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Pastor's Corner

Member Spotlight - Caroline C. Kaufmann

Read Minister Lauren Graham's interview of Board Member Caroline

For this Member Spotlight, Lauren Graham interviewed Caroline Kaufmann. There is an introduction from Lauren, then a question and response format after.


by Minister of Media Lauren Graham

Something you will never feel with Caroline C. Kaufmann is bored or unwelcome. Always ready with a thoughtful perspective, a bouquet of flowers, a quippy remark and a heart centered on service, Caroline is an impactful addition to our community. 

Caroline's Cat Bartholomew (aka Barry or Bubba)

Sitting in her home just up the road from Harbor, the May gray marine layer had just burned off, revealing  blue skies and warm sunlight. Caroline sat at her kitchen table patching the skirt I had worn for the interview that had an unnoticed hole from my bike. I prepped my materials for the interview and thought what a wonderfully organic example of Caroline’s natural desire to see those around her cared for, whether that be the earth around her Costa Mesa home or groups of marginalized people that she may not have a direct connection to but shows up to support without hesitation. I was interested in learning about how life guided her to all these areas of sacred activism, her life experience and acquired gifts that she shares with Harbor often, and how she found us.

We spoke for over an hour and a half straight, covering a tapestry of topics from her current life history to Rome’s colonization of the United Kingdom to incorporating Indigenous wisdom without appropriation.  Essentially, too much to fit and share in this short article but I will encourage everyone to ask Caroline to tell the Guatemalan dog story next time you see her, it’s a modern parable. Okay, now for the condensed version of our conversation. 



Tell us about yourself, the life highlight reel. 

So hard to know where to start. I'm reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem Call Me By My Real Name (click the title to read the poem referenced). I believe it is where he says I am all things, I am both the victim and the perpetrator, I am both, you know, the ant and the gardener.

My name is Caroline Clinton Colesworthy Kaufman. I was born and raised in Newport Beach, CA. I have seldom felt at home in my home culturally. Or in my body. And I have learned to be at home in my home. I am a mother of two. My oldest daughter is almost 16 and my youngest daughter is 8. They have two different dads. That is a great adventure. I'm in business with my mother. That is another great adventure. I have a Masters in Environmental Policy and a Bachelors in English Literature from Brown and Berkeley respectively, and in between those I also attended a dance conservatory in New York City. It was called Alvin Ailey which is the preeminent black modern company and school in the country. It was my dream to go to that school and I was there just in time for 9/11. I was unhoused for 9/11 and that was an incredibly life changing event, and I left the theater. 

I left the theater, which felt self indulgent at that point. It seemed that the world was burning and I was concerning myself with the arts, pointing my toes. Yeah, you know, I no longer think that about the arts, but in my 21 year old mind, I needed to be a lot more useful. And so I went back to Berkeley and started working in environment. I got a job at a composting collective and another one working in environmental health where I had my first experiences with scientific communication and lobbying. The political process in general. 

Coming out of graduate school, it was only in hindsight could anyone know this, but it was just a really bad moment for the economy and nonprofits in general. People with master's degrees were better educated than the lifetime career professionals in the field. And so I would walk into an interview and someone would have this entry level position which is what my experience qualified me for, to just walk in the door. But my education was more than the person even interviewing me, right? And so it was a weird spot to be. I have read that it was the number one worst time to have a masters degree. This turbulent time continued to include a political arrest and supporting my grandmother in end of life care. All of this plus other events caused me to choose another path away from environmental policy. 

How did you find Harbor? 

Caroline serving communion with Pastor Ryan

Well, my daughter Hazel started going first. And Hazel at the dinner table, at this very

table, one day said Mommy, I'm Christian. And then I was like, ohh, really? I had never wished to go to a church, ever. And so that was startling for me and I decided that I needed to find out if this Christian place was safe. Like not a place that was gonna be teaching her doctrine that was not safe for herself or others. So I went to Harbor trying to have a real open mind. And certainly at the Harbor Newport Harbor High School Musical (Mamma Mia), you know, y'all were a joyful band of merry churchgoers who seemed pretty nice and normal. And then, Pastor Ryan was sharing one morning and started talking about The Chalice and the Blade by Rian Eisler. Talking about how maybe if we're not separated from earth, we don't need a savior.

