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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?

 

 

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

This testimony was written by Jane Field, Executive Director of Maine Council of Churches. After some modifications, I delivered the statement in the Maine State House Hall of Flags.

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 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.

Ranked Choice Voting (2017)

PRESS CONFERENCE
Hello my name is Reverend Carie Johnsen. I serve the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta, Maine. I speak to you today as a representative of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network.

We support ranked choice voting.

Ranked Choice Voting

As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” As people of faith we believe working toward a more just, kind and compassionate global community is our mandate.

We believe a flourishing democracy requires robust engagement in the electoral process and the promotion of civility in politics. Extreme rhetoric and mean-spiritedness in politics has left Mainers and Americans deeply divided, making it difficult to recognize shared values, engage in constructive dialogue, find common ground, and advance the common good. Ranked choice voting creates more generous spirit and greater respect for the dignity of our differences. When a candidate is required to win votes across parties, the dialogue is moved from divineness to civil engagement and compromise, from negativity to values and visions, from vitriol to experiences and capabilities. When voters have a broader range of candidates and more choices in the booth, their vote is not wasted. Their voice is amplified.

Ranked choice voting will improve Maine’s political climate, strengthen the electoral process and empower voters. Ranked choice voting is a natural and simple solution to ensure candidates win elections with a majority vote from the people of Maine.

RANKED CHOICE VOTING, LETTER TO THE EDITOR (2017)
Next Tuesday the people of Maine have an unprecedented opportunity to improve Maine politics by voting yes on Question 5. Ranked choice voting will improve Maine’s political climate, strengthen the electoral process and empower voters. Ranked choice voting is a natural and simple solution to ensure candidates win elections with a majority vote from the people of Maine.

As people of faith, the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network supports Questions 5. As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” We believe working toward a more just, kind and compassionate global community is our mandate.

We believe a flourishing democracy requires robust engagement in the electoral process and the promotion of civility in politics. Extreme rhetoric and mean-spiritedness in politics has left Mainers and Americans deeply divided, making it difficult to recognize shared values, engage in constructive dialogue, find common ground, and advance the common good. Ranked choice voting creates more generous spirit and greater respect for the dignity of our differences.
When a candidate is required to engage civilly with people across their deep difference, voter participation increases and issues are at the center of the campaign. When a candidate is required to win votes across parties, the dialogue is moved from divisiveness to civil engagement and compromise, from negativity to values and visions, from vitriol to experiences and capabilities.
When voters have a broader range of candidates and more choices in the booth, their vote is not wasted. Their voice is amplified.
Ranked choice voting is good for politics in Maine. It is good for the people of Maine. It is good for the future of Maine. We encourage the good people of Maine to join us in voting Yes on Question 5.

Public Utilities Commission, December 2015

Public Utilities Commission
Sponsored by: National Resource Council of Maine
December 8, 2015

Press Conference at PUC, Hallowell, Maine

Hello, my name is Rev. Carie Johnsen. I am speaking on behalf of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network. As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote the interconnected web of all existence.

From the forest to the sea to humanity itself, each thread of being is woven into a single fabric of existence. We embrace nature’s beauty and are in awe of its power. We care for our environment so that it may sustain life for generations to come… Creating a sustainable way of life is central to our view of a just and compassionate world. uua.org/environment

As Unitarian Universalists we recognize humanity’s part in creating climate change and the urgency of mitigating its damaging effects. We are committed to acting responsibly to protect the quality of the environment and working to lessen our dependence on fossil fuel by encouraging the use of sustainable, clean energy.

Maine congregations are starting to look more at solar power, for their church buildings and with their members. Solar energy is an important part of our response to the threat of climate change, which people of faith are deeply concerned about. Solar power is also a way for individuals and communities—including congregations—to take direct action to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. With state policy as a partner, there is tremendous opportunity for us to work together for a solar future for Maine.

We are both stewards and consumers of earth’s resources. It is a moral imperative that we act now. I call upon our state leaders to act now to reduce barriers, improve policies and increase access to solar power for the people of Maine, for future generations and for the sustainability of planet Earth as we know it.

