All posts by cariejo1963

Love: Don’t let me go!

Love: Don’t let me go!

My son is in prison. Held in an 8×8 cell. A container perpetuating trauma and dehumanization. A container interrupting his alcohol us, his drug use, his access to a needle, a spoon, and the possibility of an overdose. A container. I know where he is. I know he is not using. I know he is alive. A container, nonetheless. For that I am grateful and for that I am sad.  

My son is in prison. Held in an 8×8 cell. Life interrupted. Family interrupted. Parenting interrupted. Plumber at work interrupted. Sure, there was a crime. There is also an illness, a health issue for sure. Society says, punishment. I say, compassionate care. Society says, he must pay. I say, restorative justice. He says, “This may be the thing that saves my life Mom.”  For that I am confused and for that I am angry. 

My son is in prison. Held in an 8×8 cell. Prison gates, bullet proof vests, stun guns, loaded guns, locked doors, buzzers, steel, steel and more steel, and plexiglass barriers greeting each visit.  Safety, they say! Cold, hard defenses necessary to subdue the criminal, they say! Stoic, curt guards, holding power, heroes protecting society, they say! The crime: adverse childhood experiences. The crime: substance use disorder. The crime: a hardened society incarcerating the ‘junkie’. The crime: a privileged society casting out the wounded. The crime: a justice system exploding for profit. The crime: a people locking their doors and their hearts and their soul. Protecting themselves, they say! For that I am angry and for that I rise up. 

My son is in prison. Held in an 8×8 cell. The visit: one hour. A container for the heartbreaking beauty of love. We speak with our eyes. I imagine the hug. We speak of regrets. We speak of the love that will not let us go. We remember the years shared. The years to come. We tell the stories. We laugh. We cry. I imagine the hug. His head tucked neatly on my shoulder. My arms wrapped around his pain, his tears, his sorrow, his despair. His reflection on bad choices. His life on overwhelm. We speak of the fear. He worries of release. He’s apprehensive of the pressures of life. We speak of the hardship. Parenting from behind bars. We speak of dreams and getting a second chance. We love with our eyes. I imagine the hug. His head on my shoulder. My arms around his tears. For that I am hopeful and for that I am heartbroken. 

Rev. Carie Johnsen is minister at Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Augusta, ME. Speaking as a mother and serving as co-chair of the Public Policy Committee for the Maine Council of Churches, Rev. Carie works to influence drug policy and criminal justice reform in Maine

Look Around This Room…

Look around this room

these are your people.

These are your people,

in a long hard work of 

confronting systemic evils, and

creating more just equitable world community. 

These are your partners,

in the walk with mother earth.

in the work of sustaining creator.

Go in peace, take with you wisdom;

   wisdom to see clearly.

Go in peace, take with you strength; 

   strength to demand justice.

Go in peace, take with you courage; 

   courage to climb that mountaintop.

Go in peace, Take with you 

  love that is fierce and bold and revolutionary. 

May you know your journey, your life and this call to turn this world around is both sacred and blessed.

So maybe if be, Amen.

Unpacking for Wales

I arrived in New Quay on Thursday and I have not yet posted a picture of the place  where I am taking up residence for the next three weeks. I am still sorting through the worthiness of such a divine grace landing at my feet.

Views of New Quay from my bedroom

Last fall I sent an email to colleagues in Wales inquiring about a ministerial exchange. Any colleague could have answered.  I could have ended up in any corner of Wales.  Clearly I would have been delighted wherever I landed. The divine muse in my life, however, brought me to New Quay Wales where the sea views from my bedroom are absolutely extraordinary,  the beach is at my doorstep, and the coastal walking path goes right by the house. This place is no less than a spiritual paradise for a minister who is restored by the shore and at home in Wales.

Beach views of New Quay

So what then to do I do with this nagging voice that keeps me from fully enjoying the bounty of this experience. I’m sure it is no coincidence that this gift arrives at just the exact moment I decide to attend to the internalized messages telling me I’m not enough! Grace is funny like that… never a lost opportunity.

Problem is I don’t listen and learn very well through the haze of overworking and the noise of the high expectations I’ve set for myself.

