S01E11 - Jason Shelton and the Liturgical Imagination

February 21, 2019

Good news, everyone! I have a new editor, fellow West Wing fanatic and all around great guy, Alex Boruff! His help with the editing makes the show sound better and give me more time to curate and interview amazing guests.

And speaking of amazing guests, you’re in for a treat today – a long treat, because the conversation was just too good. My guest today is the Rev. Jason Shelton.We talked in late November about the radical shifts we’re seeing in Unitarian Universalism, creating worshipful experiences outside of Sunday morning, and the power of music to engage our faith.


Jason Shelton Music

Portara Ensemble

Portara and Carrie Underwood at the Country Music Awards

Hymn: Love Has Already Won



The Rev. Jason Shelton is a Unitarian Universalist minister, musician, and consultant. He served as Associate Minister for Music at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville from 1998-2017. In addition to Jason's work as a composer (The Fire of Commitment, Answering the Call of Love, Life Calls Us On, and many more!), he is an active choral conductor and worship leader, and an advocate for using music as a means of creating community in multi-faith, multi-cultural environments.

Formerly a Franciscan brother, Jason received an MDiv from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2003 and was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry in 2004. Jason is also an active participant in Nashville's vibrant music scene as Artistic Director of Portara Ensemble, a 32-voice auditioned chamber chorus which presents a wide variety of concerts throughout the year and is in-demand for recording sessions and televised performances with some of Nashville's biggest stars.



S01E10 - Christian Schmidt and the One Hour a Week

February 8, 2019

Sorry for the one-day delay, folks! Life happens and time is not constant, so there it is. And here it is.

Fortunately, I think the wait is worth it, because my guest is my friend Christian Schmidt, a great minister, a good friend, and a really insightful guy - even if he did call something "very unique." In this podcast, we talked about co-ministry, sermon length, the festival of homiletics, his love of James Luther Adams, and language choices. 


Links Referenced:

"Revenge" by Elisa Chavez

The Essential James Luther Adams

Festival of Homiletics



The Rev. Christian Schmidt is, with his wife Kristin, one of the senior co-ministers of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, and lives in nearby Pinole, CA. He’s a father, husband, native Texan, singer, football fan, and devotee of barbecue, not necessarily in that order. He’s convinced it’s better to preach for 15 minutes than 25, and nothing you can say will change his mind on this. This is his first-ever appearance on a podcast. 


S01E09 - Joanna Fontaine Crawford and the Whole Church

January 24, 2019

I imagine Meg Riley beams any time two of her former fellows do something together - so get ready, Meg, because two of us have conspired and the result is today's podcast!

My guest is the Reverend Joanna Fontaine Crawford, who serves Live Oak UU Church in Cedar Park (a suburb in North Austin, Texas.  We talked about technology and what we learned as fellows with the Church of the Larger Fellowship, verboten words and growing up with Unitarian parents.

Last fall, Joanna wrote about the way Live Oak does "whole church worship" at her blog, Boots and Blessings, and we talked a lot about what that looks like in practice.



Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford is a second-generation UU and a seventh generation Texan, a Venn Diagram not often seen. The church she serves, Live Oak UU Church in Cedar Park (a suburb in North Austin) has taken the hashtag #ThatKindOfChurch as their motto, and they're that kind of church that has children in the entire service at every service, with children and youth often leading hymns, doing readings, and other liturgical elements (as well as spontaneous dancing in the aisles). She and her spouse Tom have four children, but she realizes there may be more effective ways to grow Unitarian Universalism. 



S01E08 - Madelyn Campbell and the Story on our Lips

January 10, 2019

I chat with one my favorite fellow michief makers, the Reverend Madelyn Campbell! We chat about showing up, deepening our experiences, and of course Madelyn's passion, storytelling. 



Network of Biblical Storytellers 

Madelyn's book, Guide to Storytelling for Military Chaplains



Rev. Madelyn Campbell has been serving as an interim minister in UU congregations for the last four years. She’s currently serving as Interim in the Channing Memorial Church in Ellicott City, Maryland. She’s a graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary, where she also earned a certificate in the arts and theology, with a concentration in drama and storytelling.  She is a Certified Master Biblical Storyteller, currently the only UU who is a certified biblical storyteller, but she’s hoping to change that.  In her spare time, Madelyn is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree through Wesley Theological Seminary at Wesley House in Cambridge University, England.  She’s pretty sure her project will involve storytelling. She loves Harry Potter and Doctor Who, and has definitely used both in worship. 