“The words ‘Messy’ and ‘Church’ do not usually go together!

When I came across this statement at the beginning of an advert for Messy Church Family Fun Days at a small parish in rural Wales, I was immediately transported back in time to my early days as a Unitarian Universalist.

When I first heard the Rev. Jim Robinson say, “life is messy”, I breathed a sigh of relief. This humble statement offered assuring affirmation that things in life were just as they should be. Like so many others, I was chasing that ever-illusive state of normalcy. After all, the predominate message I had become accustomed to left me believing only my life was complicated. My worldview changed as I adopted this new mantra for life as it is.

With this simple, yet profound wisdom, I answered the call to ministry, whereupon, I quickly learned, not only is life messy, but the work and business of the church is also messy.

All too often people arrive in the pews, halls, and offices of church expecting to find the complicated nature of being human in relationship magically dissolved. We naively assume church must have this aspect of living figured out, so when disputes surface between the ‘righteous’, we observe the unfolding havoc with dismay.

At such times, it is common to hear “I come to church to be uplifted, find peace, and experience God’s grace, I didn’t sign up for this.” Despite thousands of years of dispute and division and denominational splitting, we are utterly disappointed when conflict, tension, triangulation, and splitting arise in the ‘holiest’ of places.

Still, all hope is not lost. Church life is messy and human grace can be experienced in the midst of such turmoil. With healthy church leadership and the willingness of the people to be still and listen, to sit with discomfort and to engage with humility, and lean in curiously, the opportunity for spiritual growth is plentiful.

Indeed, all hope is not lost. God’s grace and human transformation can be found in the work of unpacking conflict, witnessing stories, and discerning resolution. This is the work of church. This is ministry. This is the messy business of walking alongside humanity.

Bound Up With Humanity

Bound up with humanity and united in life,
we gather in the shelter of faith, hope and love.
 
Nestled in the sweet company of
open hearts, curious minds, and generous spirit,
we settle into the beating pulse of transcendent mystery.
 
Called to truth,
guided by the ineffable,
the path opens,
the way is made clear.
the adventurous soul follows;
trust leads us on.
 
Called by life
Gather by faith
may our time together be an aspiration,
an emergence of goodness and light.

Commissioning our Music Ministry

fullsizerenderTo commission is to entrust and confer authority upon a person or group of people to engage in a particular action or to give a specific charge.

Today we gather in this space made sacred by our presence to confer upon our growing music ministry a charge: to fill our hearts and minds and spirits with the healing, uplifting, joyful and transcendent power of music to unify and inspire[1] this (gesture to congregation) our beloved community.

Will {insert name here}, the chair of our music committee, and {insert name here}, the coordinator of our orchestra, please stand. We call upon you to promote, encourage and support the value of music in our faith community through the coordination of music to enrich our lives and deepen our worship experience.

{insert names here}, Do you accept this charge? If so, say I do.

At UUCC we are fortunate to have a fellowship of pianists to share their love of the piano on Sunday morning. {insert names here} will you please stand. We call upon you to bring your love for and joy of your instrument to sacred space on Sunday mornings. We call upon you to celebrate all that is our life, to guide our journey into all things spiritual and to deepen and enliven the human spirit.

{insert name here} do you accept this charge? If so, say we do.

{insert name here}, as the director of the orchestra, we call upon you inspire the instrumentalists among us. We call upon you to bring our hymns alive and conduct with a vision of excellence in orchestral arts. We call upon you to gather up a community of individuals dedicated to their instruments and committed to creating a spiritual symphony to arouse and deepen worship experiences for all.

{insert name here}, Do you accept this charge? If so, say I do.

{insert name here}, as the music director, we call upon you to reveal and celebrate the breadth and wealth of world’s music, which expresses and embodies the values of Unitarian Universalism.[2] We call upon you to keep a commitment to excellence in choral arts as you gather up individual voices and bring alive the holy above us, below us, around us, in us and through us.

{insert name here}, Do you accept this charge? If so, say I do.

