Look Who’s Changing the World!
The Inaugural New Thought Walden Awards Honorees
Meet this remarkable group of 27 New Thought and socially conscious leaders—including artists, healers, teachers, ministers, activists, and other spiritual visionaries—who are working hard in creative ways to transform our world.
Unity is excited to initiate the New Thought Walden Awards to honor those who use empowering spiritual ideas and philosophies to change lives and make our planet a better place to live.
In our efforts, we’ve partnered with several other forward-thinking organizations: Centers for Spiritual Living and Science of Mind magazine, Association for Global New Thought, Agape International Spiritual Center, Universal Foundation for Better Living, and Affiliated New Thought Network.
Together we invited the public to send us nominations while we dove into our own research. We received almost 300 nominations and considered each one carefully.
In this inaugural year, we’ve chosen 27 honorees—five in each of five categories: New Thought Wisdom, Interfaith and Intercultural Understanding, Care and Reverence for the Earth, Spiritually Guided Social Activism, and Next Generation (honoring those under 40). We’ve also named one honoree each for two special awards: the Mind/Body Healing Award and the Changemaker Award.
Some honorees are well-known, while others are unsung heroes. All are remarkable. We hope the Waldens will not only honor these individuals and spotlight their notable accomplishments but also inspire the rest of us to follow in their footsteps.
Below is a list of our honorees for this year. Click on the names to read a short bio on each honoree. We’ve also profiled each in the September/October 2018 issue of Unity Magazine, and you’ll find them featured in the September 2018 issue of Science of Mind magazine.
2018 New Thought Walden Awards Honorees
Live Online Walden Awards Summit
Meet the Walden Awards honorees in a live online summit on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, where many will talk briefly about what they do and why they do it. For more information closer to the date, including a link to the event, watch this space!
How to Nominate Honorees for the 2019 New Thought Walden Awards
Know someone you’d like us to consider for next year’s awards? Nominations will be open for the 2019 New Thought Walden Awards beginning in late October 2018 and remaining open through December 2018. Watch this space for a link to the online nomination forms once the nominations are open. (Please note that categories may change from year to year.)
The 2019 honorees will be announced in the September/October 2019 issue of Unity Magazine and the September 2019 issue of Science of Mind magazine, which are mailed to subscribers in early August. We’ll also announce the 2019 honorees here on this page at that time.
When Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith speaks, he never fails to ignite the divine spark within whoever hears his words. In 1986 this gifted orator and New Thought minister founded the Agape International Spiritual Center in Santa Monica, California—an independent transdenominational community. He’s served as its spiritual director ever since. Agape is home to thousands of local members and live streams two weekly services to countless others online around the world.
Beckwith is known for teaching meditation, affirmative prayer, and a process he originated called life visioning. He’s addressed the United Nations, presented an award to Nelson Mandela, and worked alongside both the Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi. You’ve seen him in the 2006 film and book The Secret and on the cover of the January/February 2015 Unity Magazine. He is also cofounder and president of the Association for Global New Thought. Visit michaelbernardbeckwith.com.
Rev. Rocco A. Errico, Ph.D., Th.D., is turning the Bible inside out—or perhaps right side out. The version of the Good Book most of us know is based largely on incorrect translations, he says. When the Aramaic Peshitta texts are interpreted correctly, Errico claims, the result frees us from 2,000 years of rigid orthodoxy and dogma based not on Truth teachings but on the politics and power struggles of another era (along with whisper-down-the-lane mistakes made in translating translation). Errico’s teachings of the Semitic context of language, culture, idioms, symbolism, mystical style, psychology, and literary amplification yield a more complete understanding. To this end, he established the nonprofit Noohra Foundation in 1970. He currently serves as Dean of Biblical Studies for the Barbara King School of Ministry at Hillside International Truth Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Errico was profiled in the November/December 2017 Unity Magazine. Visit noorha.com.
Rev. Rita Marie Johnson discovered a synergy between empathy and insight that boosts social-emotional-spiritual intelligence. Inspired through her studies of nonviolent communication and HeartMath (which focuses on heart-brain coherence), she developed the Connection Practice, which teaches how to communicate more effectively and compassionately. In 1997 Johnson founded the nonprofit Rasur Foundation, named for a mystical Costa Rican poem, to teach the practice. This work garnered her the 2005 Ashoka Changemakers Innovation Award and the 2017 Light of God Expressing Award from Unity. Johnson—who served Unity first in Puerto Rico and then in Costa Rica—has now taught the practice around the world, including at the United Nations University for Peace, a graduate school for international leaders. While still serving as CEO of Rasur, Johnson is also currently the minister at Unity Spiritual Center of San Jose, California. She was profiled in the January/February 2015 Unity Magazine. Visit rasurinternational.org.