And I was like Ohh, this is informed this is based on reality, this is grounded in the same reality that I find when I try to look to history, to make sense of the world that I see today. What I found at Harbor was love and community and acceptance and curiosity and respect and authenticity and reality. 

Was there any specific moment or reason that moved you to officially join Harbor as a member?  

I listened. I listened to what Pastors Sadie and Ryan were saying and I listened to what they were not saying. And I realized that they have a ministry that I want to participate in. You know, they are really trying to build God's Kingdom on earth. And they mean it and I mean it, which is why I did not think I ever wanted to go inside a church because it didn't seem like that's what churches were actually about. So I was like, they've got a ministry. I've got a ministry. They've got a campus, I’d like some space for my work. I think I'll join. This is a system and I can step into this system and be part of a lot of people. You know, trying to build a world that works for everyone. And that is all that I've ever wanted. 

You do not have a personal history in the church, yet you have created spaces that support spiritual needs like your Ancestors’ Feast and Community Grief Circle that strongly mirror faith-based ministry work. What has called you to care for people in this deeper way? 

Almost 19 years ago I found a new path that does not involve drugs and alcohol. Part of my success there was finding a power greater than myself that could restore me to sanity and building a strong relationship with that power. I needed to do that in a way that was authentic and meaningful and powerful. And so I went to the earth. I went to my ancestors. I knew that I had a lack of trust of the systems that tended to gate keep spirit in my world, and I didn't want to engage those systems. But I knew that I needed a power greater than myself. And so I trusted that I could build a relationship directly with the earth and directly with my ancestors and directly with my creator. And that has come to pass. I just absolutely decided that I would learn directly from the earth and directly from my ancestors and that they would guide me to where I was supposed to go. I found a very, very narrow way. 

Grief Circle Altar arranged by Hazel Kaufmann

Caroline with Harbor community and staff during our recent Work Day

You have education and experience in environmental policy and earth care

practices. Climate activism is something that you share on often at Harbor and have actively supported Harbor’s beginning work in this area such as donating a compost bin, the three native Live Oaks and White Sage for our campus Native Plants Initiative. Would you share your thoughts on the spiritual element in climate action? 

Even before I had the master's degree, I knew that we don't have scientific problems. It's not about science. I then moved to we have a political problem. So then I started engaging politics and, you know, got myself thrown in jail a couple times. And then realizing, like, ohh, we don't have political problems. We have spiritual problems. And now in addition to knowing that we have spiritual problems, I understand that we have emotional problems and physical problems and this has led me to believe that humans have to get into right relationship with ourselves before we can rise to the occasion of applying sane principles to civilization so that we might not lose the Earth's capacity to support human life. 

As a younger person with no spiritual connection, it was very frustrating and I watched a lot of activists burnout. And so I believe that those who would seek to take care of the earth are missing out on a lot of power by not connecting directly to the earth in a spiritual way.  

What advice do you have to connect to the earth in a spiritual way or how to start climate activism in their own lives? 

I mean, really science tells me that I am the Earth. And that I am made of ancient stuff and that I can never, I've never not been here and I will never not be here. So there's no getting out of it and ignorance will not save me. It never has and it never will. Tend to the land of the self. And tend to the land around you if you want. And this came to me just on my way to attack the Cape Honeysuckle a couple weeks ago. That is, if you want to know me, know my works. And that means know your own body and give it what it needs on a moment to moment basis. If you have sadness, be with sadness. If you have hunger, address hunger. If you need to pee, pee. If you need to go get your eyes checked, time to go get your eyes checked. If you are gay, be ******* so gay, right? If you are angry, ask yourself what is my anger trying to teach me? Like tend that. That's God inside of us. And if you're tired, rest. If you are still tired, keep resting. You know, if you have needs, tell somebody that you have needs, like let them show up for you. 

Caroline planting a live oak with Pastor Ryan

Our earth is showing us a direct reflection of how we take care of ourselves which is currently a pattern a complete denial of self. We do it to the earth, we do it to ourselves. We've got to stop that. Like we've got to decolonize our own selves first then the land and climate will follow. 

