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.