In 2010 Bishop Barbara Lewis King, D.Min., became the first New Thought minister consecrated as a bishop. By then, she’d served nearly 50 years as leader of Hillside International Truth Center in Atlanta (which started as a prayer group of 12 in her living room). Her ministry began at age 13, teaching Sunday school, although King was a social work administrator and a dean at two colleges before becoming ordained and eventually opening her own ministry school. Her leadership extends across continents. In 1994 King became the first New Thought minister in South Africa when Hillside established a sister church there. And in 2001 she was named the first female chief of the Assin Nsuta tribe in Ghana. King’s work as an activist is legendary: Look for her footprints in Atlanta’s International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Unity also honored her in 2009 with the Light of God Expressing Award in Society. Visit drbarbaraking.com.
Oprah Winfrey regularly introduces empowering New Thought concepts to millions, directing the conversation about spirituality in America in a way no one else can match. Her eager audience not only respects her, they trust her. For 25 years, she hosted the award-winning Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated television program of its kind in history, before launching OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. By then the longtime Daily Word reader had narrowed her focus to interviews largely about self-development and spirituality. Born into poverty to an unwed teenage mother in Mississippi, Winfrey got a break in radio after winning a teenage beauty pageant—and from there, her meteoric rise began. Today, in addition to heading OWN, Winfrey is an Academy Award-nominated actress, producer, magazine publisher, and philanthropist whose business empire is worth more than $1 billion. In 2013 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Visit oprah.com.
Thirty years ago, Daryl Davis struck up a friendship with a man who heard the accomplished R&B musician (Davis has played with Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and B.B. King) perform in a country bar. Turns out the man was a member of the KKK, and after getting to know Davis, he left the Klan. Davis became inspired to seek out and befriend other KKK members, sometimes attending rallies, with the hopes of changing their minds. Grand dragon Roger Kelly was one such person; he invited Davis to be his daughter’s godfather and gave Davis his robes when he left the Klan. Davis says he’s directly convinced 40 to 60 people (and indirectly, more than 200) to give up their robes. His book Klan-Destine Relationships (New Horizon, 1998) and the 2016 documentary Accidental Courtesy tell his story. Visit daryldavis.com.
Rev. Kelly Isola grew up around the globe, exposed to other cultures and religions—and their inherent oneness—at a young age. She’s now involved with several social justice organizations in Kansas City, Missouri, and is chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, which brings together leaders from 22 different faiths. As a consultant, Isola specializes in the spiritual practice of conflict transformation, using conflict coaching, mediation, spiritual direction, polarity thinking, nonviolent communication, and diversity training, as well as leadership and organizational development skill-building. As a Unity minister, Isola creates transformative retreats, rituals, ceremonies, and alternative services using music, storytelling, laughter, tears, and meditation as catalysts for spiritual transformation. She’s a faculty member for Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute and a columnist for Unity Magazine. Visit kellyisola.com.
Rev. Barbara Leger is the founder and spiritual guide of the Temenos Center for Spiritual Living, North America, and of the Temenos Center for Self-Realization, Ukraine. She founded the Ukraine center in 2001—focusing on spiritual education and expanding consciousness with a special emphasis on youth—and spent the next 17 years guiding its growth and handing over leadership. Today 12 practitioners carry out the center’s work in Cherkasy, with more leading groups in Kiev, Crimea, and Russia. Leger, a Canadian, is now spending more time in the United States, continuing her work speaking, consulting, and teaching workshops for Centers for Spiritual Living communities and other groups. Before becoming a Science of Mind minister, Leger was an international business and marketing consultant whose experiences working abroad opened her eyes to the deeper meaning of conscious partnership. Visit temenoscsl.org.
In 2013 Rev. Greg Stamper and Pastor Yolanda Batts cofounded Celebration Spiritual Center in Brooklyn, New York, where they preach about practical spirituality and the divine presence within. Both their music (a mix of contemporary gospel and New Thought lyrics) and their message are empowering. Their credo: In worship we celebrate God; in meditation we contact God; in prayer we know God; and in living we activate God. Stamper is a fourth-generation interfaith minister, recording artist (he wrote his first gospel song at 5), life coach, author, entrepreneur, and information technology expert who previously served several other churches. In addition to being a pastor, Batts is a singer-songwriter, certified yoga teacher, meditation instructor, and music psychotherapist. She’s a student of transcendental meditation and has studied and taught A Course in Miracles for more than 16 years. Visit celebrationsc.org.
