Convocation 2023

Kinship: Re-Weaving the Great Web of Belonging

Thursday & Friday, September 28 & 29, 2023
Begins at 10:00am on Thursday; Ends at 3:00pm on Friday
In person at Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center
Hallowell, Maine

An Online Companions Track, with a hosted livestream of some of the Convocation sessions and some online exclusives, was also available for those who were unable to join us in person. Learn more.

Registration is closed.

Refund Policy: Unfortunately, after September 24, we are no longer able to issue refunds.

“We appear so discrete, so unitary, but we are not. If we could see our interconnectedness, I imagine it would look like a fabric: threads running between each of us and every person on whom our lives depend; threads tracing the path from each of us to each nonhuman creature that interacts with our life — the food on our table, that tree that we smile at every morning, the birds that sing us awake; still more threads traveling from each of those creatures to all of the creatures on which they depend — their pollinators, their food, the earthworms that till the soil in which they grow. And finally, there are the shimmering, gossamer threads, spun of some gorgeous hue, running from each creature and each human to God.”

— Rev. Andi Lloyd, PhD, biologist and United Church of Christ pastor serving in Castine, Maine

For too long — certainly since the Industrial Revolution — Western culture has accepted the idea that human beings are separate from nature — that we are above nature — that we are superior to other living beings, and that the earth is just a collection of natural resources to be extracted and consumed for our material prosperity. In her book Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth, Debra Rienstra calls this “hierarchical anthropocentrism” — that is, “the idea that humans are at the center of all things and more important than anything else.” According to her diagnosis, “Imagining ourselves as entirely distinctive and superior is the old and dangerous slippage at the root of our current crises.”

As we wrestle with the theological and ecological dimensions of a climate-changed world, what would it look like to reimagine our relationships with other living beings and with the earth — to celebrate our kinship as sacred — to re-weave the great web of belonging?

We delved deeply into these questions during a rich time together at Convocation 2023. Inspired by a group of thoughtful presenters, artists, and spiritual leaders, with a posture of reverence and humility, we explored possibilities for nurturing a sense of wonder, gratitude, and hope as we celebrated our profound interconnectedness with all who share our common home.  

Over the course of two days — Thursday and Friday, September 28 and 29 — we gathered to learn and explore, to nurture a sense of community, and to seek respite and renewal. Victoria Loorz, author and co-founder of the Wild Church Network, inspired us with wisdom and guided us to experience how nature invites us into the sacred. Convocation 2023 included music, poetry, and ritual; plenary sessions and small-group conversation; opportunities to engage with nature; and both embodied and contemplative practice. Thank you to those who joined us!

Held annually, continuously since 1905, Convocation is a legacy program of Bangor Theological Seminary, predecessor to The BTS Center. We are delighted to carry on this tradition, 118 years in the making, drawing upon the enduring wisdom of the generations of leaders who have come before us while exploring today’s most urgent and compelling issues.

About the venue

We intentionally chose to gather at Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center because of its beautiful location adjacent to farmlands and forest, and because of its commitment to green practices. Among other recognitions, Maple Hill Farm was awarded Maine's very first "Environmental Leader" Green Lodging Inn Certification by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and they were named "Best Green B&B" by Yankee Magazine.

Online Companions Track

As we held our first in-person Convocation in several years, we also wanted to provide opportunities for engagement for those unable to attend due to distance or other factors. With this in mind, created an Online Companions Track, hosted by our friend Peterson Toscano. Peterson is the producer of The BTS Center’s very own podcast, Climate Changed.

This online offering included livestreams of the plenary sessions, as well as exclusive online conversations and opportunities to connect with other members of the online community. We are grateful to those of you who attended our gatherings online, and we were thrilled to have had you as part of Convocation 2023! Learn more about the Online Companions Track here.

