The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101




February 9, 2021

Dear friends:

My father’s father died 16 years ago this month, but his stride lives on. I use it every day when I take my dogs to the trail by the river for our morning walk. I park my car at a trailhead by a bridge that reaches up and over the Presumpscot River, not far from my house. The dogs and I pile out of the Subaru and follow the trail down under the bridge and alongside the river. The cold of recent weeks has the river iced over almost entirely, with only a thin stream of exposed flow down the middle. 

Walking parallel to the Presumpscot River we usually disturb a bunch of ducks that spend their days among the folds of the river’s banks. One morning last week I looked out to see a dozen ducks in the middle of the river, perched at the new edge, where the ice met the flow.

My Grampy Mitchell loved ducks. I remember pictures of mallards in his office, where I slept on the pullout couch during summer visits when I was growing up. Grampy spent his entire professional life, except for a stint as town Mayor, in education. Before he retired he served as the President of a Bible college in New Brunswick, Canada. When I was a child, before we moved away, I would walk everyday after school to the college campus and head up to the President’s house on the hill. Later, as a teenager, in the summers I would walk with Grampy alongside the Saint John River on his daily three-mile jaunt, quickening my pace to keep up with his well-practiced stride. 

Grampy Mitchell explored the edges of theological education and of leadership formation at a particular time in a particular context. With ebbs and flows, freezes and thaws, and seasons of change those edges have shifted. Margins are always shifting in the natural and ideological worlds. Boundaries are seldom as static as our abstractions aim to make them.

Now that I am grown my walk is my own. My worldview and theology differ in considerable ways from those that my grandfather held. My approach is different. But there is continuity as well.

As I begin to live into my role as Director of Partnerships and Formation at The BTS Center I aim to bring something of my Grampy’s stride with me, sauntering with purpose along the edges. And it is not lost on me that I am joining an organization that bears the legacy of the former Bangor Theological Seminary, with over 200 years of institutional commitment to theological and spiritual exploration on the margins. It is not lost on me that, with my colleagues and with you our community, we are stewards of that long stride. 

I look forward to walking with you all as we see where this trail leads.
Aram Mitchell
Director of Partnerships & Formation
The BTS Center

Note: Aram joined our staff as Director of Partnerships & Formation, effective February 1. Meet Aram and other members of our team here.
Unleashing What You Already Love for a Hurting Planet
A Workshop with Peterson Toscano

Thursday, February 11
2:00 - 4:00 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom

$20 Registration Fee
Scholarships are available by request. Contact Program Director, Rev. Nicole Diroff at nicole@thebtscenter.org.
Sometimes when there is a call to action in response to something huge like climate change, we can interpret the urgent plea to mean, “Drop everything you are doing and get on board!” But “everything you are doing” has developed over years — your work, your interests, and your skill set formed out of deeply felt passions and important experience. 

Peterson Toscano has created this workshop to help people better understand their role on our changing planet, while also affirming the passions, interests, and callings they hold dear. In this interactive on-line Zoom workshop, Peterson Toscano, host of Citizens Climate Radio, helps you explore your passions and how they relate to our rapidly changing world. You will find your understanding of yourself deepen as you gain clarity and discernment about the road ahead. Through a mind-expanding time-travel exercise, you will free up your imagination and consider your role on this changing planet. Participants walk away with fresh ideas, feeling affirmed about what they care about most, and with a new sense of purpose.

College students, who can feel overwhelmed by the world's struggles, have found the workshop grounding and clarifying. Clergy and engaged church members see how they could deepen the work they have already started with a new frame and direction. Climate advocates slogging along with the good work of changing energy policy, have discovered ways to make an immediate impact in their own communities. 

