“We try to love beyond the varieties of belief in our congregation,” says Pastor Beth Johnson.
1600 Buena Vista Drive, Vista
Contact: 1600 Buena Vista Drive, Vista, 760-941-4319; http://www.vistau...">vistauu.org
Pastor: Beth Johnson
Born: Chicago, Ill.
Formation: Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA
Years Ordained: 10
San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?
PJ: That our interconnectedness leads us to oneness. What grounds me and informs almost all of what I do is an understanding of our interconnectedness with each other, the earth and all beings, and the love that comes out of that. From that also comes how we take care of each other within the congregation, how we care for the wider world, and how we care for the earth.
SDR: Why Unitarian Universalist?
PJ: Our theological diversity and ability to hold multiple perspectives attracted me, as well as our ability to create a community that is covenant-based instead of based on a creed and because of our absolute commitment to social justice.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PJ: We like to say that we love beyond belief. What we mean is that we try to love beyond the varieties of belief in our congregation. Our mission statement is that we nurture minds, bodies, and spirits; foster peace, justice, and compassion; care for the earth and the life it sustains; and build the beloved community.
SDR: What is the greatest strength of your church in carrying out its mission?
PJ: They have warmth and commitment and are a very caring and warm group, opening and affirming. They embody radical hospitality. We have a value statement as a congregation that says who we are and a covenant that says how we want to be together. That includes an agreement to practice radical hospitality, mindful communication, and active stewardship. Those are things that really ground what we do.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PJ: I don’t think we can know that. But we all speculate. I have people in my congregation who have ideas that work for them. People come together in religious communities and ask those types of questions. More relevant to me and my community is not the question “Where do you go when you die?” but “What do you do while you’re here?” and “How do you live and how do you love?” At the same time, it’s not like I haven’t thought about that question. I think consciousness continues for a short time after you die but I don’t have a way to know that. I believe that we live as long as we’re remembered and through the influence we have on others and in the world. That’s called objective immortality — so that whatever happens after death, what matters is how we live and how we love.
SDR: What about those who are unjust on Earth today — what happens to them?
PJ: I’m sure people have those sorts of questions and wrestle with them. Historically, Universalists understood that a good God would not damn God’s people to hell. That’s part of where we come from. The people in my congregation will lift up the benevolence and love of God. What I would say is that people who do harm to others are already living in hell. They’re disconnected from the source of love and are already probably pretty tormented and tortured.