The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04102

May 19, 2020

Dear friends:

Perspective — sometimes it's hard to come by, isn't it?

As our lives continue to be shaped and reshaped by this global pandemic, as one day dissolves into the next, it's easy to lose perspective. And there are so many differing perspectives — competing points of view — sometimes it's hard to discern where truth and opinion diverge.

Over the past two months, we've been convening some important online conversations — attempting to initiate dialogue, to amplify wise perspectives — as our mission statement says, "to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership." A recent, wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Elizabeth Parsons and Ben Yosua-Davis, called Let's (Not) Return to Normal, for example, explored some of the things this pandemic is teaching us about the world, about the planet, about broader trends in society, and about the practice of faith. Last week's conversation with Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, a public health expert, and Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, a Lutheran pastor, eco-theologian, and preaching professor, called Lessons Learned (so far): COVID-19 Insights to Apply to the Climate Crisis, explored connections between planetary health and communal public health through the lens of justice and equity. These conversations broaden our perspective.

We are looking forward to this week's conversation, called Pandemic in Perspective: Lessons in Resilience from the Global South. We invite you to register for this online meetup and live podcast recording, coming up Thursday at 2 pm (Eastern), during which Ben Yosua-Davis, host of the podcast Reports From the Spiritual Frontier, will interview Rev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma, who is originally from Zambia. Dr. Kaoma, a prominent human rights activist and Visiting Researcher at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission at Boston University School of Theology, will share insights about how churches across the world have responded to pandemics in the recent past, offering a helpful perspective on what the Global South can teach us about resilience and perseverance in times of uncertainty and loss.

Those who are raising children and youth have a particular perspective as we move through the phases of COVID-19. As the father of three daughters — the youngest, ages 10 and 13, grades 4 and 8 — I'm experiencing firsthand just how challenging it is to balance remote work, online learning, the many waves of grief and loss, and all the interpersonal dynamics of uninterrupted family life. And I know I'm not alone! If you're in the same boat (or at least in the same storm!), I hope you'll join us for Spiritual Parenting: An Online Idea Swap for Pandemic-Weary Parents on Wednesday, May 27, 8:15-9:30 pm (Eastern), where an impressive lineup of panelists — parents and spiritual leaders themselves — will share their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities they are experiencing in this moment.

There is much we do not know. It's easy to feel unmoored. So let's continue to listen to the wise ones in our midst — and not only the loudest voices speaking from the center, but also those sharing their perspectives from the margins. Let's continue to lead with compassion and courage and creativity. Let's stay curious and open and prayerful. Let's put our hope and trust in the God who knows our hearts, who understands our struggles, who offers guidance in our uncertainty — the One who calls us to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly. This is how we gain perspective.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Pandemic in Perspective: Lessons in Resilience from the Global South
A Live Podcast Recording & Zoom Meetup for people of faith and conscience

with podcast host Ben Yosua-Davis and guest Rev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma
Thursday, May 21 • 2:00-3:15 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
We’ve been here before, even if it doesn’t feel like it for many of us in America. 

In this pandemic, as many people encounter for the first time what it looks like to lose control and experience open-ended vulnerability, we can turn to other parts of the world for wisdom as we seek to learn how to be resilient. 
Join us to hear from one of these wise voices, Rev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma , rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Waltham, MA. Dr. Kaoma is a native Zambian, Visiting Researcher at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission at Boston University School of Theology, and a prominent human rights activist, who offers us bracingly refreshing insights about how churches across the world have responded to pandemics in the recent past and what the Global South can teach us about being out of control and having to adapt when circumstances change radically.

This Zoom Meetup will be a live podcast recording, in collaboration with Reports From the Spiritual Frontier, with a chance to hear podcast host Ben Yosua-Davis interview Dr. Kaoma about his experiences, and participate in a moderated audience Q&A.
Spiritual Parenting: An Online Idea Swap for Pandemic-Weary Parents
Wednesday, May 27 • 8:15-9:30 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
sponsored by The BTS Center
COVID-19 stretches and stresses parents in unique ways. Whether it's juggling the demands of remote learning while working from home, or adjusting to the closure of daycare centers, or processing the grief that our children and teens experience, or attending to the very real social and emotional needs of our children in the midst of the stay-at-home demands — or all of the above! — many parents and families are experiencing this as a particularly challenging time.

