The Crux

The Crux

/krəks, kro͝ooks/ noun 
1. the decisive or most important point at issue; 
2. a critical moment or turning point; 
3. the most difficult section of a hiking route or where the greatest danger exists

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, 
what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”
– Terry Tempest Williams


  • Cultural change and shifting expectations impact how faith communities meet spiritual needs
  • Communities of faith face the need to adapt to changing realities
  • Increased reliance on lay-leaders and part-time ministers requires reimagining the roles and responsibilities of each
  • Communities of faith face key decision points affecting their ongoing impact
  • Communities of faith are disconnected from each other and from shared resources
  • Anxiety and concern about the future of congregational life is high


The Crux is a program for progressive faith communities facing significant changes in embodying their missions. It is designed to unleash creativity and prepare communities to wisely discern next best steps as they approach the decision points, the most difficult stretches of the trails they are on. The Crux program is open to teams of three leaders from five communities (ideally one clergy and two lay leaders). The Crux includes two three-day wilderness expeditions (in Maine for the first cohort) and two online learning modules spread over three months. Wilderness is experienced and explored as a source of wisdom pertinent to the questions that arise when facing unfamiliar terrain. The wisdom of biblical narratives and practices of silence, action-reflection, and deep listening equip leaders to guide their communities through change. A spirit of solidarity and the sharing of capacities in the cohort experience magnify the impact in each individual community.

“Transition and change are things that naturally provoke resistance and anxiety in our human hearts. Fortunately, we are not alone in navigating the complexities of transformation. Progressive communities of faith are meant to be safe places where, in being vulnerable with our fears, we are encouraged to become intrepid, able to respond to change with courage, composure, and creativity.”
—Aram Mitchell, Executive Director of Renewal in the Wilderness

2018 Program Calendar:

  • August 9 (Online; 7:00-900 p.m.) Orientation
  • August 24-26 (in-person) First Expedition – Approaching the Crux
  • September (Online) Module – Retrieving Wisdom
  • October (Online) Module – Renewing Spiritual Imaginations
  • November 16-18 (in-person) Final Expedition – Plotting the Course

Proposed 2019 Program Calendar:

Spring Cohort Fall Cohort
May 3-5 First Expedition August 23-25 First Expedition
(Online modules to be scheduled)  (Online modules to be scheduled)
August 2-4 Second Expedition  November 8-10 Second Expedition

Expedition Details:

The two expeditions will be people-powered immersions in nature. We want these off-the-grid experiences to be as accessible as possible, and we choose locations and activities accordingly (e.g. the 2018 Expeditions will be at Maine Huts and Trails). We will eat delicious meals, hike at a gentle pace on well-maintained trails, and sleep on cushioned bunks in rustic huts. We encourage all participants to be mindful of their abilities as each will be responsible to carry personal gear and clothing on the trail. That said, backpacking experience is not required, and we can make accommodations. You will be accompanied by an experienced Registered Maine Guide who is trained as a Wilderness First Responder. Your guide will carry a group first aid kit and satellite communications device for emergency use.

Program Price:

The Crux program price includes in-person and online program facilitation, meals for in person gatherings, and overnight lodging during the Expedition elements. Participants will be responsible for their own transportation to in-person gatherings. Phone or email Aram Mitchell or Pam Shellberg (contact information below) for more details about pricing and available discounts.

Program Partners:


Renewal in the Wilderness is a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Maine, working to connect organizations with wilderness as a resource that positively affects their capacity to make the world a better place.


The BTS Center is a think tank that catalyzes spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership. Through thought leadership and vocational development initiatives, The BTS Center equips and supports theologically grounded, effective leadership in 21st-century communities of faith and practice.


The Maine Conference United Church of Christ is a collection of 153 congregations of 16,000 people committed to moving forward together with Good News that can comfort our souls, prick our conscience, and provoke deep spiritual reflection.


For more information about program content, program pricing, expectations of online activity, physical requirements for the “wilderness expeditions,” or for other questions, contact: 

Aram Mitchell, Executive Director, Renewal in the Wilderness; 207-200-3494

Dr. Pamela Shellberg, Scholar in Residence, The BTS Center; 207-774-5212