If only I’d listen to:

  • my colleague who said just go and be in the moment. Even after mentally unpacking unnecessary work (including zoom sessions with my therapist), my bag was still too full.
  • my friend who spoke of her recent trip to Brussels and the readings people chose to bring. We laughed at my plan to bring serious reading to Wales. Even after I unpacked “Dope Sick” and “Healing the Heart of Democracy” from my briefcase, my bags were still too full.
  • my parishioner, who is also a retired colleague, responded to my email organizing pastoral care while in Wales by saying, “My prayer is that you’ll finally stop worrying about us and go have some good fun in Wales!!! (yes, three exclamation points) Even then I wrote a pastoral prayer for the congregation for Sunday morning. Chaos is unfolding in our nation and people are hurting. Clearly, my heart is full and can you really unpack that?
  • the parishioner at Brondeifi Chapel who doesn’t want to overwhelm me during my stay gave me a few days to settle in. As such I spend my time thinking I should be doing more. Unpacking my agenda is definitely a blessing that is hard to receive.

Clearly, I need to relax, enjoy the beauty of this moment, take in as many beach walks as possible, hike the coastal path, climb a mountain or two, and find peace with a slower pace of life where expectations are reasonable. Maybe then I will internalize the feeling that I am enough! and I deserve all that is being offered.

New Quay from the mountaintop

I’ve come to Wales on this ministerial exchange to listen, witness, learn and adopt new ways and ideas for ministry that matter. Turning back to the simplicity of being in a relationship and being present to a community rather than maintaining an institution is what my ministry longs for. I’ve come home to Wales because I’ve experienced the simplicity and beauty of Welsh Unitarian communities and know they offer what my heart craves.

The divine has showered me with gifts. How shall I be open to simply receiving all that has laid at my feet? How might I hold a feeling of simply being enough?  Being present to life, to love, to g-d?

May this place restore my soul and strengthen my call to love courageously in an aching and joyful universe.

Questions to walk with

  1. When does the I‘m not enough voice surface for you?
  2. What graces in your life are hard to receive?
  3. When do you feel unworthy of all that is good?



Our Nation and Our People are Hurting

...a candle for all who are sitting at the edge of their chairs this week with anger, with tears, with fear, with trauma long buried resurfacing or circling around anew.

Let us pause to breathe together

Our nation, our people, our love for each other is hurting, hearts are breaking, AND we are rising strong, resilient, and courageous to comfort the wounded, empower the survivors, and build up a people who will bring down the chains of oppression, the power of patriarchy, and the sins of white supremacy.

Tonight, I light this candle for each of you. May your unique expressions of love and anger, compassion and disdain be the balm that saves the people one interaction at a time.

We will rise!
We will rise together!
We will rise!

Radical Resistance

Llwynrhydowain was the mother church of Unitarianism in Wales and the centre from which grew a remarkable group of  Unitarian chapels (14 in all) in Dyffryn Tywi and Dyffryn Aeron, Ceredigion, an area that later became known as Y Smotyn Du (‘The Black Spot) to some hostile nonconformists. The first chapel was founded by Jenkin Jones, an Independent minister, after he became dissatisfied with the orthodox Calvinism of his co-pastor at Pantycreuddyn. Jenkins adopted Arminian views and built the first chapel in 1733. Apparently, the chapel was enlarged in 1754. It was rebuilt entirely in 1834. Forty two years later, in 1876, the congregation was evicted for failing to vote in accordance with the landlord’s wishes in the 1868 election. The then minister, William Thomas (Gwilym Marles) – grave in front of chapel – held services in the open air until a new wooden chapel (Ty Cwrdd) was built at Castell Hywel, followed later by a stone chapel on the Pontsian road.

[WELSH RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS TRUST Report to Buildings Sub-committee, 15th September, 2005 HEN GAPEL LLWYNRHYDOWAIN, Rhydowen, Llandysul. References: G & J Hague, The Unitarian Heritage (1986); D R Barnes, People of Seion (1995)].

Opening Prayer – Maine Senate

Prayer for the Opening of the Maine Senate
by Rev. Carie Johnsen
Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 10:00 a.m.

God of Grace, God of Wisdom and Creativity, God of love divine.
As we open today’s session of the House, we invite the spirit of justice, liberty and freedom to gather and mingle in the chambers with us. We invite the spirit of truth, love and compassion to be their companion in the day ahead.

In the quiet of this morning, in the still of this day, let us remember the people of Maine who have elected the officials who gather now to begin their work on behalf of the people. Let us remember the people of Maine who seek to live with dignity and hope for a bright tomorrow. Let us remember those who are vulnerable and afraid, suffering and at risk, disenfranchised and marginalized.
The work ahead of this legislative body is no easy task. It is demanding and relentless. It is at times powerful and rewarding; yet is has the potential of being harsh and ruthless. We pray that it may never be heartless.

