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.

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.

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.

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.

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: 

(and bonus link to my favorite Eurovision Song Contest winner of all time: 

Think Orange:   

Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change 

BYU CHoir and Orchestra performing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: 



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.

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.

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.”

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.

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

Note: The original sermon, delivered at the West Wing Weekend on September 27, 2018, may be seen here; it includes multiple references to the show. The sermon below was delivered with the title “T.H.I.N.K” at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta, NY on October 28, 2018.

How many of you grew up watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood – or showed it to your children as they were growing up? I was born at just the right time – I was 4 when it first appeared on WMHT, the PBS station in Albany – the perfect age for this unique show; and paired with Sesame Street, which came out at the same time, this little white girl from the northernmost of the Taconic Mountains suddenly was learning about towns and cities, counting and spelling (in both English and Spanish), what other people looked like, what it meant to use our imagination, and what it meant to be a neighbor.

I was reminded of the powerful ministry this gentle Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh conducted for decades when I watched the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor on a flight to Lincoln, Nebraska, this summer – and it struck me how important it was to hear these messages in the wake of the King assassination, in the midst of the Vietnam war, in the restlessness of the country – something a little kid knew nothing about except that things seemed wrong and some of my schoolmates’ dads never came home.

I don’t think it’s a mistake that this documentary, and the upcoming film about Fred Rogers, starring Tom Hanks, is resonating so deeply right now. The lessons Mr. Rogers was teaching us – and is still teaching us – help ground us when we feel utterly ungrounded. They are there for the taking – reminders of what Unitarian minister Robert Fulghum reminded us that we learned in Kindergarten – how to be kind and how to share, and how to forgive, and how to take care of ourselves and each other.

And we need these reminders. Too often, I fear, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle – and lately, the anxieties – of our lives, that we forget to pay attention to others. We forget that while we are the lead characters in our own stories, we are but bit players and maybe just background extras in the stories of other people. So many times, it seems, other people try to upstage us with their ideas, opinions, and criticisms – or worse, we upstage them as if we’re more important or valued. It’s no wonder Mr. Rogers Neighborhood continues to be so important. The ministry of Rogers focused on teaching children – and us – how to live out the assertion that we have inherent worth and dignity just by being human, and how to treat ourselves and each other.

And while I don’t know this for a fact, I suspect the grounding for some of those lessons comes from a sometimes difficult but ultimately helpful text from the Letter to the Ephesians. I say difficult, because the writer uses the metaphor of a marriage to explain his point – and here’s where that pesky “wives, be subject to your husbands” things shows up. Yeah. I know. But what he’s really getting at – and states at the beginning and end of this passage is simply this: “be subject to one another.”

Now for those not familiar with the biblical text, this epistle (or letter) to the church in Ephesus, is one of many written in the name of Paul of Tarsus, carrying on the ministry of someone who planted these Jesus churches around the Mediterranean. Paul’s like a mega church pastor, only his congregations are probably small. But he has this collection of churches he stewards, like a regional consultant – the Evin Carvil-Zeimer of his day. And well… let’s not kid ourselves. People 2000 years ago were much like people today, and any time you get a bunch of people collected in an organization, there’s gonna be trouble. Especially when they’re collected around a mission, or a vision, or a belief.

So these letters – these epistles – aren’t (to me, anyway) so much sacred text as swift kicks in their collective kiesters. Over and over again, Paul – or one of his staff, anyway – is telling them to (a) stop bending the stories of Jesus to make you look good and (b) stop being bad! This one to the Ephesians is no different. My hunch is that there was a lot of conflict and infighting there, so this letter is very much reminding everyone to get along with one another. Especially since the figure they’re centering their organization around – Jesus – is most assuredly not keen on people treating each other with disrespect.

In other words, this isn’t so much about a particular belief or connection to a particular god, it’s about you, and it’s about me, which means it’s about us.

What we are talking about is seeing one another as family – as the people we devote our last measure of affection to. It’s how we are seen, and cared for, and thought of.

This – and the congregational covenant you will be voting on later today – is calling us back to our best selves. And yes, this covenant is about how we treat one another, the people we have known for months, years, decades. The people we work side by side with on committees and events and projects. The people we celebrate with and mourn with. The people who delight us and annoy us but whom we consider family. The people who we see, care for, think of – and hope are seen by, cared for by, and thought of by.

Now I know that people don’t always get along well all the time – especially when there are decades of history. When I first started serving our congregation in Southold on Long Island, I had a series of meetings with members so I could learn more about the congregation and the people. In one afternoon, I was to meet with a woman I’ll call Dorothy, who had been a member for about 40 years, and then later with another woman I’ll call Caroline, who had been a member for about … 40 years. Both women had served as president, on various committees, taught religious education – they’d done it all. In my conversation with Dorothy, I learned about the seven year span that she and Caroline hadn’t talked to one another because Caroline had done something she deemed terrible, but at some point they forgot about it and while they still argue a lot, they’re talking again. A few hours later, I learned from Caroline about how she and Dorothy hadn’t talked for about seven years because Dorothy had done something she deemed terrible, but at some point they forgot about it and while they still argue a lot, they’re talking again.

