Those of us who were part of the Vision Coalition and worked on Vision 2025: Our Ongoing Hope have been asked to write reflections on the Guiding Principles of Vision 2025. The Guiding Principles are statements that remind us of who we are and who we are becoming — a place where both the present and our hope for the future reside together. Guiding principles reveal what we need to commit to for our Vision to come about. They guide the way we work, organize ourselves and live our purpose together and in the world.

The Guiding Principle that I chose to write about is “With Holy Awe, we will practice cultivating gratitude, curiosity, joy, and delight, celebrating the power of Love to transform.”

American Rabbi and civil rights leader Abraham Joshua Heschel writes that “Reverence (awe) is one of man’s answers to the presence of mystery. This is why … it does not rush to be spoken. When we stand in awe, our lips do not demand speech … All we want is to pause, to be still, that the moment may last” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, from Thunder in the Soul: To Be Known by God).

As a nature photographer, I am often visited by awe. The sighting of an Eastern Bluebird feeding her young, a Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, a showy sunrise at the beach – I greet each of these with Holy Awe and am flooded with natural gratitude, curiosity, joy, and delight. Creation is one of God’s most visible witnesses to the presence of mystery.

Perhaps a more unexpected place to experience awe would be in a corporate or non-profit board meeting. And yet, this past weekend, as the Shalem board and staff members gathered for their annual retreat and board meeting, I was delighted to experience moments that I can describe only as Holy Awe. In our opening gathering, as we looked around the room at those gathered, we were invited to recognize the presence of the Holy in one another with deep gratitude. With curiosity and care, we shared significant understandings about ourselves. There were moments of deep intimacy and vulnerability. There were challenging conversations as we continued the work of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. And later, with joy and delight, we created skits to act out the Guiding Principles.

I found myself frequently dazzled by words and wisdom offered and thoughtful, provocative insights. I also found myself musing delightedly at the unexpected – a board member breaking out in song, another extending a spontaneous invitation to dance, the thoughtful sounding of the bell calling us to pause.

The board and staff – the most diverse collection of faithful stewards Shalem has enjoyed to date – gathered in all our diversity and shaped one beloved community. We, with Holy Awe, were able to witness the presence of the Holy, to practice gratitude, curiosity, joy, and delight and, most clearly, to celebrate the power of Love to transform.

In that place of Holy Awe, my deepest desire was to pause, to be still, so that the moment would last. Thanks be to God!

View the complete Vision 2025: Our Ongoing Hope here.


Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


Grounded in our understanding of God’s desire for peace, wholeness and well-being, we envision a world transformed by contemplative living and leadership in which all people honor one another and creation, recognize their unity and interconnectedness, and courageously seek to live out of this reality.