WHAT’S BEING SAID ABOUT KAREN HILFMAN MILLSON’S WORK AND GIFTS

In the midst of the times of change it is critical to create opportunity for significant conversations. Below are comments by the Minister and Council Chair of a congregation Karen is currently working with: 

“We are seeing a real shift in people as to how they feel at the beginning of the session and how they feel at the end…..The circles begin with anxiety and fear and end with a sense of hope, energy and optimism.”

“This process creates participatory leadership where everyone has responsibility for leadership and stewardship ….there’s no us and them.”

“There’s so much value to this deep listening with no debate or arguing and everyone having their moments to share. People are good with it knowing there will be more interactive session in the fall.”

“Feels like the tip of a culture shift that is coming out of faith rather than secular.”

“It’s a 2 for 1 deal: it’s not just about gathering information it’s helping form us as a community that is more intentionally living out of our faith.”

“Appreciate Karen’s ability to draw people out by engaging them and getting them to say what they mean in a conversational non-threatening way.”

“It feels Spirit infused and faithful.”

From a minister whose congregation Karen worked with followed by a year of coaching her as she introduced Circle Culture through Small Group Ministry in her community:

“I have so many more tools at my finger tips to help my congregation be healthy..… For me personally, being a part of small group culture (which I now call circle culture) has helped me be aware of God sightings during my day. It has helped me live from a place of freedom rather than from fear, trusting that I am in the exact place and time that I need to be and that what I need will come in the right moment. I find I do not need to be defensive or react to conflict with fear. It has helped me listen for God in my life and trust God in others more. Having been part of creating a covenant now about 10 times, I find that each one is fresh and that my way of being together with the group rubs off in my way of being in my everyday life.” – Ruth

Participants in Speaking the Simple Truth – Freedom from Blame and Judgement:

“This course is absolutely essential to anyone who is stuck in blame and/or judgment. The tools I took away from this course are having an impact in my daily life. The clutter that was in my brain is gone! I feel so free… from blaming others, from having judgments on myself or on others. I am relaxed within myself for the first time! The course allowed me to learn new tools and to practice them in group, then to go out and work with them in the real world knowing how successful they would be.” – Jan

“I believe that speaking the truth simply has helped me reclaim my personal power and released me from blaming others for my unhappiness. Practicing this tool takes courage, commitment and self-discipline but the payback is freedom, confidence and contentment.” – Louise

Community leaders’ reflections on Karen`s work:

“Karen’s work on our committee has been outstanding. A well-known and highly regarded civic leader, she brought to our work her keen intelligence, her passion for the diverse communities within the City, her depth of experience with large scale community collaborations and a strong commitment to social justice. Karen enabled our diverse group of politicians, elders, business people, educators, and community members to see the initiative as much more than we had first seen it. Through the work of the committee, I became aware of her interest in circle culture and circle culture coaching, and in our meetings I have seen and been quite impressed by her skills as a collaborator, coach, and facilitator. She is genuinely committed to “an intentional way of being.” In her work with us I have seen her practice what she preaches. She does indeed “listen deeply, connect to Wisdom within us and amongst us; honour our own and each other’s gifts; share laughter and tears, joys and struggles comfortably; commit to action to move toward ongoing transformation as we respond to our life purpose and call; encourage, support and be accountable to one another as we seek to live a vision of wholeness.” In our group, she has been the one who has been best able to create the bridges that have allowed powerful conversations to emerge among participants of widely varying backgrounds.” – Kim

“I continue to be reminded of those both within our church communities and outside of our church communities who are longing for authentic connections. In much of my pastoral work I come across many folks who are attempting to compensate for a lack of these authentic connections with external “fillers” such as alcohol, shopping, video games, eating and the like. We are beings that hunger for connection. We are beings that need to be opened to connecting authentically with ourselves. If we are unable to connect with ourselves in an authentic way, to genuinely be who we were created to be, to live in such a way as to let our Christ light shine, then we will fail to connect with others in a manner that is life-giving. It is my sense that this Circle Culture is as profoundly radical a message as the Gospel of Christ and the Kingdom of God and is potentially equally as liberating and life-giving. “– Michelle

“Your passion and rootedness is a gift; that you continue to guide and teach and open us is a great blessing. Blessings, Karen, as you carry us forward with you.” – Carolyn

REFLECTIONS ON THE CALL TO CIRCLE CULTURE ~November 2013

            When I felt that my work was complete with St Paul’s in Orillia it was not only a call to bring closure to the ministry we shared but it was also a new call arising out of our shared ministry of focusing on how we develop a culture within a community that creates space for significant conversations and healthy relationships.  I now refer to this as Circle Culture which comes from my experience of seeing the power of this kind of culture emerging from the abundance of intentional circles at St Paul’s.

            Over the past seven months since I completed my work with St Paul’s I have focused on reflecting and fine tuning my understanding of this call.  I have developed my own business where I am sharing this work through life coaching, facilitating workshops and retreats, and consulting within the field of business around team building.   I believe that this concept of Circle Culture provides wonderful resources, tools and perspectives in these times we live in as we stand at the edge of a new day intentionally open to healthy and life-giving ways to move forward.

