In addition to being co-clerk of the yearly meeting, Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch is clerk of PYM’s Ministry and Care Committee. She has shared this news story in the hope that meetings and individuals will be inspired to learn about Trust Circles and participate in transforming our yearly meeting.
In January, Quaker Life Council approved a proposal from the Ministry and Care Committee to pilot a process called “Trust, Truth and Transformation”. This process recognizes that in order to enter into the place of transformation that we seek as a yearly meeting, we must: understand how to tell our truth, trust one another so we will tell our truth, and be willing and able to listen deeply to one another.
There is understandable impatience for somebody to fix things in our faith community which has experienced ongoing pain and recurrent outbreaks of “othering”, shaming, blaming and enflaming. Many monthly meetings are acting to reinvigorate their faithful response to Quaker testimonies on equality, integrity, community and stewardship. Now there is the opportunity for the yearly meeting as a whole to develop the tools and new behaviors which will let us evolve toward greater wholeness.
We want to help facilitate a climate in which Friends feel empowered to speak up and take pro-active action whenever opportunities to advance justice arise. We want to facilitate the shift from diffidence and shutting down to confidence, engagement and action.
As part of this process, the Committee proposes to offer Trust Circles* to meetings across the yearly meeting as well as to develop and share specific deep listening tools as a two-pronged approach to accomplishing the deeper connection, more effective truth-telling and healing we seek as a yearly meeting. This is not a “once and done” project; rather, it is an ongoing process. Learning to call one another in and “connecting” rather than calling one another out and “othering” will provide a path to strengthen our communities, deepen our faith and enhance our faithfulness to our testimonies.
Trust Circles and Deep Listening
Trust Circles and specific deep listening tools can offer participating meetings opportunities to:
- Increase the level of trust within their monthly meeting
- Create stronger connections within their monthly meeting
- Develop a deeper sense of community, or belonging, in their Monthly meeting
- Increase capacity for Friends to be “real” with one another, with enough safety for them to experience vulnerability
- Provide Friends with more frequent experiences of feeling heard
- Provide alternatives to the “calling-out” dynamic
- Reduce the incidence of unaware wounding
- Encourage a climate where, when bumps in the road occur, Friends can turn to honest responses (such as “yes, let’s look at this”) rather than evasion or defensiveness
First Steps – Facilitator Training in February
As a first step in this process, the Ministry & Care Committee with direct aid and direction from Friends for the Future – an organization, dedicated to the support of Trust Circles – will provide training for facilitators of Trust Circles.
We will be offering training for a first group of facilitators in February. We are inviting interested Friends to be part of the pilot for this undertaking. If you are interested in participating, please contact Dana Robinson, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, email@example.com by January 30 as the first training group for Trust Circle Facilitators will be held in February.
Trust Circles Are Small and Relationship-Based: Non-judgmental, Listening, and Giving Love a Chance!
Trust Circles are small, (6-10 people) facilitated groups which engage in responding to a variety of Queries, building trust and connection. Trust Circles are about relationships.
They are different from Circles of Trust—a concept brought forward by Parker Palmer, though they share the important foundational belief in sharing our stories and listening to one another as a crucial tool in developing relationships.
Trust Circles differ from Spiritual Formation in that they focus as much on others as on the self. They are different from worship sharing as everyone is called to speak on each query as they are led by the spirit. They differ from Listening Circle as the topics or queries are not open to whatever topic the speaker wants to share.
They are different from meditation in that Trust Circle trains one to subordinate the thoughts and feelings of the self and to seek an understanding of the thoughts and feelings of others. Trust Circles are similar to Circles of Trust in that each person is invited to show up and contribute to the best of their ability.
Trust Circles focus upon relationships with people whom you may not have chosen to associate and who may not have chosen to associate with you, but who have been brought into your circle because of your spiritual journeys, because you have a mutual desire to engage in an eternal search for truth, and because of your belief that you should “Let your life speak.”
Trust circles are based on the foundation that we have chosen to be members of the Religious Society of Friends and Friends should treat all people, but especially all Friends, with respect and dignity and with a sense that we are all real people whose human rights are not to be run over.
Friends in Trust Circles are called upon to share only what they want to share – no prying, no questions, no advising, no challenging. Trust Circles do not call upon anyone to fix things for others but to be a space where others will feel comfortable to share who they are, how they feel about things they experience in their lives, and what their wants and needs are.
Trust Circles are designed to be non-judgmental, listening deeply, and genuinely giving love a chance.
To learn more and sign up for training email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image obtained from pixabay.com