Convocation 2023: Thursday, September 28 Morning Worship and Plenary, featuring Keynote Address by Victoria Loorz

Convocation 2023: Thursday, September 28 Evening Plenary, featuring Storytelling and Conversation with John Bear Mitchell

Convocation 2023: Friday, September 29 Morning Plenary, featuring Keynote Address and Conversation with Victoria Loorz

Meet our Keynote Speakers

Victoria Loorz, MDiv

Victoria Loorz, MDiv, is a Wild Church pastor, an Eco-Spiritual Director, and author of Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred. She is co-founder of the ecumenical Wild Church Network and founder of the Center for Wild Spirituality, which offers experiential, earth-based training programs such as Seminary of the Wild Earth, a year-long eco-spirituality program that supports a new kind of spiritual leadership, focused on helping people to re-member themselves back into intimate, sacred relationship with the rest of the living world. In Fall 2023, a new Eco-Spiritual Direction certification program will be launching that includes the beings from the rest of the natural world in the companioning process. Her upcoming books include A Field Guide to Wild Church, to be released in the Fall of 2024, and Wild Spirituality, the following year.

John Bear Mitchell

John Bear Mitchell is a citizen of the Penobscot Nation from Indian Island in Maine. He presently serves as the University of Maine System Office Native American Waiver and Educational Program Coordinator, University of Maine’s Wabanaki Center Outreach and Student Development Coordinator, as well as, a Lecturer of Wabanaki Studies and Multicultural Studies at the University of Maine in Orono. He has served on numerous museum and educational boards throughout the state with missions based on Maine’s Wabanaki people. For 15 years John visited schools in Maine as a Maine Touring Artist delivering an Arts in Education program. During that time, he visited over 150 schools. While working his way through college, he toured with the Native American Storytellers of New England. He presented a traditional and contemporary program in Native American Stories and Song. His singing and storytelling can be heard in many Maine PBS, tribal-sponsored awareness videos, independent film, HBO Lionsgate TV, and many documentaries with topics on Maine’s Native People.

Meet our Convocation 2023 Musician

Rev. Liz Fulmer

Rev. Liz Fulmer (she/her) is a queer pastor and musical storyteller serving Grandview Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Trained as a songwriter and vocal principle at Berklee College of Music and spiritually formed through the care and teaching of Lancaster Theological Seminary, Fulmer is passionate about facilitating divine encounter through the blending of breath, music, word, and community. A multi-instrumentalist, she has 3 albums of original music: Heaven Knows (2016), Ellipsis (2018), and The Bible Tells Me So (2023). Liz has been a guest lecturer at Millersville University and Lancaster Theological Seminary, teaching on the craft of songwriting and how to effectively combine music and visuals to create accessible and meaningful worship experiences. She was ordained in 2020 by the Movement of Inclusive Methodists. Liz feels called to the work of sacred space-making, particularly for those who have been made to feel unworthy or unacceptable in the eyes of the Christian Church for any reason. 

View our Creative / Contemplative Immersion Sessions


The BTS Center has arranged for a limited number of rooms under a special discounted rate of $189 plus tax on the nights of September 27 & 28, 2023 at the Hampton Inn Augusta, just 10 minutes from Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center. Please book your room directly with the hotel by the cut-off date of August 16, 2023. Note: only a limited number of rooms are available, so if you wish to reserve a room at this rate, please book as early as possible, using one of these options:

    • By telephone: Call Hampton Inn Augusta at 207-622-4077 and request the BTS Center Group Block Rate for the dates you wish to stay, and the reservation agents will be happy to assist.

Alternatively, other nearby options for accommodation include Maine Evergreen HotelSenator Inn & Spa and Homewood Suites. You can find a full list of area hotels on Google here. Please contact these hotels directly for their current prices.

Pilgrim Lodge:
Pilgrim Lodge is the summer camp facility of the Maine Conference United Church of Christ. Located on Lake Cobbosseecontee, just 6.5 miles from Maple Hill Farm, the camp has basic cabins with bunk beds, cots, electricity and hot running water. You are invited to stay at Pilgrim Lodge on Thursday, September 28 at a rate of $45 for the night. Register here (select “BTS Convocation Overnight” as the session) or call 207-724-3200 to reserve by phone.