            Recently I developed clarity that Circle Culture has three aspects to it:  1) Within Self: Connecting to the circle of authentic power at the core of who you are; 2) Within Circle where we  practice the intentions of this culture of connecting with others at an authentic core level to create a powerful circle where gifts and wonderings, wisdom and clarity of action can risk emerging; 3) Within Life: Connecting to everyday moments by engaging the principles and practices of Circle including: deep listening, freedom from blame and judgment, honouring the light in all, trusting that we have the wisdom we need amongst us, following the flow of energy that guides us to creative possibilities, staying connected to our core while allowing space for others to speak their wisdom so that through the combination of the wisdom of all a greater wisdom emerges.

            My working definition of Circle Culture is that Circle Culture derives from an intentional process where we: listen deeply; speak from our heart, mind and experience; create space to connect to the Wisdom within us and amongst us; honour our own and each other’s gifts; commit to action to move toward change; encourage, support and be accountable to one another as we seek to live a vision of wholeness; discover clarity and creativity emerging in our midst; align with the intuitive flow of life.

            A wise friend and guide asked me the other day what excites me about the work that I am doing.  My answer came quickly; I love to see people claim their own power through the recognition of a variety of possibilities: 1) being clear about their purpose in life; 2) discovering what their unique gifts are and choosing to focus on those; 3) releasing old patterns that they realize no longer serve and claiming new perspectives that bring freedom as well as a sense of honour to them and the people they engage in life; 4) connecting to their authentic self so that the guidance of Wisdom and creativity can emerge.  I love to coach people one on one and in groups. I delight in providing others with the opportunity to discover skills for hosting conversations in such a way that people feel free to really share.

KAREN HILFMAN MILLSON

CURRICULUM VITAE

SUMMARY OF PERTINENT EXPERIENCE

 EDUCATION

Master of Divinity Emmanuel College 1982 – 1987 Awards:

The Dempster and Gordon Scholarship in the Philosophy of Religion:

First in the basic course in Philosophy of Religion Third Year recipient of The Emmanuel College

General Proficiency Scholarship

Bachelor of Arts University of Guelph 1975 – 1979 Major in Drama specializing in Directing Minor in English

LEADER OF WORKSHOPS & RETREATS ON CIRCLE CULTURE ~ SMALL GROUPS

o Initiating and Growing Small Group Ministry Workshops at:

United Church’s Renovations 2000 Event

Toronto Conference Event 3 times

Hamilton Conference Event

Grey Bruce Presbytery Event

Congregation Events within Toronto Conference 6 times

Emmanuel College Continuing Education 2 times

More Franchises 2008 – Following the Flow of the Passions of the People

More Franchises 2012 – Circles of Transformation: A Response to the Longing for Authenticity & Connection Rooted in the Christian Path

o How To Run Life-Giving Meetings for Toronto Conference 2 times

o Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium Facilitator

o Week of Guided Prayer at Emmanuel College 1987

o Leadership Team of Southern Ontario Orientation for Rural Ministry 8 years

o Consultant and Leader for Retreat Day for Team Building within Team Ministry

o Westminster Women’s Weekend Key Note Speaker on New Beginnings

o Orillia Women’s Conference Reflector on Everyday Spirituality & Women in Transition for 3 years

o Cedar Glen Women’s Retreat Day Leader on Come and Find the Quiet Center

o Ministers Two Day Retreat Leader for Muskoka Presbytery

o Retreat Day to debrief and integrate learnings from Presbytery trip to Nicaragua

o Led Webinar with EDGE on Circles of Transformation October 2012

o Led United In Learning event over 6 weeks via conference calls on Circles of Transformation

TEAM MINISTRY ST PAUL’S, ORILLIA January 1996 – April 2013

o Developed strong and dynamic Small Group Ministry based on a Circle Process with an average of 25 groups/year

o Created Alternative Worship called Circle of Light a weekly meditation service

o Team for development of Alternative Worship 3:30 LIVE! in coffee house style

o Annual Retreat Leader for Leadership Development within the congregation

o Trained facilitator for International Symposium Awakening the Dreamer Changing the Dream

o Leader of Awakening Our Common Wisdom Circle which gave birth to Transition Town Orillia

o Developed vision and help organize Transition Town Community Fair which brings together the wider community groups who all have goals consistent with Transition Town including 15 guest speakers and 30 workshops on alternative healing modalities to strengthen the spiritual journey

o Supported and Developed Pastoral Care Teams with 130 people

o Trained Stephen Ministry Leader to train others in this one on one in-depth care model

o Developed and enlivened Sunday School with the integration of the Small Group Model in their curriculum

o Co-created and led a city wide summer day camp on Creating A World of Peace based on the Small Group Model

o Encounter World Religions Lecture Series hosted for 3 years at Wisdom Circle

o Developed and led Finding Your Place Small Group connecting gifts with ministry opportunities

o Song of the Heart Workshops with creative experiences to expand our heart connection