Harbor will continue to benefit from your wisdom and knowledge in this area, thank you. I know that you are actively involved as a  peace activist, social justice activist and with many other organizations and initiatives.

Please tell our community about your other areas of involvement. 

Fund for Reparations Now

I'm a working board member for the Fund for Reparations Now, which is a national nonprofit of intergenerational white allies working under the National African American Reparations Commission for the passage of federal reparations in the United States. It's very cool that I got to work at this really high level policy organization and it has redeemed that degree. And it is just a blessing to be part of a beloved community, as Dr. Martin Luther King talked about, you know, and I am now in direct lineage with the civil rights movement. And all I needed to do was be a warm body who was willing. Like literally anyone could work with us if they were willing to do a spreadsheet and count our beans. But you get to do really cool stuff if you're willing. 

Center for Ethical Land Transition

I am a founding member of the Center for Ethical Land Transition, which is a land back organization for housing professionals trying to organize realtors and mortgage brokers and attorneys. And all the people in housing to transition that industry toward one that can facilitate land back for Indigenous people. And so I find myself building, using the relationships that I've built with Indigenous people over the last two decades to try to facilitate as much sovereignty as possible, as much wealth redistribution as possible. 

Primitive Skills

I hold a cultural space in two primitive skills gatherings which is a moon lodge, a woman's and inclusive womens' space for sacred mysteries, and I teach about embodied, positive femininity. I've had Indigenous teachers who have taught me practices that I am welcome to teach to others, and I carefully share my lineages and share nothing that, sacred and inappropriate to share. 

Mutual Aid Group - Mom Care Circle 

Since becoming a mother myself, I am so aware that it is magical and vulnerable to bring life to this world. I had my first child during the Great Recession and I could not afford childcare. Her dad was selling energy efficient windows, door to door, and we were living in a bedroom in Santa Ana and I was dumpster diving for food so I could ******* eat. And I had a master’s degree. Yeah, like, that's so unacceptable. And I don't want that for anyone, you know? So, in lieu of land back, providing financial support for an Indigenous mother is a form of immediate reparations. If the federal government and the state government will not provide birthing parents with some financial support, then we must do it ourselves.

So it had originally been my conception that we would support her at the level of $1500 a month. And unfortunately, we've been supporting her at the level of $20 per person, total $250 per month. So I just recently put out a call for more people to commit to $20 a month donation. We're gonna support her for the last six months of her pregnancy and the first 18 months of her child's kife - total 24-months. If interested in joining talk to Caroline. 

Final question, you are approaching 1-year at Harbor and have already been involved in so much, including becoming our new Elder Chair. What hopes or vision do you have for Harbor that you’d like to share with the community? 

I wanna see some line dancing! 

I think there were talks of bringing our Outreach Chili Cook Off back toward the end of summer so that may be possible soon!

I’d like to see a free pile. Occasional community swaps and I want us to meet more of each other's needs so that we all have a little bit more energy. For rest, for wellness, to grieve, to rage, to engage the political process, to take care of more of our needs, to take care of more of our neighbors. You know, everything that we can take off each other's plates is like more time that we can be with our creator and that we can be bringing about God's Kingdom on earth. For instance, one person could cook for 15 people and then fifteen people have the evening to read a book, go for a walk, sing a song, dance a dance, make some art, weave the garden etc. Then the rotation would change to ease the load and allow some space for each of us to grow in different ways. 

As for what I want to do at Harbor in my personal work - I truly believe that most of the world is walking around in emotional paralysis due to unmetabolized grief, anger and other all-consuming emotions that when repressed or undealt with, disconnect us from ourselves and each other. I’d like to continue to create and offer intentional spaces to process specific emotions such as grief, shame, rage and others to help do my part in helping people compost and clear their emotional gardens. If that happens, then the world will heal. So, look out for them and come to the one that calls! Let’s work on tending ourselves together. 

Caroline in her garden

What a joy to spend some time in deep conversation with our community to learn more about their path and walk! Before I left, Caroline of course took time to send me home with a fresh-picked bouquet of flowers and a newly whole skirt! Let me (Lauren) know if you liked this format for future Member Spotlights.

Thank you for reading!

To continue reading our Summer Newsletter in the recommended reading order, please click on the next post shown below in the Related Posts section.


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