My name is Karen G. Johnston.  I am a Unitarian Universalist minister.  The heart of my theology and ministry can be summed up in two wide concepts: AWAKE and WITNESS.

AWAKE: to grow our spiritual capacities in this world, we are asked over and over again to be awake; to turn towards, rather than away from, heartache,  suffering, oppression, injustice, the climate crisis.  We are called to open our eyes with curiosity, our hearts with compassion, and our conscience on the side of those who have been marginalized. 

WITNESS: ours is not to passively watch, but to actively witness. Get proximate. Engage, not to observe from a comfortable distance.  This is to live into our place in the interdependent web of all existence and our tasks reflecting the Universe which is its participatory nature.

I spent the first half of my formal studies at Hartford Seminary.  I completed my degree at Andover Newton Theological School in December, 2015.

Before heeding the call to professional ministry, I was a licensed clinical social worker, working mostly with families with infants and toddlers.

I come from generations of farmers though I didn’t grow up that way.  I spent most of my years on the West Coast, mostly in Oregon but a bit in Southern California. I lived in Western Massachusetts for twenty years-plus (and inbetween, there was Boston and Washington, DC). I have served congregations in Cummington, MA; Groton, MA; and East Brunswick, NJ. I currently live in the Burlington, Vermont area and serve as Senior Minister of First Unitarian Universalist Society here.

There’s alot of interfaith happening in my family — Buddhist partner, Jewish brother, lots of family members who are decent people and don’t do religion at all.


My kids are young adults, I was born in the late 60s, and I’ve lived in parts of the world (East Africa, Sweden, West Germany) and traveled to others (Cuba, Leningrad, throughout Western Europe, and to Myanmar to study Buddhist-Christian relations).

I am of the firm opinion that the Pacific Ocean has far more soul than the Atlantic and that Lake Champlain has special messages for me (for us?) that I am in the process of discerning.  I have a Buddhist meditation (Insight/Vipassana) practice that at the heart is focused on befriending death, a deep desire to love my neighbor while showing up on the side of love, and a hard-wired appreciation of 80s music, regardless of quality.  I have been a poet and still am sometimes, though much of that energy that once went into poems ends up in prayers or sermons.

This blog used to have the title of “Irrevspeckay” — not easy to remember and from an earlier time. It was based on  my friends lovingly calling me, “Rev,” before I actually was one, so we ended up with the title of “Irrev” mixed with one of my nicknames — Irrev Special K or irrevspeckay.  They now call me KRev.

9 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi, Karen. I am impressed by your writing, and I would like to be able to follow your blog by e-mail, but that feature does not seem to be enabled.

  2. …or, perhaps I need more coffee 😉 I’ve figured out how to get the email subscription. Cheers!

  3. Hi, Karen Johnston! The Hamilton College alumni magazine would like me to write a short profile on you and your recent 17-day journey in the South for the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project. Please contact me!

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