We Are Healing Ground: A Contemplative Circle of Collective Care

Shalem’s Vision 2025 sparked the Spirit in us to share about Healing Ground, a contemplative circle of collective care that echoes the values expressed in Vision 2025, especially the need to uplift historically silenced voices and to challenge injustice and systems of inequity. At Healing Ground we are transforming ourselves and the community in a way that resonates with Shalem’s vision statement to be a “dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.”

In 2020, we were both on the Healing Team for a rally in Greensboro, NC to remember George Floyd and to call for change. We were available to be present to witness and companion as participants processed the trauma of the moment. From that experience, Healing Ground at Faith Community Church was born. Since then, we have slowly evolved places and times to circle together. Our leadership collective also includes Johnette Walser, a therapist and academic, and Abby Mosley, a yoga teacher and union organizer.

Last Sunday our Healing Ground Collective Care Circle gathered around the compost pile next to a huge pecan tree. We were guided to reflect on these words Johnette shared from adrienne maree brown: “i am a commitment to being/shining sunlight on everything i want to see grow, i am a commitment to divesting from anything that isn’t rooted in love.”

Here is some of the dialogue inspired by our reflections:

Lauren: I opened the circle sharing about my grief journey since losing my mom in January of this year. Can I embrace this grief? Can I give it space to flow like water? Will I allow it to wash over me in waves as it changes with time? Will I let grief transform me, like the compost pile resurrects gathered trimmings into life-giving soil? While most days since losing Mom I feel broken down, I also feel broken open. Collective care circles invite me to “forget my perfect offering” and offer the cracked broken parts of my experience, for “that’s how the light gets in.” 1 I shared that I am divesting from dominant culture’s demands of me to “get back to it” and turn away from despair. My grief journey is restoring my life’s trimmings, tears, and loss into rich soil that can happen only with time, space, sunlight and breath. Fellow Black, Queer, Kentuckian, bell hooks, wrote in her book Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery that “Collectively, black women will lead more life-affirming lives as we break through denial, acknowledge our pain, express our grief, and let the mourning teach us how to rejoice and begin life anew.”

Karen: As I listened to Lauren, I began to tear tiny scraps of my handmade paper I had been holding and release them to the fresh dirt, not even knowing why. Each bit fluttered down like scattered seeds of my broken self. By pausing and moving my body, letting it lead, I opened up and stated I am releasing remnants of tight white culture for new, more bountiful practices. I am committed to loving myself and others into this new culture, right here, sharing my mistakes and all. At Healing Ground I make errors and am learning to listen. I read and learn from new sources like Tricia Hersey and Cole Arthur Riley. I remember early guidance from Audre Lorde and Delores Williams. I work to create a new way of being together with my generous, gracious young Black colleagues.

Lauren: “I am healing ground. You are healing ground. We are healing ground” is our mantra born from a collective knowing that we are held by Mother Earth, the Divine, and each other. There is enough space in the sacred circles at Healing Ground for all who are longing for connectedness, belonging, and rest. From this rooted place of authenticity, the collective extends hope, healing, and justice to our community through listening and accepting the gift of each other’s full self. At Healing Ground we embody contemplative activism in our doubts, fears, laughter, shouts, stillness and movement.

There is no one right way.

Shalem’s Vision 2025 encompasses all these ways to be with the sacred in each moment, reminding each other we are ALL beautiful divine creatures, and acknowledging our need to keep leaning into the arc of justice. We sigh, we hug, we breathe, we wait, we heal. We let ourselves become healing ground.

Lauren Cunningham and Karen Day co-lead Healing Ground, a community ministry at Faith Community Church in Greensboro, along with Johnette Walser and Abby Mosley. We offer collective care circles of ritual and practices of art making, meditation, mindfulness, music, and movement to nourish our whole body/soul selves. Karen is a graduate of Shalem’s Clergy program and was a member of the Shalem Society leadership team. Lauren is a spiritual director in training and will earn her certification from The School of Spiritual Direction Beyond Borders at Hood Theological Seminary in May 2023. Lauren is also a contemplative artist and activist, singer, and missional minister originally from Louisville, KY.

1 “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/  There is a crack a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen, “Anthem.” 

Photos courtesy of Karen Day.

March 03, 2023 by Shalem Institute 3 Comments
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1 year ago

Wonderful work. So inspiring to respond to the need where you are.

1 year ago

Karen and Lauren, thank you for sharing this inspiring story! Thank you for enlivening the words of Vision 2025 with the actions of our community. Blessings on this amazing and important ministry.

Juli Neuman
Juli Neuman
1 year ago

So meaningful to read how being present for each other can blossom. Thank you for sharing.


Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


In 2025, Shalem will be a dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.