The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

March 13, 2021

Dear friends:

Over the past several days, we’ve been reliving our “one-year-ago” anniversaries: the day the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, the day the schools closed, the last day at the office, the last gathering with cherished friends or beloved family, the last in-person worship service. Each of these one-year milestones holds significance. Each evokes images, feelings, questions. Marking these anniversaries feels important — significant.

It was one year ago today — March 13 — that everything changed for me. That morning our Board of Trustees gathered in our Portland (Maine) office for what would be our last in-person Board meeting. During that meeting we spent a little time wondering together whether there might be a programmatic role for The BTS Center to play in responding to the unfolding realities of Covid-19. 

After the meeting had ended, two of my colleagues and I walked for lunch at a nearby restaurant, where we sketched out some program possibilities on the back of a napkin. Just a few moments after everyone had left that day, I learned that the first Covid-positive diagnosis had been reported in Portland, and it was a staff member at the medical clinic immediately adjacent to our office. I glanced out the window and noticed three TV cameras and three reporters: the story was breaking, right on our doorstep. 

I think it’s fair to say that one year ago, none of us could have foreseen just how upended our lives were about to become — and all rather abruptly. (NPR recently invited people to share their last “normal” photo of 2020 and their first pandemic photo, and thousands of people responded — check out this video that compiles some of them). 

What a year it has been! The challenges and struggles have at times felt overwhelming. The losses and heartbreaks are endless. And yet — and yet — here we are. One year later, we can reflect back and identify both losses and breakthroughs, both tragedies and triumphs. Perhaps we are more resilient. Perhaps we can celebrate that our faith communities have responded to this moment of forced innovation in ways that are encouraging, even inspiring. Perhaps we can identify lessons that we have learned, collectively, that will serve us well as we face even bigger communal challenges like the ones posed by global climate devastation. Perhaps we can see more clearly that we are, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

I hope you’ll take a few moments to identify and honor the “one-year-ago” anniversaries as they come up. The author of this article in The Atlantic, Jacob Stern, reminds us that there’s not just one anniversary; there are millions of them, and each one is significant and worthy of our care and attention.

As the pace of vaccinations picks up and we begin to see the hope of brighter days ahead, I hope you’ll also take some time to reflect on some of the things this pandemic is teaching us. To spark your thinking, Elliott C. McLaughlin of CNN offers 10 lessons learned in a year of Covid-19 lockdown

And finally, I want to offer a word of thanks to all of you who have engaged with the work of The BTS Center over these past 12 months. Our programs over this challenging year have drawn together hundreds of people new to The BTS Center, representing almost every state in the country, plus Washington DC, several Canadian provinces, and the UK. Participants have included pastors, rabbis, nonprofit leaders, chaplains, spiritual directors, lay leaders, students, university and seminary faculty, and denominational executives, representing 16 different Christian denominations, plus members of Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, and interfaith traditions. We are grateful for every conversation and every new relationship.

One year later, with a mixture of gratitude and grief, holding the losses and the lessons, we take a deep breath; we acknowledge the fatigue, the fear, the uncertainty, the relief, and yes, even some joys; and we step forward in faith, trusting that the One who has sustained us through these challenging days will continue to ground us and guide us in love.

With gratitude and hope,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Ben Yosua-Davis 
Director of Applied Research

Ben Yosua-Davis has been part of The BTS Center team for more than a year now, taking a key role in planning and leading Convocation 2020, interviewing guests during our "Unlocking Possibility" speaker series this past fall, and helping to shape many of our programs over the past year.

We're happy to share that Ben has recently stepped into a more formal role on our staff team as Director of Applied Research. In this role, Ben will be working closely with The BTS Center's program team to nurture curiosity, oversee investigation, and report learnings on behalf of the organization. Right now he's beginning to envision an exciting Research Collaborative that we anticipate will be a significant undertaking for The BTS Center over the next couple of years.

For five seasons, Ben produced and hosted a podcast called Reports from the Spiritual Frontier, where he interviewed more than 100 innovative spiritual practitioners who are cultivating new forms of community on the religious margins of our country. Ben also serves as a worship leader for the Academy for Spiritual Formation, a two-year formation process exploring the foundations of Christian spirituality, which welcomes leading spiritual thinkers from across the ecumenical spectrum.

Ben lives on Chebeague Island, ME with his wife, Melissa, and two young children. When not wearing one of his myriad hats or hanging out with his kids, you’ll probably find him reading comics, watching basketball, or renovating his old island farmhouse.

Our friend and collaborator, Peterson Toscano, put together this video, which he shared during a recent program that we offered. Take a few minutes to watch and listen, and as you reflect on the words and images that Peterson shares, consider all of the struggles, the stresses, the hardships and losses that you have faced over this past year, and then offer them up to God, entrusting them to God's divine care. Consider also the ways in which you have experienced and received love, compassion, and care — the ways in which you have shared these gifts with others — and offer thanks for every encounter with goodness and beauty over these twelve months.
All We Can Save: Book Circle

Four Thursdays in April:
  • April 8, 2021 • 4:00pm-5:30pm (Eastern)
  • April 15, 2021 • 4:00pm-5:00pm (Eastern) 
  • April 22, 2021 • 4:00pm-5:00pm (Eastern) 
  • April 29, 2021 • 4:00pm-5:00pm (Eastern) 

All sessions offered on Zoom

Cost: $20/person covers all four sessions. 

Participation scholarships and book scholarships are available as needed. Contact Aram Mitchell at to request a scholarship.
This April you are invited to join with a community across borders to explore All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis. The BTS Center is partnering with Montreal City Mission to host this virtual Book Circle, drawing together our communities in Maine, in Montreal, and beyond.

Together we will engage select portions of the book over the course of four weekly sessions. Each session will be grounded in spiritual curiosity, centered around small-group conversation, and designed to compel hopeful responses to difficult realities.

During these four weeks participants are not required to read the entire book. Our aim is to spark connection with the book as a resource of insight and inspiration for the continual task of weaving active care for the earth into our lives and our work.

About the book:

All We Can Save is a collection of essays, poems, and artwork amplifying feminist voices that help grapple with the existential threats of climate devastation. It highlights a host of women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward. It is candid, insistent, inspiring, and rooted in the conviction that everyone has a part to play. More about the book at: Order the book in advance here.

Book Circle facilitators:

Wendy Evans is Chair of the Board for Montreal City Mission and an ordained minister in The United Church of Canada. She has served in global justice contexts for many years and was a delegate at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2019. Wendy is passionate about the ‘heart work’ of relationship building in the climate justice movement and her favorite place to feel connected is in the forest.

Aram Mitchell is the Director of Partnerships and Formation at The BTS Center. He is a Registered Maine Guide with a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary. He lives on a little plot of land in Maine with his spouse, two dogs, a cat, and several chickens.

About the host organizations:
Montreal City Mission is a community ministry of the United Church of Canada that has been finding long-term solutions to problems of poverty and social exclusion since 1910. 

“At Montreal City Mission, we are delighted about our promising partnership with The BTS Center, as we join networks and put care of creation at the center of our ministries.”
— Rev. Paula Kline, Director of Montreal City Mission
The BTS Center, based in Portland Maine, develops programs and convenes conversations that catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership. 
"We at The BTS Center are inspired by the vision of human hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored. We are so grateful to partner with Montreal City Mission in this way, and we hope you'll join us."
— Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center
The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | |
Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Kay Ahmed
Office Manager

Lorraine Glowczak
Office Assistant
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.