An Update on the Circle’s Visioning Process and Where We Go from Here
On New Years’ Eve 1975, three years after the scribing had been completed, Helen Schucman received a “special message” from Jesus about the future of A Course in Miracles. He spoke of the Course growing “from infancy into a helper of the world” and went on to say:
I will direct its growth as it reaches from the paper on which it was written into the hearts for which it was intended.
In the forty-five years since this message was received, the Course has reached the hearts of many—and it’s just getting started. With the decline of traditional church and the rise of personal spirituality, the gifts of the Course are being discovered by an ever-increasing number of students who are drawn to its core teaching of unconditional love. As this trend continues, we envision Course in Miracles one day gaining enough authority to stand alongside the ancient scriptures of the world’s religions.
Imagine a time when you walk into your local bookstore and see an entire section devoted to the Course, when a candidate running for office can stand for its principles without being labelled as fringe, and when stories about the Course like the one that appeared in the New York Times (The Curious Mystical Text Behind Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid) last year aren’t being passed around in amazement that such a thing could happen. And from this, imagine a time when a global network of Course-based teaching ministries, study groups, centers, and organizations rise from this path and become more and more interconnected.
The Circle has always had its eye on this expanded future for the Course. Over the years, Robert has written beautifully about the goal of eventually building an enduring global tradition in which students would be united in walking this path as Jesus intended. In service to this goal, the Circle has, over nearly thirty years, produced an extraordinary collection of resources, including and especially the Complete and Annotated Edition of A Course in Miracles.
And yet, what has been missing so far has been a more effective vehicle for getting these resources into the hands of students who could benefit from them. As a result, for the past few years we have felt it is time to remake the Circle on an organizational level. We have realized that if we are going to truly help the Course grow into all it’s meant to be, we will need to transform the Circle into a well-organized non-profit capable of serving many thousands of students around the world.
To determine how we can best achieve this goal, as well as how to measure our efforts along the way, the Circle’s Board of Directors, along with Robert and me, recently completed a year-long visioning process. Together, we decided that the main areas of concentration for the Circle over the next two years will be:
- Strengthening our organizational and financial base.
- Significantly grow the community of students in our programs through consistent outreach.
- Publicly addressing major societal and personal issues from a Course-based perspective.
- Building a global network of CE study groups.
- Developing a capital campaign to fund an education and retreat center that would also double as the Circle’s physical home.
What I’d like to do for the remainder of this article is to provide an overview of what we’re doing in each of these areas and, if you feel called to join us, I’d like to invite you to be part of this very important work.
1. Strengthening our organizational and financial base.
It’s a real privilege to share the Course with the world but, again, to do that well we know we need to get our own house in order. Right now, this side of the Circle has a lot of momentum. While Robert and I are the only full-time employees, our team has grown to include five contractors, four Board members, and some very dedicated volunteers. The work we do is meaningful, it’s fun, and we all share the same commitment to coming together and building an organization that will be here for generations.
But whether we succeed tomorrow, of course, depends in large part on what we do today. If the Circle is to live on and help the Course reach more hearts for which it’s intended, we will need a larger organization with more staff, volunteers, and donors.
Our goal is to build a solid internal structure that will allow for the Circle’s growth.
Two of the most important projects we’re working on in this area are:
- Deepening relationships with our donor community through more financial transparency, developing a monthly giving program, and frequent communication on how gifts are being used.
- Nurturing teachers, group leaders, additional volunteers, and committee members who are willing to come together to be the arms and legs of this work in the world.
These items are just a start, but they are very important groundwork for the Circle’s future.
2. Significantly grow the community of students in our programs through consistent outreach.
A Course in Miracles promises that we will experience God’s love, guidance, peace, holy relationships, joy, and so much more if we just walk the path it gives us. This is why taking students through the Course has always been central to the Circle’s mission, and why Course Companions has evolved into our main program.
Our goal is to grow Course Companions into a community of thousands.
We believe the Course is here to change the world and, to do that, it needs to be part of the world in a more mainstream way. Currently, our outreach efforts include the magazine you’re reading now, our podcast Exploring A Course in Miracles, our weekly newsletter Circle News, and our new video series A Course in Miracles Shorts. But there are additional projects in the works, including:
- Significantly improving our social media presence.
- Beginning online advertising campaigns through Facebook and Instagram.
- Sharing the Course on popular podcasts, blogs, and other media outlets.