Mirabai Starr shines brightly indeed. This daughter of the counterculture was born to secular Jewish parents who were antiwar activists. When she was 11, her family embarked on an extended road trip, living on a Mexican beach before moving to the Lama Foundation, an intentional spiritual community in northern New Mexico. She came of age there, cultivating a deep respect for the interconnection of all faiths and even spending several summers as an assistant to Ram Dass. Starr taught college philosophy and religious studies for 20 years and is now known for her contemporary translations of sacred literature, often by Christian mystics. She speaks internationally and leads retreats on the interconnected wisdom of the mystics, contemplative practice, and the transformational power of loss and longing. You’ve seen her in both the January/February 2015 and January/February 2016 issues of Unity Magazine. Visit mirabaistarr.com.
Rev. David Ault regularly leads groups on sacred site journeys, but one such adventure to Cambodia in 2004 became a game-changer. Ault was inspired to start a nonprofit foundation that not only built two schools but also provides medical and hygiene assistance, builds wells, and teaches agricultural and life skills. He’s since spearheaded similar efforts in India and most recently Guatemala. Ault has been making things happen since his early days as a singer/songwriter. In the 1980s he sung with the pioneering positive music trio Alliance, appearing at events for Louise Hay and Marianne Williamson. Now he is a solo artist. As an ordained Science of Mind minister, Ault founded the Center for Spiritual Living in Mobile, Alabama, serving for four years before heading the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta, where he’s been since 2010. Visit davidault.com.
Rev. William J. Barber II, D.Min., is often described as the person living today who is most like Martin Luther King Jr. Only 5 when King was shot, Barber has been the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, for 25 years. He’s also a key catalyst in the resurgence of moral political activism, inspiring progressive interracial “fusion” politics to push for voting rights, public education, universal health care, environmental protection, and the rights of women, laborers, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community. Barber’s Moral Monday alliance, begun in South Carolina in 2013, has become a model for such efforts in other states. Barber is also national cochair of the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign, which honors the 50th anniversary of an effort King launched but did not live to lead, aiming to train activists in the nation’s most conservative states. Visit breachrepairers.org.
Akuyoe Graham is a spiritual alchemist. The actor and playwright (whose name means “blessed woman” in the Ga language of West Africa) helps incarcerated youth realize their spiritual identity and recast their lives. Since 1992 she’s been performing a one-woman autobiographical play, Spirit Awakening, acting out scenes from her life—from tribal princess in her native Ghana to British schoolgirl to young New York actress to a woman reclaiming her African heritage and deeper spiritual self. The experience inspired her to found the nonprofit Spirit Awakening Foundation in 1995 to teach at-risk kids the power of positive and productive expression. In its cornerstone “Writes of Passage” program, they use meditation, creative writing, improvisation, and visual arts to write and perform their own life stories (which law enforcement says has helped curb gang violence). Graham also appears in the new indy film Interference. Visit akuyoe.com.
Rev. Deborah Johnson is a lifelong social justice activist and spiritual leader who received the call to ministry at age 15. She was a colitigant in two landmark California civil rights cases—one in 1984 including sexual orientation in the state’s Civil Rights Bill and one in 2007 defeating the challenge to legalizing domestic partnerships. A Science of Mind minister, she was inducted into the Board of Preachers of the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College, which honors clergy for their lifetime social justice work. In 1997 Johnson founded Inner Light Ministries, an interfaith spiritual community in Santa Cruz, California. She’s also a founding member of the Agape International Spiritual Center, an advisory council member of the Association for Global New Thought, and a board member of the Pachamama Alliance working with indigenous tribes to protect the Amazon rainforest. Visit innerlightministries.com.
Clyde Terry helps those enmeshed in crime, drugs, and violence reimagine their lives and then step into that vision. Following a decade as a Marine with 25 years as a Los Angeles police officer working in the city’s toughest communities, Terry vowed to make a difference the day he found a 7-year-old boy shot in the chest and imagined his own son lying there. Two years later, in 2009, he launched the Emerging Leaders Academy, combining his street smarts with tools like hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming, and New Thought teachings along with mentoring and career training. Agape International Spiritual Center soon provided a home base. More than 2,700 people have been through the program to date, with 73 percent avoiding any type of negative contact with police after graduation. Now retired from the police force, Terry runs the program full time. Visit emergingleaders360.org.
