The BTS Center continues a century-old tradition of bringing together nationally-recognized speakers to share ideas and perspectives about contemporary spiritual and religious concerns. Convocation 2017 - “Course Corrections” - will provide participants with opportunities to make meaning of the changes that are transforming 21st-century spiritual and religious landscapes.





Congregation Bet Ha'am

81 Westbrook Street

South Portland, Maine 04106

(207) 879-0028



  • Regular Registration: $140
  • Meal tickets (optional):
    • $20 for the BTS Alumni/ae Luncheon
    • $25 for Convocation Dinner
    • $15 for Convocation Lunch

NOTE: The deadline for ordering catering food has passed. For meals, you may either bring your own or else visit one of the nearby restaurants.

Scholarship Assistance

A limited amount of scholarship assistance is available for this event. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Alyssa at

Dietary Guidelines

Out of respect for the Congregation Bet Ha'am community, all who bring their own food must follow the following dietary guidelines:

  • No shellfish (including shrimp, lobster, and crab).

  • No pork products (including ham and bacon).

  • Dairy and meat cannot be combined in the same dish (e.g., no chicken salad that has sour cream in the dressing). 

  • Dairy and meat can be eaten together, as long as they are not combined in a recipe. For example, bringing a piece of a casserole in which hamburger and cheese had been mixed and baked together would be discouraged. But it would be okay to bring a turkey sandwich with a piece of cheese added on top.

Convocation Content

 “And though his eyes were open, he could see nothing” (Acts 9:8)

For those of us facing forceful disruptions to the stories of our lives, this is a palpably familiar experience. With eyes we know are open, we look out at our families, our work or our churches, at our communities or our nation—sometimes at our very selves—with a confused and uncomprehending gaze.  Known features become oddly unrecognizable and we simply cannot see how the stories will continue to unfold.

This was true for the apostle Paul on the Damascus Road, whose story brilliantly illuminates our own spiritual narratives. Tradition celebrates Paul’s story as one of conversion, clarity, and conviction, but that is really to read only the story’s epilogue. Its middle chapters are more complex—and much closer to our own personal and communal stories than we might imagine: radical ruptures with the past; disorientation, loss, and grief; an urgent need to make sense of things that no longer make sense; the struggle to find words with which to speak newly comprehended truths. 

At this year's convocation, you will be:

  • invited to find yourself in the complexities of Paul's story.

  • equipped to respond to radical disruptions and to accompany others in times of disorientation and loss.

  • guided in reinterpreting the sacred text of your life and expressing the truths discovered in the midst of change.

  • encouraged to discern your own course corrections when the way ahead is not clear.

  • challenged to look bravely, with others, into the blinding light of transformational change.

Workshops (Tuesday, January 31 - 10:45 AM to Noon)

When registering, you will be able to select one of three concurrent workshops. Check the box next to the session that you would like to attend.  Sessions are as follows:

Spiritual Initiations in Story, Silence, and Sign (Pam Shellberg). In this workshop, we study a handful of biblical stories from the Old and New Testament that follow the classic pattern of spiritual and religious initiations—purgation, illumination, fulfillment. We will share in some experiences of guided meditations and silent contemplation on the stages of illumination. We will then work to create some liturgical expressions for use in worship, teaching, community leadership, devotion, and/or pastoral care as we guide people through times of change-as-intiation.

Reckoning With Our Worlds: Material Theopoetic Play (Michelle Walsh). In this workshop, participants will learn about - and have a chance to practice - Sand Play, a creative tool that can be used in self care and pastoral care alike. These days, interruption of our comfortable worlds by external events is ever-present. "Reckoning with Our Worlds" offers an opportunity to engage internally with processes of creation, disruption, re-visioning, and release through sacred play with a variety of material objects in a tray of sand. Through silent work with touch, movement, and the spark of metaphoric insight, new spiritual insights and pastoral healing may emerge.  Participants will have the chance to create their own worlds and share with one another as desired. Photography of and journaling later with one's created world is encouraged. The workshop facilitator will take pictures as well. During the session, Michelle will provide information about additional opportunities to learn more about Sand Play techniques and practice.

Searching with Words (Scott Cairns).  Taking our lead from the rabbinic tradition of midrashim, we will identify one or more “dark sayings” or difficult passages in scripture that seem to challenge our sense of things.  Along with that, we will examine a few poetic habits of word choice and lining that serve to “open” a text to saying more than we mean to say.  Thereafter, we will try our hands at writing brief, midrashic responses to the troubled textual surfaces before us.


About the Facilitators

Michelle Walsh is a licensed independent social worker and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister who holds a doctorate in Practical Theology. Her areas of expertise include extensive urban clinical trauma work as well as spiritual coaching and development for social justice activists drawing on expressive play and art therapies. She is the author of Violent Trauma, Culture, and Power: An Interdisciplinary Exploration in Lived Religion (2017), maintains a private spiritual coaching practice in Watertown, Massachusetts, and does social justice consultation with her husband through the Tuckerman Creative Ministries for Justice and Healing in the greater Boston area, Massachusetts.


