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Remembering Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson

By Central East Region of the UUA

Hope Johnson

Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson

It is with overwhelming sadness and shock that the Central East Region acknowledges the sudden death of our colleague and dear friend, Hope Johnson, from a long-term respiratory illness.

Hope joined the Central East Region team in 2015. Her expansive areas of expertise and service defy description: Hope was the primary contact to congregations in Brooklyn and Long Island, she was our go-to person for conflict transformation, she was embedded in our racial justice efforts, and she spent untold hours with our congregants, religious professionals, leaders of color and us supporting our work and helping unravel church life’s stickiest situations. Some of you may have never met Hope, but if you have come in contact with a member of our staff team, you have certainly felt her impact. Hope was very open in sharing her skills, gifts and insights with all of us and each of us have carried a piece of her with us in our ministry in the region.

Hope’s impact is huge and her memory will live with us for a long time. For now, the CER team wants to share some things that we will always remember about knowing and working with Hope.

I will always remember Hope’s joy at working on our stickiest congregational fights. “I love it!” she would tell me. I was always astounded at the depth of her desire to help people communicate with and care for each other. -Megan

Whenever I interacted with Hope, I felt that I was being seen and held in the light of love and compassion. She had the rare pastoral gift of seeing people in their full humanity (warts and all) without malice or judgment while still asking the hard questions. May we all grow to be more like her. -Renée

The things I’ll remember about Hope is her dedication to BIPOC and especially lay leaders of color and youth/young adults of color. She had a way of moving with you on a journey and helping you feel belonging in spaces. She was courageous, gracious and a truth teller. I learned a lot from her as a young adult of color in this faith and feel sorrow of losing a mentor, friend and elder. -Sana

Hope inspired me to be a better person from the moment I met her. Her smile and grace was always in abundance. One of her greatest legacies is the Living Legacy Project, which she started over 10 years ago with her sister Dr. Janice Marie Johnson. I was fortunate enough to attend a pilgrimage to Alabama in March 2019. I will miss our late night games of Words with Friends and our talks about our daughters. I will always keep listening to other points of view because of Hope-something on which she always insisted. -Amy

I will always remember Hope’s smile and her abundant kindness. She would often send me little messages just to check in or to ask about something going on in my life. Seeing a message from Hope pop up always put a smile on my face, too. I truly feel lucky to have known Hope and will forever hold our relationship dear. -Cristina

Hope and I shared a deep love of family. We would often find ourselves in a corner during down time in a retreat, or at a party sharing stories of what our children were currently up to or talking about memories of family events and escapades. She was so proud of her daughter Jova and her nieceLehna and it was clear that family was central to her life. -Beth

One of many things I loved and admired about Hope was her habit of stopping a conversation to say “I don’t know what that means, tell me more. ” She was born in Jamaica and, though she lived in NY for many years, was truly a citizen of the world. She was curious about peculiarly American colloquialisms and would often invite us to dig a little deeper to understand how language included and excluded people in the room. My eyes were opened many times to the ways that language can be a weapon...or a bridge. And she always called me Patricia, my given name, which made me feel very special and seen. -Patricia

I learned so many things from Hope, just being in her orbit was a lesson in sharing wonder and gratitude. I remember the sparkle in her eyes when she was excited or discovering something new. I will forever be grateful for her encouragement and the confidence she expressed in me and her expectation that I do the same for others. -Shannon

You may have a story to share about Hope as well. If so, please email audio recordings, written thoughts or videos to HopeStories2020@outlook.com. Hope’s sister, daughter and family are looking forward to seeing all the memories at a future time.

Connected with you in this great sorrow,
The Central East Team