Annie Spang

For the past 13 years at First Parish I have been able to work on, really play with, something I believe in, and that is Circle Ministry. Bringing small groups of people together to engage in thoughtful dialogue resonated with me.

Coffee hour is important, fun, and social but generally not conducive to sharing at a deeper level.

Also, at the time, our church community was going through some painful changes, as I’m sure many of you remember, and there was often tension and polarizing conversations. I believe that discord is more a result of how we talk with each other rather than what we talk about or how we differ in our beliefs.
I think that we are experiencing this in spades right now in our country.

Circle Ministry, as we call it here at First Parish because we love circles, offers a way to practice coming together with care and respect and therefore creating a loving context which invites us to speak openly and honestly, and to share our differences.

At the time that we were first exploring Small Group Ministry I also liked the popular slogan “Think Globally, Act Locally”. I can still remember the blue sky day, 13 years ago to this month while x-c skiing on the trails of Mt Washington, when I realized that Circle Ministry was the action that I wanted to take locally and that First Parish was the perfect place to do it.

I believe in the transformative power of coming together and witnessing each other’s stories without judgement or the need to fix.

So every year, over the past 12 years, we’ve had 3 to 6 groups of 5 to 10 people participating in small group ministry. Many of you here have either coordinated, facilitated, written, and/or participated to make this happen. And because it is open to anyone interested, we have several folks every year who are not members of First Parish. It’s great to have an open door to some of what we offer here.

Circle Ministry enables us to journey more closely with one another. It’s a springboard from which we accept each other and ourselves, question anything and everything, feel more connected, participate in community projects, and dare to risk living from, and speaking for, our own truths. And all of this ripples outward from each of us toward others. I feel a lot of gratitude for First Parish in the way that it has been a home where Circle Ministry can be sustained.