Our Minister

Reverend Patty Willis

South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society welcomed its new Developmental Minister, Reverend Patty C. Willis of Amado, Arizona, to its pulpit on September 9, 2012. Three years later at the Annual Meeting in May of 2015, the congregation unanimously called her as their settled minister.

Reverend Willis received a Master of Divinity degree from Earlham School of Religion and completed two year-long internships in Arizona. She holds a Master’s degree in French Language from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and French from Brigham Young University.

Reverend Willis spent part of her youth living in South America and the Middle East. 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, at the local Mormon chapel. After six months together, they agreed that they would face significant conflicts if they stayed together. They chose to follow the beliefs of their religious tradition and separated. Willis began attending graduate school studying medieval French literature and married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. Her introduction to feminist studies began an unraveling of her LDS faith, and with it, her marriage. Five years after she first met Mary Lou, the two reunited and pledged their lives to each other.

Initially they were ostracized by their community. A chance to work in Japan presented itself and the two then moved to Japan where they lived and worked together for more than two decades, dividing their time living in a farming village and traveling the world with a Japanese theater company. 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 $130,000 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 (UU) 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 a work about her ancestor Patty Bartlett Sessions. This work “Dancing Bird’s Apprentice” was awarded a prize in the category of creative non-fiction by the Utah Arts and Museums Council. The summer of 2016, it was transformed into a theater work “Midwife” and premiered at the Great Salt Lake Fringe, followed by performances in New York City. The net proceeds of this play will go to the Northwest Band of the Shoshone’s Shoshone Language Program for children.

In Salt Lake City, she has been impassioned with Interfaith work and when the legislature is in session she is often up there supporting issues important to her community. Her and Mary Lou’s Interfaith work led to a commission to write the theme song for the Parliament of World Religions “Earth is Calling” performed for thousands during the opening and closing plenary sessions. The South Valley Singers combined with the First Unitarian choir and an LDS choir from Kayesville to perform their cantata “Songs of the Earth” at the Assembly Hall in 2014 and then again in 2015 at the Parliament of World Religions. This year, they completed a new cantata about “Women of Courage.” In October, the South Valley singers premiered “The Artist at Topaz,” a choral anthem about the life and courage of Mine Okubo. Other women of courage include Etty Hillesum, Recy Taylor, Eleanor Roosevelt and the mothers of the Desaparecidos of Argentina. In March, they performed at Salt Lake Community College for International Women’s Day and then at South Valley and First Unitarian churches to raise money for Women of the World, an organization that supports women immigrants and their families in Salt Lake City.

Reverend Willis has won several awards for her writing. She brings her talents of writing, storytelling, and music to a South Valley community that is already diverse and musically talented. Mary Lou Prince accompanied her to South Valley and became the music director and composer in residence. You can read more of her work and their collaborations at: www.revpattywillis.com and www.pattycwillis.com.

Rev. Patty’s office hours are:

Tuesday 2:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Wednesday 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Thursday 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM

If these times are not convenient please contact her for a time that works for you:

Email: minister@svuus.org
South Valley Main: 801-944-9723
Cell: 801-633-0709