Celtic Spirituality Scholar Newell is Chautauqua’s Week Six Chaplain

“I have been asking myself again and again these days, what does it mean to belong to the human family, to be brother, sister, father, mother to one another, both as individuals and as nations?” John Philip Newell wrote in his blog on the website Heartbeat.

Newell, the author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, was reflecting on leading a mission trip in June to the island of Lesbos.

Newell is the co-founder of Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing, a foundation committed to earth-honoring spirituality, interfaith work and the practice of contemplation and action.

He will be the chaplain for Week Six at Chautauqua Institution, beginning with the 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship service in the Amphitheater on “Bearers of Blessing.” He will share his spiritual journey at 5 p.m. at the Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy.

He will preach at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship services Monday through Friday in the Amphitheater. His sermon titles include “Wonderfully Made,” “In the Beginning was the Sound,” “Holy Otherness,” “The Instinct for Oneness” and “Matter Matters.”

Newell was accompanied on the trip to Lesbos by his wife Ali, and students Alex and Sam who are environmental science majors at the University of Edinburgh and Joseph and Sybilla, postgraduate students of Islamic Studies and Arabic, who served as translators.

“International refugee crises can seem overwhelming,” Newell wrote. “Where does one start? Heartbeat chose to enable a very specific project, enabling refugee families to recharge their phones so that they can more readily be in touch with family members and other sources of information. This is just a small niche but as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the movement for democracy in Burma, says in relation to the enormity of crises facing us today as nations and communities and families, ‘Just start somewhere.’ Otherwise we end up feeling paralyzed by the enormity of the task.”

Newell received a bachelor’s in English literature from McMaster University, a bachelor’s in theology and a Ph.D. in ecclesiastical history from the University of Edinburgh. An ordained Church of Scotland minister, Newell has served as ecumenical chaplain to McMaster University, warden of Iona Abbey in Scotland, assistant minister at St. Giles Cathedral, in Edinburgh and Warden of Spirituality for the Anglican Diocese of Portsmouth in England, among other ministerial and scholarly posts.

In 2011, Newell launched the Praying for Peace Initiative in New Mexico, and in the same year co-founded Salva Terra: A Vision Towards Earth’s Healing. In 2011, he was honored with the inaugural Contemplative Voices Award by the Shalem Institute.

In 2015, he became the Distinguished Visiting Scholar of Spirituality at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, where he offers a course every spring.

Newell is the author of more than 15 books, including his most recent, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.