The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

May 12, 2021

Dear Friends:

A couple of weeks ago, my 11-year-old daughter and a friend planted some seeds. They filled a seedling tray with rich brown soil, then carefully placed a few seeds in each cell and labeled them: beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes. We placed them in a chair pushed to the window in our dining room, and every couple of days we've given them just a bit of water. On warmer days, we've taken them outside, being careful to bring them back inside as night falls bringing cooler temperatures.

And wouldn't you know? They've started to grow! Now nearly every cell has a little seedling, green and growing and full of promise. In a couple of weeks, it will be warm enough in Maine to transplant them outside — which means it's time to turn over some soil and get ready to dig.

Seeds — they're so tiny, so insignificant, and so full of potential! With the right conditions, they are ready and willing to burst into life — and not just any life, but lush, green, growing plants reaching toward the light, expanding their reach, and producing fruit that produces more seeds — life that is ready to propagate.

The work of The BTS Center is the work of digging in the dirt and planting seeds — propagating! — seeking the fruit of human hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored. Read on and you'll find five distinct opportunities to grow:

Spring is a great season for digging in the dirt, for unsettling the soil, for expanding our range of cultivation, for planting new seeds and tending new tendrils of life, for embracing practices that nurture our trust in the One who causes all things to grow.

We hope to see you in a Zoom room soon!

With gratitude and hope,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director • The BTS Center
Weather: A Novel
Author Event with Jenny Offill

This Thursday, May 13, 2021

4:00-5:15 pm (Eastern) • Author reading, facilitated conversation, Q&A
5:30-6:00 pm (Eastern) • Pop-up book discussion groups (optional)
Free Online Event • Open to the Public

Books can be purchased from Print: A Bookstore, located around the corner from The BTS Center offices in Portland, Maine • (207) 536-4778 • A limited number of autographed copies are available. Click here to purchase.

Weather is an extraordinary novel that showcases Jenny Offill's adventurous prose, intelligence and lyricism across a range of disciplines, from deep ecology to mystical theology to the politics of collective action. The author’s vignette style reads almost like a journal filled with the main character’s reflections on daily life, increasing concern over climate devastation, and desires for spiritual enlightenment. 
The book has the potential to spark important conversations around identity and meaning in a time of global, existential crisis. We invite you to join us for one of those conversations.

"Tiny in size but immense in scope, radically disorienting yet reassuringly humane and completely irresistible... Utterly exhilarating in its wit and intelligence... Luminous." — The Boston Globe

Compact and wholly contemporary, Jenny Offill’s third novel sees a librarian find deep meaning and deep despair in her side gig as an armchair therapist for those in existential crisis, including liberals fearing climate apocalypse and conservatives fearing the demise of ‘American values.’ As she attempts to save everyone, our protagonist is driven to her limits, making for a canny, comic story about the power of human need.” — Esquire
Meet Jenny Offill 

JENNY OFFILL is the author of the novels Last Things (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the L.A. Times First Book Award), Dept. of Speculation, which was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Pen Faulkner Award and the International Dublin Award and most recently, Weather. She lives in upstate New York and teaches at Syracuse University and in the low residency program at Queens University.

Event Partners:
Portland Public Library

Print: A Bookstore

Dawnland — Online Film Screening and Live Q&A

Thursday May 20, 2021
6:30 - 8:30 pm (Eastern)

In partnership with Upstander Project we are hosting a public online screening of the Emmy® award-winning film Dawnland, followed by a Q&A with film participant Esther Anne of Wabanaki REACH and film senior advisor Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy) of the Abbe Museum.
We strive to match The BTS Center’s vision — of human hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored — with the practice of collective self-examination. We need to hear and heed the stories and lived-experiences of the people whose roots are in this place, and who have suffered from the occupation and colonization of their homeland.

At The BTS Center, many in our community are descendents of white, European settlers in this land. Many of us live and work in Maine, which is the homeland of the Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn; the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Micmac, Maliseet, and Abenaki people who have lived and worked here for generations stewarding their own cultures, and stewarding the forests, the soil, the waters, the air, and our more-than-human kin.  

We hope that this screening and conversation will help to raise awareness and inspire action among congregations, other community groups, and all people of good will. We hope you will join us in heeding this story.