My point – and I do have one – is that many of you have similar stories. We sometimes speak without thinking because ‘these people know me and I can say anything around them and it doesn’t matter.’ But it does, and the way we treat each other and speak to each other can cause long-held grudges and hard rifts. We assume there’s a level of trust, forgetting that trust needs to constantly be built and tended. I wonder if Caroline and Dorothy could have avoided the seven year silence if they’d thought about how they were seeing each other, speaking to each other, and being subject to each other – or if they’d realize what had happened and made an effort to call one another back into covenant. I wonder what happens when we do.

This stuff matters, because if we don’t get it right inside our walls, we have no hope of getting it right outside our walls. Because being subject to one another is about family, and friends, and fellow UUSO members, but it’s also about strangers in the workplace, in the coffee shop, on I-88, at the airport, at the gym, in our houses of worship. This is about how we treat one another with our policies and our laws. This is how we affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion.

Now let me be clear. Being subject to one another is not about being subservient, as some might want to interpret that Ephesians text – this is not about an imbalance of power – or at least it shouldn’t be. Rather, it is about attention. Simply being attentive to one another.

We might see it as being kind.

Now I want to make a distinction – I do not mean nice. I hate that word, nice. Nice is wishy washy. Nice rolls over. Nice buys into the gospel of comfort, that says we don’t want to offend. Nice is complacent. Nice doesn’t make waves or make a stink and lets people have their own version of truth even when it’s not factual. Nice doesn’t want to bother anybody. Nice says comfort is more important than goodness, ease more valued than doing what’s right.


We are, however, supposed to be kind.

Kindness sees a need and offers to help. Kindness stands up for the person being bullied, and then makes sure they’re safe. Kindness disrupts lawlessness and incivility. Kindness goes out of its way. Kindness recycles, Kindness holds the door, Kindness builds a ramp, Kindness explains, Kindness knows its privilege and uses it to build justice.

But that’s just the start. Kindness is not easy. Kindness is sometimes uncomfortable, because it requires us to not stay comfortable, to not stay nice and docile.

Kindness doesn’t sit still. And kindness acts in many big and small ways. Kindness calls elected representatives, and writes letters, and votes – and makes sure other people can get to vote too, and goes to protest marches, and makes sure everyone who wants to have a voice has one. Kindness believes the survivors.. Kindness prays for the protection of sacred land and water and asks forgiveness. Kindness knows that trans people cannot be erased. Kindness presses legislators to send aid to Puerto Rico, and North Carolina, and Florida. Kindness works for racial justice because it knows that Black Lives Matter.

Kindness answers yes. Kindness doesn’t calculate the return on investment or the risk to reputation or the fear of comments. Kindness is present to the moment.

Kindness isn’t always easy. But kindness matters.

Kindness doesn’t assume everyone knows how we do things here. Kindness welcomes new ideas as a gift, not a challenge. Kindness embraces complexity. Kindness embraces discomfort in service to something better. Kindness prefers effectiveness over efficiency. Kindness apologizes and takes responsibility. Kindness lets go of perfectionism. Kindness speaks honestly but also speaks with thoughtfulness and care.

Imagine if we were thoughtful about how we communicate with one another. The image on the front of your orders of service reminds us to THINK –to consider what it is we are about to say. Is it thoughtful? Meaning – did we think before we spoke? Is it helpful – meaning, does what you are about to say actually offer advice or information or just criticism? Is it inspiring – does it give a boost or does it shame? Is it needed – meaning simply that – does it actually need to be said, or would it just make you feel smarter or superior? And is it kind? Well, we have explored kind… which I think is the key. Kindness is how we live into covenant with one another, how we act as Fred Rogers taught us to act, how the writer of Ephesians wants us to act.

You see, there’s a reason the writer of Ephesians uses a marriage as his metaphor for being subject to one another. He’s not just talking about affection for others but understanding that when all is said and done, we’re all part of one family, one body. How can we be unkind to one part of our body when it’s so intrinsically a part of us? As gospel artist Hezekiah Walker sings in “I Need You To Survive” – “I need you / you need me / we’re all a part of God’s body.” Imagine when we think of another person this way, and show them they matter, to see them as individuals, to listen to their stories and consider their needs. Imagine if we thought of OURSELVES this way and were kind to ourselves?

Because when we start acting that way toward ourselves… and then each other… we begin to see how we can be subject to one other even if “other” are people who disagree with us at the top of their voices.

We are subject to one another when we stop building walls and start building bridges. We are subject to one another when we work for equal rights and equal pay and safety and clean water and accessibility for everyone. We are subject to one another when we join our forces together – remembering Margaret Mead’s words to “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Be subject to one another, pleads the writer of Ephesians. And every religious path worth its salt. And your congregational covenant… which is a promise to be subject to one another, to be kind to one another, and to forgive one another.

We know this stuff. We learned it as children. And it’s what drew us to the life-giving message of Unitarian Universalism in the first place. We just need to remember… to notice each other’s needs and seize the moment to act. To be willing to be uncomfortable in service to something greater than ourselves. To give of ourselves out of love and affection and compassion. To be truly kind to one another. To think before we speak, and we must speak with openness and generosity. To answer the call of our principles and our morals and ethics and our faith.

Let us be subject to one another.