Holy roller

WHAS11 tells us that First Unitarian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, has its first-ever female minister. Yay! And stuff. But whatever. The real story is that minister Dawn Cooley is hiding a dark, fishnetted secret (although not the one I was expecting by the time the news story got around to the big reveal).

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I’m pretty sure they did that entire story solely so they could pull out that “gap between church and skate” line at the end.

Transcript after the jump; full text of Cooley’s sermon at her blog.

CLAUDIA COFFEY. Well, a Louisville church has its first female minister in more than a century. That, in and of itself, might be big news.

RENEE MURPHY. You’d think that might be enough, but it’s the secret that she kept from the congregation and the way that she revealed it that’s pretty amazing here. WHAS11’s Adam Lefkoe has her story.

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ADAM LEFKOE, REPORTER. Nestled in downtown Louisville, First Unitarian Church has stood for nearly two centuries. But never has a woman stood here.

DAWN COOLEY. Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law.

WOMAN 1. We’ve had men the whole time, and it just seems right that we have a woman.

[piano music]

REPORTER. Dawn Cooley is the first female settled reverend in the church’s history.

[COOLEY. Life is stressful.]

WOMAN 2. She’s young. She’s dynamic.

[COOLEY. Good morning, Karen!]

REPORTER. They love her compassion.

[COOLEY. Good morning! How are you?]

REPORTER. Her energy. Her transparency.

[COOLEY. A smile?]

REPORTER. Or so they thought.

COOLEY. For a long time, I was really, really quiet about it, and only a couple people knew who needed to know.

REPORTER. You see, some Sundays, Dawn didn’t go to church. She’d sneak off to another group on the other side of town.

COOLEY. It’s a place where I can really let my hair down, and so I don’t censor myself nearly as much as I would from the pulpit.

REPORTER. DIfferent clothes, even a different name. Eventually, she just had to tell the church.

COOLEY. And I said, “So, I just wanted to let you know…”

[skates rolling; whistle; cheering; growling]

COOLEY. “… I’m Liv Fearless on the Derby City Roller Girls.”

[TEAM. DC! RG! DC! RG!]

ANNOUNCER. When they say you’ve got nothing to fear but fear itself, they’re talking about her… Liv Fearless!

[SPECTATOR. Go, Liv Fearless!]

SISTER FEARLESS. It was kind of wild when she started talking about roller derby. A lot of people’s eyes went up, and they were all, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

[SPECTATOR. Skate! Skate! Skate! Skate! Skate!]

MAN. We never know what to expect.

REPORTER. While she’s a leader at the church…

[COOLEY. I said “sorry” to one of them.]

REPORTER. … Dawn is a rookie at the rink.

[PLAYER. Get on that line. Get on that line. Good.]

[SPECTATOR. Jam it up! Jam it up!]

REPORTER. On the Saturday, it’s her first meet in Louisville.

COOLEY. My family’s going to be here, my dad’s come in–come in from town, and my sister’s come in from town, because it’s also my birthday.

[ANNOUNCER. Happy birthday, girl!]

[LITTLE FEARLESS. I love her!]

SISTER. She’s fearless, you know?

[MR. FEARLESS. That was amazing.]

[LITTLE. That was my mom!]

[COOLEY. Awesome!]

REPORTER. The Derby City Roller Girls go on to crush the competition…

[COOLEY. That was fun!]

REPORTER. … Liv Fearless starring in her hometown debut.

DAD FEARLESS. Oh, she did great. The whole team did wonderfully.

[GIRL. She’s awesome.]

[COOLEY. I’ll see you guys at home, all right?]

REPORTER. The next morning, the pews are packed at First Unitarian

[SISTER. Hi, I’m Karen. I’m Dawn’s sister.]

[COOLEY. Hey, sweetie!]

REPORTER. For Dawn, it’s back to her robe, back to her pulpit, back to that comfort zone.