While we believe these projects will go a long way towards helping the Course reach new students, at the very top of our wish list in this category is a Course Companions app. We don’t have the funding or the expertise to develop this at the moment, but we envision an app that would be as functional and as beautiful as our membership site. This app would feature the Course reading for the day, the commentaries, the classes, the cameos, and practice reminders right on your mobile device. A well-designed app would instantly open the Course to anyone with a smartphone or a tablet, and we hope to begin this project soon.
3. Publicly addressing major societal and personal issues from a Course-based perspective.
As I write this, we are all in the grips of a global pandemic, unemployment rates are in double-digits, and many people are afraid, alone, and hungry. As students of the Course, how should we respond to these and other events? Does the Course send us out to give comfort and care to our brothers in need—or should we say the world is an illusion and focus merely on our own minds?
A Course in Miracles teaches unconditional equality and complete courtesy to others. With so much hatred and suffering all around us, its voice is desperately needed because its message is one of love. For this reason, we are more proactively sharing Course teachings in response to personal suffering and global crisis.
Our goal is be a place where students can turn for support and guidance through difficult times, both individually and collectively.
Projects we are committed to in this area include:
- Issuing statements from Circle leadership in response to major news events.
- Hosting workshops on a Course-based approach to issues including illness, death, divorce, and other challenges that are common to all of us.
- Thoughtfully exploring societal issues through our podcast, newsletter, and magazine articles.
We have made this a priority because we believe the Course is far more than just a way to relieve our own fear. It contains the seeds of a thought system that heals, which means it can, and should, help us bring forth a whole new world.
4. Building a global network of CE study groups.
One thing we hear often at the Circle is that students are longing for a sense of community. We do our best to provide this in Course Companions, while also recognizing that large webinars cannot replace the value and intimacy of small group work. There is a clear need for study groups, but what we’ve discovered is that the complexity of the Course often prevents many would-be leaders from stepping forward to host them.
Our goal is to offer resources for study groups that will simplify the process from beginning to end.
We want to make it easier for groups to come together and go through any volume of the Course. Materials we will create include promotional emails to recruit members, agendas and discussion guides for each meeting, as well as answers to questions that are likely to come up. In addition to helping the leader in a way that encourages more groups to form, our hope is that offering these resources will enhance the teachings and allow for a better learning experience overall.
Currently, we are in the process of developing study guides that will take a group through the Text in one year. When this piece is completed, we plan to continue with offerings for Workbook and Manual groups. Other projects we’re working on in this area include:
- Hosting an online training this fall as a first step to starting an ongoing study group leader program.
- Building a website hub for study groups that offers all the resources needed to begin and maintain a group, as well as a directory where students and teachers can find each other regardless of where they live.
We are very committed to this initiative, and we would love to support a network of study groups where students are drawn into deeper relationship with the Course and with each other.
5. Developing a capital campaign to fund an education and retreat center that would also double as the Circle’s physical home
Given how deeply felt the need is for spiritual belonging and community, it has been a long-held dream at the Circle to have a home where students can come to be rejuvenated and spiritually renewed. This would be a place to study Course teachings, experience the practice, and carry its gifts home to others.
The Circle’s center has often been pictured as a garden in the desert, a place near Sedona that would serve as a Course retreat center, an education center, and our headquarters. We’ve been picturing this place for years now, daydreaming about a location that would have the white dome that Helen saw in her own vision of a Course center, a gallery that walks you through Course history, a nature walk with Course quotes along the path, and a bell that rings as an hourly practice reminder.
But I’m certainly getting ahead of myself here. We are years away from making this happen and by now you know we must first get the Circle more structured before we can consider taking the initial steps toward this goal. But within the next two years we do hope to make some progress on this, ideally with the beginnings of a capital campaign.
So there you have it. The Circle’s roadmap for the near future. We recognize these are lofty goals and, as I mentioned, we will need far more staff, volunteers, committees, and income than we currently have to achieve them. We also feel that we must achieve them if we are to build an organization worthy of being called a home of the Course and the students it serves.
If you feel moved to support any or all of this mission, we invite you to join us. You can do so by becoming a member of Course Companions, volunteering, making a contribution, or simply praying for the success of our work.
This is a big vision. Course students are sitting on something known to relatively few, but something that clearly has the power to change everything for the better. If Helen’s special message is right and the Course is destined to become a “helper of the world,” then what more meaningful purpose could there be than helping it get there? I hope you will consider how you can support the efforts I’ve outlined above. There is so much to do, and we cannot reach the many hearts for which the Course was intended without you.
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To learn more about our community of A Course in Miracles students, visit Course Companions.