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 designed to bring together teams of three leaders from five communities (ideally one clergy and two lay leaders). However, teams of two, or individual leaders will also benefit from this cohort experience.

The Crux includes three-day wilderness expeditions 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: 

Orientation (video conference): Thursday, October 11 7-9 p.m.

Preparation: mid- October through mid-November
Approaching Wilderness: Exploring the nature of your crux
(online module: readings, journaling, synchronous and asynchronous conversations with the cohort; establishing wilderness practices)

Expedition to Flagstaff Hut (Maine Huts & Trails): November 16-18 
Engaging Wilderness: Exploring the crux as a liminal space

Reorientation: late-November through mid-December
Returning Home: Leading your community with wisdom  
(online module: readings, journaling, synchronous and asynchronous conversations with the cohort; generating concrete next steps for your community)

2019 Program Calendar:

Spring Cohort (New England location) Fall Cohort (Location TBD)
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. 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 and Registration:

The Crux program price includes in-person and online program facilitation, meals for in-person gatherings, and overnight lodging during the Expedition elements for all members of your team. Participants will be responsible for their own transportation to in-person gatherings. 

The fee for the 2018 fall cohort is $500 per person. You can pay online or send us a check, the full payment is due by October 11, 2018. Please click on the below link to register.

  • Fall 2018 Cohort – One three-day wilderness expedition and two online learning modules

The fee for the 2019 cohorts is $850 per individual. You may pay the total fee online by credit card or by check when you register. You may also pay half the fee now and the remainder by check or by phone (for credit card) before the second scheduled online module. We will send you an invoice for the second payment. Please click on the appropriate link below to register.

  • Spring 2019 Cohort – Two three-day wilderness expeditions and two online learning modules
  • Fall 2019 Cohort – Two three-day wilderness expeditions and two online learning modules

To apply for available registration discounts please click here. If approved, we will send you a coupon code that you can use when registering.

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 


The CRUX program is not limited to New England. Please contact us if you are interested in bringing this program to your region or locale.  We will be very happy to talk with you about customizing the program for a group of leaders in your area.

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.