“For decades, child welfare authorities have been removing Native American children from their homes to ‘save them from being Indian.’ In Maine, the first official Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States begins a historic investigation. Dawnland goes behind-the-scenes as this historic body grapples with difficult truths, redefines reconciliation, and charts a new course for state and tribal relations.” (from Upstander Project’s website)

This event is free, but we are accepting donations. All donations will go to Upstander Project, the creative force behind the Dawnland film. Upstander Project helps bystanders become upstanders through compelling documentary films and learning resources.

For more information about Dawnland:

Please consider this notice from the Dawnland Viewer’s Guide (available here): 
“Watching the film may especially impact those in the audience who were separated from their family, sent to boarding school, adopted or fostered, and we strongly encourage viewers to consider this prior to watching the film so all can be well supported while viewing. Please take care of yourself and others.”

EVENT SCHEDULE (all times Eastern)
Thursday May 20, 2021
  • 6:30 pm: Welcoming Videos and Film Introduction
  • 6:40 pm: Dawnland Film
  • 7:30 pm: Film Team Q & A
Reimagining The Future
A Climate Reality Presentation and
En-ROADS Interactive Solutions Simulation
led by Bill Middlecamp

Monday, May 24, 2021
7:00 - 8:30pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
This event will include a Climate Reality Presentation showing the environmental-destruction impacts we are experiencing today, how we got to this point, and what the future may hold. Following that, participants will use En-ROADS to imagine together what our future could be. En-ROADS is a “choose your ending” simulation that uses some of the best available science to compute and present the results of choices in energy, food production, land-use and consumer behavior that society can make today.

About the Presenter
BILL MIDDLECAMP is one of over 20,000 trained Climate Reality Leaders from over 150 countries and is a trained En-ROADS facilitator. Bill has a BS degree in Meteorology, an MS degree in Computer Science, and is a commissioned United Methodist Earthkeeper. For over a decade, Bill has participated in organizing and delivering presentations on environmental issues related to health, economics, science and solutions to the harmful changes we are seeing. Bill is retired and dedicates himself to teaching about our degradation of the critical life-sustaining properties of the environment.

This event is being offered in partnership with Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church.
New Futures for the Post-Pandemic Church
A Continued Conversation
with Kenda Creasy Dean and Paul Nixon

Thursday, May 27, 2021
4:00-5:15 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
Last June, in the midst of a terrifying pandemic and countrywide protests against police violence, we invited Paul Nixon and Kenda Creasy Dean to share their insights about what the future held for post-pandemic faith communities, as we all looked forward to the day when everything could “return to normal.” 

A year later, with a new normal still out of our reach, we’re inviting them back to check in on the predictions they made a year ago, to share what this last year has taught them, and to hear their dreams and challenges for faith communities in the wake of COVID-19.

Come to join a frank and hopeful discussion about the path forward for the post-pandemic church.

Kenda Creasy Dean, PhD, an ordained United Methodist pastor in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, is the Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching in practical theology, education and formation (specifically youth and young adult ministry, the church as social innovator, and theories of teaching), Dean works closely with Princeton’s Institute for Youth Ministry and the Farminary. She also serves as the coordinating pastor of Kingston United Methodist Church. Dean is the author of numerous books on youth, church and culture, including Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church (Oxford, 2010) and Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church (Eerdmans, 2004), as well as several co-authored books, including How Youth Ministry Can Change Theological Education, If We Let It with Christy Lang Hearlson (Eerdmans, 2016); The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry with Andrew Root (InterVarsity, 2011), OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook (Abingdon, 2010), and The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry with Ron Foster (Upper Room, 1998). In 2013 she and fellow pastor Mark DeVries co-founded Ministry Incubators, Inc., an educational and consulting group dedicated to missional innovation and entrepreneurial forms of ministry. A graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary, she served as a pastor and campus minister in suburban Washington, D.C. before receiving her PhD from Princeton Seminary in 1997. She is currently the project director and senior strategist for The Zoe Project, a Lilly Endowment initiative designed to foster innovation in congregations around young adults.
Paul Nixon is the founder of Epicenter Group. He is a pastor, coach, ministry strategist and student of culture. He lives in downtown Washington DC, with an office on K Street. He operates in multiple time zones and cultural contexts each week. An author of eight books, Paul teaches in all sorts of venues from online cohorts to regional seminars to a course at Wesley Theological Seminary. Paul Nixon was doing multi-site before that was a word. Paul planted one of the earliest campuses of a multi-site Protestant congregation, in the 1990s, a site that grew well past 1000 worshippers a week. Paul has been thinking, coaching and working around issues of multi-site ministry longer than almost any other coach or consultant around. Paul is co-creator of the Readiness 360 tool helping churches measure and cultivate their capacity for multiplying ministry. More than 1000 American congregations have used the 360, with hundreds more coming along each year, generating one of the best databases on church vitality anywhere. Paul has been coach to the fastest growing mainline Protestant church in the United States (Embrace Church Sioux Falls). He also has worked with Urban Village Chicago, City Square Phoenix, After Hours Denver, New Day Bronx, The Loft@Westwood in LA, Valley Praise in Harlingen, Texas. Broken Builders in NYC, RISE in Harrisonburg VA, The Gathering Virginia Beach, West UMC in Mooresville NC, HopeGateWay in Portland Maine, and many other creative new ministries.

