The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

July 23, 2021

Dear Friends:

Our Program Team meets for two hours every Wednesday afternoon. These aren’t staff meetings where we’re taking care of business — we have those, too, but separately. No, on Wednesday afternoons we safeguard a different kind of space: a collaboration space, an exploration space — a space for asking big questions, for sharing wonderings, for plunging into expansive topics, and sometimes for delving deeply into delicious, bite-sized propositions, always centering the vision of human hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored.

When we gather, after a round of personal check-ins, one of us offers a poem, a song, a video clip — some stimulating morsel of spiritual goodness to set the tone and invite a posture of reflection. Yesterday when we met, I shared this — a poetry film from the On Being Project, interpreting a poem called “How to Belong Be Alone” by Pádraig Ó Tuama. (Read the text here.)

The poem begins like this:

It all begins with knowing
nothing lasts forever,
so you might as well start packing now.
In the meantime,
practice being alive.

“Practice being alive” — that’s quite an invitation, isn’t it? Knowing that nothing lasts forever, acknowledging that our days are fleeting, and recognizing our interconnectedness with one another, with the earth, and with all living things, how will we practice being alive?

I hope your practice will include tonight’s very special online event — the second installment of our 2021 Summer Arts Series, when we will welcome the author of that poem, Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama, along with Maya Williams, who was recently named poet laureate of Portland, Maine. Under the heading “Poetry as an Art of Survival,” the two will delight and provoke with language and cadence and imagery, and then dive into deep conversation about the practice of being alive. You’ll find more details and the registration link below.

Besides that, I'm excited to introduce you to three brilliant individuals who have come alongside The BTS Center as new members of our Board of Trustees. I hope you'll take a minute to “meet” Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, Rev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma, and Rev. June Cooper, who are featured below. They join a wise, passionate, dedicated group of leaders who steward this organization as we seek to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership. (Meet the entire Board here.)

I'm also pleased to share that Kay Ahmed, a member of our staff team, is stepping into a new role as Operations Manager — read that announcement below, and join us in celebrating Kay's abundant gifts.

Being alive requires a bit of practice. We're so glad to count you as a friend of The BTS Center as we undertake this work together.

Summer blessings,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director • The BTS Center
We welcome three new members of
The BTS Center's Board of Directors:
Dr. Natasha DeJarnett (she/her) is an assistant professor in the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville, Division of Environmental Medicine, where she researches the health impacts of extreme heat exposure and environmental health disparities. In addition, she is a professorial lecturer in Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Dr. DeJarnett is a graduate of University of Louisville, where she completed her PhD and Masters of Public Health... (read more)
Rev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma is a Zambian, US-educated scholar, pastor and human rights activist who is most noted for his pro-LGBTQ+ activism in the face of repressive anti-gay legislation in Africa, and his work for uncovering organizational ties between American anti-gay hate groups and a notable increase in homophobia in African politics. After having received a 1st class Bachelor of Theology at the Theological College of Central Africa in 1997, he went on to receive a Master of Arts at Trinity College, University of Bristol in 1998 and a Doctor of Theology at Boston University in 2010... (read more)
Rev. June R. Cooper is a social justice educator, visionary leader, innovator, and Christian minister. Rev. Cooper is the Theologian in the City at Old South Church in Copley Square, Boston.

Between 2003 and 2021, June served as Executive Director of City Mission in Boston. Under her visionary leadership she transformed this faith-based organization into a thriving and flourishing ministry to meet the urgent needs of families who experience social and economic injustice as the norm. Her prophetic ministry led to the increased visibility of racial, social, and economic injustices... (read more)
Kay Ahmed steps into a new role
as Operations Manager
With great attention to detail, with efficiency and care, and with consistent appreciation for doing things well, Kay Ahmed manages a million behind-the-scenes details that help to ensure the effectiveness of The BTS Center's programs and day-to-day operations.

