Minister's Musings

Belonging to the Earth: Struck by Lightning

Greta Thunberg arriving in New York City on her zero carbon emission boat, had this to say, “Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.

I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

Mary Lou and I were hit by lightning when we watched Greta Thunberg arrive in a boat with no carbon footprint to avoid using airplane travel because of its environmental impact. We knew that we needed to look at our habit of flying, too. All of a sudden, I understood that the Hybrid cars that Mary Lou and I drive were not at all indicative of our carbon footprint. I had thought of planes like public transportation: I was occupying a seat of an airplane that would have gone without me. Greta inspired me to read about what those airplane emissions were doing to the environment. I have been flying since I was two---and now I know that it is quite possible that people driving gas-guzzling trucks, that I must admit I have sent a negative look or two, don’t have nearly the footprint that I have accumulated. The day after the Climate Strike, we decided to live without the use of airplanes whenever possible and we canceled tickets and plans that would have taken us up into the sky.

Telling you this, I think of the director of religious exploration in Salt Lake City, now in seminary, who is a passionate vegan. Her passion for being vegan gave me twinges and my electric car gave her twinges. She and her husband bought an electric car and I became more aware of food choices although I didn’t become a vegan. I believe that each of us has an inner voice that calls to us to align with our values. This alignment exhibits itself in all the many ways we connect with the world: in our sexuality and gender expression, our food choices, our decisions about giving, and for me in this moment, the decision to only take an airplane if there is an extreme need. We have begun calculating our carbon impact to determine what we can do to get into alignment with our love for the Earth.

Since coming to Prescott, “Symphony of the Soil,” the film the Green Sanctuary Team showed in our sanctuary, gave Mary Lou and me the understanding we needed to make choices to buy organic fruit and vegetables rather than fruit grown with pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Instead of just thinking about our health, we began considering the health of the soil of this Earth. Along with comforting each other in our difficult moments, we are here to give each other twinges. And in this process, we are called to keep ourselves from making assumptions about why anyone does anything. Some people, because of health considerations, have chosen non-vegan diets. Mary Lou and I have tried but been unable to give up cheese—and we’re going to keep trying. We do not eat red meat with the rare exceptions of finding ourselves in a cultural situation when our inability to eat meat is viewed as rejecting the hospitality that is offered.

I am telling you about my own decisions not to make you feel guilty but because I want you to listen to the inner voice that calls you to align with your values. What is your inner voice calling you to do?

In love and community, Patty


Yay! When One or No Words Will Do

After church on Sunday, August 18, we enjoyed a potluck together with vegan, organic and gluten free options. Some were all of those! By the time I had greeted people leaving the sanctuary, and entered the social hall, almost everyone had filled their plates and begun eating. I wanted to give thanks.

There are some traditional Unitarian prayers for food but it seemed to me that my friend Rod Peterson’s prayer would be the best. Rod was an atheist and his wife Claire had grown up LDS and around a dinner table containing the extended family, there were all kinds of theologies and many different words to use for prayers of thanks. Rod solved the problem beautifully by asking everyone to hold hands and consider all that they were grateful for and raise their joined hands in a shout of “Yay!”

On Sunday, my heart lifted as we held hands and took in a deep breath and called out a hearty, “Yay!” I don’t think that more words would have made the moment better. One word was just right.

Earlier during the service, after we listened to the poem by Clint Smith about the arrival of the first Africans to this continent in August 1619, we shared the silence of lament. I believe that words would have lessened our experience. Silence was what the moment needed.

At our worship retreat, when I asked the members of our worship team what they wanted more of in worship, they said, “Silence.” I have come to know (but I’m not always awake to this!) that often when I can’t think of the right word to say that keeping my mouth shut or my pen silent is best. When I have experienced tragedy, a card with a handwritten heart with a name has meant as much to me as, and sometimes more than, a long letter.

This realization has not been easy. I am a writer. A wordsmith. I have filled boxes with notebooks of words and computers with gigabytes of ideas. I love words! And, yet as we begin, let us also share what can communicate more than words: silence.

I invite you in this moment, as, ironically, you are reading words, to take in a deep breath and notice what is around you. Close your eyes and listen, take in a breath and smell the air---I have learned that this is a wonderful gift in Prescott---the beautiful scent of the air. In the silence, imagine the people and animals that you love and include yourself in that picture. Consider our community, old and new friends, the shared future that stretches ahead of us and mentally reach out to all and then raise your hands in a resounding “Yay!”


Welcome Rev. Patty!

Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation welcomes its new settled minister, Rev. Patty Willis, to Prescott. She will begin preaching in mid-August.

Reverend Willis spent her childhood in South America and the Middle East where she gained a love of languages and travel. As a member of the LDS Church, she attended Brigham Young University studying French and Spanish. Shortly after arriving in Paris as a French teacher for the University’s study abroad program, she met her life partner, Mary Lou Prince, who was studying music composition. Because of their religious beliefs, they separated for five years. After reuniting, a chance to work overseas presented itself and the two moved to Japan where they lived and worked together for more than two decades, performing and traveling throughout the world. Their work in theater has been closely tied to social justice. Performances of their play “Man from Magdalena,” about the true story of a migrant who saves the life of an Anglo boy and gives up his chance to live in the United States, has fulfilled over $160,000 in micro-loans to people in Central America and Mexico to heal the poverty at the root of the migration across our borders.

In 2007, Reverend Willis returned to the U.S. and settled in southern Arizona where she began attending a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Over the next year, Willis felt a strong calling to pursue ministry, and received a full scholarship to the Quaker-sponsored, Earlham School of Religion. While there, she was awarded a Ministry of Writing Fellowship to write about the intersection of her pioneer midwife ancestor Patty Bartlett Session’s life with Native American narratives. This work, “Dancing Bird’s Apprentice,” was transformed into a theater work “Midwife” and premiered at the Great Salt Lake Fringe, followed by performances in New York City in 2016. The net proceeds of this play support the Northwest Band of the Shoshone’s Language Program for children. In her six years of ministry in Salt Lake City, Utah, at South Valley UU Society, she was involved in Interfaith work and often wrote editorials published in the Salt Lake Tribune. She and Mary Lou wrote cantatas performed by interfaith choirs at the Parliament of World Religions and around Salt Lake City. You can read more about her work in Salt Lake City at her website

Rev. Patty and Mary Lou are looking forward to making a home in Prescott and and are taking a class in kayaking to prepare!