After attending several Courage to Lead weekend retreats, I wanted to introduce circles of trust in my congregation. I hoped my congregation would experience the gift of being deeply heard and trusting their inner teacher, but I was afraid that if I tried creating something on my own, I wouldn’t maintain the integrity of the work. I struggled for several months around how I might use this work meaningfully in a congregational setting when the Geography of Grace retreat and curriculum was introduced. I was thrilled to attend the training and come back with my very own copy of the curriculum.
When I returned from the training, curriculum in hand, I set about gathering my first group; those I hoped might lead others through this work in the future. In the year since I started my first Geography of Grace group, I have offered 5 different groups and 29 people have begun to trust their fellow congregants, have learned how to listen deeply to others, and have started understanding they do not need to fix other’s problems. They are striving to live into listening and asking questions in a new way.
When I asked this group what was the most beneficial aspect of Geography of Grace, here is what they said:
- “having a place where I can be my true self, good and bad”
- “the opportunity to think about experiences and situations and how they have shaped me”
- “self- discovery and being free to talk openly without judgment”
- “learning to trust not only the group but my own inner teacher”
- “knowing that in the circle of trust I can share or not and that is okay!”
Geography of Grace has helped my congregation see each other through new eyes. It has increased trust and understanding of each other and of the inner teacher. It gave one woman in my congregation the voice she had suppressed years ago. It has offered people the understanding that the struggles and problems we face are very similar, no matter how good we look on the outside. Since we started using Geography of Grace, I have observed people listening more deeply to themselves and to others and responding in ways that show empathy and compassion rather than judgment.
Ministry is hard work and there is no end to the number of people who want to tell you exactly how to “do ministry”! The greatest gift of the Circle of Trust approach has been learning how to trust my own leadership. This work has been invaluable in my life and ministry as I strive to lead from a place of wisdom and integrity.
If you’ve experience a Courage & Renewal program for yourself and want to share its approach in your faith community, please consider joining us in Lutz, Florida, from February 4-6, 2014 for a four-day retreat and training on the Geography of Grace curriculum. Registration is now open.