Our History

It was Grace that has brought us where we are today. – Joann Nesser, Founder of Christos Center


n 1978, after attending many silent retreats led by Catholic nuns and spiritual directors, Joann Nesser realized that contemplative spirituality was a missing piece in her own Lutheran tradition. She suggested a similar retreat for women at her church and ultimately, was asked to lead it and share what she had been learning. The strong response revealed spiritual hunger and confirmed for Joann the need for this kind of ministry. A few friends joined her in offering retreats to deepen the love relationship with God.

The team met weekly to plan, pray, and learn, studying contemplative classics by Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, among others. By 1985, the core group of Lutheran women had expanded to an ecumenical community of almost 50 women and men. By then, Joann had completed a spiritual guidance program, and the group incorporated as a nonprofit ministry. Through individual donations, bake sales, and garage sales, the nonprofit raised a down payment to purchase 50 acres of woods and wetlands for a facility just outside the Twin Cities and built Christos Center for Spiritual Formation in 1990. By 1991, we offered a preparation course for the ministry of spiritual direction, and by 1995, in response to people in rural areas and around the country, we added distance learning. By 2003, Christos alumni were offering Tending the Holy in the Chicago area.

We celebrated Christos Center’s 25th anniversary in 2003, the same year Joann retired as executive director. 

We continue to operate as an ecumenical nonprofit, independent of any one Christian denomination and funded by tuition from programs, workshops and retreats, revenue from building rental, donations, and grants. We welcome people of all faith backgrounds, who wish to deepen their relationship with God’s presence.

Christos hosts a variety of workshops, prayer experiences, and group learning opportunities. Our central program is a two-year training in spiritual direction called Tending the Holy, offered in the Twin Cities, Chicago and online for distance students. Christos is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.