This summer, some of my favorite Unitarian Universalists answer one of the Five Questions for your enjoyment! This week, my guest is the Rev. Sofia Betancourt, who – among many other amazing things – is the Assistant Professor of Unitarian Universalist Theologies and Ethics at Starr King School for the Ministry.

The new season starts September 12th!

We turn the tables with Michael Tino interviewing me for the final episode of this podcast season! We talked about my ministry, the influence of theater on my theology of worship, and trust. We began by noting that Michael and I spent many years actively avoiding meeting each other for years in North Carolina.


My Bio: 

Rev. Kimberley Debus is a community minister based in New York’s Capital Region, where she works to inspire Unitarian Universalists throughout the denomination to be more artful and art-filled in their worship, congregational life, leadership, stewardship, and public witness.

Ordained in May 2017, Kimberley has served One Island Family UU Congregation in Key West, Florida, and the First Universalist Church of Southold, New York. She also serves as chair of the board of directors for the UU Wellspring Spiritual Deepening Program. Kimberley was raised by Unitarian parents and returned Unitarian Universalism in the 1990s during her years as an activist in North Carolina’s LGBTQ community. As both lay leader and minister, she has presented workshops on generational theory, the worship arts, and stewardship. She has been known to burst out in song (particularly show tunes and standards); will wax poetic about British panel shows, mysteries, and The West Wing; and is staff to two tabby cats named Huck and Molly (they didn’t come with hats).

At the heart of Kimberley’s ministry is a call to foster creative, collaborative, and spiritually grounded approaches to the challenges and blessings of our faith, which inspire all of us draw the circle of love ever wider.

I had an amazing time talking with Rev. Aaron White – we share a background in theatre and a love of preaching and worship. We talked about aesthetics, ensembles, protecting white boards, and preaching without a net.



Rev. Aaron White has served for 10 years as the Associate Minister at First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX. He received a degree in religion and theater from Austin College before attending Harvard Divinity School for seminary, with an academic focus in Sanskrit and Indian studies, comparative religious ethics, and aesthetics. Aaron is a gardener, science geek, and amateur UU historian. He blogs each week at and is the host of the upcoming podcast, Possibility Conspiracy, which will launch soon.

Another fascinating conversation, this time with one of our up and coming ministers, theresa rohlck, whose experience in music and dance informs a beautiful understanding of the work we do in worship. We talked about music school, what we can learn from Indonesian art forms, and the challenges of finding balance.


Lots of links for you today:

Yogyanese style gamelan and dance from central Java (the city of Yogyakarta)

John Cage’s 4’33

The Singing Neanderthals by Stephen Mithen

What Wondrous Love” as performed by Chelsea Moon

Yes” by Shekina Glory

In the Beginning  Was the Meal by Hal Taussig



theresa rohlck is a third year seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School; she expects to receive her MDiv in May 2019. She will do a one-year chaplain residency in her hometown of Ann Arbor Michigan after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, where, as a violist, she had extensive orchestral and chamber music ensemble experience. However, it was during that time she first heard a Javanese Gamelan and began learning how to play many of the instruments in the ensemble. This led to further musical studies in Indonesia after graduating. A Fulbright grant supported her study there, and she spent three and a half years becoming an accomplished gamelan musician and dancer. Returning to the U.S. she began work at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute, which led to a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Currently theresa conducts the Handbell Choir at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, where she is also a member of the choir, and has served as a worship associate. She is a member of the Association for Unitarian Universalist Music Ministries (AUUMM) and Handbell Musicians of America.

What a delight it was to talk to DeReau Farrar, the Director of Music at First Unitarian Portland! I have admired him since I first heard his new arrangement of a popular hymn (no spoilers!), and it seems we just got started when we had to wrap up our engaging conversation. Among other things, we talked about urban congregations, musical whiplash, musical diversity, and the Association for UU Music Ministries (AUUMM).



Association for UU Music Ministries

Come Ye Disconsolate (Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway)


The theramin:

Grégoire Blanc, playing Debussy

Theme from Midsomer Murders (Celia Sheen)



DeReau K. Farrar is Director of Music at First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon, which houses the denomination’s largest music program. He is also President-elect of the Association for Unitarian Universalist Music Ministries and a member of that organization’s Conference Planning Committee. He has previously served Unitarian Universalist congregations in Santa Monica and Downtown Los Angeles, California, as well as the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Commission on Institutional Change. DeReau is also a regular contributor for WorshipWeb’s Braver/Wiser publication and has written for UUWorld Magazine. Prior to leaving Los Angeles for Portland in 2016, DeReau worked as a freelance music director and vocal contractor for the theater/opera, film, recording, and touring industries. His last films were HBO’s All the Way (2016) and Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017).

Programming Note: If you were expecting this last week, you weren’t wrong… I had some non-technical issues that caused a delay. But with this episode, we’ll be back on track for alternate Thursdays through May. Yes, I’ll be taking a summer break – be warned – but the Worship Whisperer will come back for Season Two in late August.


In this episode, I chat with Beth Norton, music director at First Parish UU in Concord, Massachusetts. We had a wonderful time talking, about singing congregations, the Association for UU Music Ministries, things they don’t teach you in music school, and the Concord Music Book.



Beth Norton has been Music Director at First Parish since 1994. Beth believes in the power of music to express what is beyond words, to deepen our spiritual experience and to build community. As a singer, conductor, violinist and folk musician, Beth enjoys making music in a wide variety of styles with people of all ages and abilities. She received her BA in Music from Smith College and her MM in Choral Conducting from the Hartt School of Music. Beth has served as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network (now the Association for UU Music Ministries), the professional organization for UU musicians and remains an active member.

Matt Meyer has quickly become a household name, with a busy worship and workshop schedule, frequent appearances at General Assembly and other UU gatherings, and his role as Director of Community Life at Sanctuary Boston. Mat sat down with me to talk about that unique community, songleading, the act of singing together, and how we create context for singing together. 



Sanctuary Boston

AUUMM Main Conference

UU Songleaders Convergence



Matt Meyer works professionally as an itinerant UU musician and preacher, having led hundreds of services for UU congregations around the country. He is a founding member and Director of Community Life at the Sanctuary Boston. Matt is also a founding member of the Lucy Stone Cooperative and is a dedicated knitter.