The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

July 13, 2021

Dear Friends:

If you've spent any time at all with The BTS Center, you've probably heard me recite our mission statement: to catalyze spiritual imagination, with enduring wisdom, for transformative faith leadership. We reflect a lot on these three phrases — catalyze spiritual imagination... enduring wisdom... transformative faith leadership. These are at the heart of the work we are doing in the world: offering theologically grounded programs of continuing education and spiritual formation, including workshops and retreats, learning cohorts, public conversations, and projects of applied research. 

Inspired by the vision of human hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored, we are focusing much of our programmatic attention on exploring with faith leaders — not only clergy, but also dedicated laypersons, nonprofit leaders, chaplains, spiritual directors, students, university and seminary faculty, and denominational executives — the knowledge, skills, mindsets, and practices that are needed for effective and faithful ministry in this moment marked by the dual urgencies of a changing religious landscape and a global climate crisis.

Today I'm excited to tell you about a new project of applied research that is taking shape.

The BTS Center Research Collaborative will convene a cross-sector group of leaders from organizations across northern New England to explore this question:

How would organizations act differently today
if they embodied an ecological imagination?

We believe that climate devastation is not merely a problem for scientists and activists, but a symptom of the foundational cultural and spiritual structures of our society. If systems like consumer capitalism, industrial modernity, and colonial domination are the root causes of our current crisis, then every organization has something important to offer in this moment.

We are gathering organizational partners who share our hope for a new way of embodying the best version of ourselves in response to our planet’s deep need, and who reflect the earth’s wisdom in their day-to-day life and work. This wisdom emerges in almost every part of human society: from neighborhood associations to theater companies, from retreat centers to co-op grocery stores, from local farmsteads to political action groups, and a whole host of others in between — even as that wisdom is also frequently unnamed and devalued.

We are drawing together a cohort of leaders who will hold both this question and a yearning for a better future for our organizations and our planet. Together we will enter into deep dialogue about this pivotal moment, engage with the writers and activists who can offer us much-needed wisdom, and create shared space to imagine new possibilities for our life and work going forward. We expect this community will represent diverse sectors — business, education, religion, and culture and arts, for example — shaped by the common geography of northern New England.

Starting this fall, over the course of 14 months, this facilitated co-learning community will gather with BTS Center leadership with the intention that organizations will emerge with a greater clarity about how an ecological imagination can inform their life and work and help them engage with the broader questions that this moment is asking us.

We look forward to convening this Research Collaborative cohort and to the discussions that will follow as each of us brings a willingness to consider holistically the implications of this question for ourselves and our organizations, and to work intentionally and strategically to apply what we have learned to our organizational settings. Especially, we look forward to applying learnings in our ongoing work with faith leaders and faith communities as we continue to focus our programming at the critically important intersection of spiritual leadership and climate devastation.

I want to introduce you to the gifted team of leaders who will be guiding this Research Collaborative. Meet them below!

Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director • The BTS Center
Coordinator, Researcher, and Storyteller:
Ben Yosua-Davis serves on The BTS Center staff team as Director of Applied Research. For five seasons, Ben produced and hosted a podcast called "Reports From the Spiritual Frontier," which chronicled the day-to-day lives of leaders innovating new forms of spiritual community. Previously, with his his spouse Melissa, Ben co-planted a new mainline missional church called The Vine, which gathered in homes and coffee shops; hosted Free Markets, game nights, and block parties; and worked to make the city of Haverhill, MA a better place to live. Ben also serves as worship leader for the Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation. He lives on Chebeague Island, Maine with his wife, Melissa, and their two young children. Contact Ben.
Research Collaborative Advisors:
Susan MacKenzie, Ph.D. is a spiritual director, retreat leader, and educator. A graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance in New York, Susan works with individuals who wish to be more intentional in their lives through reflection, prayer practices, and spiritual disciplines. Susan offers retreats throughout New England, including some that draw upon her Maine Guide training and incorporate outdoor adventure. Susan has served as a faculty member for the 5-day Spiritual Formation Academy sponsored by The Upper Room in Nashville TN, and has taught courses in World Religions and Ecology, Sustainable Development, and American Environmental Literature at Colby. Susan is an expert in ecosystem management and a Maine Master Naturalist, and manages a 20-acre forest for wildlife habitat with her husband. They garden, raise chickens, and keep bees. 
Amara Ifeji is a 19-year old systems thinker and climate justice activist committed to advancing equitable access to the outdoors for ALL youth. Her barriers to access to environmental learning drove her to lead community science learning efforts and conduct internationally awarded climate change research. Through her role with the Maine Environmental Education Association, she strives to empower a network of over 400+ youth environmental activists in the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network. Amara also pushes for both state and federal environmental education policy reform through her roles with the Nature-Based Education Consortium and the Maine Climate Council Equity Subcommittee. In recognition of her work, she was recently awarded the National Geographic Young Explorer Award–one of only 24 youth in the world.
Sarosh Koshy, Ph.D. is a researcher with more than two decades of experience in the field of social movements and faith-based activism in India and the United States. From 2006 to 2011, Koshy served the National Council of Churches USA as Program Specialist in the departments of Interfaith Relations and Faith & Order, including a position as Executive Director of Religions for Peace from 2010 to 2011. He earned his M.A. in Christian theology from Union Theological Seminary, and his PhD from Drew University. Before coming to the United States in 2005, Koshy was actively involved in the movements of the excluded in both the church and society in India, and assumed many roles at the state and national level — student organizer, activist, editor, writer, researcher, and interfaith activist. 
Rev. Wanda Stahl, Ph.D. is Clinical Assistant Professor of Contextual Theology and Practice at Boston University School of Theology. She is an ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Wanda has completed programs in Individual Spiritual Guidance and Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats from the Shalem Institute in Washington, DC and considers it a privilege to accompany people on their faith journeys in a variety of settings. Her recent interests have focused on exploring and nurturing new models of ministry in a post-Christian context. In particular, her own experiences of encountering the Spirit in natural settings have been informing her teaching and research priorities.
The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | |
Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director

Kay Ahmed
Operations 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.