The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04102

April 22, 2020

Dear friends:

Today we celebrate the 50th annual Earth Day — a day set aside to give thanks for this planet, our home, and to recommit ourselves to a more earth-honoring way of life — and in the mist of this COVID-19 crisis, it's certainly an Earth Day unlike any we've ever experienced before.

I hope you are finding a few minutes to get outside, to breathe deeply of the fresh air, to express gratitude for the land, and to connect with the God who created it all. If you're looking for a way to honor this day, you can check out the official Earth Day website , and you can find a bunch of other links on this page .

Today I wanted to introduce you to Rev. Nicole Diroff, who has recently joined our staff team as Program Director. Once we are able to safely organize in-person gatherings again, I hope you will have a chance to meet her in person, but in the meantime, I invited her to answer a few questions.
Meet Nicole Diroff,
The BTS Center's Program Director

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself, including the journey that led you to The BTS Center.
I am a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. For twelve years I served on the staff of Interfaith Philadelphia , leading grassroots interfaith understanding efforts. Questions around identity, belonging, and faith formation in a complex and dynamic world were always at the heart of my work. Following an opportunity in my husband's career, my family moved to Scarborough, Maine this summer and I began looking for my next professional home. I'm so grateful to have landed with The BTS Center and am honored to take on the role of Program Director.

We are living through a really disruptive, disorienting, and in many ways demanding time. Can you share a bit about where your head and heart are these days?
As life has been defined by Covid-19, each week has felt really different to me. I've cycled through so many emotions — anxiety, fear, and grief, as well as unexpected gratitude. Today I find myself reflecting on the ways in which the pandemic is exposing both painful and beautiful truths in my life. I've gained a heightened awareness of the many relational identities I hold — mother, daughter, spouse, friend, Christian, American... — and the ways in which this crisis is revealing things in each of those contexts.

As you jump into this role as Program Director for The BTS Center, what most excites you?
I believe the mission of The BTS Center — to catalyze spiritual imagination, with enduring wisdom, for transformative faith leadership — holds so much possibility. As soon as I stumbled upon this language, I fell in love with it. I also love planning and running programs, and implementing organizational growth strategies. And the people I've met so far have been amazing!

Your deepest hope and prayer right now?
Today I'm hoping that The BTS Center might continue to find ways to support religious leaders through this challenging time, such that they and their communities might draw close to their deepest vocation — both now and far beyond this moment.

What's your superpower?
Organizing. From agendas to calendars to photobooks, I love creating beauty through organization!
We're so grateful for all the gifts that Nicole brings to The BTS Center team, and we look forward to her ongoing work to coordinate new and existing programs through which The BTS Center fulfills its mission: to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership.

With gratitude and peace,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director

P.S. You can learn more about Nicole and the other members of The BTS Center team — staff and Board of Trustees — here on our website.

P.P.S. If you are inspired by the ways we are seeking to support, resource, and connect spiritual leaders here in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, please consider supporting our work with a gift. Your donation will be gratefully received at this link.
Wisdom Revealed in the Midst of Covid-19 
An Intergenerational Conversation between Spiritual Leaders

Thursday, April 23 • 2:00-3:15 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
For many reasons and in many ways, the Covid-19 global pandemic has led to an abundance of individual self-reflection and communal discernment. People are asking: What are the things that this moment has allowed us to drop, which were not serving us well in the first place? And what has emerged as life-giving that we'll want to cling to for years to come?
We are bringing together two Christian leaders for an intergenerational conversation on the wisdom they're seeing revealed in the midst of this crisis - reflecting especially on the places where faith leaders and faith communities seem to be approaching their deepest vocations.
Our guests include:
Rev. Kaji S. Douša , Senior Pastor of the Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City
Rev. Dr. James Gertmenian , Pastor Emeritus of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis
Watch recordings of
previous Zoom meetups

On Friday, April 17, we hosted a Zoom meetup called "It's Okay to Grieve" — a conversation with Dr. Terri Daniel and Rev. Daniel Wolpert , moderated by our Executive Director, Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill . We recorded that conversation, and you can access it here . We are grateful for the wisdom of our two guests, who are thinking deeply about grief and about the role of spiritual caregivers in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis.

Visit this page to check out recordings of all of our recent Zoom meetups, including:
Virtual Book Launch 
Part-Time is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy
by G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Hosted by The BTS Center via Zoom
Wednesday, April 29, 2020 • 7:00-8:15pm (Eastern)
Join author Jeff MacDonald and The BTS Center for a taste of  Part-Time is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy , as we celebrate its publication.