COOLEY. Fate? Providence? Happenstance? Didn’t matter. I was about to find a very powerful way to take care of myself, to get healthy, to answer “yes” to life.

REPORTER. If only Dawn liked to be comfortable.

[piano music]

[ANNOUNCER. And so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Derby City Roller Girls.]

[applause; whistle; piano music]

[ANNOUNCER. I give you Liv Fearless.]

[cheers]

REPORTER. The congregation still shifting in their seats…

[COOLEY. Go ahead and get your velcro off, ladies.]

REPORTER. … Dawn delivers a lesson she learned from her double life.

COOLEY [voice cracking]. Lesson number 13 is that I am beautiful, and so are you. Roller derby has given me a deeper, more full understanding of what beauty looks like. Each one of us, each one of my teammates, each one of you, each one of you… [tearing up] Beautiful. Stunning. Gorgeous. Amen.

[Praise band music]

REPORTER. In that moment, Dawn slips to the back, staring out, admiring the crowd, this crazy mix of people in her church, full of love, of hope. And in that moment, that single instant, there is no truer form of acceptance. Dawn has bridged the gap between church and skate.

[TEAM. DC! RG!]

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COFFEY. Well, the season now ended, and the Derby City Roller Girls did finish a strong seven and two. Powerful.

MURPHY. I’m glad that I’m on TV right now, because if I weren’t, that one lady did the gesture, that would be me.

COFFEY. But we know, Renee. We know when you leave, you know.

MURPHY. I know. I got to hold it together right now, though. But what a great story, and a great message that we are all beautiful.

COFFEY. Very inspiring.

18 comments for “Holy roller

  1. Casey
    September 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Just when I think I couldn’t love Louisville any more. I’m so smitten with this town.

  2. September 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Ministers quickly learn to establish adequate boundaries with the congregation and the community. And it depends on the setting and the faith itself. I think Unitarians would have no issue with this. Nor would Quakers.

  3. Anonymousbob
    September 23, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    The Atlanta Rollergirls also have a minister on one of their teams. Can’t remember which one, but we were highly amused. Nun? You want to try and scare me with a nun? My preacher is a ROLLERGIRL!!!!!

  4. Laura
    September 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Oh! This lady officiated the wedding of my super neurotic, social anxiety suffering best friend and could not have been more wonderful. They had a handfasting and she totally rolled with it, though it certainly wasn’t part of her faith background. She was such a stable, calm presence. It made my day to see this!

  5. September 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Holy crap! That is just way awesome!

  6. September 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    This makes me so so happy. As a roller derby player myself, I am constantly telling people that roller derby is for everyone, and that it is truly transformative. This lovely woman is a living example of that.

  7. llama
    September 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    So she plays roller derby. It seems like a redeeming feature to me especially as her other job is promoting a magic designed to facilitate privilege.

  8. pandatuna
    September 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    @llama She’s also a magician? Fuck yeah!

  9. DouglasG
    September 24, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Wow – roller derby just never seems to stay in or out very long, does it? Had it not been out when I was the right age, I might have tried it for a bit – I was small and fast, and would not have been easy to block. I haven’t followed it, though, for some years, once the powers that were decided it would be a more viable concern making it an all-female sport. Not to knock those who prefer it that way; the integration was just one of the things I liked most about it, even if I would have alternated who got the last period instead of always going F first and M second. Especially in the days before World Team Tennis, it was helpful to see.

  10. Meg
    September 24, 2011 at 9:55 am

    llama… she’s a UU minister. The magic bits of UU are brought by the congregation, there’s no dogma (except for the dogma about there being no dogma). Everyone gets to bring their own, it’s not ordained from on high, as the saying goes. Her job, if it’s anything like the minister at my last UU church, is to promote compassion for others, deep thought, and consideration of our place in the world and our duty to it. One of the few places where I’ve heard privilege seriously discussed and contested on a regular basis was in a UU church. Learn before you condemn and all that…

  11. rue
    September 24, 2011 at 10:25 am

    @llama A plurality of Unitarians identify as atheist/agnostic/secular humanist, and social justice activism is a major part of the Unitarian community. Dawn Cooley *might* be a theist, I don’t know, and congregations differ, but I think you may have seen the words “church” and “minister” and jumped to some conclusions about her and what her job entails.

