The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04102

May 11, 2020

Dear friends:

This COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges and opportunities for spiritual leaders and spiritual communities. 

I've been referring to this as a season of forced innovation . Some leaders are energized by opportunities to innovate: they love to learn new uses for technology, and they welcome experimentation and growth. For other leaders, this doesn't come quite so naturally. But here we are, all of us, and I am continually inspired to see spiritual leaders stepping up; taking risks; collaborating and sharing resources; working through obstacles; and experimenting with new ways to worship, serve, care, and communicate. 

I want to invite you to share your responses to this question by completing the phrase, "I'm learning that..."

Here are a few examples to get you thinking...

  • I'm learning that an old-fashioned phone call can make a real difference for someone who's struggling.
  • I'm learning that after four Zoom meetings in one day, it's okay to stop for a Netflix recharge or a 30-minute nap!
  • I'm learning that there are people in my congregation who have better technology skills than I have, and it's okay to ask for help — I don't need to do this on my own!
  • I'm learning that this is a marathon and not a sprint, and I need to pace myself accordingly.
  • I'm learning that grief manifests itself in many different ways.
  • I'm learning that it's so important for me to remain a non-anxious presence as members of my congregation act out of anxiety and fear and grief.

Would you be willing to share your insights with others ? We're planning to compile responses and share them, as a way of celebrating the incredible, wide-ranging learning and growth that is emerging in this time of disruption and disorientation.
Speaking of learning, on Thursday, May 14, we have another online meetup — this one is called "Lessons Learned (so far): COVID-19 Insights to Apply to the Climate Crisis," with guests Dr. Natasha DeJarnett and Rev. Dr. Leah Schade. All the details and the registration link are below. I hope you'll want to participate.

And then the following week, on Thursday, May 21, we're looking forward to a conversation with Rev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma, called "Pandemic in Perspective: Lessons in Resilience from the Global South." Again, all the details and the registration link are below.

If a book study interests you, we've got one of those coming up, too, focusing on Jeff McDonald's brand new book, Part-Time is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy, with four Friday sessions starting May 22. Read on for the details.

Challenge often breeds opportunity. Adversity can lead to growth. God is with us in the midst of this crisis, beckoning us to a new and better normal.

So what are you learning?

With you on the journey,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director
Lessons Learned (so far): COVID-19 Insights to Apply to the Climate Crisis
A Zoom meetup for People of Faith & Conscience During COVID-19

Thursday, May 14
2:00-3:15 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
Join us for a conversation with one of the editors and one of the feature authors in  Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis . We'll be exploring 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 include:
  • 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
Leah and Natasha explore 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
Come be a part of this emerging conversation, one which is sparking spiritual imagination while honoring enduring wisdom.
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.
Let's (Not) Return to Normal
A Zoom meetup for People of Faith & Conscience During COVID-19

As days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months, everyone is speculating about when we can "return to normal." 
"Normal" would feel good, wouldn't it? The current reality we are all facing is unsettling — disruptive — disorienting — and in so many ways, demanding. Many of us long to return to the way life was before the Coronavirus upended everything and set us adrift.
But the truth is, there's no going back. We never get to go backward. Life is always about moving forward, into some new reality.
And so the question is, what new reality will we embrace? In what ways do we hope our future will resemble the reality we remember before this pandemic? And in what ways can we acknowledge that business-as-usual wasn't working — certainly not for everyone?
Ben Yosua-Davis , Program Advisor for The BTS Center, and Liz Parsons , a member of The BTS Center's Board of Trustees, have a prayerful conversation about the wisdom they are seeing revealed in the midst of this crisis — a rich and wide-ranging conversation exploring 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.  Watch the Zoom meetup, recorded on May 7, 2020.
Our guests included:
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

Fridays May 22, May 29, June 5 & June 12
1:00-2:00 pm via Zoom (Eastern)
Join us in reading and discussing  Part-Time is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy , by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, newly published by Westminster John Knox Press. This book study group is for anyone interested in how congregations with part-time clergy can thrive. We will meet once a week for four weeks and Jeff will be joining us for author engagement during the final session on June 12th.

The book study 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.

Book Description
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.
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 short, 15-20-minute conversations with a number of 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.