April 6, 2020

Dear friends:

For those who are Christian and Jewish, this week is often considered the most sacred of the year. 

For Christians, this is Holy Week, the week when we remember Jesus’ final days — his Last Supper, his journey to the cross, his suffering, and his death — all leading to Easter Sunday, when we will celebrate his resurrection.

This week our Jewish sisters and brothers will celebrate Passover, remembering God’s faithfulness in liberating God’s people from slavery and celebrating God’s goodness in all things.

Meanwhile, our Muslim friends and neighbors anticipate the start of Ramadan, now just a couple of weeks away — a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and care for one another.

And yet, this year, Holy Week, Passover, and Ramadan are decidedly different. Every aspect of our lives has been disrupted. Our congregations are experimenting with new ways of gathering online, new ways of supporting one another, new ways of practicing our faith. Everything feels a little bit off, and sometimes we feel like we no longer know what to do or which way to go.

In the midst of this disruptive, disorienting time, the words of the prophets — Biblical, historic, and contemporary — often convey truth. Today I am reflecting on the prophet Wendell Berry’s words, found in this poem — just a few words, but words packed with meaning:
Our Real Work
by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, 
we have come to our real work 
and when we no longer know which way to go, 
we have begun our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
As you discern your way — as you offer to God your disorientation, your confusion, your sense of helplessness, your best efforts, your unresolved feelings, your fear, your anxiety, your big questions about what lies ahead — we are here for you. We are praying for you. We are cheering you on.

During this season of COVID-19, we are striving to support, resource, and connect spiritual leaders. We know the road ahead feels long and, at times, daunting. We are walking with you on the journey. It is, as Wendell Berry says, our real journey , and this is our real work .

And when our minds are baffled and every stream feels impeded, we take comfort in the assurance that God goes with us, whispering peace into our fears, comforting our weary hearts, inspiring every loving action, inviting each of us to sing.

With gratitude and peace,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Please take a few moments to view this profoundly beautiful, prayerful piece created by Travis Reed of The Work of the People to accompany the poem, “Praise Song for the Pandemic,” by Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts.

You can view the text of the entire poem here. Music by giantsandpilgrims.com. This video may be shared with attribution.
The Spiritual Practice of Altering Expectations
A Zoom Meet-up for Spiritual Leaders During COVID-19
Tuesday, April 7 • 10:00-11:15 am (Eastern) • via Zoom
There's still time to register!

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.

In order to remain spiritually and emotionally healthy enough to offer the loving care our congregations need, faith leaders need to stay connected with one another and connected with God, the ground of our being and source of our strength.

Join in a Zoom meetup with other faith leaders during which we’ll explore the spiritual practice of altering expectations . We’ll hear from two guests who are thinking deeply about how we can be more gentle with ourselves and those we care about.

Our guests include:

Please register for this event, and you will receive an email with the Zoom invitation.
Idea Swap: Holy Week and Easter Online
Watch the recording of last week's Zoom Meet-up for Spiritual Leaders During COVID-19

Christian congregations about beginning the most sacred week of the year, remembering Jesus' final days, his journey to the cross, his death, and his resurrection. But this year, as we observe public health guidelines, congregations will be utilizing technology to observe Holy Week and celebrate Easter in digitally-connected spaces. 
Maybe you're asking:

  • How might we curate meaningful Holy Thursday gatherings when we aren't physically present in our familiar sanctuaries to celebrate Communion together?

  • How might we adapt our churches' Good Friday traditions for congregations connected by Zoom or Facebook Live, or even create Good Friday at-home worship guides that members of our congregations can follow at their own pace?

  • How might we convey the hope and joy of Easter Sunday in an anxious and disorienting time? What's the connection to be made between empty churches and the empty tomb? When COVID-19 concerns prevent us from gathering in sanctuaries filled with the colors and smells of Easter flowers, how shall we lead our congregations in praising the God who is greater than all our symbols? 

Watch the recording of this Zoom meetup — an engaging conversation with leaders who are asking these questions and planning for meaningful Holy Week and Easter online worship gatherings. This meetup was recorded on April 2, 2020.
Our guests include: 
Faith Leaders Online Prayer Huddle
Wednesday, April 8 (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 series: 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:

  • Episode 4: Beth Estock — Fearlessly Loving Leadership During COVID-19 Join us for a conversation with Beth Estock about fearlessly loving leadership during COVID-19. She talks about her personal experience with having COVID-19, how individuals and faith communities need to embrace grounding practices as this moves from a short-term crisis to a longer-term reality, and the beautiful opportunities this can open up for faith communities to act out of their very best selves. Listen here.

Convocation 2020 
Grounded Leadership in an Era of Ecological Emergency

Postponed to September 24-25 • Hallowell, Maine

This year’s Convocation will invite faith leaders and faith communities to be part of a transformative response to the current climate crisis.  These times require spiritually grounded leaders who embrace an active, embodied practice of hope — leaders who dismiss the paths of denial and despair and choose to live in a state of engagement. This kind of hope is different from passive optimism — it is a way of being in the world, rooted in faith, expressed in action, and sustained by contemplative practice.

Presenters will confront the flawed values of Western culture that prioritize individualism, consumerism, and unrestrained growth,  while calling us to just and sustainable practices that protect the common good and honor the sacredness of our planetary home. The gathering will incorporate worship, music, poetry, and contemplative practices, all designed to lead participants to a deeper, more spiritually grounded engagement with God’s Creation.

For over a century, Convocation has been a gathering for faith leaders – clergy and – meant to educate, inspire and connect.  Plan to be part of Convocation 2020.

Attend one or both days:

Thursday, September 24 • 5:30 - 8:30 pm
A dinner gathering featuring Indigenous rights activist, spiritual teacher, and transformational change maker  Sherri Mitchell .

Friday, September 25 • 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Featuring short talks by a panel of eco-innovators, a live recording of the  Reports from the Spiritual Frontier  podcast, opportunities for contemplative practice, and generative small group conversations.
Convocation is an annual gathering sponsored by  The BTS Center ,  the missional successor to the former Bangor Theological Seminary. With roots dating back to 1814, The BTS Center exists today to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership.

This event is offered in partnership with:
The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | info@thebtscenter.org | www.thebtscenter.org
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.