“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
-Jesus of Nazareth
In 1989, Tom Sine founded Mustard Seed Associates to assist churches and Christian organizations in evaluating how the world is changing and how we need to change to be more effective in the future.
In 2004, MSA officially become a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Christine Sine became the first Executive Director, and served for 12 years. In 2008, Christine helped launch Godspace, which has become one of the most popular Christian blogs in the world.
In 2016, Tom and Christine retired from MSA leadership. Andy Wade became the transitional Executive Director, and MSA's work was divided into two parts - writing/speaking/resources, and pursuing the development of a educational retreat center. In 2017, James Amadon was hired as the new Executive Director in 2017 to continue the work of developing the center (see more on this below).
The Vision for a Place to Connect God, Community, and Sustainability
Tom has always had an interest in community living and spent much time in the 1980’s visiting intentional communities around the world. After his first trip to Iona, Scotland in 1982 he was particularly inspired by the Celtic Christian tradition and their emphasis on a faith that seemed to impact every area of life. In 1989, Tom purchased 40 acres of undeveloped land on Camano Island north of Seattle WA with the intent of building a retreat center that captured some of the spirit of a 6th century Celtic monastery. In 1991, the first guided prayer retreat was held on Camano, a tradition that would be repeated for 20+ years.
When Tom and Christine were married in 1992, they visited Iona together and she too was inspired by the Celtic way of life. In 2004 the first Celtic retreat was held on the land. Retreats focused on connecting with one another and the land, and included an altar made of branches, a labyrinth, prayer trails, and an outdoor chapel. In 2009, MSA hosted a Wild Camano Botanical Tour with a local pastor.
In 2010, plans were made to develop the land into an innovative educational retreat center which would include housing, classroom, and agricultural elements all grounded in sustainability and rooted in community. In 2014, construction began on a classroom. In 2017, this work continued under a new leader, James Amadon, and a new name, Circlewood.
Circlewood has continued the work by establishing a 30-year forest stewardship plan and an updated site development plan. In 2019, online courses and webinars began, and in 2020 the Earthkeepers podcast was launched.