The BTS Center
97 India Street • Portland, ME 04101

December 10, 2020

Dear friends,

I want to offer a word of thanks to those of you who participated in our Unlocking Possibility: Catalyzing Spiritual Imagination in Uncertain Times programming this Fall. We had 190 people from around the county participate in our speaker event series and 22 faith leaders commit to be part of a Co-Learning Community focused on integration and application of imaginative praxis. We learned so much from all of you.

As many of you know, this recent season of forced innovation has caused us here at The BTS Center to reference our mission statement often: to catalyze spiritual imagination, with enduring wisdom, for transformative faith leadership. We find ourselves hungry for new possibilities and are inspired by Rob Hopkins, who says, "It seems as though we are becoming less imaginative at the very time in history when we need to be at our most imaginative. Our imagination muscle should be taut and well exercised; instead it is flaccid and untoned. I worry that the deeper we get into a crisis such as climate change (and Covid-19), the harder it becomes to imagine a way out."

Thankfully imagination is not something reserved for a select few, but a human capacity that any of us can nurture. We offered four public conversations with Ben Yosua-Davis as our facilitator and guide:

If you were unable to join us live, or simply want to watch again, you can find all of the speaker event recordings available on our website.

In reflection papers crafted for the Unlocking Possibility Co-Learning Community, Ben helped the group ask critical theological questions, saying, "As people of faith, our goal is not to cultivate our imagination in a general sense, but rather a very specific type of imagination as we align our vision with God’s imagination for the world; and as we learn to hold that sacred frame in conversation (and sometimes in conflict) with the competing imaginations that surround us." "The Christian imagination is fundamentally a weird one: with unusual beliefs about sharing all things in common and loving our enemies and the power of prayer and of being God’s body in the world. In covenanted spaces, we learn to practice our imagination together through seasons of discovery and arduous awkwardness until the imagination that we artificially practiced finally becomes our own."

In this season of Advent and as a new year approaches, I say "amen" and "may it be so" to Ben's vision.

This winter, we hope you'll continue to journey with us by taking part in our Fireside Chat series where The BTS Center's Executive Director, Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, will engage in conversations that continue to unlock possibilities. Find a comfortable spot near your hearth (or by a candle or beam of sunlight) and join us this Friday, December 11 for A Fireside Chat with Maren Tirabassi, author of a new poetry collection written specifically for this Covid-19 Advent season.

Peace and blessings to each of you, 
Rev. Nicole Diroff
Program Director • The BTS Center
A Fireside Chat 
with Maren Tirabassi
Pastor, Poet, Educator

This Friday, December 11, 2020
12:15 – 1:00 pm (Eastern) • Online

Join Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center, for 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, Allen and Maren will connect for a virtual fireside conversation about 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 will 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.
Reflecting on this particular season, in her poem "In a Long Year of Advent," Rev. Tirabassi writes:
Much of this year has unfolded
in ways that turn us heartside out —
and now we don’t just read this story
in its gathered cultural nostalgia,
but understand more,
about the unexpected pregnancy
of life itself,
the grueling essential work
of watching sheep sleep, 
and the foolishness
of wandering somewhere new
in a strange landscape
with the uneasy guidance of a star.

Register to join the conversation on Zoom, or catch it as it streams on Facebook Live on The BTS Center page.
Rev. Maren C. Tirabassi
is a United Church of Christ pastor who has served churches in New Hampshire and Massachusetts since 1980. Christmas Eve at the Epsom Circle McDonald’s and Other Poems is her twenty-first book. Recent titles, all from The Pilgrim Press, include A Child Laughs: Prayers of Justice and HopeFrom the Psalms to the Cloud: Connecting to the Digital Age; Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community and All Whom God Has Joined: Resources for Clergy and Same-Gender Loving Couples.

In addition to writing and teaching writing in correctional institutions, hospitals, recovery and survivor groups, high schools, seminaries, churches, and synagogues, Maren has served congregations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for forty years. She spent some time as Scholar in Residence at The Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre in Aotearoa New Zealand, and she is a former Poet Laureate of the City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Her stories and poems appear in nineteen anthologies.
Rev. Tirabassi is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City and Harvard Divinity School, and she has taught courses at Andover Newton Seminary.
Maren enjoys quilting, hiking and swimming, walking the beagle Willie, and attending Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions. She loves and is deeply grateful to Donald, beloved and proof-reader, and to Matt and Julia, Maria and David, and her grandsons, Leo and Casey, for whom Old Christmas is still very new.
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.