Rev. Kimberley Debus

Art matters. In this aching world, full of pain, trauma, hardship, and tragedy, art matters. As  the Reverend Micah Bucey writes,

Art is actually a very small thing that does very small things.
It’s a gathering of tiny revolutions that sustains the larger ones.
Its power comes from being miniscule and undetectable.

Art doesn’t stop the violence, but it starts the questioning of violence.
Art doesn’t erase the pain, but it names the pain.
Art doesn’t eradicate evil, but it tells the queer stories of another way.

My ministry helps inspire tiny revolutions that keep us focused, keep us connected, and keeps us present. Imagine if we prioritized the things that feed us, that are deeply a part of the human experience, that tell our stories, that bring meaning into our lives. Creativity and artistic structures help make space so we can approach the difficult sideways, creating a shared experience through which we can connect and understand in relative safety; as George Bernard Shaw quipped, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”

My ministry is the inescapable consequence of the life I have lived; I come from a family for whom the arts are an essential part of our lives. I have always sung, often been on stage, and always dabbled in some sort of visual art. As a young adult, I was continually drawn to the arts as my avocation, and theater became an essential core of my undergraduate experience. Through my 30s and 40s, the arts – writing, acting, singing, even arts management – were central to my life.

As the choir director at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs, NY, I got my first taste of liturgical arts, and became the worship coordinator for our local cluster’s joint services. Soon after, I recognized that I was hearing a call to ministry, and that Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York would provide grounding in theology and the arts.

While at Union, I had the opportunity to learn from a variety of artists, and for two years co-created Broadway revues that explored Biblical texts through the lens of musical theater. My thesis project further explored the intersection of art and worship, exploring the stories of unnamed women in the Old Testament as a way to understand the deleterious effects of othering and disenfranchisement.

The heart of my ministry is my role as The Worship Whisperer – I work with religious professionals, congregations, clusters, and organizations to inspire more artful and art-filled worship, congregational life, leadership, and public witness. I have a biweekly podcast, The Worship Whisperer, and a monthly email newsletter filled with tips, tricks, and inspiration.

My ministry also features creative engagement that melds worship, art, and feminism into performative worship pieces for religious communities.

Another aspect of my ministry is sabbatical coverage; while my ministry of the arts and worship keeps me connected to many religious professionals and congregations at once, I enjoy serving one congregation for 2-6 months at a time, to share a different perspective, to encourage restoration and rejuvenation, and to spread a little beauty and joy.  Being in a congregation for a little while grounds me in our faith so that I may serve everyone more fully and more creatively.

Sabbatical ministries served/serving:

  • UU Meeting House, Nantucket, MA (2 months, full time, Spring 2018)
  • UU Society of Oneonta, NY (4 months, part time, Fall 2018)
  • First Parish UU Church of Kennebunk, MA (3.5 months, part time, Spring 2019)

In addition to this ministry, I am an adjunct consultant with the Central East Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and I currently serve on the Worship Arts Team for our annual General Assembly as well as the Nurture Staff at the Southeast UU Summer Institute (SUUSI).

I have previously served as minister to the First Universalist Church of Southold on Long Island and ministerial intern to One Island Family UU Congregation in Key West.

While I primarily serve Unitarian Universalist congregations (and am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association), my ministry extends past this denomination and into other faith contexts.