.”

For Kast, being a spiritual radical is about authentic faith. “People would claim their faith or religion and I know I would pause and think, Does it matter? Does it really change how you live? Show me that faith and spirituality and religion matters. Does it change your life in a way that brings about more justice? That brings about more goodness, that brings about more love?”

She is drawn to other people with an authentic faith even if they are from a different tradition. “The other spiritual radicals are the people that I’m most interested in, even if our religions are different. I say this often. It’s my Jewish and Muslim friends that actually inspire me to be a better Christian.” —MALLORY CORBIN

RABBI WAYNE DOSICK

“I GREW UP IN THE Jewish suburban synagogues of the late forties, the fifties, and the early sixties. Everything was hunky-dory. Peachy keen. The synagogues were jammed full and the Hebrew schools were jammed full. It was the social center of the community,” says Rabbi Wayne Dosick. “But it began to fall apart.”

Dosick says part of the problem is that Jewish communities were caught up in the postwar boom years, which meant “building community and building buildings and building institutions,” instead of encouraging vibrant spirituality. “The goal of religion should be and has to be enhancing your spirituality. That’s why so many kids went to the Buddhists and the meditation centers and even yoga and all the kinds of spiritual activities.”

Dosick has spent decades finding ways to bring a rich spirituality into modern Judaism, embracing the past without being hindered by it. As part of that work, he founded the Elijah Minyan in San Diego, which describes itself as “a group of Jewish seekers.” “The old programming was very nice to create community and to be together, and it’s all very, very important. But how do we create? How do we reframe? Reframe the rituals, the practices, in order to make them God centered?”

As an example, Dosick points to the tradition of lighting candles on Friday night to begin the Sabbath. “It’s a wonderful touchstone,” he says. “But it can be much more than that.”

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