What to expect:

  • A mixture of activities: times for individual reflection, extended times in a small group, and large group sharing. 
  • Engaging multimedia presentations about the three sections of the workshop: 
  • Defining our many passions
  • Identifying where our passions are needed today
  • Traveling to the future to discover our past forward 
  • Thought-provoking and heart opening prompts to stir your thinking and imagination
  • A relaxed atmosphere with room to laugh, share, and dream

Since 2016 Peterson has presented his passions workshop in person for universities, faith communities, and climate groups throughout the United States and in Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Norway. During this global pandemic, he has presented his updated Zoom version for Richmond, VA Friends Meeting, Williams College, Citizens Climate Lobby staff retreat, United We Move Virtual Conference, and Watkinson School. 
Meet our workshop leader, Peterson Toscano, and learn more about the event here:
“How Long, O Lord?” 
A Musical Exploration of Lament and Deliverance for Lent
in partnership with Deus Ex Musica

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 • via Zoom
7:00 – 8:00 pm (Eastern) Listening & Learning
8:00 – 8:30 pm (Eastern, optional) Small Group Discussion
This online session invites participants to dive deeply into the richness, beauty, and mystery of the psalms in a unique and memorable way. Participants will gather to listen to three brand-new musical interpretations of Psalm 13, each written by a contemporary composer representing a different Christian tradition. Prof. Delvyn Case from Wheaton College in Massachusetts will lead a moderated conversation with the composers, exploring how the different musical settings help us experience, understand, and appreciate the depth and subtlety of this powerful psalm of lament and deliverance. The evening will end with an opportunity for conversation in facilitated, online small groups.

This event is an opportunity for faith formation for anyone and everyone, so no musical experience is necessary; all you need to bring are open ears and an open heart! Developed by Deus Ex Musica, an ecumenical organization that promotes sacred music as a resource for learning and spiritual growth, versions of this unique event have been hosted by a variety of churches, seminaries, and organizations, including the national conference of the United Church of Christ, the Parish of St Martin in the Fields (London), Eden Seminary, Boston University School of Theology, and Gordon College.

Leaders include:
A Fireside Chat
with Liz Magill
Pastor, Author, Workshop Leader

Thursday, February 25, 2021
12:15 – 1:00 pm (Eastern) • Online
Join Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center, for a lunchtime Fireside Chat with Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill, ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), pastor of Ashburnham (Massachusetts) Community Church, and author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing A Relational Food Ministry, published in 2019 by Upper Room Books. 
 
Drawing from her experience as co-founder of Worcester Fellowship, an outdoor church reaching adults without homes and people who are at risk of homelessness, Liz advocates for a particular way of organizing church-based food pantries and meal programs. She encourages congregations to move away from the transactional, direct-service model and adopt instead a relational approach that nurtures genuine connection with people who live with food insecurity — a shared ministry.
 
She writes, "Volunteering is not sufficient for ending poverty. Or homelessness. Or addiction. It certainly does not end oppression, even on a small scale. My Doctor of Ministry project suggested that shared ministry would change the world (and perhaps every doctoral student dreams of that), but it does not. Yet shared ministry did do something that I didn't expect: It created church."
 
What is church, then? More broadly, what is a community of faith? Join us for this wide-ranging conversation about shared ministry, food, community, and service. Drawing upon her extensive study of church-based food ministries, Liz will offer some insights about how eating and working together, listening deeply to one another, and focusing on authentic relationships can lead to a radically reoriented way of being a community of faith.
 
Register to join the conversation on Zoom, or catch it as it streams on Facebook Live on The BTS Center page.
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is a writer, pastor, and workshop leader living in Berlin, Massachusetts. She is the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing Relational Food Ministries and the founder of Worcester Fellowship, an outdoor church reaching adults without homes. She earned her MDiv in 2002 from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA and her DMin 2017 from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth,TX. Ordained with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) she works as an Interim Pastor for the United Church of Christ in Massachusetts. Liz loves crafts, music, skiing, travel, and her husband Ken. See more at ElizabethMaeMagill.com
The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | info@thebtscenter.org | www.thebtscenter.org
Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Kay Ahmed
Office Manager
Nicole Diroff
Program Director
Aram Mitchell
Director of Partnerships & Formation
 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.