  12. llama
    September 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    rue:
    @llamaA plurality of Unitarians identify as atheist/agnostic/secular humanist, and social justice activism is a major part of the Unitarian community. Dawn Cooley *might* be a theist, I don’t know, and congregations differ, but I think you may have seen the words “church” and “minister” and jumped to some conclusions about her and what her job entails.

    I understood Unitarianism to be the belief that the christian god is one person and not a trinity. Regardless I did check and found
    one of her sermons in support of same sex marriage (very nicely argued btw).

    http://www.firstulou.org/~firstuweb/scryingsarchive/sermontexts/20100214-frdmmarry-sermon.php

    In it she identifies as a liberal religious clergy person. Now religious clergy has a particular meaning here in Australia but maybe I need to accept that in the US it can include a atheist or agnostic that leads a group meeting each week (in which case you have to wonder why it took more than 100 years to have a woman lead the meeting).

  13. Ruchama
    September 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    In it she identifies as a liberal religious clergy person. Now religious clergy has a particular meaning here in Australia but maybe I need to accept that in the US it can include a atheist or agnostic that leads a group meeting each week (in which case you have to wonder why it took more than 100 years to have a woman lead the meeting).

    If it’s anything like the synagogue where I grew up, it could be that the previous leader had been there for a while. Our rabbi had been rabbi at the synagogue for nearly fifty years when he retired. It would have been pointless to fire him and get a new rabbi just so that we could get a female one. (The new rabbi they hired after him was male, and he stayed for about 15 years, but then the one after that was female.)

  14. September 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    llama:
    So she plays roller derby. It seems like a redeeming feature to me especially as her other job is promoting a magic designed to facilitate privilege.

    I’m not an expert on Unitarianism but I believe they eschew the more supernatural aspects of religion on favor of the moral teachings. Actually, I’m not even sure about that, so perhaps a Unitarian could step in at this point.

  15. rue
    September 25, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I understood Unitarianism to be the belief that the christian god is one person and not a trinity.

    Unitarian-Universalism has moved a bit beyond the sum of its parts.

    Now religious clergy has a particular meaning here in Australia but maybe I need to accept that in the US it can include a atheist or agnostic that leads a group meeting each week.

    Yeah, it can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around at first, if you’re new to the idea. This isn’t an Amrican thing though, there are Unitarian-Universalist congregations in Australia too, and Canada which is where I’m from, and a variety of other countries.

    (in which case you have to wonder why it took more than 100 years to have a woman lead the meeting).

    This does make the First Unitarian of Louisville somewhat unusual as part of a religious denomination that has been ordaining women since the 1860s and where the majority of ministers are now women. But, I doubt (in the last several decades at least) that it was out of any sort of opposition to the idea. My fellowship has only ever had female ministers, so someone must be getting our share of the men…

  16. LP
    September 26, 2011 at 12:46 am

    I’ve been a UU for the past several years– recovering Southern Baptist here– Unitarians have no dogma. Our son’s Sunday school teacher was an atheist, but taught the principles of equality and compassion very well:

    Unitarian Universalist Principles

    There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

    The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
    Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

    Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
    Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
    Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
    Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
    Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
    Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
    These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.

  17. LP
    September 26, 2011 at 12:47 am

    PS– I’m also originally from Louisville, and this is a great story– I would like to check out this church on my next trip back.

  18. September 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    wow, llama, way to misunderstand UUs!

    I am a youth coordinator for my UU church. I just emailed the ministers to suggest that we start our very own roller derby team.

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