S01E07 - Tim Atkins and a Time for ALL Ages

December 26, 2018

It was so much fun hanging out with religious educator and UUA Board member Tim Atkins! We chatted about children in worship, storytelling, thinking orange, umbrellas, and the thing that brings Time and I together every May, the Eurovision Song Contest.


Links referenced in the Podcast:

Eurovision Dance Break: https://youtu.be/d4Pim6d6R9Q 

(and bonus link to my favorite Eurovision Song Contest winner of all time: https://youtu.be/5sGOwFVUU0I) 

Think Orange: http://thinkorange.com/   

Andy Stanley's Communicating for a Changehttp://a.co/d/acGLRrX 

BYU CHoir and Orchestra performing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: https://youtu.be/5-a1VI7Q0g8 



Tim Atkins serves as the Director of Lifespan Religious Education at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church. Tim worked for an educational services company in Atlanta for eight years before joining the Morristown (NJ) Unitarian Fellowship, where he served as instructor, curriculum writer, and regional teacher trainer. He previously served the Church of the Larger Fellowship as their Director of Social Media, and as a youth advisor and Religious Education teacher at his former home congregation in Atlanta. He spends his spare time writing, playing board games, trying to change the world, and attempting to reason with his cat Dorothea.


S01E06 - Erika Hewitt and Tending the Energy

December 13, 2018

Get ready for another great episode! Rev. Erika Hewitt and I didn't talk about a ton of things she knows a lot about - like officiating weddings, or multi-generational worship, or designing large scale worship, or life in small town Maine... this time. But we did talk about creating moments, holding energy, theological fights, the challenges of itinerant preaching, and intimacy. 



Erika Hewitt is the UUA's Minister of Worship Arts and Editor of Braver/Wiser, a weekly spirituality series. In addition to serving the UUA half-time, Erika also serves as the recently installed minister of the Midcoast UU Fellowship in Daramiscotta, Maine, and is a terrific wedding officiant.

Her book of theme-based ministry resources, co-written with educator Becky Brooks, will be published in 2019. Erika's previous books are Story, Song and Spirit and The Shared Pulpit.


S01E05 - Gretchen Haley and Breaking Through Expectations

November 29, 2018

I first knew of Gretchen thanks to her amazing calls to worship, but wow I didn't know she was some kind of clerical super hero! We talked about creating worship that meets folks where they are, what it means to try new things, generation gaps, surrender, and dance!


Here's the Rev. Gretchen Haley's bio, in her own words...

"I'm in my 7th year serving the Foothills Unitarian Church where I am lucky to be a part of an incredible staff team that creates and leads worship and a bunch of other mission-driven ministries together, and where we all feel committed to discovering and creating the liberal church that will serve the emerging future.  I have a couple of degrees and some foundational experiences in theatre, which shape my passion and understanding of worship - especially the justice fueled experimental fringey work of new play development. Equally influential was an encounter with the amazing Kay Northcutt in 2011 that shifted what I understood what we were doing in worship, as well as a once-in-a-lifetime worship experience (think: labyrinth, feet washing, Dr. Seuss, Rosa Parks prayer stations, and more) in the chapel at Candler School of Theology in 2008. If I could get paid to just write calls to worship for people, I might say yes to that." 


S01E04 - Glen Thomas Rideout and Unlocking the Spirit

November 15, 2018

This could have been called "the tenacity of craft" or "lovers of leaving" or "keeping the fire under our feet" ... but whatever the title, this conversation with Dr. Glen Thomas Rideout is rich and full and makes me want to come back for more. We talk about creativity, spirit, lessons from other traditions, plurality, drag culture, and French cats.


A native of Baltimore, Dr. Glen Thomas Rideout is the Director of Music and Worship at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor, MI.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in voice from Vanderbilt University, a master’s and a doctoral degree in conducting from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Glen Thomas is the winner of the 2013 National Student Conducting Competition. He has conducted the University of Michigan Chamber Choir, the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club, and the Manhattan Chorale—a professional ensemble of New York City. He served as assistant conductor for the University of Michigan Chamber Choir in the Grammy-nominated recording of Darius Milhaud’s opera trilogy, L'Orestie d'Eschyle.

