Complicated Hope

An Evening with Margaret Wheatley

Occurred on Tuesday, October 24, 2023 

“In a world we cannot recognize, how do we find a way forward? In this world we do not understand, how do we know what to do? When so little is comprehensible, what is meaningful work, what is genuine contribution?”
— Margaret Wheatley, Who Do We Choose To Be?

In a career spanning over five decades, renowned author and organizational consultant Margaret Wheatley has held an unshakeable belief in people's capacity to be generous, creative, and kind even in the most challenging circumstances. As the effects of climate chaos become ever more present in our world, she calls us back to the wisdom of nature as a means to face reality and boldly step into leadership — the kind of leadership that invites those around us into the best versions of themselves, even in the face of rapid change.

With a wealth of learnings gleaned from communities across the globe, Margaret Wheatley has distilled her knowledge into a number of highly-regarded books, including her most recent: Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity, which will be the focus of an online book study group this fall at The BTS Center.

Thank you to those who joined us for a special online event featuring a conversation with Margaret Wheatley in which we delved into the wisdom she has gathered in her many years of work and leadership. Margaret was joined by conversationalists as well as a guest musician.

View the conversation, recorded on October 24, below:

Book Study Group

This fall, we are hosting a book study group around Margaret Wheatley's book Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity (second edition). Learn more here.

Meet our Host

Nicole Diroff

View biography

Meet our Moderator

Ben Yosua-Davis

View biography

Meet Margaret Wheatley

Margaret Wheatley, Ed.D. began caring about the world’s peoples in 1966 as a Peace Corps volunteer in post-war Korea. As a consultant, senior-level advisor, teacher, speaker, and formal leader, she has worked on all continents (except Antarctica) with all levels, ages, and types of organizations, leaders, and activists. Her work now focuses on developing and supporting leaders globally as Warriors for the Human Spirit. These leaders put service over self, stand steadfast through crises and failures, and make a difference for the people and causes they care about. With compassion and insight, they know how to invoke people’s inherent generosity, creativity, kindness, and community — no matter what’s happening around them.

Margaret has written ten books, including the classic Leadership and the New Science, and has been honored for her pathfinding work by many professional associations, universities, and organizations. She received her Doctorate from Harvard University in 1979, an M.A. in Media Ecology from NYU in 1974, and a B.A. from University of Rochester in 1966. She spent a year at University College London 1964-65. Her website is designed as a library of free resources as well as information about products and her speaking calendar:

Meet our Conversationalists

Susanne C. Moser (she/her/hers) is a geographer (Ph.D. 1997, Clark University) who works nationally and internationally as an independent scholar and consultant from a base in western Massachusetts. Her work with government agencies, non-profits, foundations, and other researchers and consultants focuses on adaptation to climate change, science-policy interactions, effective climate change communication, and psycho-social resilience in the face of the traumatic and transformative challenges associated with climate change. Susi is the editor of two award-winning edited volumes, one on successful adaptation to climate change; the other on how to communicate climate change. She is a prolific writer, an inspiring speaker and has served on scientific advisory boards for Future Earth, the International Science Council, the US National Research Council and has contributed to the IPCC and US national climate assessments. In all of her work, she seeks to embody and enact her deepest calling and thus to serve the world and Earth community from a spiritual, soul-anchored center.

Rev. Dr. Allen Ewing-Merrill joined The BTS Center as Executive Director in July 2019, succeeding Rev. Dr. Robert Grove-Markwood. A Maine native, ordained in the United Methodist tradition, Allen served as the co-pastor (with his wife, The Rev. Sara Ewing-Merrill) of HopeGateWay in Portland from 2007-2019. He is also the founder and former convener of Moral Movement Maine, a network of multifaith leaders and people of conscience that advocates for social justice in the state. For 11 years he served on the Board of Directors of the Maine Council of Churches, as well as six years on the Board of the United Methodist Foundation of New England; presently he serves on the Board of Maine People’s Resource Center, the sister organization to Maine People’s Alliance.

In regard to his work with The BTS Center, he says, “As we confront the realities of a climate-changed world, the work of faith leaders and people of faith has never been more important. I’m so grateful to serve The BTS Center team in this threshold moment, as faith communities — and the broader society — face a critical inflection point. Inspired by the vision of human hearts renewed, justice established, and creation restored, we are paying particular attention to deep and important questions about global climate crisis and the ways in which that must inform and transform spiritual practice and faith leadership — and of course, how ecological devastation also intersects with other issues of social justice, spirituality, and the practice of faith. As we undertake this work, we are so grateful to be connected with imaginative leaders, spiritual teachers, faith-rooted activists, academics, authors, poets, artists, music-makers, and dreamers. This work to which we are called requires all of us.”

Allen and his spouse, Sara, have three daughters, and they live in Portland, Maine.

Gabrielle Gelderman is a hospital and movement chaplain based on Treaty 6 territory in amiswaciwaskahikan / Edmonton, AB, Canada. Raised in a tight-knit setter community of Dutch Christian Reformed farmers, and a family of avid hikers, growing up, Gabrielle encountered God in the surrounding fields, mountains, and lakes of Alberta. 

As a young adult, Gabrielle spent as much time outside as possible, working as a trip guide, park interpreter, and environmental educator. Her love of the land also led her in 2017 to become a co-founder and organizer with Climate Justice Edmonton, a grassroots, volunteer-led organization working for environmental, economic, and racial justice. 

Eventually, Gabrielle decided to return to school to become a chaplain. In 2021, she completed her 2nd CPE unit and graduated with her MTS, writing her thesis on group healing and climate grief in young climate organizers. Since then, Gabrielle has offered 1:1 spiritual direction and facilitated regular, drop-in grief circles on the topic of climate and political grief. 

In addition to her formal CPE chaplaincy training and her Master of Theological Studies, Gabrielle has training in the contemplative Christian tradition through The Living School, in the embodied healing tradition through Somatic Experiencing, and in movement chaplaincy through the Faith Matters Network. 

She is excited about the emerging field of environmental chaplaincy and thrilled to support and learn from others doing similar work. You can learn more about Gabrielle's work on her website, and on her Instagram at @theclimatechaplain.

Meet our Musician

Thew Elliott

Thew Elliott is a non-neutral queer educator and musician guided by the understanding that full personal expression builds strong community. He is the founder of Citizen Arts Aurora (Illinois), a space for sharing stories, building skills, and creating and supporting new work.
As a worship designer and liturgist, he is committed to challenging calcified traditions and colonizing histories. He carves space for queer spirit and liberation by creating new hymn texts and blessings, and by regularly re-imagining inherited stories to find and free the welcome that may be hidden within them.