Convocation 2024

Hope in Small Places:
Becoming People of Refugia Faith

Thursday & Friday, September 26-27, 2024
Begins at 10:00 am on Thursday • Ends at 3:00 pm on Friday

In person at Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center, Hallowell, Maine
+ Online Companions



In-person registration 
Note: In-person registrations will be limited to 100 participants. Plan to register early to reserve your spot! 

Early Early Bird:  $140  •  Register by July 1, 2024
Early Bird:  $190  •  Register by August 1, 2024
Standard registration fee:  $240  •  Register by September 12, 2024

Note: In-person registration includes lunch and dinner on Thursday, coffee and pastries on Friday morning, lunch on Friday, and snacks. If you require lodging, that is additional — lodging options are below.



Online Companions Track
This online offering will include livestreams of the plenary sessions, as well as exclusive online conversations and opportunities to connect with other members of the online community. 

Online Companions Early Early Bird:  $55  •  Register by July 1, 2024

Online Companions Early Bird:  $65  •  Register by August 1, 2024

Online Companions Standard registration fee:  $75  •  Register by September 25, 2024


“I know from the broad sweep of Scriptures, from history, and from my own experience that God is always at work somehow and that God loves to work in small, humble, hidden places. The more I think about it, the more I realize that God loves refugia. The refugia model calls us to look for the seed of life where we are, concentrate on protecting and nurturing a few good things, let what is good and beautiful grow and connect and spread. Trust God’s work.”  
— Debra Rienstra

In a world that prioritizes the big, the fast, the growing, the dominant, what if our best hope resides in the small, the humble, the slow, the local, the faithful — the refugia?  

As the earth’s temperatures warm and sea levels rise — as extreme storms and flooding and changing ecosystems disrupt our lives and cause devastating losses to the places we love — we seek spaces, both physical and spiritual, where we can fortify our resilience and connect with communities of healing and hope. In a climate-changed world, we are drawn toward places where life persists, where hope is nurtured, where courage, gratitude, and wonder are ever-present.

These are the spaces Debra Rienstra celebrates in her book Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth. Drawing upon the biological concept of refugia — little pockets of safety where life persists in times of disaster, and from which new life can emerge — she suggests that this is a moment when people of faith are called to be people of spiritual refugia. “How can we find and nurture these refugia in the earth, our human cultural systems, and our spiritual lives?” she asks. “And how can we apply all our love and creativity to this task as never before?”

Join us for Convocation 2024. Over the course of two days — Thursday and Friday, September 26 and 27 — we will gather to learn and explore, to nurture a sense of community, and to seek respite and renewal. Guided by the wisdom of our sacred texts, nourished by spiritual practice, and committed to paths of honesty and vulnerability, together we will explore what it means to live, love, and lead in a climate-changed world.

Convocation 2024 will include music, poetry, and ritual; plenary sessions and small-group conversation; opportunities to engage with nature; and contemplative practice. We hope you will join us!

Alongside our in-person gathering in Hallowell, Maine, we are offering a robust Online Companions track, featuring a livestream of all plenary sessions and several unique online sessions designed to nurture community and facilitate meaningful engagement with the content of Convocation 2024. From wherever you are located geographically, we warmly welcome you to engage fully in Convocation 2024 through this Online Companions track.

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, 119 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.

Meet Debra Rienstra, Keynote Speaker

Debra Rienstra is professor of English at Calvin University, where she has taught since 1996, specializing in early British literature and creative writing. She is the author of four books — on motherhood, spirituality, worship, and ecotheology / climate change — as well as numerous academic essays, literary essays, and poems. Her most recent book, Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress 2022), combines theology, nature writing, and biological principles to consider how Christians must adapt our faith and practice for a climate-altered planet. Rienstra writes the fortnightly Refugia newsletter and hosts the Refugia Podcast. She also writes fortnightly for The Reformed Journal blog, writing about spirituality, pop culture, the church, the arts, higher ed, and more. 

