The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

January 14, 2021

Dear friends:

"Human hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored" — this is the vision toward which we at The BTS Center are striving.

We reflect on these words often, recognizing that we live in a world defined by political turmoil, a raging pandemic, and climate devastation — that human hearts are frail, injustice and oppression are pervasive, and creation is in distress. We are not there yet.

Acknowledging the daunting challenges before us, we look forward to three programs coming up in the days ahead, each one contributing, we hope — at least in some small way — to the renewal of human hearts, to the establishment of justice, to the restoration of creation. We hope you'll take part in one or more of these, which you'll find described in detail below.

The path ahead is steep, and it's easy to get discouraged — even to succumb to the belief that nothing we can do will make a difference. May the words of Dr. King guide our steps:
Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men [and women] willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood [and sisterhood]. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity. — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We invite you to hold with us this vision of a world where human hearts are renewed, where justice is established, where creation is restored, and to join us in striving toward that world. God has work for us to do, and God is with us in the struggle.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director • The BTS Center
Committed to Listen
a public reading of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
Letter From a Birmingham Jail

Monday, January 18 • 12:15 pm (Eastern)
via Zoom and Facebook Live
On April 16, 1963, from his cell in a Birmingham City Jail, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned a public letter addressed to several of Alabama's leading white religious leaders, who had openly questioned the pace and the confrontational nature of civil rights demonstrations. 
This "Letter from Birmingham Jail" has been called "the most important written document of the civil rights era." 
In the 21-page, typed, double-spaced essay, Dr. King responds to the criticisms these eight white clergymen had made in their recent "A Call for Unity" statement, in which they agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not the streets. 
“It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham," Dr. King agreed, "but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.” 
Dr. King argued that racial violence and oppression demanded a more urgent response — that lukewarm words of support were inadequate, that only nonviolent direct action would result in real progress toward change.
"You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue."
Because the work of racial justice is far from finished, and because Rev. Dr. King's challenge to religious communities and leaders is as relevant today as it was 57 years ago, we will come together on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021 for a public reading of the Letter
The gathering, accessible by Zoom and Facebook Live, will include multiple voices, contemplative music, and space for reflection.
Co-hosted by The BTS Center and the Maine Council of Churches, this event is free and open to the public.
Rooted and Rising in Love:
A One-Day Retreat

with Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas
Friday, February 5, 2021
10:00 am - 3:00 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom

$25 Registration Fee
Scholarships are available by request. Contact Program Director, Rev. Nicole Diroff at
The long, dark days of winter invite us to reflect deeply on our sources of courage and hope. In the face of converging social and ecological crises, what spiritual practices and perspectives will sustain us? As we struggle to protect the web of life and to create a more just society, where do we turn for meaning and strength?
This one-day retreat, held online, will include a mix of presentations, small-group conversations, individual reflection, and free time for contemplative wandering and prayer. Together we will explore a framework for the heart to help us become compassionate, prophetic leaders who can take up the mantle of moral leadership that this decisive moment in history requires.
Retreat Leader

The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Ph.D., is an Episcopal priest, author, retreat leader, and climate activist who serves as Missioner for Creation Care in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ. She has been a lead organizer of many Christian and interfaith events about care for Earth, and she gives spiritual retreats in the U.S.A. and Canada on spiritual resilience and resistance in a time of climate emergency. Her new book, Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (2019), is an anthology of essays co-edited with Leah Schade. Earlier books include Joy of Heaven, to Earth Come DownChrist’s Passion, Our Passions; and Holy Hunger: A Woman’s Journey from Food Addiction to Spiritual Fulfillment. She has been arrested in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, protesting expanded use of fossil fuels. In 2016 she received the Steward of God’s Creation award from The National Religious Coalition on Creation Care. She is a graduate of Stanford (BA, Russian Literature), Harvard (PhD., Comparative Literature), and Episcopal Divinity School (M.Div.). Her Website,, includes blog posts, sermons, and articles. She lives with her family in Northampton, MA.
Retreat Musician

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.
Event Partners
Unleashing What You Already Love for a Hurting Planet
A Workshop with Peterson Toscano

Thursday, February 11
2:00 - 4:00 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom

$20 Registration Fee
Scholarships are available by request. Contact Program Director, Rev. Nicole Diroff at
In this interactive on-line Zoom workshop, Peterson Toscano, host of Citizens Climate Radio, helps you explore your passions and how they relate to to our rapidly changing world. You will find your understanding of yourself deepen as you gain clarity and discernment about the road ahead. Through a mind-expanding time-travel exercise, you will free up your imagination and consider your role on this changing planet. Participants walk away with fresh ideas, feeling affirmed about what they care about most, and with a new sense of purpose. Peterson, a skilled facilitator, has led workshops at universities, conferences, places of worship, and for climate advocates in the USA, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Norway.

"Peterson provides a safe environment to imagine the future and explore our passions. His own stories inspire the event.”  — Workshop participant
"Peterson Toscano encouraged a group of strangers to reflect, share, and dream. Bravo!”  — Workshop participant
"Peterson's timing and pace, along with the combination of activity was terrific!! This is proof of a great presentation...Leave 'em wanting more!”  — Workshop participant

"Peterson’s presentation was extremely engaging and exactly what I needed during this pandemic. He talked about climate change in a way I had never seen before and actually made me laugh." 
— Brian, Williams College student
Peterson Toscano
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.