o Organized Speakers Series featuring Jesus Seminar members

o Weekend Retreat in partnership with Emmanuel College: Deepening the Journey: Exploring Roots & Wings Preparation for Holy Week Retreat & Lecture Series with Amy Jill Levine – including Small Group opportunities

o Leader of Annual Youth Enquiry Group with retreats, mentors and a Small Group – 100 participants in 11 years

o Introduced and Facilitated Week of Guided Prayer

o Trained and developed a team of Prayer Companions for Week of Guided Prayer and beyond

o Worship Leader for Toronto Conference Annual Meeting

o Graduate of Shaw Transformational Leadership Core Program at Queen’s

o Director of many musicals and dramas including Jesus Christ Superstar with the theme of transformation woven into the play through visual additions on power point reflecting a deepened interpretation

o Trained Facilitator in Attitudinal Healing

o Consultant for Toronto Conference during transition from 9 Presbyteries to 4 working with one Presbytery to develop strategies on how to function as a life-giving and productive community

o Identified and recommended as potential consultant for churches in transition

o Developed the vision of the Annual General Meeting of Toronto Conference being hosted in a paid congregational setting and offered St Paul’s as the test site –  hosted for three years

o Speaker for Hospice and Telecare Training for 15 years on themes of Spirituality, Authentic Connections and Self Care

o Worship Matters 2011 Interviewer of Gordon Lightfoot on themes of community, authenticity, sharing our stories, and the importance and impact of encouraging people’s gifts and passions

o Member of United Church Observer Magazine Board of Directors

o Member of Emmanuel College Continuing Education Committee

o Chair of Pastoral Care Advisory Committee of Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Orillia

o On Team to develop Living the Welcome strategies and hospitality for which St Paul’s is known

o Leadership Training in the method Vistar: Evolutionary Circles now used around the globe amongst those of us trained in Conscious Evolution by Barbara Marx Hubbard

o Leadership Training with Be The Change Earth Alliance’s Action Circles

o Training for United Church trips with a mission focus & led a group to Guatemala

o Provided one-on-one continuing education for a United Church minister via weekly meetings on the topic of training leaders of Small Groups and developing Small Group Ministry

o Sabbatical 2012 on theme Circles of Transformation including:

 a week at Iona Abbey on the theme of Circles of Trust based on the work of Parker Palmer

 participating in the international event Awakened World 2012: Engaged Spirituality which incorporated Circle Culture as the basis of our work

going to the Greenbelt Festival in the UK for the second time

 engaging with a Circle in England through experiences in ancient stone circles

 interviewing Phyllis Tickle for the Observer on the themes and helpful responses to this time of transformation

 being a commissioner to the 41st General Council

 preparing for the EDGE Webinar October 2013 on Circles of Transformation

developing on line class on Conscious Evolution based on insights about the spiritual journey experienced in Small Groups with Suzanne Hubbard

 retreat time alone for deepening spiritual practices and writing

began my training as a life coach with the focus of Living an Authentic Life

 SETTLEMENT CHARGE ~ COMBER CHARGE July 1988 – December 1995

o Developed Clergy led Small Groups with 35 to 50 participants weekly

o Created Annual Summer Day Camp with over 100 participants including leaders

o Doubled the size of the worshipping congregation

o As Chair of Essex Presbytery in a difficult time created Retreat Days for the purpose of healing for ministers

o Worship Leader for London Conference AGM & Table Group leaders trainer

o Task Group member for Restructuring the United Church with Howie Mills as staff with 3 other members in the group

o Commissioner General Council 1992 & 1994

o Taught Course on Structures of the United Church at Iona College

o Team of Southern Ontario Orientation for Rural Ministry which led a 2 week residence course per year – 8 years

o Retreat Days for Small Group participants including Youth Enquiry Group

o Training with Bill Easum and Tom Bandy that significantly impacted my perspective on how we are called to be the church

o Participating Congregation in the development of United Church resource The Vital, Healthy and Faithful Congregation: A Companion Workbook for The Congregation as Evangelist

ORDAINED IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA May 1988

I was told that my settlement charge in London Conference was chosen because of my background in prayer and small groups which the conference thought would be helpful in order to connect with people considering the potential volatile response expected from General Council ’88 in that area. Though the pastoral charge next to us voted to leave the United Church, we only had 2 people withdraw their names from membership. However they did not leave the congregation. They felt supported through the process that was developed of listening, engaging and caring.

IGNATIAN SPIRITUAL EXERCISES – 19th Annotation

(1987 – 1988 During a year of discernment by my choice before being ordained)

A yearlong in-depth experience of prayer including 3 hours of prayer and journaling a day, working weekly with a spiritual director, plus two 8 day silent retreats with support of a spiritual director before being ordained.

YEAR LONG INTERNSHIP

1985 – 1986 Harcourt Memorial, Guelph with supervisor John Buttars

Learned about the significance of Small Groups and Week of Guided Prayer, discovered the power of a large project to create community through directing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and experienced the positive impact of the Ignatius College Group which met regularly for prayer and sharing amongst ministers.

March 2013 Newspaper Release
Poetry by Karen