One Circle At A Time: Living Compass at the Beecken Center

When Courtney Cowart talks about Living Compass, she cuts to the chase. “More people need to appreciate that the Jesus way is all about having Life with a capital "L" and having this abundantly,” she says. “I truly believe Living Compass has the potential to attract all sorts of new people to the faith.”

That’s why Cowart, director of The Beecken Center and associate dean of the School of Theology at Sewanee, is working with Living Compass co-founders Scott and Holly Hughes Stoner to create a partnership between the two organizations.

“The Beecken Center is intentionally partnering with new programs that create a healthier culture for Christian churches ‘one circle at a time,’” Cowart says. “Our programs all have powerful missional potential to awaken new people to the gifts of the Christian faith for living meaningful and fulfilling lives of abundance and thriving.”

At the Beecken Center, Living Compass will be “incubated,” as Stoner says, along with other programs that are based on conversation among people rather than on experts delivering advice. “Where voices are heard, people are encouraged to reflect more deeply on what’s in their own hearts and souls, their own lived experience,” Stoner says.

The new partnership was solidified when Cowart participated in a Living Compass Congregational Wellness Advocate training at the Beecken Center last month. “We all need this,” she says about her experience at the two-and-a-half-day training that Living Compass also offers at the Nicholas Center in Chicago. “The tools are such a blessing when it comes to approaching the complexity of life in ways that unlock joy, peace, harmony, humor and more. We know life can be like this, but sometimes have difficulty living from that place. Both the community that is created and the content of Living Compass are tremendous assets for living a full, joyful and faithful life.”

A few weeks after the Stoners visited the Beecken Center, they spoke at a Beecken Center breakfast for participants in the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) conference.  Their goal was to demonstrate just what kind of difference Living Compass can make for congregations that want to help members connect their faith to their every-day concerns.  

“How many people have teens in your communities who are stressed, overwhelmed, pulled in too many directions?” Holly Hughes Stoner asked the breakfast guests. “How many parents? How many adults?” By the end of her questions, she said, everyone in the room had answered affirmatively. “It’s not that we don’t need formation and confirmation programs,” she said. “But there’s nothing else like Living Compass that speaks to what we’re observing in our teens but don’t know how to talk about.”

For Stoner, the Beecken Center’s emphasis on conversation instead of lectures is a perfect fit with the Living Compass teen program, which she developed. “We need to talk about the health risks that kids are facing today:  drinking, getting high, not sleeping enough, being sexually active outside of committed relationships. As people of faith, we have such an opportunity to engage kids on these topics.” She recounts a woman who stopped her in the hallway after the breakfast and said, “We never talk about this. That’s exactly the kind of stuff my kids are facing, but I don’t know how to start the conversation.”

The next step in the new Beecken Center-Living Compass partnership is the center’s annual conference in April, titled “Reimagining Mission:  Building a Stronger Church One Circle at a Time.” Scott Stoner will be one of the event’s two keynote speakers.

“We’re honored and delighted to be part of creating this network of people who are drawn to this way of being in intentional Christian community,” said Stoner.  

For her part, Cowart is thinking big. “My dream is that the collective impact of these programs will contribute to the evolution of the Christian faith in the 21st century in ways that create a broad awakening of Christianity in the culture.”

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