Linda Carleton grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. She attended segregated public schools (without even realizing they were segregated). Growing up without any religious training she describes her younger self as profoundly agnostic. Her father was an atheist who was disgusted by religion in general and Christianity in particular. She learned of religion in public school, where morning devotions included prayers and singing such hymns as “Jesus Loves Me.” When she asked her 5th grade teacher “Who’s Jesus?” a book of Bible Stories appeared in her house. Soon afterwards her parents began dropping her off at a Presbyterian Sunday. Linda states, “That’s when my love/hate relationship with the Christian Church began.”
Linda has spent a lifetime integrating her Christian faith with a love for the world’s religious traditions. For 25 years she taught high school history and comparative religions in Connecticut. A wonderful spiritual teacher led her into the United Church of Christ where she could openly wrestle with God. Linda came to feel more secure in her faith following her first mystical experience, which was during a traumatic emotional period. She recalls, “I begged God to let me know if God was real. In response I felt myself enveloped in light. Time stood still. I was held and rocked in a love so deep, my doubts about the Reality of God dissolved.”
When Linda accepted the call to enter seminary, she was reluctant to attend Yale Divinity School because she feared her Christian faith wouldn’t stand up to the rigors of Yale academia, but she was wrong. She especially loved a course on Tillich’s systematic theology and learned to draw upon her mind in service to her faith. Upon graduation she became the first person to be ordained by the U.C.C. to the ministry of refugee resettlement. She founded Melita Welcome House through the First Congregational Church in Guilford, CT. Between 2001 and 2008 Linda and her husband, Peter, provided initial acculturation and support to over 150 people from 18 countries. Linda went on to speak nationally about refugee sponsorship including a talk called “You Never Told Us She Was Pregnant: Helping Churches Deal with the Unexpected in Refugee Sponsorship.”
A few years ago she joined an Episcopal Church that feeds her mystical nature, observing that “Once I accepted that I did not want to be in the role of ordained minister, sliding into the Episcopal Church was like slipping into a comfy glove.” Linda and her husband Peter retired to Maine in 2008 where she begins each day writing morning pages and meditating. Linda paints, writes, and teaches English to refugees. She finds that working with mandalas draws her into her spiritual center. She began painting mandalas with a Maine theme and also creating custom mandalas for individuals and businesses www.mainemandalas.com She teaches workshops and classes on Mandala Journaling as Spiritual Practice which tap into the energy of each of the mandala Great Round. Linda has just completed her first novel, Elmina’s Fire, and also writes a bi-weekly blog reflecting on such topics as mandalas, her faith in the world, and Peter’s journey with cancer at lindacarleton.com.