Affinity Groups

New Affinity Groups coming this fall

Registration now open for several offerings - see below.

An Affinity Group gathers several times per year around a specific topic, learning goal or type of ministry work. These groups are led by a topic expert who plans each gathering, resources the group and facilitates group conversations.  These Affinity Groups are conducive to creating a safe space in which clergy can learn and grow through deep sharing and honest reflection.

Becoming More Racially Conscious:  A Learning Journey for White Ministers

These cohort-based sessions create a trusting and confidential environment where white ministers can deepen their understanding of how race shows up at the personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels and how they are called to recognize and interrupt racism within their congregations and beyond. When individuals engage in personal reflective work, an understanding of their racial identity development occurs. When people have opportunities to listen and talk to each other in an environment of mutual respect, perspectives on the impact of race in society can change.

This learning journey will provide opportunities to:

  • Deepen awareness of your own racial consciousness
  • Expand skills for naming, discussing, and responding to the way race shows up
  • Strengthen the ability to initiate and sustain conversations about race within your congregation and beyond
  • Ground your learning within the complexities of ministry that include pastoral and leadership roles
  • Understand how our faith calls us to this work
  • Become aware of how the system of White Supremacy and its “norms” are in the air we breathe; how to be conscious of them and have the courage to interrupt them.

About the Facilitator: Dr. Diane S. Schmitz, M.Div


Diane Schmitz is an educator, minister, and writer with 20 years of experience designing and leading transformational group processes. Her primary focus is working with predominantly white communities to increase the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to be effective partners in the dismantling racism efforts led by communities of color.

A Master of Divinity and an Ed.D. in Leadership from Seattle University led to Diane’s dissertation examining Whiteness in Jesuit Higher Education. She has 17 years of experience in higher education with focus areas in management, equity and inclusion work, support for marginalized students, university leadership, and teaching graduate-level social justice courses in an adjunct capacity.  As an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Diane has served as a pastor and has a specialized ministry in racial justice that has included leading workshops, retreats, and co-facilitating training for churches seeking to become anti-racist, multicultural communities. She creates learning experiences for church communities to gain insight about how socialization in a “white racial frame” has created attitudes and beliefs that shape individuals, the church and society to daily produce harmful impacts on communities of color. She believes the connection between spirituality and justice is a vital one to nurture.  Read more about Diane here.

Affinity Group Schedule & Options
There are two different day/time options for this group, each comprised of four online meetings.  In addition, there will be an online check in session early in 2022, and a full day, in-person workshop session in the spring of 2022 with both groups coming together to learn and share.

Limited scholarships are available for bi-vocational, or part time clergy (half time or less) and those serving small churches (< than 75 active members).

 Tuesday Evening
Tuesdays from 7-9 pm - October 5, 12, 19 and 26
Group Size:
minimum of 6, maximum of 14
Registration Deadline:
Tuesday, September 21
 To register for Tuesday evening sessions, click here.

Thursday afternoon
Sessions: Thursdays from 3-5 pm - October 7 & 21, November 4 & 18
Group Size: minimum of 6, maximum of 14
Cost: $250
Registration Deadline: Thursday, September 23
To register for Thursday afternoon sessions, click here.


Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change

Ask any leader and she will tell you that leading change is hard work. But the hardest part of all? It's the part that almost none of us expect. The most soul-sucking thing for most leaders is not the challenge of a changing world, but overcoming the resistance of our own people to make the changes they need to survive and thrive. 

Tod Bolsinger, author of Tempered Resilience and Canoeing the Mountains, will share the insights gleaned from 30 years of ministry leadership, being a professor of leadership formation, and a coach and consultant to ministry leaders all over the world.

About the Facilitator: Tod Bolsinger

 Tod Bolsinger, MDiv, PhD, is the Executive Director of the De Pree Center Church Leadership Institute, a Senior Fellow of the De Pree Center for Leadership, and Associate Professor of Leadership Formation at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Tod was the founder of the Fuller Leadership Platform, an innovative approach to online formation and leadership development and served as a Vice President of Fuller Seminary for six years.

He is the author of five books, including the Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year in pastoral leadership, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, Leadership for a Time of Pandemic: Practicing Resilience and most recently, Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change.

Tod served as a pastor for 27 years. Bolsinger speaks, consults and is an executive coach for corporate, non-profit, educational and church organizations in transformational leadership. His blogs and other resources can be found at

This group is 5 sessions over 6 months.
Group Sessions:
Wednesdays at 3 pm - October 13, December 1, January 5, February 9 and March 9 - online only
Group Size: maximum 25 participants
Start Date: October 13
Cost: $250
Registration Deadline: Wednesday, September 29
To register for this affinity group, click here.


