Circle of Trust Peer Groups

“Peer groups will offer you a sacred space to explore what is alive within your life and ministry. The monthly meeting was a connection to my inner life.” —Rev. Kelly Stone, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN

  • Facilitators:  Rev. Winton Boyd and Rev. Ellen Green
  • Opening Retreat: January 9 & 10, 2023 | 6-8 pm (CST)
  • Peer Groups: monthly meetings via Zoom, January – August 2023
  • Closing Retreat: September 2023
  • Registration Cost: $450 ($300 for participants from the Minnesota Conference UCC thanks to generous support from the Ashley Endowment)

If you are a leader in a faith community or other ministry context — clergy, lay staff, or volunteer — whose ministry focuses on nurturing the spiritual lives of others, this opportunity is for you. These Circle of Trust Peer Groups will offer space for faith leaders to be nurtured and nourished within themselves and in community. This is an opportunity to refocus on what inspires and sustains you in ministry. The Circle of Trust approach is an invitation and a structure for doing our own inner work in the company of others. This series of gatherings will be held entirely online and includes both an opening retreat AND monthly small group calls. 

The opening retreat will introduce participants to one another and to the Circle of Trust model. Circles of Trust Touchstones will be used to build interpersonal trust from the beginning of our time together. Participants will experience the power of deep listening and will practice asking their peers Honest and Open Questions that invite further exploration and insight. In addition, the logistics of ongoing Circle of Trust peer group sessions will be addressed.

The Peer Groups will meet monthly for 2 hours (January – August) as participants share with each other and support each other through the use of deep listening and honest and open questions. This is not a ‘fix it’ kind of group, but a chance to travel with companions in ministry as we seek to make sense of our call to ministry in these challenging times. Each group will be 3-4 participants plus a facilitator. Facilitators will monitor the time and gently guide the group through the process. Times for Peer Groups meetings will be decided by each group.

A Closing Retreat for all participants will be held in September (2 hours online).

What is the Circle of Trust model?

A Circle of Trust is a model of communal learning and integration based on the work of Parker J. Palmer (see his work A Hidden Wholeness for detailed information). Based on Quaker spiritual practices, Circles of Trust invite participants into the discipline of deep listening (to themselves and to one another). Music, poetry, movement, and multi-modal tools are used to prompt personal reflection and a connection with inner wisdom. One-on-one dialogue and small- and large-group sharing bring inner insights into the life of the gathered community.

The Circle of Trust process has been used across many denominations for clergy and other church workers at all stages of their careers. Additionally, Circle of Trust work is recognized by the Lily Foundation as a highly beneficial experience for leaders as they seek to build resiliency skills, systems of mutual support and accountability, and as they navigate changes in congregations that require new roles and functions. By connecting participants to the inner resources of strength, resiliency, and courage, and by providing a space to share those resources in community, Circles of Trust assist leaders in developing a more focused sense of call, deeper collegial relationships, and stronger sense of purpose in their local contexts.

About our Facilitators

Winton Boyd was ordained in the MN Conference UCC and has served congregations in Minneapolis, Fresno, CA, and Madison, WI. He has been a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal since 2007. He currently heads up the Flourishing in Ministry Project for the Center. In this capacity he has worked with clergy and faith leaders in settings across the USA and British Columbia. For 20 years, he was pastor of Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ in Madison, WI. While there, he was involved with racial justice work across the city, the sanctuary movement and the UCC outdoor ministry program. He concluded that work in January 2019. He and his wife of 30 years, Tammy, have three young adult children. He loves running, biking, hiking, and baking bread!

Ellen Green is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She has served UCC and ELCA congregations in Massachusetts and Minnesota. Having led faith formation ministries as a lay person and as clergy, she recognizes and celebrates all leaders who bring their gifts to that vital work. Ellen and her spouse, Mason, make their home in South Minneapolis.

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023