S01E02: Karen Johnston and Getting Below It


Tony Campolo writes, “A ritual takes what happened a long time ago and drags it into the present so you can experience it here and now. Rituals keep us from forgetting what must not be forgotten and keep us rooted in a past from which we must not be disconnected.”

In this episode, my friend Karen Johnston and I talk about creating ritual, music that moves us, and fire.


Links (refered to in the episode):

article about the Lost Souls Project

Song – Let the Life I Lead



Karen G. Johnston is the 7th settled minister at The Unitarian Society, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation in East Brunswick, New Jersey.  A second-career minister, she was ordained in June, 2016 by her then-home congregation, The Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence and her internship congregation, First Parish Church of Groton.  She earned her Master of Divinity degree through a Cooperative program, starting first at Hartford Seminary and finishing up at Andover Newton Theological School. 

Before becoming a professional minister, Karen was a lay leader in her home congregation.  Professionally, she spent over twenty years in the field of clinical social work, having graduated from Smith College School for Social Work in 1995.  Her focus was home visiting, families with children birth to three, and the prevention of child abuse using strengths-based and trauma-informed approaches.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Women Studies from Hamilton College – a very formative experience of opposition and resistance, with echoes of today’s need for engaging the patriarchy around normalized and hidden sexual abuse, as well as how to de-center whiteness and build multi-racial/multi-ethnic partnership, especially among women.

Karen is the adoptive mother of two humans who are now young adults, whom she met for the first time when they were two days past two and just shy of four years old.  She identifies as bisexual, white, able-bodied, cisgender female.  She’s currently married to a man about whom she is not ambivalent, though the legal marriage thing is still something that causes confusion.  She lives a life more financially solid than how she was raised and what she thinks will happen for her children.  Because she believes we have passed the tipping point when it comes to climate chaos, and is deeply troubled by the rise of fascism, she wonders how it might be possible to learn some of the skills of survivalists but to infuse and saturate them with Unitarian Universalist values to create “islands of sanity.”

 Before becoming a minister, Karen spent time as part of a grassroots poetry group in her hometown and sometimes dabbled in performance poetry.  She’s looking forward to taking her first improv class this January.