God of Grace when the day is long and hard, and when we find ourselves in the middle of dialogue unforgiving, may we pause and look into each other’s eyes and remember we are all in this together.

God of Diversity remind us to listen deeply and compassionately to the constituents and the leaders who bring divergent and conflicting ideas to the table.

We pray that our words be kind rather than divisive. We pray our words bring forth solutions rather than barriers. May we be reminded our religious, social, political, and ethnic diversity is a precious and fragile gift to be treasured and celebrated.

God of Creativity open our hearts as we work together in the direction of a sustainable tomorrow. Open our minds to the collective wisdom of our colleagues, our constituents, our state, our country, the global community and our universe.

God of Wisdom remind us No one person or group of people can comprehend the full reality of any situation. May we be reminded not to discard our convictions but rather to hold them lightly as if they were resting in the palm of our own hands. In this way, we invite the others to take them from us to refine them, strengthen them or perhaps replace them.

God of Courage and reason, give us strength. Grant us the audacity to stand forever vigilant to the values of justice, integrity, and equality. May we be bold and brave in our attempt to render legislation that is reasonable, fair and just.

God of Humility remind us to laugh at our foibles and be kind to our fellow travelers. May we be reminded we are one among many in a vast interdependent web of existence that is never ending and always unfolding.

And finally, God of Wisdom remind us to bow toward the greater mystery that something more powerful than ourselves exists in the universe.

God of Justice. God of Glory. God of Wisdom and Creativity, we bow to you as we enter this auspicious day. So may it be, amen.

Gun Control Press Conference in wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

Hello, my name is Rev. Carie Johnsen. I speak here today on behalf of Maine Council of Churches. Each of the Council’s eight member-denominations has taken a clear stand in efforts to end gun violence. I am a Unitarian Universalist Minister serving a congregation here in Augusta.

On February 15th, as congregations here in Maine gathered to mark the beginning of Lent with the sign of ashes—ashes that remind us of our mortality and of our need for repentance—students, teachers, administrators, families and first responders in Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida, suffered a horrific and unthinkable tragedy: a young man armed with a semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines of ammunition entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire, killing seventeen, wounding fourteen, and profoundly traumatizing the community.

We grieve with those who suffered injury and lost loved ones; we pray for continued healing, peace and comfort for all those affected. While our Ash Wednesday reminder of mortality was merely symbolic, theirs was all too real.

In light of all shootings, we at the Maine Council of Churches call all people of faith and good will to repent from our participation in a culture that fails to take the necessary steps to end gun violence, and we call for a renewed commitment to work for sensible solutions to a problem that has plagued our nation for far too long.

We grieve with a nation. We pray for the suffering. And our faith call us, no requires us, to take action. We call upon all elected State and Federal officials to enact common-sense measures to reduce gun violence beginning with LD 1761 An Act Regarding the Prohibition on the Possession of a Firearm on School Property. The Maine Council of Churches joins with the Maine Principles Association, Maine School Boards Association, and Maine School superintendents Association in opposition of LD 1761. We urge people of faith and no faith to join us in this call to action to keep our children safe.

LD 912 – An Act to Clarify the Scope of Practice of Certain Licensed Professionals Regarding Conversion Therapy.

Senator Volk, Representative Fecteau and members of the Committee on Labor, Research and Economic Development
My name is Carie Johnson. I am the ministe
r at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta. I have served on the board of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination. We are here today to speak on behalf of Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network.

Unitarian Universalism is a welcoming faith tradition, with a call to continually put our beliefs into action. We promote social justice, equity and compassion through words and actions. It is with that as a foundation that I am here today to ask for your support of LD 912 – An Act to Clarify the Scope of Practice of Certain Licensed Professionals Regarding Conversion Therapy. These dangerous and discredited practices that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity must be prohibited by Maine’s state-licensed mental health providers.

So-called “conversion therapy” is ineffective. Sadly, some religious groups who consider being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender a sin have promoted this idea of “reparative therapy.” Through these harmful practices, LGBT people may be wrongly led to believe they are unacceptable to God, their families, and their community. Our theology teaches otherwise.

Unitarian Universalism’s First Principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the Second is justice, equity and compassion in human relations. We teach that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are created in the image of God, as are all people, and therefore do not need to be repaired or changed in sexual orientation or gender identity. Our Principles call me as a Unitarian Universalist minister to condemn the dehumanizing practices of so-called conversion therapy and to urge you to ban these practices in Maine.