Ministers of Color Affinity Group

Clergy and pastors of color comprise a tiny portion of the total number of ministers in the three judicatory partners of Together We Thrive – The Southern New England Conference UCC, The New England Synod of the ELCA Lutherans, and The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. This frequently leads to isolation, marginalization, and/or tokenism. The purpose of this group is to create a mutually supportive, safe space in which ministers of color can develop deeper community, build additional skills for managing and navigating their contexts and systems, and prioritize care of self. Participants also are expected to experience enhanced self-awareness and strengthened leadership capacity.

The group is open to all People of Color who are considered Authorized Ministers (UCC), Rostered Ministers (ELCA) or Parochial Ministers (Episcopal, WMA). This group is a collaboration between Together We Thrive and the Minister of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion of SNEUCC. It will be unlike many others. Because of our country’s history of structural racial and ongoing barriers, clergy people of color are more likely to serve as associate ministers, in part-time roles, or in congregations with few financial resources. As people invested in racial justice, we believe this reality compels us to offer this affinity group for clergy persons of color for a nominal fee. We are grateful for the financial support of our Contributing Partners Old South Church (UCC) in Boston, Edwards Church in Northampton (UCC), Immanuel Congregational Church (UCC) in Hartford and Supporting Congregations such as Hope Central (UCC) in Jamaica Plain, which makes it possible for us to significantly reduce the registration rate for participants in this group. Because of these gifts, we are doing a bit to counteract the systems and structures that frequently have disparate impacts on ministers of color and deny them access to equal pay and sufficient continuing education funds. 

About the Facilitator: Rev. Dr. Barbara Wilson

 Barbara Ann Wilson journeys with people, organizations and faith communities in linking intellect, passion and practice. She has extensive training and experience with organizations and systems to increase capacity, transform culture, and create resilient and sustainable opportunities. Barbara leads in nonprofits and faith-based institutions as a leadership coach, trainer and facilitator with individuals and teams.

She has 13+ years of investigative experience in the federal criminal justice and child welfare systems. She has been ordained 26 years as an itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC); she has served as senior pastor, regional administrator, and in appointed and elected positions within the denomination, including the General Board of the AMEC.

Barbara also serves as the Director, Collaboration and Community Partnerships for the Presbytery of Chicago, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She leads in increasing internal capacity with leader teams and congregations to strengthen vitality and mission impact via building healthy collaborative partnerships.  She holds B.A. and M.S. degrees in Criminal Justice and Justice Administration, respectively, and Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from McCormick Theological Seminary.

This group is comprised of 6 sessions over 10 months plus small group check-ins.
Group Sessions:
Saturdays at 10 am - October 23, December 11, February 12, April 23 , June 11 and August 13. We hope to have two of these sessions in person.
Group Size: maximum 25 participants
Start Date: October 23
Cost: $50 plus $7.50 for required text
Registration Deadline: Friday, October 1
To register for this affinity group, click here.


 Past Affinity Groups include the following:


Touched by Jesus: Playing with Prayer

This group invites participants to step out of their often overly serious and word-filled head by attending to the physicality of grace and praying with childlike playfulness. It is a space to rekindle freedom and trust throughout the body with deep breaths, simple movements, and creative formats.

Clergy Women Connections: Learning to balance, juggle and breathe

Although many denominations profess equality among all people, including clergy of different genders and identifications, female clergy and those who identify as female often experience pejorative treatment from peers, leaders and parishioners. This small group of female and people who identify as female clergy gather to explore the joys and manage the challenges of being in ministry.

The Rainbow Path: Small Group Experience for LGBTQIA+ Clergy

This small group provides an opportunity for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to share the joys and challenges of being in ministry and to receive affirmation and support. It explores areas of common interest and builds further skills for ministry.

Tending the Holy Fires in One Another: Group Spiritual Direction

This small group of up to six participants gathers with an experienced spiritual director to be companions and guides for one another. The primary purpose of this peer group is to listen for God’s presence in the lives and stories of those in the group, applying the lens of theological reflection to everyday life, where God’s Emanuel-ness shines. 


A small portion of the Lilly Endowment grant funding for Together We Thrive and a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation cover a large portion of the cost of running these groups, which allows us to offer these incredible opportunities for a reasonable fee. Payment plans and scholarship suggestions are available; please contact the Program Director for additional information.