Meet Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Opening Preacher

Rev. Mariama White-Hammond was born and raised in Boston and began her community engagement in high school when she worked as a Peer Health Educator. She was particularly shaped by her involvement in Project HIP-HOP (Highways Into the Past – History, Organizing, and Power), a youth organization focused on teaching the history of the Civil Rights Movement and engaging a new generation of young people in activism. After college, she became the Executive Director of Project HIP-HOP, where she served for 13 years. In 2017, she graduated with her Master of Divinity at the Boston University School of Theology and was ordained an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 2018, she founded New Roots AME Church in Dorchester, MA.

In April 2021, Rev. Mariama White-Hammond was appointed as Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space, a position she held for three years, overseeing policy and programs on energy, climate change, sustainability, historic preservation, and open space. Over the course of her time with the City, she supported the amendment of the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) to set carbon targets for existing large buildings, and she convened a city-led youth green jobs program.

Rev. White-Hammond has extensive background in embedding equity and environmental justice into Boston’s communities. She has received numerous awards, including the Barr Fellowship, the Celtics Heroes Among Us, The Roxbury Founders Day Award, and the Boston NAACP Image award. She was selected as one of the Grist 50 Fixers for 2019 and Sojourners 11 Women Shaping the Church.

Meet Joshua Long, Convocation Musician

Joshua Long is an award-winning songwriter, producer, worship leader, public theologian, and environmental activist passionate about creating music that moves the soul and inspires change. With almost 20 years in the industry, he has honed his skills in various genres, ranging from Hiphop, Soul, and Pop to Contemporary Christian and Gospel Music. Joshua earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 2008 from the University of the Arts. Since then, he has worked with various artists, played with different bands, released three solo albums, and worked on several singles and EPs for himself and other artists. 

In 2017, Joshua enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary to seek a Master of Divinity degree. In 2019, he moved to a Public Theology specialization and focused his studies on climate change, social justice, and the role of faith. For his capstone thesis project, he produced an entire album of music dedicated to creation justice through worship and sacred songs. In May 2023, Joshua received Wesley’s Public Theology Excellence Award. He is now the Congregational Organizer for Interfaith Power & Light (DC, MD, NoVA). He has also been recognized by Black Millennials 4 Flint as one of their 40 Under 40: Young, Gifted, and Green Award winners. In April of 2024, Joshua released his capstone project as a full-length album titled “We Are Earth.” Joshua wants to use music to bring hope, joy, and inspiration to the environmental movement and mobilize people of faith to take action toward a sustainable and just world.

To hear the new album “We Are Earth” and learn more about Joshua’s ministry, go to

This year, our In-person Convocation will feature a host of incredible leaders for our Creative / Contemplative Immersion sessions. These sessions, offered twice during the two days of Convocation, will allow participants an opportunity to delve deeply into an experiential small group time focused on a particular topic. Descriptions for the sessions will be available later in the summer — in the meantime, we invite you to get to know our session leaders! 


Meet Peterson Toscano, Online Companions Host

After spending 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to “de-gay” himself through conversion therapy, Peterson Toscano came out a quirky queer Quaker concerned with human rights. He asks himself and his audiences unusual questions: Who are the gender outlaws in the Bible? What is a queer response to climate change?  What is the role of comedy when addressing trauma? His film, Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible explores the stories of gender non-conforming Bible characters; his Bible scholarship has been featured in The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America.

Peterson has been featured in People Magazine, The Times of London, the Trya Banks Show, and NPR Morning Edition. In addition to his original performances, Peterson produces multiple podcasts including Citizens Climate RadioBubble&Squeak, and the Bible Bash Podcast. In much of his work, Peterson helps people see climate change from fresh angles while stirring up empathy towards those most affected. Wherever he goes, he brings stories of determination, resiliency, and a cast of comic characters. He lives in Pretoria, South Africa with his husband, Glen Retief.

Learn more at

About the venue

We are intentionally choosing 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.


The BTS Center has arranged for a limited number of rooms under a special discounted rate of $193 plus tax on September 26, 2024 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 25, 2024. 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.
  • Online: Please visit The BTS Center – Hampton Inn Augusta – Online Booking Link, and choose the check-in / check-out date. This link will bring you directly to the BTS Center Group Block Rate on the hotel’s website.

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 26 at a rate of $46 for the night. Register here (select “BTS Convocation Overnight” as the session) or call 207-724-3200 to reserve by phone.