Affinity Groups

Affinity Groups

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.

Affinity Group for Intentional Interim Ministers

Back by popular demand, our group for Intentional Interims! Interim Ministry is a special calling and one that requires unique skills, gifts and training.  In a time when effective Interim ministers are in high demand and yet often serve in challenging situations, support and colleague connections are even more essential.  Led by a seasoned interim and experienced coach, this group seeks to provide a community of colleagues who can challenge, encourage and learn from one another while exploring the context of Intentional Interim Ministry. Sessions will take place from 10 til noon on May 4, July 6, September 7, November 2 and January 4, 2024. The cost is $250 for the series. Registration is available here.

This affinity group will be lead by the Rev. Dr. Jim Latimer, an experienced interim minister and professional coach. Jim is a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation. He has been coaching ministry leaders and teams for many years around vitality, ministry effectiveness, governance and leadership development, including eight years as an Affiliate Coach with Convergence, formerly the Center for Progressive Renewal. He also teaches coaching skills to ministry leaders and is a former faculty member with Coaching4Clergy. As both a settled and transitional interim minister, he has served UCC congregations in CA, PA, OH, and CT.

Coming (Back) To Life, Deepening Connection: A Series of Virtual Mini Retreats for Clergy

The pandemic has left some things feeling broken and other things feeling broken open. This series will be a chance to bring some intentional pause into your life on a regular, recurring schedule. It will be time to gather with others to nourish your heart and spirit through community and curiosity. Once each month, a group of clergy peers will gather for 90 minutes via Zoom to prayerfully dive into a theme (like prayer, sabbath, hope, discernment, sorrow), with time for personal and shared reflection. Each facilitated session will be an opportunity to engage body, heart and mind, and a time to notice, remember, and tend those dry or shifted parts of you. Sessions will follow a rhythm of arrival to retreat mode, consideration of a topic,
personal reflection, optional sharing, exploration of relevant spiritual practices and steps for further exploration. Prior to each meeting, participants will receive some quotes, questions musical links, or other materials to cultivate attention to the upcoming theme.
Planned themes include:
Listening & Grace
Sorrow & Grief
Creation & Incarnation/Embodiment

The cost is $250 for six Wednesday morning sessions to be held from 9:30 til 11 am on March 22, April 26, May 24, June 28, July 26 and August 16. Registration is available here.

The facilitator for this series is spiritual director Jennie Isbell Shinn, M.Div. Jennie has a heart
for supporting those called to ministry and leadership, and she loves a good retreat when it really works. She, like others, sometimes needs to unplug in order to recharge. This retreat is designed to work— in part because it honors that time, travel and the comforts of home are important considerations as we cross the threshold into “retreat mode” together, even for a little while. Jennie is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and has been in private
practice as a spiritual director since 2008. In addition to providing one-on-one spiritual direction and supervision, she offers retreats and workshops on a variety of topics.

Ministers of Color

Registration is now open for the second affinity group created specifically for ministers of color and is open to all who identify as such. The group will be led by Rev. Dr. Danielle Buhuro, an experienced pastoral care practitioner, author, and scholar.

 The 2023 affinity group follows the Conference's first affinity group for ministers of color. That group culminated in August, and participants indicated a desire for the group to both continue and expand to include additional individuals. The facilitator and curriculum are both different from the earlier group, making this appropriate both for past participants and new attendees.

The cost is $100 for six Saturday morning sessions to be held from 10 am til noon on February 25, April 15, August 26, October 28, December 9 and January 20, 2024. An overnight retreat will take place June 23-24.

Registration may be found here.

Rev. Dr. Danielle J. Buhuro is passionate about issues of race, gender and sexuality. Dr. Buhuro serves as Executive Director and Lead CPE Supervisor of Sankofa CPE Center, LLC — which offers innovative online Clinical Pastoral Education programming along with unique social justice-oriented clinical work settings and prepares clergy chaplains for board certification.  She has also served as a CPE Supervisor at Advocate Aurora South Suburban, Trinity and Christ Hospitals in Chicago, Illinois and on the national board of directors of ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care & Education. She facilitates numerous workshops nation-wide on African American Pastoral Care and African-centered psychology.

Dr. Buhuro is author of Spiritual Care In An Age of #BlackLivesMatter: Examining the Spiritual and Prophetic Needs of African Americans Living In A Violent America.

 An ordained clergy person of the United Church of Christ, Dr. Buhuro attended Chicago Theological Seminary, where she earned the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees. She’s currently a Ph.D student studying social media identity, violence and pastoral theology.


The Rainbow Path II - An Affinity Group for LGBTQIA+ Clergy - postponed to 2023

This small group will provide an opportunity for members to share joys and challenges and to receive affirmation and support. This will be a safe space to wrestle with the complexities of our intersectional identities and will be a community of support for one another.


Past Affinity Groups include the following:

Millenials in Ministry

This group is open to all Authorized/Rostered/Parochial Ministers born in years 1980-1995. Led by a Millennial Pastor and Leader, it will explore the unique joys, perspectives and challenges of those serving the Church in our current context. through some research and content presentation, as well as connection across group members. 

Intentional Interim Affinity Group

Interim Ministry is a special calling and one that requires unique skills, gifts and training.  In a time when effective Interim ministers are in high demand and yet often serve in challenging situations, support and colleague connections are even more essential.  Led by a seasoned Interim and experienced Coach, this group seeks to provide a community of colleagues who can challenge, encourage and learn from one another while exploring the context of Intentional Interim Ministry.

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.

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. 

Ministers of Color Affinity Group

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.

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.