Scott Cairns is Curators’ Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Missouri and Director of the Low-Residency MFA Program at Seattle Pacific University, an essayist, and author of eight poetry collections. His poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Image, The New Republic, and The Atlantic Monthly, and both have been anthologized in multiple editions of Best American Spiritual Writing. He blogs for the Religion Section of The Huffington Post. His recent books include Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems (2015), Idiot Psalms (2014), Short Trip to the Edge (spiritual memoir, 2016), Endless Life (translations and adaptations of Christian mystics, 2014), and a book-length essay, The End of Suffering (2009).


Pamela Shellberg is the Scholar-in-Residence at The BTS Center, an educator, and a biblical scholar. The author of Cleansed Lepers, Cleansed Hearts: Purity and Healing in Luke-Acts (2015), she has taught at Bangor Theological Seminary, Andover Newton Theological School, for the Maine School of Ministry (UCC), and in the New England Synod’s School of Lay Ministry (ELCA). “Course Corrections” (and the related upcoming online course and spiritual practice cohort offered through The BTS Center) issues from her close study of the letters of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles and her lived experience of their value as a template for discerning identity and purpose in the midst of personal and institutional disruption and discontinuity.


Tentative Convocation Schedule




9:30 AM           Convocation Registration Opens

Pre-Convocation Event

11:00 AM          Bangor Theological Seminary Alumni/ae

                         Association Annual Meeting & Luncheon

Convocation Begins

1:30 PM           Welcome

1:45 PM           Session One – "Thrown Off Course"

3:30 PM           Break

3:45 PM           Session Two – "Dead Reckoning"

5:15 PM           Free Time

5:45 PM           Dinner 

7:00 PM           Poetry Reading with Scott Cairns

8:00 PM           Book Signing with the Speakers


8:00 AM           Continental Breakfast for All Attendees

8:45 AM           Welcome Back and Announcements

9:00 AM           Session Three - "Dead Reckoning" (continued)

10:30 AM          Break

10:45 AM          Workshop Breakout Sessions

12:00 PM          Lunch

1:30 PM           Conversation with the Speakers      

2:00 PM           Session Four - "Sextants, Charts, and Compasses"

3:45 PM           Closing Words

4:00 PM           Convocation Concludes


(Optional) Pre-Convocation Event: Bangor Theological Seminary Alumni/ae Meeting and Lunch

  • Monday, January 30th: The alumni/ae meeting and lunch begins at 11 AM and concludes at 1 PM. ​​​​

If you wish to attend the Annual Meeting but do not wish to participate in Convocation: choose the registration option that reads "I am only registering for the BTS alumni/ae gathering and am not attending Convocation." 

Meals: During the registration process, you will be able to select whether you would like to purchase a meal at the annual meeting. The catered meal served at the Alumni/ae Lunch will include options for those with dietary restrictions.

Hotel Information

Convocation participants should book their own lodging. Discounted rates have been negotiated at the following nearby hotels.

A map of the hotels and their proximity to Congregation Bet Ha'am may be accessed by CLICKING THIS LINK.

The Howard Johnson Hotel, South Portland

675 Main Street

South Portland, Maine 04106

(207) 775-5343

Access the hotel website by  CLICKING HERE.

Discounted rates available through January 10, 2017. Ask for the "Convocation 2017" price of $59 per night, pre-tax (for up to 4 people, with $10 for each additional person). Rate includes free hot breakfast and free Wi-Fi.


The Best Western Merry Manor Inn, South Portland

700 Main Street

South Portland, Maine 04106

(207) 774-6151

Access the hotel website by CLICKING HERE.

Discounted rates available through January 23, 2017. Ask for the "Convocation 2017" price of $79 per night, pre-tax including a full American breakfast.


The Quality Inn and Suites, South Portland

738 Main Street

South Portland, Maine 04106

(207) 774-5891

Access the hotel website by CLICKING HERE.

Discounted rates available through January 10, 2017. Ask for the "Convocation 2017" price of $84 per night, pre-tax for a one-bedroom suite with two queen beds or a price of $59 per night, pre-tax for a standard room.


The Portland Clarion

1230 Congress St

Portland, ME 04102

(207) 774-5611

Access the hotel website by CLICKING HERE.

Call (207) 774-5611 and ask to speak to a reservations agent. Indicate that you are with "BTS - Bangor Theological Seminary" in order to receive a discounted rate of $74 per night, pre-tax. 

Contact Information

For additional information, contact The BTS Center at:
97 India Street
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 774-5212




NeonCRM by Neon One