This event, online via Zoom, will include storytelling, music, and virtual mingling. (Please BYO wine or other toasting beverage!) There will be an opportunity to purchase the newly released book, and one lucky attendee will win an autographed copy.

Book Description
Churches experiencing numerical and financial decline may dread the day when they can no longer afford a full-time pastor. Freeing up funds that would go to a full-time salary sure would help the budget—maybe even enough to turn things around—but is it even possible to run effective ministries with just a half- or quarter-time professional? 

Journalist and part-time pastor Jeffrey MacDonald says yes—churches can grow more vibrant than ever, tapping into latent energy and undiscovered gifts, revitalizing worship, and engaging in more effective ministry with the community. 

Readers of  Part-Time is Plenty  get a much-needed playbook for helping congregations thrive with a part-time ministry model. They learn to see the model in a new light: to stop viewing part-time as a problem to be eradicated and to instead embrace it as a divine gift that facilitates a higher level of lay engagement, responsibility, playfulness, and creativity.

Note: The BTS Center awarded Jeffrey MacDonald an Innovation Incubator grant in 2016-2017 for a project entitled "Discovering the New Ministry: Exploring Shifting Roles in Congregations with Bivocational Pastors," and then invited him to share his learnings as the keynote speaker for our 2018 Convocation, "Growing by Half: Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church.” This book represents the culmination of his research, and we are so glad to be able to celebrate this milestone with him!
Let's (Not) Return to Normal
A Zoom meetup for People of Faith & Conscience During COVID-19

Thursday, May 7
2:00-3:15 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
As days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months, everyone is speculating about when we can "return to normal." 
"Normal" would feel good, wouldn't it? The current reality we are all facing is unsettling — disruptive — disorienting — and in so many ways, demanding. Many of us long to return to the way life was before the Coronavirus upended everything and set us adrift.
But the truth is, there's no going back. We never get to go backward. Life is always about moving forward, into some new reality.
And so the question is, what new reality will we embrace? In what ways do we hope our future will resemble the reality we remember before this pandemic? And in what ways can we acknowledge that business-as-usual wasn't working — certainly not for everyone?
Join Ben Yosua-Davis , Program Advisor for The BTS Center, and Liz Parsons , a member of The BTS Center's Board of Trustees, for a prayerful conversation about the wisdom they are seeing revealed in the midst of this crisis — a rich and wide-ranging conversation exploring some of the things this pandemic is teaching us about the world, about the planet, about broader trends in society, and about the practice of faith. 
Our guests include:
Faith Leaders Online Prayer Huddle
Wednesday, April 29 (and following Wednesdays)
9:00-9:45 am (Eastern) • via Zoom

In this time of social distancing, fear, and great uncertainty, faith communities are more important than ever, but let’s be honest: this current Coronavirus crisis stresses and stretches faith leaders in unique ways.

Join us for this informal weekly online prayer huddle for faith leaders utilizing the Zoom platform — an opportunity to bring our gratitude and our concerns into a sacred space, among compassionate colleagues, for prayer and mutual support.
Reports From the Spiritual Frontier Podcast Creativity, Compassion, and the Coronavirus

The BTS Center is teaming up with the podcast  Reports from the Spiritual Frontier  to release a podcast series and other resources to support and equip faith leaders for this particular moment.

We are talking with faith leaders about how to move your communities to a digital space, how to stay spiritually grounded in the midst of the anxiety that swirls around us, and how you can best love your neighbors during this time of social isolation and fear.

Check out the podcast, consisting of short, 15-20-minute conversations with guests like Wendy Hudson , who discusses The 101’s of Digital Community; Dan Wolpert, who shares thoughts about staying spiritually grounded during COVID-19; Dr. Alex Gee on The Black Church and COVID-19; Beth Estock on Fearlessly Loving Leadership during COVID-19; Rabbi Eli Freedman on backyard weddings and other life cycles during this pandemic; Rev. Carolyn Lambert on meaning-filled funerals during COVID-19; Paul Nixon, who asks, What Happens When the Church Gets Kicked Out of the Building?; and Andrea Lingle on parenting during COVID-19.

Subscribe to Reports From the Spiritual Frontier on Apple Podcasts (or wherever else you get your podcasts).
Convocation 2020 
Grounded Leadership in an Era of Ecological Emergency

Postponed to September 24-25 • Hallowell, Maine

The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | |
Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Nicole Diroff
Program Director
Kay Ahmed
Office Manager
Thank you for your gift to  The BTS Center , the mission successor to Bangor Theological Seminary. 
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.