UU Community Church, Augusta, Maine: Interfaith Alliances for Reconciliation and Healing
In 2011, the Wabanaki Tribal Governments and the State of Maine entered an agreement to set up a Maine-Wabanaki State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The Commission heard stories of native children removed from their culture by the State Child Welfare System and forced to assimilate into white culture. Following the report and recommendations of the TRC, Maine-Wabanaki REACH (Reconciliation-Engagement-Advocacy-Change-Healing) was founded. REACH, an organization of Native and non-Native people, works to implement the recommendations of the TRC in a manner that is directed by the Wabanaki people.
Through their minister, Rev. Carie Johnsen, the Community Church of Augusta has become very involved in REACH, and a dozen members of the congregation have received REACH Ally training and attend legislative hearings and workshops on bills relevant to tribal communities and people.
With the support of a 2013 seed grant from the UUA, four youth provided food service for Back-to-Basics Tribal Youth Camp in Houlton, Maine. All parents and youth completed cross-cultural engagement and sensitivity training. The youth group has since become involved in education and justice initiatives, facilitating the discussion that followed a presentation of the film, Penobscot River: Ancestral Territory, Contested River.
The congregation provides space for a variety of meetings and events to facilitate the work of REACH, and has hosted book discussions and films as part of ongoing community education efforts. Rev. Johnsen has been a leader in building relationships across faith lines to do the work of reconcilation, education, and healing. In 2015, the Capital Area Multi-faith Association led a well-attended interfaith service, Turning Toward Truth: Forging a New Understanding of Thanksgiving. This year, Rev. Johnsen and the Co-Director of Maine-Wabanki REACH have begun engaging denominational leaders in Maine in research, study and practice of decolonizing faith.