The Rev. Kristine A. Johnson, Rector, interview 10/15/20: “I guess I see the role of the church as not having changed. If we’re not teaching people to love God and love our neighbor all the time, we’re not going to do it in a pandemic. And if we are doing it in a pandemic, that’s what we need to do when we’re out of the pandemic.”
Karin Forno (KF), interviewer: How about some background on who you are and how you came to be at St Mary’s?
KJ: I’m Kristine Johnson and I have been here a little over a year. My first Sunday was September 29, 2019. I first became aware of St. Mary’s last April when I saw your advertisement for a new Rector. The pictures were amazing and particularly the picture of the Annunciation Window on your parish profile. That’s always been a really special story to me. So I applied for the job and … I really feel like I was called, like it was a true Holy Spirit thing, and I hope that people here feel that way, too. I was delighted to come and try something new. It’s my first time as a rector.
So how has the pandemic affected just your everyday, day to day life?
Day to day it hasn’t had that much of an effect … really the day-to-day difference is that I can’t go visit people to the same extent and I don’t spend nearly as much time in the office. It hasn’t been hugely disrupting any more than moving across the country!
So if you think about the course of the pandemic so far to this day, can you trace an evolution in your feelings or experiences, your thoughts?
I would say it’s cyclical . . . immediately as we were locking down, I was first concerned about my family because I have a daughter in San Luis Obispo and a daughter who was in New York at the time. What was going to happen with their schools . . . it was just very concerning. And I was very concerned about the church. I didn’t want to put anyone at risk. And I knew that it was super important to be there for people, but I felt I didn’t know people well enough to know what was going to be helpful. So there was a period of pretty high anxiety, I guess. It was immediately painful to stop our Lenten programming and to realize that we were not going to be able to spend Easter in the church.
I tried to find a way to pivot that was authentic to who I am and who this community is and to sort of resist all of the pressures to do other things, to do what everybody else was doing or provide the end-all be-all Easter experience.
The internal struggle actually continues to this day, how to keep true to myself and to this community and not worry so much about what other people are doing, because you could always do more. The question is, “what is the best thing we can be doing and how can we do that?”
Read the full interview, with an update from 2023, here.