The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

November 25, 2020

Dear friends:

Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving once again, and this year's Thanksgiving promises to be unlike any we can recall. What does it mean to practice gratefulness at a moment when we have grown so weary of the limitations posed by this pandemic? What does it mean to celebrate Thanksgiving when the public health precautions are preventing us from celebrating with family and friends, at least in the ways we normally would?

Maybe we find ourselves wrestling because we don't particularly feel grateful right now.

In her profoundly beautiful book, Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass notes, “Gratitude is, however, more than just an emotion. It is also a disposition that can be chosen and cultivated, an outlook toward life that manifests itself in actions — it is an ethic.” 

Gratitude is an ethic — I like that a lot. Gratitude is a disposition that we can choose — a posture, a practice, a mindset that we can cultivate and nurture. This feels hopeful, doesn't it? This feels possible, compelling, maybe even irresistible.

Diana Butler Bass goes on to suggest, “Gratitude is not about stuff. Gratitude is the emotional response to the surprise of our very existence, to sensing that inner light and realizing the astonishing sacred, social, and scientific events that brought each one of us into being. We cry out like the Psalmist, 'I am fearfully and wonderfully made!' (Psalm 139:14).” 

Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made — we and every living thing on this planet — and our lives are intertwined with one another and with the Earth, our common home. This year, I invite you to pause to give thanks: not because everything is right with the world, not because you are perfectly content or satisfied in every way, not because we are promised health and prosperity and well-being tomorrow — but because gratitude is your ethic, because it's a disposition you choose, because you claim the truth that you, like every living thing, are fearfully and wonderfully made, and because in the midst of the struggles and worries and challenges of life, God is with us and for us.

We here at The BTS Center are grateful for you, and we look forward to connecting with you again soon — perhaps for the fourth and final event in our Unlocking Possibility speaker series coming up on Monday afternoon: "Imagine a New Future" with Bill McKibben and Rev. Lennox Yearwood. We are over-the-moon excited to have these two brilliant and thoughtful guests joining us for what I know will be an engaging and inspiring conversation, and we hope you'll join us. Details and the registration link are here and below.

Wishing you Thanksgiving blessings,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director

P.S. If you're looking for a Thanksgiving Prayer to share around your table or in your own quiet time, here's a beautiful one written by Diana Butler Bass, whom I've quoted above. It dates back to 2016, but it feels appropriate still, four years later.
Imagine A New Planet
Monday, November 30, 2020
2:00 - 3:15 pm (Eastern)

What does it look like to imagine a new planet, for good or for ill? If COVID-19 was simply a warmup for the catastrophic effects of a warming planet, what does it look like to urgently imagine an earth-nurturing way for us to live on this, our common home?

Join us to envision a life-sustaining way for all creatures (human and non-human) and to consider the stakes behind our activism with author Bill McKibben, founder of the first global grassroots climate campaign and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, President and Founder of the Hip Hop Caucus.
Unlocking Possibility
Speaker Series

"If stress, trauma and anxiety are eroding our imaginations precisely
at the time when we need to be our most vitally imaginative, then where do
we find the clues for how to reverse this process?... What if we created the
optimal conditions — where we live, where we work, where we study,
where we pray, where you walk every day — for the imagination to flourish?
What would you do? What would you change?"
— Rob Hopkins, one of our previous "Unlocking Possibility"
conversation partners, from his book From What Is to What If

Every crisis can be an invitation to dream. Even in uncertain moments, we are called to imagine better futures together: for ourselves, for our communities, and for our planet. In this series, we've been talking with leading thinker-practitioners about the art and practice of imagination: both how to create wide-open spaces for possibilities that others find impossible and what it looks like when our dreams become reality.

The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | |
Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Nicole Diroff
Program Director
Kay Ahmed
Office Manager
 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.