During this Online Idea Swap, several panelists — parents and spiritual leaders themselves — will reflect on the challenges and opportunities they are experiencing in this moment. We'll explore how parents are experimenting with faith and identity formation at home, and we'll consider ideas for grounding ourselves spiritually as parents during this time of physical distancing, communal anxiety, and complex grief.

The conversation will be moderated by  Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill  and  Rev. Nicole Diroff  of The BTS Center team.

Panelists will include:
  • Rabbi Michael Knopf, rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Virginia, father of three young children
  • Rev. Effie McAvoy, pastor of York-Ogunquit United Methodist Church in Maine, and proud mother
  • Rabbi Paul J. Kipnes and Michelle November, MSSW of Calabasas, CA, co-authors of Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness and parents of three young adult children
Lessons Learned (so far): COVID-19 Insights to Apply to the Climate Crisis
A Zoom meetup for People of Faith & Conscience During COVID-19
Watch the recording of our recent conversation with one of the editors and one of the feature authors in  Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis . During this online meetup, we explored early lessons from COVID-19 and their implications for a faithful and bold response to the broader climate crisis, with a particular focus on how we all are vulnerable, though unequally.
Our guests included:
  • Natasha DeJarnett, PhD, MPH, interim associate director of Program and Partnership Development at the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) and adjunct professor at George Washington University
  • Leah Schade, PhD, Lutheran pastor, eco-theologian, author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit, and assistant professor of preaching and worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky
Dr. DeJarnett and Rev. Dr. Schade explored the connections between planetary health and communal public health in this article,  Faith, Health, and Climate: Finding Connections and Building Bridges , published in November of 2019.
Leah and fellow co-editor of  Rooted & Rising , Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, spotlight the way COVID-19 is poignantly revealing unequal vulnerability, the importance of science, and more, in their article,  6 Lessons Coronavirus Can Teach Us About Climate Change
Watch recordings of previous Zoom meetups

Visit this page to check out recordings of all of our recent Zoom meetups, including:
Book Study Group:
Part-Time is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy  by G. Jeffrey MacDonald

The registration deadline has passed and the group is at capacity, but we celebrate that starting this Friday, we will be convening a cohort of 35 people for a four-week study of author Jeff McDonald's newly released book, Part-Time is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy. The online group will be co-facilitated by Rev. Nicole Diroff, Program Director at The BTS Center, and Rev. Marguerite Steadman, Rector at St. John's Episcopal Church in Bangor, with the author joining for Q&A during the final session.

About the Book

Churches experiencing numerical and financial decline may dread the day when they can no longer afford a full-time pastor. Freeing up funds that would go to a full-time salary sure would help the budget—maybe even enough to turn things around—but is it even possible to run effective ministries with just a half- or quarter-time professional?

Journalist and part-time pastor Jeffrey MacDonald says yes—churches can grow more vibrant than ever, tapping into latent energy and undiscovered gifts, revitalizing worship, and engaging in more effective ministry with the community.

Readers of Part-Time Is Plenty get a much-needed playbook for helping congregations thrive with a part-time ministry model. They learn to see the model in a new light: to stop viewing part-time as a problem to be eradicated and to instead embrace it as a divine gift that facilitates a higher level of lay engagement, responsibility, playfulness, and creativity.

You can buy the book Part-Time is Plenty here at 35% off. For those who want to order from an independent bookstore, we are partnering with Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport, MA.

Note: The BTS Center awarded Jeff MacDonald an Innovation Incubator grant in 2016-2017 for a project entitled "Discovering the New Ministry: Exploring Shifting Roles in Congregations with Bivocational Pastors," and then invited him to share his learnings as the keynote speaker for our 2018 Convocation, "Growing by Half: Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church.” This book represents the culmination of his research, and we are excited that Jeff will be joining the book study group for author engagement during the final session on June 12th.
Reports From the Spiritual Frontier Podcast 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 (mostly) short, 15-20-minute conversations with insightful guests discussing ministry during COVID-19 — topics like The 101’s of Digital Community; staying spiritually grounded during COVID-19; The Black Church and COVID-19; Fearlessly Loving Leadership during COVID-19; backyard weddings and other life cycle moments during this pandemic; and meaning-filled funerals during COVID-19.
The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | |
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.