For Pandwe Gibson, Ph.D., it is easy being green—and she’s committed to making it easy (and profitable) for as many others as possible. In 2008 Gibson launched EcoTech Visions, an incubator for eco-friendly manufacturing startups in Miami, Florida, calling on her expertise in green technology and energy production. With five college degrees, including parchment from Harvard and MIT in business development and organizational growth, she was well-prepared for the venture. EcoTech provides coworking space and equipment to its “ecopreneurs,” assisting them in launching, funding, and growing innovative green manufacturing businesses. Currently, EcoTech has 26 such client companies, producing products like electric motorcycles and compostable cutlery made from potatoes. EcoTech also offers training programs such as coding boot camps and green manufacturing internships with an eye toward building a potential workforce for their clients. Visit ecotechvisions.com.
Kalli Holmes-Sorensen has been a leader in environmental action and women’s empowerment for more than two decades. She teaches that an awakened reverence for our earth activates evolutionary change and that the heart, as the instigator of compassion in action, must be where all sacred activism begins. Sorensen is an inspirational speaker and a retreat facilitator who also leads a variety of spiritual ceremonies and rituals. A midwife of feminine consciousness, she has founded several women’s groups, including Seaside Sisters at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas, California. She annually recognizes sacred activists in her community with the Seaside Sisters Awakened Woman Award. Visit seasidecenter.org/seaside-sisters-womens-group.
Brazilian-American botanical artist Alana Lea started a reforestation project in 2009 to benefit Brazil’s Atlantic Forest—one of the world’s five most important biodiversity hotspots—of which only 7 percent remained. She crowd-funds donations to buy native-species trees for small, local, organic reforestation projects. She also works with a Brazilian agroforestry training center to ensure environmental entrepreneurs can keep the effort alive. Agape International Spiritual Center aids the fund-raising effort.
Born in the very rain forest she is helping to save, Lea moved to the United States when she was a baby. Her background includes landscape design and horticulture in both Puerto Rico and the United States. Lea’s art—an unusual integration of watercolor, photography, and text giving facts about rain forest habitat—has been exhibited at the Smithsonian and the Museum of Natural History. Visit alanalea.com.
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and the youth director of Earth Guardians, a worldwide organization for young people fighting climate change. He’s also only 18. Raised with his mother’s passion for activism and in his father’s Aztec tradition, Martinez grew up seeing the earth as sacred. He began speaking publicly at 6 and taking action at 9 to ban pesticides in Boulder, Colorado, parks. He’s since appeared in front of Congress, global climate summits, and the United Nations (four times, once speaking in English, Spanish, and the Nahuatl language of his Aztec lineage). He’s also part of a youth-led lawsuit against the federal government for failing to protect the atmosphere for future generations; the case goes to trial in October. Martinez, a classically trained pianist, now uses hip-hop to inspire change. Catch his new album, Break Free. Visit xiuhtezcatl.com.
Eco-troubadour Stan Slaughter makes compost catchy. The folk-rock singer/songwriter teaches kids and adults about composting and recycling, sharing simple changes we can all make now to live in harmony with our planet. He doesn’t stop at singing—he also produces posters, study guides, a composting card game, and CDs with titles such as Rot ’N Roll. Slaughter has performed for more than 400,000 people in 27 states and was once invited by Prince Charles to speak on composting at the Royal Gardens at Highgrove. In 1995 he became the first Missouri Environmental Educator of the Year and in 2000 was named the nation’s best compost educator. Slaughter sings in a trio called Green Spirit Band at New Thought churches and environmental events and is a longtime member of the Unity Village Chapel music team. Visit compost-education.com.
Singer/songwriter and guitar player Arielle, 28, plays by her own rules—putting the classic folk-rock artist way ahead of the game. She began singing at 5 and got her first guitar at 10. Queen’s Brian May wrote a key role for her in his musical We Will Rock You. She soon signed a big record deal, and her song “California” climbed the charts. And then Arielle walked away to go indy, rejecting the cliché skinnier-sexier image the label was pushing and choosing instead to be genuine, raw, and real—and inspiring others to dive deep and embrace their own truth. The brave move paid off. When she’s not playing her own gigs, she’s opening for big acts like Guns N’ Roses and Eric Johnson. Periodically, she sings at Agape International Spiritual Center. Her new EP, Mind Lion, is absolute beast. Visit imarielle.com.
