Photo by: Amelia Schlossberg

At a special Congregational Meeting held on Sunday, May 7, 2023, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont voted to call the Rev. Karen G. Johnston as their next Senior Minister!  Rev. Karen accepted our call, signed her contract, and will join us as our new Senior Minister on August 1, 2023.  A huge thank you to the Ministerial Search Team for all their hard work.



Warning – Special Congregational Meeting on Sunday, May 7th at 11:30 a.m.  Please click here for the full warning with instructions on how you can attend and/or vote in person or on Zoom.

Candidating Week
Sunday, April 30th through Sunday, May 7th

The point of “Candidating Week”, April 30th – May 7th, is to make sure we have a well-informed electorate (you) when we vote after the service on May 7th whether to call Reverend Karen G. Johnston as our settled minister.

To that end, your Search Team has been planning meetings with Rev. Karen, with different themes, to include as many people with as many different interests as possible.

View the tentative schedule here. There’s still work to do, so it’s not quite complete – more to come. Make sure to check back.

We hope to have all the meetings be both in-person and on Zoom.

Questions? Clarifications? Reach out to the search team at [email protected].

Click here to see the Candidating Week Schedule!


Rev. Karen G. Johnston – Our Candidate for Settled Ministry!

The First UU Society of Burlington, Vermont is thrilled to announce the Rev. Karen G. Johnston as our candidate for settled ministry!

In the summer of 2018, Rev. Karen came to Burlington and reached her award-winning sermon about FUUSB’s own Rev. Joshua Young. In addition to winning the 2016 Unitarian Universalist History convocation prize for that sermon, in 2019 Rev. Karen won the Dana Greeley Prize for a sermon on the crisis on the Southern border. Ordained in 2016, Rev. Karen served two congregations in Massachusetts and has been the Settled Minister at the Unitarian Society in East Brunswick, New Jersey for the past seven years.


In New Jersey, Rev. Karen was co-founder of a multi-racial, Black-centered, grassroots effort to accountably recognize a previously-whitewashed aspect of local slavery history called the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project. In addition, she is the author of a relatively new and justice-affirming curriculum for exploring mortality in a community called Date with Death Club, which more than a dozen UU congregations have provided as part of their Adult RE, along with some public libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Rev. Karen has a nearly two-decade-long meditation practice and considers herself a UU-Buddhist, swimming in the Insight/Vipassana stream of Buddhism.


Rev. Karen was a foster parent and is the adoptive mother of two now-young-adult children, Mariah and River, whom she raised in a queer-affirming family constellation in Florence, Massachusetts. She is stepmother to two adult children, and delighted grandmother of three grandchildren, who live in Chicago. Prior to becoming a minister, Rev. Karen spent two decades as a clinical social worker, primarily in the field of home visiting with families of infants and toddlers.


For Candidating week, Rev. Karen will be coming with her husband, Tony Cape whose excitement about this opportunity is equal to hers. They will be leaving their dog, Vera, and cat, Riley, in the care of others while they get to know us and our community. Rev. Karen is thrilled about the synergies that will emerge when we combine our energies and intentions into a shared ministry that she hopes will last many, many years.


More information about Candidating Week coming soon!

Update:  March 30, 2023

Making a choice between our excellent pre-candidates has been hard, so we have spent some time learning about ways to reach a consensus while respecting each person’s views.  Last week, I mentioned contemplative dialog, which invites each person to share their views honestly and openly, trusting that different opinions will be welcomed. Here is a short talk about it by UUA New England Congregational Consultant Erica Baron (who was raised in this congregation).  We have also learned as a group about the difference between “discern” and “decide.” Here is a short article about that. As each of us voiced the considerations that led to our belief that one candidate or another would be the best fit for First UU, our views shifted and came into better focus. So it did feel more like discernment than decision-making.  We hope to know soon which candidate we will present to you. We appreciate everyone’s patience and trust in this search process!

Update:  February 2, 2023

Your Search Team has been busy the last week, planning in-person interviews called “pre-candidate weekends.” The easy part is making hotel and meal reservations and deciding who will drive to the “neutral pulpit” congregations where we will see the “pre-candidates” preach.

More involved is planning the interview process. We have a 3-hour interview session that we must use efficiently, to get to know the pre-candidate and get a picture of how they would fit the needs of this congregation. We have gone back to the notes we took at our listening sessions and the survey results as we prepare the list of questions. And of course they will have questions for us.

With this interview and some unstructured time at meals and in the car to the neutral pulpits, we hope to get a full picture of the candidates.  Of course, we will also continue sharing a full story of our congregation and of Burlington, including a tour of the Meeting House and grounds, and showing them around town.  Email us with your questions at, or look for our blue name-tags at coffee hour.

Update:  January 19, 2023

As of Tuesday noon, we have interviewed six of our candidates. WOW! We want ’em all, but unfortunately, we have to leave some for the other congregations that are in search.

We will do more interviews in the next day or so, and also some preliminary reference checks.

Then we have to narrow the field down to three candidates by next Monday the 23rd – not much time. Since it looks like it will be a hard decision, we have scheduled every moment that all seven of us are available before then to meet for discernment. We will be busy, but good busy.

Update:  January 5, 2023

We are happy to announce that twenty-one UU ministers have expressed interest in First UU Society of Burlington so far! Your Search Team is reading their applications carefully and enjoying their wide variety of experiences, skills, and interests. 

At our meeting Monday night, we discussed our first reactions and how we would move from initial impressions to decisions about whom to interview. Each team member has their own process, and it will take some work to integrate them. As you may imagine, we will be spending quite a lot of time together in the next few weeks.

At this stage, candidates’ names and identities are not public, and therefore we must maintain strict confidentiality. Thank you for understanding and honoring this requirement.


All questions for the Ministerial Search Team can be emailed to:  [email protected].


Ministerial Search Team – Photos & Bios