To the musicians and vocalists among us, those in the choir, in the orchestra and those in the pews with gifts to share, please rise at this time. Your talents humble us. We graciously receive the generosity in which you share your love of music. We call upon you to love what you do and have fun in your coming together as you share the joy of music with this, (gesture to congregation) your beloved community. We call upon you to strive for excellence in shared ministry as you inspire us with desperate voices in harmony with the divine. Will all who accept this charge give me an alleluia.

While the congregation is blessed with a dazzling assortment of talented musicians who grace our services with their craft, we believe that congregational singing is the musical heart and soul of worship[3] thus we charge you the wider community to join in singing with hearts and minds wide open that together we may lift up a joyful noise in celebration of life, love and all that is holy. Will all who accept this charge give me an alleluia.

[1] “Mission Statement” Music Committee the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair, NJ http://www.uumontclair.org/music/music-committee/

[2] “Our Purposes” Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network. http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/orgs/uua/Old/archive/uu-UUMN.html

[3] First Unitarian Universalist of Nashville. https://www.thefuun.org/music/

Preparing Hearts and Minds (Maine Wabanaki REACH Invocation)

Maine-Wabanaki REACH
First Annual Convening of Allies
July 24, 2016

INVOCATION

Creator of all things, great mystery, ever present, known by so many names but never truly know. We stand before thee. Humble and open seeking a more just and equitable nation.

O’ Creator, of all that was, is, and will be, prepare our hearts and minds and spirits for a day of joy and wonder, heartache and struggle. Breathe life, love and hope into this gathering that we may be fortified for the possibility of what today offers.

O’ Creator, we have arrived here, native and non-native, colonized and colonizer, indigenous and settler, oppressed and privileged.

Each of us, regardless of the identities we carry into this room, arrived with anticipation and an eagerness to speak truth to the actions of our ancestors and to take responsibility for the ways our own lives continue to cause harm.

Each of us, regardless of the identities we carry into the room, arrived ready to answer the call to change the narrative.

We arrived with compassion in our hearts and justice on our mind, ready to engage in acts of decolonization and to be a part of building up Wabanaki sovereignty.

O’ Creator, merciful and kind, forgive us, we who arrive with the audacity to claim this work of reconciliation and healing, as we benefit from the very systems of oppression we seek to dismantle.

May we listen more than we talk. May we quiet the defensive mind, the critical mind, the judging mind that we may hold space for silence: for the light of truth to be heard and the soothing balm of grace to heal.

May we lean in curiously. May our questions make room for learning, spark insight, inspire wisdom, and lead us out of complacency into intentional acts of resistance.

May we find the courage to speak truth to our experiences, shedding tears of awareness, sifting through and struggling with guilt. May we find the courage to be vulnerable, to be real, as we rebuild relationships our of destructive paths of a colonized nation.

In speaking truth to the full realities of our lives, the lives of our ancestors, may we shatter the distorted histories, the purposeful illusions, and the lies shaping our nation and holding the human heart and mind hostage.

May we, the bearers of truth revealed, find the tenacity and humility to face the hard realities with accountability and, when appropriate, apologies. May we turn these hard earned truths into effective action.

In these acts of listening, leaning in curiously, holding silence, and speaking truth, may we build a worthy foundation to stand as allies.

From the fragmented and shattered, from the spoken truth, from the righting of wrongs and the healing of souls, may we learn to walk as allies: aware, humble, and ready to step up, when asked, by the native people: the Penobscot, the Passamaquoddy, the Micmac, The Maliseet and the Abenaqi.

O Creator, may we be powerful allies in the call to restore indigenous culture, identity, spirituality and sovereignty in the land of the Wabanaki people.

O’ Creator of all things, we know this is our work to do, and we know we are part of something much bigger than we can ever fully understand.

Hold us and guide us in this endeavor.
Shine light on what is right and good.

Keep us on a path of humility.

Give us strength and courage

to face the challenges that lie ahead.

O’ Creator of all things, breath life, love and hope into this gathering that we may be fortified for the possibility of what today offers.

So may it be, May it be so

Amen.