The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04102

July 29, 2020

Dear friends:

Tonight's the night! We are so excited to kick off this Summer Arts Series , and it's truly and honor and a privilege to welcome visual artist and social justice champion Rob Shetterly , along with environmental scientist and acclaimed author Robin Wall Kimmerer and musician Thew Elliott for what we know is going to be a truly delightful and inspiring evening. Because it's an online gathering, you're free to join us wherever you happen to be. It's not too late to register — and we hope you will!

And that's not all!

Next week we'll continue the series in partnership with Music That Makes Community , for an event called Sing For a Better Future — that's Thursday, August 6 at 7 pm (Eastern). All the details are below.

And we're happy to share the details (you're hearing it first here!) of the third and final event in the series — a fun and enlightening evening with storyteller, performance artist, and scholar Peterson Toscano , who will be sharing an original program (and one designed specifically for an online space) called A Queer Response to Climate Change — What Would Walt Whitman Do? — that's Tuesday, August 18 at 7 pm (Eastern).

Each of these three events will draw upon various forms of artistic expression to expand our spiritual imagination as we envision an earth-honoring future. Each one promises to be interactive, evocative, engaging, and fun. We hope to see you for one — or maybe for two — or best of all, for all three !

Summer blessings,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director, The BTS Center
Summer Arts Series 
Session 1

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

Suggested donation: $10, which will go towards presenters' honoraria.
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 , along with music by Thew Elliott, a Chicago-area pianist and vocalist and church musician.

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.
For more than ten years  Rob Shetterly  has been painting the series of portraits  Americans Who Tell the Truth . The portraits have given Shetterly an opportunity to speak with children and adults all over this country about the necessity of dissent in a democracy, the obligations of citizenship, sustainability, US history, and how democracy cannot function if politicians don’t tell the truth, if the media don’t report it, and if the people don’t demand it. Much of his current work focuses on honoring and working with the activists trying to bring an end to the terrible practice of Mountaintop Removal by coal companies in Appalachia, on climate change, and on the continuation of systemic racism in the US, particularly in relation to the school-to-prison pipeline.
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 .
Robin Wall Kimmerer's first book,  Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses , was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in  Orion Whole Terrain , and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR’s  On Being  with Krista Tippett. In 2015, she addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” Kimmerer lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.  Learn more about Robin Wall Kimmerer and view her portrait  as part of Rob Shetterly's "Americans Who Tell the Truth" series.
Meet musician and educator Thew Elliott ,  who will be joining us to offer a musical soundtrack for tonight's event.
Thew Elliott (he/him) is an educator and musician in Aurora, Illinois (greater Chicago area) working with groups ranging from students to congregations of various faiths to community activists. He trusts the power of song to propel movements and foster human connection, and creates and gathers texts that he hopes will subvert destructive paradigms and bring joy.
Summer Arts Series 
Session 2

Sing For a Better Future
In partnership with Music That Makes Community

Thursday, August 6, 2020
7:00-8:30 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom

Suggested donation: $10, which will go towards presenters' honoraria.
Lift your voices in an earth-honoring worship gathering and online community singing experience, led by  Paul Vasile  and  Conie Borchardt  of  Music That Makes Community . Music That Makes Community is an international non-profit which teaches a practice of paperless song leading to enliven worship and community life and has pioneered new practices for meaningful group music-making in digital spaces.

Please come prepared to participate as this online gathering will include an opportunity to gather in breakout groups to reflect on what we experienced, and for Conie and Paul to share with us possibilities for how we can lead live singing within our own digital contexts.
Paul Vasile  (he/him) is the Executive Director of Music That Makes Community and a freelance church musician, consultant, and composer based in St. Louis, Missouri. He also serves as the Director of Music at Eden Theological Seminary. A multitalented musician and dynamic worship leader, he is committed to building, renewing, and re-shaping faith communities through music and liturgy.
Conie Borchardt  (she/they) tends practices of listening and expression to tell their heart story and encourage others. Growing up with mixed Asian and European heritage in Minnesota, the ancestral prairie homelands of the Dakota people, they have made the act of belonging and identity a lifelong pursuit. Spiritually, Conie’s past experience traverses the marshes between a “Luth-opalian Sufi Dancer.” Currently she is the Music Director at Edina Morningside Community Church (UCC).
Summer Arts Series 
Session 3

A Queer Response to Climate Change — What Would Walt Whitman Do?
with storyteller, performance artist, and scholar Peterson Toscano

Tuesday, August 18, 2020
7:00-8:30 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom

Suggested donation: $10, which will go towards presenters' honoraria.
Performance artist, queer Bible scholar, and on-line content creator,  Peterson Toscano  tackles the biggest issue of them all – global warming – and does so with a campy, thoughtful, mind expanding interactive performance designed especially for the Zoom platform. He resurrects the spirit of Walt Whitman and makes connections to LGBTQ+ issues, the power of art, environmental justice, and much more. Travel to the past and the future as Peterson’s character transformations, creative thought experiments, and original multimedia. You will laugh and learn, but most importantly your imagination will be unlocked to help you envision a better world as you consider your role in it.
After spending 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to “de-gay” himself through conversion therapy,  Peterson Toscano came out a quirky queer Quaker concerned with human rights. He asks himself and his audiences unusual questions:  Who are the gender outlaws in the Bible? What is a queer response to climate change?  What is the role of comedy when addressing trauma?  His film,  Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible  explores the stories of gender non-conforming Bible characters; his Bible scholarship has been featured in  The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America .
Peterson has been featured in  People  Magazine,  The Times of London , the Trya Banks Show, and NPR Morning Edition. In addition to his original performances, Peterson produces multiple podcasts including  Citizens Climate Radio Bubble&Squeak , and the  Bible Bash Podcast . In much of his work, Peterson helps people see climate change from fresh angles while stirring up empathy towards those most affected. Wherever he goes, he brings stories of determination, resiliency, and a cast of comic characters. He lives in Central Pennsylvania with his husband, Glen Retief, and Glen’s cat, Wally.

Learn more at
The BTS Center | 207.774.5212 | |
Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Nicole Diroff
Program Director
Kay Ahmed
Office Manager
  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.