Kay joined The BTS Center team in January 2018 as an Administrative Assistant, and eventually transitioned to the role of Office Manager. Over the past two years, as our programs and staff have grown and the pace and scope of our work have intensified — even in the midst of a pandemic! — we've all come to rely on Kay's strong administrative and organizational skills, her flexibility and persistence, and her collaborative spirit.

Effective July 1, Kay serves as The BTS Center's Operations Manager, working closely with our staff team to manage day-to-day operations and implement effective processes and practices throughout the organization.

Originally from England, Kay attended Westminster Business School through an apprenticeship and holds a Financial Investment and Securities Degree. She worked in finance and administration in Greater London for 12 years and then in executive administration in several Maine organizations before joining The BTS Center. Kay lives in Portland with her husband and their two young daughters.
Upcoming Programs
Arts Series

Join us for the two remaining events in our Summer Arts Series! At each event you will meet two fascinating, accomplished, and engaging artists, and you will experience their work firsthand.

You will have the option to connect with a small group to share your own thoughts and insights, and we will end these gatherings with your questions for our artists. This will be a modern online salon where brilliant people gather for meaningful and artful conversation. If you like, you can dress up in your most artistic or elegant garb and come with a mocktail or cocktail. You will think, laugh, feel, and come away enriched and more engaged in the world. 

$12 registration fee. In the hopes of making these programs accessible to all, unlimited scholarships are available, please contact

All Portland Public Library patrons are invited to register for The BTS Center's Summer Art Series as a guest for free. Please click that option when registering.

Maya Williams and Pádraig Ó Tuama:
Poetry as an Art of Survival

Thursday, July 22, 2021 
4:00-5:30 pm (Eastern)
Maya Williams (she/hers, they/them, and ey/em) from Portland, Maine, USA is a religious queer Black Mixed Race suicide survivor constantly writing poems. Pádraig Ó Tuama from Ireland is a poet and theologian, whose work centers around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. Both Maya and Pádraig are mesmerizing when they read their poems live. We anticipate they will have a rich conversation about identity, art, and overcoming.
Valentina Solari and Eve Mosher: 
Art in Motion, Body, and Place

Friday, July 30, 2021 
4:00-5:30 pm (Eastern)
Chilean-born circus performer Valentina Solari and US-born public visual and performance artist Eve Mosher will both join us from the UK to share the innovative ways they have used their art to engage communities in unconventional conversations about climate change. They are on the cutting edge of multidisciplinary art practice that merges with social activism. While taking on serious issues, their art invites audience members to dream, to see the invisible, and to embody the world.
Wild Spirituality:
Restoring the Great Conversation
Online retreat with author and Spiritual Director Victoria Loorz

Friday, August 6, 2021
10:00am - 3:00pm (Eastern)

Program Fee: $35
We have unlimited scholarships available for this retreat. If you would like to participate but cannot afford the fee, we invite you to select the “$0 - I’m participating with a scholarship” option on the online registration form.
Once upon a time, our ancestors knew they were intimately connected to the land. Some of our contemporaries still know this. And some of us have forgotten... that the hawks and soil and thunder and oak trees are kindred spirits with whom we live together in sacred relationship. 

Earth groans for our full re-engagement as participants in what Thich Nhat Hanh called the web of interbeing. As the systems of our culture and planet are unraveling, this moment in time is a call to remember that we belong to an inter-connecting web of life, a love story of relationship with an animate and alive world.  

In this one day eco-spiritual retreat with author and Spiritual Director Victoria Loorz, you will reflect on the role that wilderness played in the ancient stories of our religious traditions. You'll be invited to wonder about the role of wild beings in your own spiritual development as you wander in wildish places near your home. And as you develop spiritual practices to reconnect with the Sacred through the natural world, you may discover your own deeper, more connected role in the Great Turning.

Listen for the alluring call of the sacred wild beckoning you to participate more fully in the holy conversation between all things.
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.