A Fireside Chat 
with Maren Tirabassi,
Pastor, Poet, Educator

On December 11, 2020, 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, Allen and Maren connected 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 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.

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 Hope;  From 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.