The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

December 17, 2020

Dear friends:

The Solstice may be four days away, but here in Maine, winter has arrived! With a whisper, the snow is falling, falling, whirling, whirling, transforming the landscape into a wintry white. The snowplows pass by regularly, but I'm hunkered down at home.

This afternoon, from a cozy spot, I’ll gather with others on Zoom for the fifth and final session of our Creation’s Wisdom Book Retreat with author and spiritual teacher Daniel Wolpert. Over these weeks, Dan has been leading us through his latest book, Creation’s Wisdom: Spiritual Practice and Climate Change, which brings into dialogue Biblical texts, Christian theology, modern science, and the concept of the Tibetan Five Wisdoms, inviting us to consider how the elements of creation point to spiritual practices and sources of wisdom that can lead us through the climate crisis.

Dan writes, “For people living in a time of climate crisis, we need our focus and the attention of our faith to be on the basic elements of creation. If creation is in crisis, then our spirituality must directly engage this creation and articulate a spiritual framework that will allow us to relate to both the world and the crisis we face in a life-giving and healthy way.”

If you’ve been following The BTS Center or engaging with our programs over the past nine months, you’ve probably noticed that this has become a recurring programmatic theme, beginning with some of our online programs in the early days of this pandemic, leading into our 2020 Convocation — “Engaged Hope: Grounded Leadership in an Era of Ecological Devastation” — and continuing with our fall programs, which included a speaker series and Co-Learning Community called “Unlocking Possibility: Catalyzing Spiritual Imagination in Uncertain Times.” 

I truly believe there is tremendous opportunity for faith communities to reclaim a sense of sacred purpose in turning their attention to the spiritual challenges at the root of ecological devastation; in rejecting the warped and destructive values of individualism, consumerism, capitalism, and colonization that have led us to this crisis; in reclaiming the practices and values at the heart of our faith traditions. I see hope for the renewal of our congregations as we express our faith by living in ways that are centered in justice and community and interdependence, including interdependence with all of Creation.

We will continue to explore these important ideas, and we hope you’ll continue to welcome opportunities to engage. Today I want to invite you to join us for a One-Day Retreat on Friday, February 5, during which Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Episcopal priest and retreat leader, and Thew Elliott, musician and educator, will lead us in exploring the theme “Rooted and Rising in Love.” Registration is open, and you’ll find the details below.

Winter (and maybe especially winter during a pandemic!) is a great time to pause — to adopt a curious and reflective posture — to engage some new ideas, new practices, new habits of the heart — to pray and to listen for the still, small voice of God inviting us more deeply into community. We look forward to many opportunities to be part of this journey with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Listen for the whispers of winter.

Blessings of the season,
Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill
Executive Director • The BTS Center
Rooted and Rising in Love:
A One-Day Retreat

with Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas
Friday, February 5, 2021
10:00am - 3:00pm (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.
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.
A Fireside Chat 
with Maren Tirabassi
Pastor, Poet, Educator

Recently Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center, shared a lunchtime Fireside Chat and poetry reading with Rev. Maren Tirabassi, United Church of Christ pastor and former Poet Laureate of the City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Mid-way through the Season of Advent, they explored the significance of Advent and Christmas in 2020 and what it means to practice hope and find joy in the midst of a pandemic. Maren read selected pieces from her newest collection, Christmas Eve at the Epsom Circle McDonald’s and Other Poems some of which, like "In a Long Year of Advent," "A Pandemic Pageant," and "Christmas Greetings to All the Closed Inns," were written specifically for Advent during this Covid-19 Advent and Christmas season.

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.