After actress Kelly Noonan Gores, 39, used mind-body medicine to heal herself of a digestive condition that normally requires taking medication for life, she wanted to share what she learned about the mind-body connection. In 2012 she founded independent production company Elevative Entertainment to write and produce conscious media that informs, inspires, and empowers. Her first project was titled Heal, a 2017 documentary that examines how thoughts, beliefs, and emotions affect health. The film features Deepak Chopra, M.D., Marianne Williamson, Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith, Joe Dispenza, D.C., Anita Moorjani, Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., and many mind-body experts who describe the relationship between spirituality and science. Gores’ goal was to demonstrate that anything is possible if we believe it’s so. Visit healdocumentary.com.
Educator and activist Rev. David Lewis-Peart, 34, has worked in community development and social services for more than a decade. In 2012 he cofounded the Sunset Service Toronto Fellowship, an interfaith, bridge-building ministry that welcomes the LGBTQ community and members of marginalized racial and ethnic communities across all faiths. An ordained New Thought minister, Lewis-Peart was among 12 faith leaders participating in the biggest international LGBTQ mass wedding in history, held during WorldPride Toronto 2014. He’s worked with black faith leaders on political action and with interfaith clergy to address HIV/AIDS stigma. He found New Thought as a teen through Universal Foundation for Better Living’s Toronto church, Verity Centre for Better Living. Visit sunsetservice.wordpress.com.
Leah Pearlman, 36, a rising star in the early days of Facebook, came up with the idea for the “like” button. For all her external success, she was wracked with internal chaos, which she tried to soothe with bulimia. Taking a sabbatical, she dove into a spiritual quest, even going on a silent meditation retreat in Nepal. What eventually surfaced was a series of clever stick-figure comics that express heavy concepts in an uplifting way. Naming them Dharma Comics (after the Sanskrit word meaning truth), Pearlman shared them online. Her book Drawn Together (TarcherPerigee, 2016) was endorsed by the likes of Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Byron Katie. Now, she’s also coleading consciousness leadership camp intensives, helping others discover their own dharma. Visit dharmacomics.com.
Jaimal Yogis, 38, ran away from home at 16 to surf in Hawaii, beginning an international odyssey that would involve almost becoming a Buddhist monk and eventually landing at Columbia Journalism School. In his two memoirs, Saltwater Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2009) and All Our Waves Are Water (Harper Wave, 2017), Yogis seamlessly marries his two passions, catching the curl and embracing Buddhist philosophy. Saltwater Buddha also became a 2015 documentary. In The Fear Project (Rodale, 2013), he interviews top scientists, psychologists, and athletes about what fear is and how to live mindfully and courageously in spite of it. Yogis has spoken to Olympic athletes, Silicon Valley companies, advertising agencies, yoga and meditation centers (including Jack Kornfield’s Spirit Rock), and universities. He was profiled in the May/ June 2018 Unity Magazine. Visit jaimalyogis.com.
A visionary pioneer in women’s health and wellness, Christiane Northrup, M.D., focuses on everything that can go right with the female body at a time when most doctors are focused on all that can go wrong with it. Long a believer in the unity of mind, body, emotions, and spirit, Northrup’s empowering message inspires women to thrive at every stage of life. A board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist who graduated from Dartmouth Medical School, Northrup is an internationally respected author and speaker who has hosted eight PBS television specials. Her first two books—Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Bantam, 2010, 2006, 1998, and 1994) and The Wisdom of Menopause (Bantam, 2012, 2006, and 2001)—broke new ground in women’s health and were New York Times best-sellers. With her third such best-seller, Goddesses Never Age (Hay House, 2015), Northrup offers a positive mindset about growing older. Northrup graced the January/February 2014 cover of Unity Magazine. Visit drnorthrup.com.
Bishop Carlton Pearson was a renowned gospel vocalist and fourth-generation Pentecostal pastor of a mega church where more than 6,000 people packed the aisles weekly. After a crisis of faith, he began questioning the doctrine he was touting and slowly started sharing a new message Pearson called the gospel of inclusion. It held that everyone has already been saved and hell doesn’t exist. His followers fled. In 2004 the hero was officially declared a heretic. The Netflix movie Come Sunday, released earlier this year, tells the story. Although he lost everything, Pearson emerged stronger than ever, attracting new followers who now join him in standing for global freedom from extreme religious tyranny, unreasonable dogma, and fear-based theologies. He’s currently working with and hosting the online community Come Monday, designed to expand consciousness and awaken people to their inner divinity. Visit comemonday.org.