UU Church Today, BeyondBelief

Meet Cory Lovell!




All Souls is delighted to welcome our newest intern, Cory Lovell. Cory joins us from St. Louis, Missouri, and brings with him an eclectic array of experiences and expertise. We asked Cory a few questions about his time in Tulsa, his experience as a filmmaker, and his deep love for popular culture.

At your first all-staff meeting, staff members shared their favorite places to go in Tulsa. Have you had an opportunity to visit any of these places, and if so, what have you enjoyed? 

There were so many cool places! I haven’t had time yet to do nearly the amount of exploring I hope to but there are a few places I’ve already hit up. I had the spicy veggie pho at Keo and it was off the charts tasty. And I have to stop myself from getting the Kim Chi Fries at Lone Wolf Banh Mi on a weekly basis. I can’t wait to explore the Riverfront and Gathering Place and my number one must-do in my year here is to see if I can’t get an appointment to check out even the tiniest fraction of the Bob Dylan Archives.

Your previous experiences include filmmaking. What sort of work did you do, and is there anything online our members could see? 

My undergraduate degrees were in Film Production and Cinema Studies/Creative Writing and American Literature. So I wrote screenplays, made some short narrative films, and then spent several years making documentary features about a handful of rock ‘n’ roll bands in the mid 2000s. One got placed in some festivals and won a couple of awards. That was about a Providence, Rhode Island band called DEER TICK. It has never seen a wider release, maybe someday it’ll end up in a box set of the band. But for now it exists as a sort of whispered-about buried treasure for the diehard fans of the band. The trailer is on Youtube.

I have a film I’ve been noodling around with for a few years about the eclectic, DIY music scene in a super small town in far West Texas that I shot over the course of about 7 years on old VHS camcorders. Someday I’ll get that out too. But I deeply love cinema of all kinds. Marvel Superhero movies, Wong Kar Wai films, romantic comedies. It’s just a magical art form.

You also worked as a DJ for an NPR station. Is there anything from your time “behind the scenes” you think our members might enjoy knowing? 

I think my favorite aspect of the whole experience was sitting in occasionally for David Beebe’s Night Train show late on Tuesdays. It was a R&B, Funk, Soul, three-hour set that was really loved in that area. “Grown Folks Music” is how it was billed. It was particularly popular with the incarcerated guys at the nearby State Penitentiary. They loved hearing smooth jams and love songs and the occasional gospel or Tejano jam. They’d send these letters requesting certain songs: “Play that Cameo again!” or “More Marvin Sease!” and they were written in the most delicate and perfect handwriting. And just knowing that spinning a few records could bring these guys a few minutes of relief from the time they were doing… it was really meaningful. I’ll never forget those letters, man. And just getting to play some great, great records.

You’ve expressed a preference for non-traditional music in worship. Has this always been the case, or is it something that developed over time? Do you have a favorite genre of music you like to hear in church? 

Given my background it feels sort of inevitable. Pop music is how I process and perceive God. I owe my ministry as much to George Harrison as I do to Theodore Parker. To me, hearing Nina Simone or Radiohead in a worship service is just as powerful and spiritual and transcendent as hearing My Life Flows On In Endless Song or For The Seasons of the Earth.  There is no genre off the table for me. I think we need it all. I’d love to figure out a way to incorporate some Frank Ocean into a service someday. But his music is so complex, almost more like paintings than songs, that I haven’t cracked the code on how to do it yet.

Hearing Nina Simone or Radiohead in a worship service is just as powerful and spiritual and transcendent as hearing My Life Flows On In Endless Song or For The Seasons of the Earth.

Given your diverse background, what led you to ministry? 

I’m still exploring that question every day. We all have experienced a crisis of conscience, confidence, and maybe of faith these past several years. The moral challenges and massive logistical problems that we face as a local, national, and global community is overwhelming. Even though I never grew up in a religious household and my spiritual baseline in rooted in the arts, I never was an atheist. But my faith in the Divine can be fluid and shifting from day to day too! So I think ministry provides a way to be radically honest, radically loving, and radically transformative in all the ways that we really MUST be right now if we’re going to continue this centuries-long project of liberation and love. And it’s not about me anymore. It’s about a whole beautifully diverse and eclectic and strange community of people who are earnest and seeking…and together we have a better chance at living into a more just and compassionate future than if we were all just scared and struggling on our own.

I’m deeply influenced by liberationists. John Brown, Frederick Douglass, Ida Wells, Julia Ward Howe, James Cone, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Malcolm Boyd, Dave Chappelle. Marsha P. Johnson. Larry Kramer. Cesar Chavez. Black liberation. Queer liberation. The liberation of women. The liberation of indigenous peoples. Any way that I can be a part of the tradition of freeing the human spirit from fear and exploitation and greed and violence…I want to be a part of that.


All Souls Church serves the Unitarian Universalist faith as a learning institution. Each year, Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary hosts a week-long learning intensive for their students with our ministers and staff. Our lay-led intern committee and ministers work with resident interns to gain real-world experience and achieve their field education requirements.