Archive: First Fire Gathering of the next generation

By Melissa Bailey-Kirk
June 2013

This post has been moved from its original location at PeerSpirit.com and archived here, so you can continue to access it.


 Melissa Bailey-Kirk

Melissa Bailey-Kirk

This month’s Circle Tale comes to us from Melissa Bailey-Kirk, a teaching colleague, who has been engaging The Circle Way since 2004. A writer, teacher, and pastor, Melissa facilitates processes of vision and transformative conversation with groups interested in discerning a way forward that contributes to the wellbeing of individuals and organizations.

Thank you Melissa, for capturing the essence of the First Fire Gathering. Thanks also to Chris Mann, Calling the Circle Foundation board member and participant, who took all of these beautiful photos!


Since the publication of the first version of Calling the Circle, The First and Future Culture in 1995, Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea have practiced, refined, studied, and taught The Circle Way. Now, these founders and pioneers are taking The Circle Way (their 2010 book) and developing and expanding it into a global movement. Working with the Calling the Circle Foundation, Ann and Christina invited a group of circle practitioners to Whidbey Island in early May to join them in discerning how best to care for and nurture The Circle Way movement into its next phase of life. The gathering was named, in respect and hope: First Fire Gathering of the Next Generation.                                                                                       

Participants were invited to design a network of co-learning and mutual support that will steward The Circle Way more deeply into the world and to support the Calling the Circle Foundation’s “Circle Carriers Legacy Project” by welcoming video-audio documentation of the first Fire Gathering. These intentions were carefully placed in the center as thirty-five circle practitioners from Australia, Canada, Germany, and the U.S. created the rim.

After check-in and a few rounds of conversation, all were invited to consider their personal intentions in light of the communal intention. The first Fire Gathering continued to shimmer and buzz as participants held the talking piece and spoke aloud the vision and hope that created the energetic spoke through which they tended the center, through which they received the tending of the center. The Circle Way held, in safety and respect, diversity personified in the first Fire Gathering

This should come as no surprise, for when care is taken to set the intention, the center, name the agreements, and to attach rim energy to/through the center, participants are free to explore and to offer their best to the work of the circle.

The first Fire Gathering hosted three days and nights of energetic focus on the future of The Circle Way. Grounded in circle principles that make space for all the wisdom in the room, we met in large and small councils, World Café, and Open Space. The transition from visioning to strategic planning happened as the fruits of countless conversations were harvested and rich and bountiful topics fed the intention. 

The group addressed:

  • opportunities for training circle practitioners
  • developing networks of mutual mentoring
  • researching the possible connections between circle practice and physical/emotional/behavioral functioning
  • making a multi-dimensional map that locates and describes the growing field of circle practitioners
  • creating downloadable, digital tools to support circle practice
  • expanding multi-generational and multi-cultural ways to engage and talk about The Circle Way 
  • designing a two-year transition plan for the kinds of contributions Ann and Christina want to continue to make in this growing, networked environment.

While all of this was happening, a film crew worked diligently and graciously to capture the heart of circle practices and to interview individuals about their experiences with The Circle Way. The footage will document The Circle Way portion of “The Circle Carriers Legacy Project” and can be used to strengthen The Circle Way’s teaching presence.

As the first Fire Gathering prepared for the check-out round, a ritual of investment and support invited those responsible for the various projects that had emerged to step away from the rim and create concentric circles in the center. In this way, people demonstrated their commitment to guiding The Circle Way into its future as project managers, as short-term worker bees, as process developers, as circle practitioners, as pray-ers, as writers, as creators, as hearth-tenders, etc.  Each in their own way, determined how best to offer themselves to the future of The Circle Way.

If you are reading this Circle Tale, you have some level of interest in The Circle Way. Consider how you might strengthen The Circle Way as it moves into the future. Perhaps it is time to read The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair again, or for the first time. Who do you know who needs to hear the story of how circle work and life has benefited you?  Is there a circle that simply waits for you to call it?