Event Partners
Brave ART Retreat
With contemplative painter Bronwen Mayer Henry

Thursday, June 3, 2021 
10:00am - 4:00pm (Eastern)

$25 for full-day retreat / Open to the Public

A limited number of full scholarships are available for this retreat. Contact Aram Mitchell at to request a scholarship.

Register by May 25 to receive a creativity packet.
So many people hold themselves back from stepping into a creative life. So many of us hesitate to give ourselves permission to play with, experiment with, and strengthen our own creative hearts. Creativity takes courage, needs community, and—if we tend it well—can blossom into expressions of compassion.

Join us for a day-long retreat full of stories, meditations, creative practices and supportive conversations, facilitated by contemplative painter Bronwen Mayer Henry.

“My most consistent personal practice is showing up in the studio each day to spend time going inward, being curious, and watching what unfolds. Though I delight in what appears on the canvas, it is what arises in my heart that captivates me and has me returning each day.” —Bronwen Mayer Henry

This retreat — along with stories, meditations, and practices —will draw on the beauty and intrigue of the natural word as our source of inspiration and subject matter. We will acknowledge heartache while reaching towards freedom, curiosity, and compassion. We will focus on strengthening the creative process and on returning to joy.

If you are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, if you are looking for practices to help counter burnout, if you are in need of community, self-compassion, and inspiration to guide you through challenging times—please join us! All are welcome, no artistic experience required, come as you are.

A creativity packet including a retreat workbook and some art supplies will be mailed to you by The BTS Center. You will also need some nature to reference - either nature you can see while you create or images from books or photos you’ve printed out.

Bronwen Mayer Henry

"I am grateful to be working with The BTS Center where creativity, care for the natural world, and spirituality are the central focus. These are core to my creative practice and it is energizing to step into a partnership with so much synergy. During the pandemic, I have missed spending time teaching and being with others around restorative creative practices and I appreciate the innovative commitment The BTS Center has to making retreats happen in virtual spaces with deep community connection." —Bronwen Mayer Henry

Bronwen is a self-taught contemporary painter specializing in trees and flowers on large scale canvases with acrylic paints. Her work is filled with movement, light, color, and a sense of freedom.  

It was an unexpected path through Thyroid Cancer that led Bronwen to commit time to painting. This beginning continues to be reflected in her large scale work and playful approach to color. Her art is an expression of prayer, meditation, hope and joy. She describes herself as “a person facing her fears with a brush, and choosing joy over perfection.” She leads workshops and retreats helping others to break through creative barriers. She has a new book exploring how this cancer treatment lit up her creative practice, “Radioactive Painting” published by Shanti Arts LLC. 

Her work has been on display at Abington Art Center, Pendle Hill Retreat, Local Shops, and private collections in California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Washington State, Canada and South Africa.

She lives outside Philadelphia, PA with her husband, two children, and King Charles Cavalier Spaniel.

The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | |
Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director

Kay Ahmed
Office Manager
Nicole Diroff
Program Director

Aram Mitchell
Director of Partnerships & Formation

Ben Yosua-Davis
Director of Applied Research
 Our mission is to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership.
We equip and support faith leaders for theologically grounded and effective 21st-century ministries.