Posted by Carrie Fenn on Oct 09, 2019
President Keith presents a book to the Rev. Don Chatfield. Rev. Chatfield recently took the position of senior pastor of the All Souls Interfaith Assembly.

Charlotte Shelburne Hinesburg Rotary meeting
October 9, 2019
Trinity Episcopal Church
31 folks in attendance today!

Meeting was called to order by President Keith Walsh at 8 am.

Today’s speaker was Pastor Don Chatfield, from All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne. 

All Souls was founded as a non profit 19 years ago, with Mary Abele as the founding pastor.

Mary came up through the Unitarian Universalist  tradition. Her congregation met in a house at Meach Cove, and  and All Souls grew from there.

Mary strove to create an interfaith gathering to be one step beyond UU’s- a spiritual community that is experiential, and goes deeper into the teachings. She built up the congregation over the years, and over time the Channing house was renovated, and the Sanctuary was constructed in 2007.

Mary likes to call All Souls “a little nest within Meach Cove.”

All Souls is an independent non profit, which owns the property and the building.

2 years ago Mary had a stroke and was unable to continue as pastor.

The All Souls Board started a national search to find a new pastor.

Don and his wife Karen were on vacation (where he was NOT supposed to be checking email)-he received an email inviting him to apply for a position in Vermont. He opened and read it. He said “it sound like they were describing me.”

When they returned from vacation he started the interview process and that led to him being offered the position.

Don grew up in the midwest in a Protestant Christian home.

At 14 he felt a very strong sense that he was supposed to go into ministry.

He told his pastor that he knew he wanted to be a minister but not what his pastor was teaching- even at that young age he understood he had a different calling.

While at college, Lew Ayres came to his school and presented his documentary “Alters of the World.” The film struck the young theologian, and he found the different traditions fascinating, exposing him to faiths he had not experienced before. In the film, Ayres would pull a scripture from all the traditions that was what we know as the Golden Rule.

Ayres asks one question: is it possible all the world’s religion are saying the same thing just using different words?

Don hadn’t considered that before, and the film opened his eyes to a different kind of faith.

Don’s studies led him to Drew University where he met a cute pastor’s daughter, Karen Bender. An avid skier, Don arranged a ski trip with students from the dorm to go to Killington where he offered to teach people to ski. Fortunately for Don, everyone else on the trip cancelled except Karen. He taught her how to ski- she fell a lot and he picked her up a lot and they shared their first kiss on the chair lift. Thus, Vermont holds a special place in their both their hearts.

The couple were drawn to Vermont, so Don interviewed in Burlington for a Methodist church but there was a waitlist, so they moved to Santa Barbara where Don worked on his PhD. They then moved to Tucson, where he got involved in managing non profits, becoming the  Executive Director of a large non profit that trained people experiencing homelessness in the trades so they would have living wage skills. The group built 30 affordable homes each year.

He was then recruited to serve as COO of the Sonoran institute, a place of  “collaborative conservation,” where he worked to broker solutions with all the parties instead of lawsuits and protests.

Don continued to hold his ordination, last methodist church was in Tucson. Still dedicated to learning and deepening his faith, he went back to school to be trained as an Interfaith Minister.

He then transferred his ministry to interfaith he and Karen opened a spiritual center.

They sold everything and moved to a cabin in the woods, where they founded the Osage Forest of Peace- an interfaith center and contemplative community that lives on site. They made the big decision to sell their large home in Tucson, and sold or gave away everything they had. Don describes this as a joyful experience, realizing how hard he had been working to afford their large home and the things in in. 

He and Karen started a school of spiritual direction, which still exists today.

When Don came to Vermont for the first interview, they led him to the sun porch looking at the lake. It was a beautiful setting and he was hooked. 

The first question the Board asked was, “why would you want to leave the Forest of Peace?” Don answered, “I don’t know that I want to but I know I am supposed to be here talking to you.”

During their visit, it became abundantly clear Vermont was where they were supposed to be. He was offered the job and started in July 2019.

Vermont has been everything they hoped it would be. He and Karen love the seasons and snow sports and have been loved and embraced as part of the community.

All Souls Interfaith Gathering is made up of seven acres, a Sanctuary, meditation room, library, and Labyrinth, which a place for walking prayer. The grounds are open to the public.

Sunday morning at 9 am, 10 minutes of reading from scriptures, sit in silence for 30 minutes, group discussion 

At 5pm Sundays, he offers a  music and spirit service, which is currently a 5 week series of common points of agreement of all the worlds faiths.

Don considers All Souls a “haven for people of all faith or no faith to come together.” 

Quite a few “NONE”s (no religious affiliation) attend services, folks who are simply open to spiritual connection. All Souls is in the process of becoming a self sufficient spiritual center.

Revenue from events and donations doesn’t cover operating costs, so they open the building up to events. However, the Board decided to discontinue the wedding business because it takes over the building for an entire weekend and they lose that time for the spiritual community.

All Souls is currently drafting “Blueprint 2020,” working with Peter Cole, to determine what the Shelburne community need.

Don says All souls needs to become better integrated into the Shelburne Charlotte Hinesburg community- being connected and providing resources where we can. All Souls has become home for the cub scouts, and they are looking for other organizations they can partner with. 

Conventional religions struggle with declining numbers- Vermont is the least religious state in the nation, but we all have a hunger for connection with community and deeper meaning. Don feels that interfaith centers can stay in tune with the people and provide what connections people are looking for, beyond conventional religions. 

It was noted that Vermont has the lowest hate crimes, and is typically non partisan. Perhaps a result of our being the least religious state?

When you begin with a place of commonality and share your experience instead of focusing on the differences you can bridge the camp

We’re so grateful to Don for joining us this morning and are donating a copy of “Teach your Child Mediation” to Pierson library. 


Diana Vachon shared with us why she joined Rotary.

She became town clerk three years ago this month. She had been in Shelburne 23 years and was looking for a way to connect more deeply to the community. She saw the BNI sign and contacted Eric and he said, “no, no you need to join Rotary.” She found out her aunt and uncle have been Rotarians for years, and has enjoyed stories of their travels around the world meeting Rotarians. She is grateful to be here and look forward to years of service.

She is offering an Introduction to Chi Jong November 9, at 9, 10, 11am, with the proceeds going to the Rotary for the food shelf Thanksgiving turkeys.

Nest week it’s     Trafton’s turn!        

Richard Fox reported October 27 is the Halloween parade- 85% of the work is done. Still left:

  1. Judging of floats- we need a head judge, identify 2-3 judges;
  2. Finding where the burners for the hot dog burners
  3. Next Wednesday we’ll be circulating a list- duties include come in costume, drive a golf cart, carry a banner, package the candy on early Sunday morning at Aubuchon, food related jobs. Time commitment is 11 for golf cart pickups, 12 set up, parade is 2pm, wrap up 3-3:15, whole show wraps up at 4-4:30.

Parade demonstrates that we are part of the community and we love it. Wear something Rotary- be mindful of branding perspective.

Only Rotarians driving the golf carts- insurance only covers actions of rotarians.


John Lowell’s number was drawn- and the happy fines roll over.


Meeting was adjourned at 9am- See you next week!