As a faith leader I often find myself counseling people, young and old, straight and gay who are trying to find their way in the world. Nothing in this proposed legislation would stop that. I tell people to explore their own sense of self and ask what is true for them and talk about the things that confuse them or spark their wonderful sense of curiosity. I build relationships with people who have different sexual orientations and gender identities by being respectful and helping them to experience all the joys of this world. As a spiritual leader I invite all people to cross-divides of difference and take risks by authentically choosing to get to know one another.

Just this month a panel of eight gender diverse youth with various sexual orientations presented their stories of coming out to a community of supportive and affirming members, friends, and family. In bearing witness to their experiences we celebrated their dignity, worth, and value. These courageous young adults are leaders in strengthening and advancing messages of love and acceptance, affirmation and celebration of all God’s children. They open the doors for their peers and adults to live authentically and to find their way out of depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior including suicide.

I urge you to join these young leaders in the work to protect the inherent worth and dignity of every Maine child and youth; to promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations; and to prevent dangerous harm by prohibiting licensed professionals from engaging in so-called “conversion therapy” in Maine. Thank you.

We stand with immigrants.

Press Conference Augusta State House
June 7, 2017

Good morning. My name is Reverend Carie Johnsen. I serve the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta. I am here to speak on behalf of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network. We are a statewide advocacy and public policy network anchored in Unitarian Universalist values and principles. We stand with immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We oppose any and all unjust government actions to arrest, detain, and deport people who are undocumented immigrants.

This past year, across this great nation Unitarian Universalists and the congregations they gather in, signed Declarations of Conscience… [As people of faith] we affirmed our profound commitment to the fundamental principles of justice, equity and compassion, to truth and core values of American society. As people of conscience we declared our commitment to stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us.[1]

Today I stand with people of all faiths and no faith to celebrate the diversity of humanity with a call to love boldly, act justly, and faithfully resist racism, fear and exclusion.

As people of faith and conscience, we will always welcome the stranger. We will always shelter the refugee. We will always offer a safe home. We will not remain silent when the most vulnerable among us are being turned away. We will not remain silent as families are torn apart, children terrified, and parents detained. We will not turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends who are suffering and being persecuted.

As people of faith and conscience we are called to love beyond borders. We are called to open our hearts. We are called to open our doors. We are called to welcome God’s people, all of God’s people, regardless. We are called to radical hospitality, period.

We are called to live as Jesus lived, profoundly committed to justice, equity and compassion, to truth and to love in all relations, with all people, in all times, in all ways.

May we the people live this call.
May our daily actions reflect this call.
May our public policies affirm this call.
May our great nation celebrate this call.
So may it be, may it be so!

[1] UUA Declaration of Conscience

LD 914 – An Act To Establish Indigenous People’s Day

LD 914 Committee on Local and State Government
March 22, 2017

Hello my name is Rev. Carie Johnsen. I am a Unitarian Universalist Minister. I am co-convener of the Decolonizing Faith project at Maine Wabanacki REACH. I am here today to urge you to vote ought to pass on LD 914 An Act to Establish Indigenous People’s Day.

Two years ago the Capital Area Multi-faith Association led a Thanksgiving Interfaith Service titled “Turning Toward Truth: Forging a New Story of Thanksgiving.” In this service we sought to dismantle the distorted history and American mythology of Christopher Columbus by speaking truth to the conquest, terrorization and genocide of the indigenous people. We spoke truth to the role of the church by naming the devastating impact the 16th Century Papel Bulls known as the Doctrine of Discovery had and continue to have on rights of indigenous people and tribal sovereignty.

I ask you to take the same steps in turning toward truth by speaking honestly about our shared national history. With an end of Columbus Day, we acknowledge the attempted conquest of a people and their land. With the end of Columbus Day,we are saying NO to the glorification of the American story of Racism, domination, colonization, and genocide.

I enthusiastically support the establishment of Indigenous People’s Day and urge you to vote ought to pass. The establishment of Indigenous People’s Day commemorates the history and present day story of indigenous people, their resistance and their resilience. It is one small step in turning toward right relationship and repairing the harm. It is an opportunity to turn the corner and begin to build bridgers between the St
Ate of Maine and Wabanaki Nations.

Establishing Indigenous People’s Day is the moral imperative of our time. It is simply the right thing to do.