MTP participant Brandi Harvey inspires her fellow participants to be the change. (Photo: Tyler Metcalfe, National Geographic Travel)

A few months ago, two researchers from the Harvard Divinity School, Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile, asked to interview me for a report they were writing on a range of new organizations that they believed represented a sea change in millennial attitudes toward community, personal transformation, and — to my surprise — religion.

The organization that I founded three years ago, the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), was one of the ten entities that Thurston and ter Kuile chose to profile in their compelling and thought-provoking report, How We Gather, which was published last week.

I was initially surprised by Thurston and ter Kuile’s observation that MTP, which leads crowdfunded train journeys for young innovators to grow as leaders by connecting with communities and advancing purpose-driven projects across America, was analogous to the religious pilgrimages of certain faith-based communities.

A view from #MTPtrain’s dome car as the 2014 journey passes through Montana (Photo: Tyler Metcalfe, National Geographic Travel)

Nearly all MTP projects over the past three years have focused on non-religious topics, such as entrepreneurship, education, disaster preparedness, sustainability, public art, and creative placemaking. And yet, I must admit that there was a spiritual element to our last journey, especially thanks to one of our participants — Brandi Harvey of Atlanta, GA — whose MTP project (“Spiritual, not Religious”) examined millennial attitudes toward faith across America.

At the beginning of our journey, at Portland’s Union Station, I invited Brandi to lead our community in a prayer — our first ever — to bless our journey, prepare us for the challenges ahead, and keep us safe.

The MTP community prays for blessings at the outset of their 2014 journey. (Photo: Tyler Metcalfe, National Geographic Travel)

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