About Reverend Gary Shapiro
Rev. Gary Shapiro has been on a path of spiritual exploration and development all his life, seeking purpose and expression of his inquisitive and energetic soul. Growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, New York, amidst the fear and uncertainty of the post-Holocaust years of the 1950s and 60s, he was acutely aware of the intricate dynamics of alienation, conflict, safety, hope and possibility, the complex family and tribal bonds, and the struggle for connection with God, self and others. Since his teenage and young adult years, in the true spirit of an Israelite (which literally means, “One who wrestles with God.”), Gary has studied and practiced a range of faith traditions and personal growth paths, including Hinduism, Native American earth-based spirituality, Ken Keyes’ “Science of Happiness”, and mystical Christianity. But his strongest orientation over the years has been toward Buddhism and meditation, especially after attending Naropa University in Colorado in the early 80s.
In his professional life, after some unusual jobs such as a medicinal plant collector in Mexico and a bus tour guide in the US and Canada, Gary has worked since the 1980s in the field of peacebuilding and conflict resolution (both interpersonal and community), in advisory, management, and consultant positions, mainly outside the US. He has an MA in “Conflict Transformation” from Eastern Mennonite University, and has worked for many international non-governmental organizations. He also founded a US-based NGO, Conflict Resolution Catalysts, and was its director for several years. His work has focused on community & organizational development, social/ethnic trust-building and reconciliation, citizen empowerment, trauma healing, good governance, maximizing conflict sensitivity, strengthening and integrating indigenous peacebuilding approaches, and mainstreaming peacebuilding into development sectors. His main tasks have been project development, implementation, and evaluation; conflict analysis and needs assessments, and design and facilitation of trainings and dialogues. International postings have included conflict environments in East and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, Russia, Ukraine, and Bosnia. Most recently, in 2014, he was a Peacebuilding Advisor in Nigeria, West Africa.
Reflecting on his peacebuilding experience, several years ago Gary developed a great interest in the integration of spirituality, personal development, and peacebuilding. This, together with his strong desire to be of spiritual service, his affinity for the wisdom and beauty of diverse spiritual paths, led him to enter the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary program (based in New York), from which he was ordained as an interfaith/interspiritual minister in 2011. He then completed a certificate program in Spiritual Counseling, also from One Spirit. Rev. Gary currently works as a spiritual counselor, wedding officiant, life transitions celebrant and facilitator, chaplain, and worship/ritual leader, while still continuing peacebuilding work. While his ministry work is not based in a particular church or denomination, Rev. Gary does attend services at a Unitarian Universalist Church, whose embracing of all faith paths and traditions anchored in love resonates most closely with his beliefs and work.
Rev. Gary has called Vermont his home for the past 30 years, and currently lives in the Upper Valley area, on a rural homestead, with his wife Helen.
He draws tremendous inspiration from his mother, Ruth Shapiro, and the loving generosity and caring by which she lived. (Photo on left)