His recent international conducting schedule has included engagements in Perú, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Russia, Spain, Andorra, and France. Glen Thomas served the University of Michigan Chamber Choir as assistant conductor during its 2014 tour of New Zealand and Australia.

Glen Thomas has served First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor  since August 2007. His essay Prodigal Songs: Reclaiming Our Voice has been published by the Church of the Larger Fellowship. He conducted the GA choir and co-led Sunday morning worship at General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, in 2016.

Glen Thomas's work as a singer includes engagements with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Mark Morris Dance Group, University of Michigan, the University Musical Society, and the Star-Spangled Music Project. In June 2016, Glen Thomas served as guest vocalist for the investiture of United States federal court judge Judith E. Levy.

Glen Thomas is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network, Chorus America, the American Choral Directors Association, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity.


S01E03 - Suzanne Fast and Knowing Why We’re Here

November 1, 2018

In this episode, Suzanne Fast and I talk about presence, what we seek in worship, accessibility and inclusion, and that time the hymn was a little too on point.


A cradle Unitarian Universalist, Rev Suzanne Fast traces her call to ministry to the foundational lessons in meaning making learned in Religious Education.  She is particularly interested in the spiritual journeying of adults and children, and the connections we make between our inward journeys, our daily lives, and our shared work for a just society.  The primary focus of Reverend Fast’s ministry is disability-related social justice, advocacy, education, and pastoral ministry in the broader UU community and the public square. She is also a spiritual director in private practice. 

Reverend Fast is a graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School with spiritual direction certification from the Rice School for Pastoral Theology. Since 2010, she has served in a variety of leadership roles for EqUUal Access, whose mission is to enable the full engagement of people with disabilities in Unitarian Universalist communities and the broader society.  She is a facilitator in the UUA’s Beyond Categorical Thinking Program, and served on the Accountability Group for Justice GA 2012. She is an affiliated community minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers, Florida


S01E02: Karen G. Johnston and Getting Below It

October 18, 2018

Tony Campolo writes, "A ritual takes what happened a long time ago and drags it into the present so you can experience it here and now. Rituals keep us from forgetting what must not be forgotten and keep us rooted in a past from which we must not be disconnected."

In this episode, my friend Karen G. Johnston and I talk about creating ritual, music that moves us, and fire.


Links (refered to in the episode):

article about the Lost Souls Project

Song - Let the Life I Lead



Karen G. Johnston is the 7th settled minister at The Unitarian Society, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation in East Brunswick, New Jersey.  A second-career minister, she was ordained in June, 2016 by her then-home congregation, The Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence and her internship congregation, First Parish Church of Groton.  She earned her Master of Divinity degree through a Cooperative program, starting first at Hartford Seminary and finishing up at Andover Newton Theological School. 

Before becoming a professional minister, Karen was a lay leader in her home congregation.  Professionally, she spent over twenty years in the field of clinical social work, having graduated from Smith College School for Social Work in 1995.  Her focus was home visiting, families with children birth to three, and the prevention of child abuse using strengths-based and trauma-informed approaches.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Women Studies from Hamilton College – a very formative experience of opposition and resistance, with echoes of today’s need for engaging the patriarchy around normalized and hidden sexual abuse, as well as how to de-center whiteness and build multi-racial/multi-ethnic partnership, especially among women.

Karen is the adoptive mother of two humans who are now young adults, whom she met for the first time when they were two days past two and just shy of four years old.  She identifies as bisexual, white, able-bodied, cisgender female.  She’s currently married to a man about whom she is not ambivalent, though the legal marriage thing is still something that causes confusion.  She lives a life more financially solid than how she was raised and what she thinks will happen for her children.  Because she believes we have passed the tipping point when it comes to climate chaos, and is deeply troubled by the rise of fascism, she wonders how it might be possible to learn some of the skills of survivalists but to infuse and saturate them with Unitarian Universalist values to create “islands of sanity.”

 Before becoming a minister, Karen spent time as part of a grassroots poetry group in her hometown and sometimes dabbled in performance poetry.  She's looking forward to taking her first improv class this January.