The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04102

July 10, 2020

Dear friends,

July 4 has come and gone, and summer is here — and what a strange one it is. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact so much of daily life, and as we wonder and worry about its trajectory and timeline, we have the opportunity to make use of this time in ways that feed our spirits and promote human and planetary flourishing.

With these intentions in mind, our summer plans are shaping up, and we're bursting with excitement!

First, we hope you'll take part in a seven-week online book study group that begins next week. We'll be exploring the book Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, with weekly author presentations, small-group discussion, and invitations to spiritual practice. All the details are below (and here on our website), and the registration deadline is Monday.

And secondly, we're so excited to invite you to our first online gathering in a three-part Summer Arts series. On Wednesday, July 29, we'll welcome visual artist and social justice champion Rob Shetterly , whose project "Americans Who Tell the Truth" celebrates — in portrait and narrative — more than 230 citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness. He'll be joined by scientist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer, whose profoundly beautiful book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants, has received wide acclaim. Read on for the details.

Just a teaser: the second in the Summer Arts series will feature Music That Makes Community . We're really excited to partner with this nonprofit organization which develops and teaches a practice of paperless song leading, grounded in a theology of welcome and generosity, for the benefit of musicians, clergy, congregants, students and lay leaders — a singing practice that enriches and enlivens worship and community life. Date and details will be coming soon!

Finally, an update: In light of the ongoing concerns about in-person gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, for everyone's well-being and safety, we have made the difficult decision to move our annual Convocation, postponed to September, to an online event. This will be no ordinary online gathering, though — we're thinking of it as Convocation Reimagined, and we're already cooking up some creative ways to blend online and offline components and to introduce some creative elements that we hope will make it a meaningful experience for all. We look forward to sharing additional information in the coming weeks, as the details come together.

We are guided by The BTS Center's vision: h uman hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored. May this summer, strange as it is, lead us all more deeply toward that vision — for the sake of our own spiritual well-being; for the sake of all who yearn for liberation and hope; for the sake of this struggling earth, our home.

Summer blessings,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director, The BTS Center
Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis
Online Book Study Group 

Thursdays, July 16 – August 27, 2020
4:00-5:15pm (Eastern) • via Zoom

The registration deadline is coming up on Monday, July 13.  Register today!
Suggested donation, which will go towards presenters' honoraria: $25 per person
This summer you’re invited to join a group of friends and colleagues who will be exploring  Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis , a collection of essays at the intersection of spirituality and the climate crisis. Over the course of seven weekly sessions, we'll read and discuss the book, with each session featuring a presentation by an author, discussion in a small group, and an invitation into spiritual practice.

The BTS Center is hosting this online book study group in partnership with  Renewal in the Wilderness  and the group will be co-facilitated by   Rev. Nicole Diroff , BTS Center Program Director, and  Aram Mitchell , Renewal in the Wilderness Executive Director.

Our first session, on Thursday, July 16, will focus on Section I of the book, 
"Rooting in Interfaith Friendship," and we'll be joined by Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade , one of the co-editors of the book. 
Rev. Dr. Leah Schade is Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  An ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 2000, Leah has served congregations in rural, urban, and suburban settings. In addition to  Rooted and Rising , her publications include:  Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015); and  Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide  (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Leah has served as an anti-fracking and climate activist, community organizer, and advocate for environmental justice issues, and she is the “EcoPreacher” blogger for . Leah was one of the guests for a webinar conversation that we hosted in May, called  Lessons Learned (so far): COVID-19 Insights to Apply to the Climate Crisis , and we're so glad that she can be with us for the first session as we kick off this book study group next week.
Our second session, on Thursday, July 23, will focus on Section II of the book, "Rising in Local Activism," and we'll be joined by Jay O'Hara , one of the authors in this section.
Originally from Cape Cod and now living in Portland, Maine, Jay O’Hara is a leader in the Religious Society of Friends / Quaker tradition.  After experiencing his “climate wakeup” moment in 2006, he founded  Climate Summer , a transformational program for student climate activists. Called to bolder action in 2013 he and a friend blockaded 40,000 tons of coal destined for the Brayton Point power plant with their small white lobster boat named the “Henry David T” –  the Lobster Boat Blockade . The ensuing legal proceedings garnered national attention, and the plant closed its doors in 2017. Jay has played a leading role in the  No Coal, No Gas  campaign to shutter the last big coal-fired electrical generator in New England. He is a co-founder of the  Climate Disobedience Center  and is recognized by his Quaker meeting to serve as a traveling minister in New England. In December 2015, Jay offered a TedTalk called "Climate Change: An Invitation to New Life?" through TEDxNewBedford. Jay's leadership and witness are grounded in his own spiritual practice, and he's a great storyteller. 
Meet the other authors  who will be joining us in the remaining five weeks of the book study group, and be sure to join us for engaging conversation, deep reflection, and practice, all oriented toward spiritually grounded action.
Summer Arts series 

During July and August, we invite you to join us for three delightful and meaningful online gatherings that will draw upon various forms of artistic expression to expand our spiritual imagination as we envision an earth-honoring future.
First Offering in the Series

Visual Artist Rob Shetterly of "Americans Who Tell the Truth" 
and scientist / author Robin Wall Kimmerer 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020
7:00-8:30 pm (Eastern) • via zoom
In partnership with  Americans Who Tell the Truth , our first online gathering in this Summer Arts series will feature presentations by visual artist Rob Shetterly and indigenous environmental scientist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer , as well as music by Nancy Boker.

a collection of more than 230 portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness. By combining art and other media, AWTT offers resources to inspire a new generation of engaged Americans who will act for the common good, our communities, and the Earth.

Meet Robin Wall Kimmerer , a mother, scientist, decorated professor, enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and the widely acclaimed author of  Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants .
Creativity, Compassion, and the Coronavirus

Between March and June, we focused our efforts on supporting, connecting, and equipping spiritual leaders for ministry in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis:

  • We hosted 10 Zoom meetups — webinar conversations with guests exploring a wide range of topics, including Spiritual Practices for Spiritual Leaders During COVID-19, It's Okay to Grieve, Wisdom Revealed in the Midst of Covid-19, COVID-19 Insights to Apply to the Climate Crisis, Lessons in Resilience from the Global South, Spiritual Parenting for Pandemic-Weary Parents, and The Future of Faith Communities After COVID-19. Recordings of all of these conversations are available on our website.

  • We convened a weekly Faith Leaders Prayer Huddle that drew spiritual leaders together for prayer and conversation on 15 consecutive Wednesday mornings.

Thank you to all who joined us for engaging conversation and mutual support during these very challenging, disorienting months. We will continue to walk with you through the days ahead, guided by our mission: to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership.
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.