The Writing Pastor: Finding a Rhythm that Works

June 18, 2015

October 26 to 28, 2015

Communication is a key component to leadership. Many clergy regularly apply tools and habits to help spark creativity. In this workshop/retreat, you’ll learn exercises for generating ideas, finding inspiration, and creating a writing schedule that works for you. Participants will have ample time to work on personal and professional writing projects during the retreat. There will also be the opportunity to share one's writing and get feedback from the instructor and other participants.  Clergy from all traditions are welcome!

Scott Stoner, Director of the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Ministry, will serve as the spiritual host for this event, leading short times for morning, noon, and evening communal prayer.  Participants in this workshop/retreat will be invited to write and share their own prayers for these times of communal prayer.

About the instructor: Rochelle Melander is an author, spiritual leader, and certified professional coach. She has published ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days and Live to Tell About It) and The Spiritual Leader’s Guide to Self-Care (with Harold Eppley). Rochelle has taught writing to adults and children since 1999. As the Write Now! Coach, Melander speaks widely on the power of writing to improve health and wellbeing and transform lives. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens in Milwaukee. You can learn more about Rochelle’s coaching at

$300 per person.  Register online.

Category: Uncategorized

Sabbath in the City: Peer Based Learning Retreat for Clergy

June 18, 2015

October 19 to 21, 2015

This retreat is a "create your own" peer based learning retreat. To participate in this retreat, simply bring one or more clergy colleagues that you would like to collaborate with for three days.  Each day The Nicholas Center faculty member will lead morning worship and offer a thirty minute reflection on leadership and wellness. The rest of your time is yours to create with those who have come with you. This can be an excellent time to create, write, design, revive and explore.  

$300 per person. 

Register online. 

Category: Uncategorized

Leading in a Dynamic Environment

June 18, 2015

Tuesday September 1 to Friday September 4, 2015

As clergy we find ourselves adapting and altering plans because of the constantly shifting patterns and challenges of leading an all-volunteer organization that is faith community, historic institution, small business and social service agency. 

A successful Gospel driven congregation requires a leader who is nimble, thoughtful and able to adjust to the dynamic environment in which we enact our faith and embody our vocations.

The Sea, be it an inland sea like Lake Michigan, or any one of the great salt water bodies that make up three-quarters of our world is the most dynamic system on the planet.  What lessons can we learn from people who guide, coach and lead people on the tempestuous waters of the ocean?  How do we enable people to experience awe in their faith life?  How do we navigate the waters of change that must take place in our congregations in the 21st century?

Join Bonnie Perry in a two and a half day workshop of sea kayaking, praying, and reflecting on leading.  See the city of Chicago from Lake Michigan.  Join colleagues on reflecting how the principles of leading a group along a rocky shoreline in a sea kayak can offer abiding insights to our lives as congregational leaders.

Bonnie Perry is the Rector at All Saint’s Chicago in the kayaking world she is an American Canoe Association Level 4 Open Water Instructor Trainer. In the British Canoe Union (BCU) she is one of four women in North America to obtain the 5 Star-Sea Leader Award , a Level 3 Sea Coach, a 3 star assessor,  a 3 star canoist, and a UKCC level 1 coach. With our friends to the North in Paddle Canada, Bonnie is a level 2 instructor. In addition, she is also a Wilderness First Responder.  

Lyn Stone an American Canoe Association Level 3 sea kayak instructor, a trainer and leader at REI’s outdoor school and one of the few people in this country who holds the Level 2 United Kingdom Coaching Certificate.

Register here. Participants should be comfortable in and around water, be moderately physically fit.

Cost is $500 per person. Scholarships available. 

Included in the cost:

  • Breakfast and lunches
  • 2- dinners (1 dinner on own)
  • Kayak (including spray skirt and paddle & you are welcome to bring your own kayak if you have one.)
  • Private bed room & bathroom at The Nicholas Center
Category: Living Compass
Tag: kayak

Nicholas Center to Host Congregational Wellness Advocate Trainings

July 10, 2014

Living Compass founder Scott Stoner believes that wellness, like charity, begins at home. And at church.

“We want to create a network of people who are passionate about wellness and about integrating faith and wellness in local congregations,” says Stoner, who will launch a series of wellness ministry training retreats in July. “We’re all going to learn from each other.”

The three-day events, called Congregational Wellness Advocate Trainings, will take place at the Nicholas Center, a new 5000-square-foot space on the fifth floor of St. James Commons built to host programs that strengthen clergy and lay leaders for service in the church and the world.

Stoner and his colleagues are recruiting both lay leaders and clergy from near and far to attend the trainings and be certified as congregational wellness advocates. Stoner reports that clergy and lay leaders from Texas, New York, Kansas, and California are registered for the trainings happening this summer, as well as many people from the Diocese of Chicago.

“The Nicholas Center retreats will combine the chance to reflect on one’s own integration of faith and wellness with training in congregational wellness ministry,” says Stoner. “We can’t be advocates for wellness in our congregations if we’re not practicing this ourselves.”

In addition to attending a Nicholas Center retreat, the certification process will require preparatory work and activities to start or enhance a congregational wellness ministry back home. Certified advocates will regularly receive Living Compass tools including monthly newsletter articles, educational materials, and curricula for small groups and retreats.

“We want to immerse people in the mindset of Living Compass and give them what they need to take this ministry back to their congregations,” says Stoner, who hopes that congregations will send several people at a time to be certified. “The retreats will give people time to figure out how to embed wellness ministry in their parishes, as well how wellness programs can serve as an outreach ministry to the wider community.”

Congregational leaders who travel to the Nicholas Center will participate in retreat time, classroom teaching and experiences that foster wellness and wellness ministry. “One night, we will have a healing Eucharist. People can experience it and then take the liturgy and music back to their congregations. We also plan a meal that incorporates mindful eating,” he says, referring to the practice of eating with attention not only to food’s nutritional value and caloric content, but also to its social, spiritual and moral dimensions. “People will get a chance to do it and then take the materials back home to use.”

The retreats will be led by Living Compass staff including Stoner and Holly Hughes Stoner, a tutor, teacher and therapist who is married to Stoner. She says the retreats will be highly interactive. “We want to connect people in a new way and facilitate ongoing conversations about wellness with people from different backgrounds who can share ideas with each other. We want people to inspire each other and push each other.”

The Living Compass training events will be among the first programs at the Nicholas Center, which was made possible last year when Living Compass and the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago shared a $10 million gift from Ab and Nancy Nicholas of Milwaukee. Stoner serves as the Nicholas Center’s director.

Having a location in downtown Chicago to house overnight retreat participants will take Living Compass “to a whole new level,” he says, by making it possible for people from across the church to learn about Living Compass and embrace its potential for fostering healthy, growing congregations.

“Jesus was a healer, but the church hasn’t always followed his lead,” said Stoner. “We intend to reclaim the church’s role as a wellness center in our communities.”

Learn more about attending a Congregational Wellness Advocate Training at the Nicholas Center.

Episcopal Diocese of Chicago to Share $10 Million Gift

April 26, 2013

Chicago, April 26, 2013—The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago announced yesterday that it will share a $10 million gift from Ab Nicholas and his wife, Nancy. Mr. Nicholas is the founder of Nicholas Company Inc., a Milwaukee-based investment advisory firm that manages the Nicholas mutual funds. The gift is the largest in the diocese’s 187-year history.

The gift will be shared with Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative and will create The Nicholas Center, a facility at the St. James Commons in downtown Chicago. The center, expected to open in 2014, will be home to overnight retreats and programs that foster the health and wellness of Episcopal leaders and the vitality of church congregations.

The Nicholas Center will also serve as the headquarters of Living Compass, now located in suburban Milwaukee. Living Compass, led by the Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner and Holly Hughes Stoner, longtime associates of Mr. Nicholas, provides resources, coaching and training to help church leaders, families and teens gain balance and wholeness in their lives.

“Nancy and I are excited to join with and support the exciting energy that is already present in both the Diocese of Chicago and the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative,” said Mr. Nicholas, a lifelong Episcopalian. “In my life in the business world I have seen that effective leadership makes all the difference. I believe it is the same in the church. We are delighted that the Nicholas Center will be a place and a program that will resource the leaders of the church.”

The announcement was made by the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of Chicago, at the dedication of St. James Commons, the renovated complex at 65 E. Huron St. that is home to the diocesan offices, St. James Cathedral, Episcopal Charities and Community Services and Episcopal Service Corps.

“What we focus on grows,” said Lee. “We need to focus on the health and wellness of our church leaders and the vitality of our congregations so we can do God’s work of feeding the hungry, advocating for the oppressed, and testifying to the power of the risen Christ in our lives and our world. This generous gift from Ab and Nancy Nicholas and our exciting partnership with the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative makes possible outward and visible signs of the interior heart and soul renovation work that is our job as Christians.”

St. James Commons also includes the Pepper Family Plaza, made possible by a $3.2 million gift from Richard and Roxelyn Pepper. Mr. Pepper is chairman of Chicago-based Pepper Construction Group LLC. The gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas and Mr. and Mrs. Pepper are the two largest gifts in the history of the diocese, which was founded in 1835.

The dedication event was chaired by Kitty Beecken, who, together with her husband, David, established the D. Kyle Beecken Memorial Gallery at St. James Commons in memory of their son. David Beecken is a founding partner of Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company, a private equity management firm working in the healthcare industry.

In 2011, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago launched The Campaign for St. James Commons to undertake $12 million in significant and essential renovations to the diocesan center at 65 E. Huron St. in Chicago. The campaign has raised $8 million of its goal and the construction is nearing its end. Of the new $10 million gift from Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas, $1 million has been allocated to the current campaign goal. The remaining $9 million will make possible renovations at St. James Commons and ministry with Living Compass that were beyond the scope of the original plan for the St. James Commons renovation.


The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago comprises 40,000 people in 124 congregations in Northern Illinois. The Episcopal Bishop of Chicago is the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee. To learn more, visit

Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative was founded in 2008 by the Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, an Episcopal priest, pastoral psychotherapist and spiritual director,and Holly Hughes Stoner, a licensed marriage and family therapist and former teacher. Today Living Compass works across the church providing resources, coaching and training to foster the balance and wholeness of church leaders, families, and teens. To learn more, visit

Category: Living Compass