I Am United Methodist: The Rev. Sherry Cothran Woolsey
The Rev. Sherry Cothran Woolsey
West Nashville and St. John's United Methodist Churches
If the Rev. Sherry Cothran Woolsey sleeps, it's hard to imagine when.
In addition to pastoring two churches, she helped found Dreamweave (http://dreamweavebags.com/), a program that teaches incarcerated women a job skill; directs the Nashville Jung Circle; lectures and performs concerts; is writing two books, and just completed a new CD on wisdom literature.
"I really try to look at the gifts I've been given and honing in on how those gifts can speak," she says. "I'm trying to be receptive to the projects that come along and inspire me, putting them out there the best I can and seeing where they lead."
At one point, her gifts led her to a rock ‘n roll stage. For much of the ‘90s she sang with The Evinrudes, a Nashville-based rock band. After The Evinrudes' record deal fell apart, Cothran Woolsey pursued a seminary degree.
"I was on my way to get a Ph.D. in community development, and I was going to go to divinity school for a couple of years and planned to work in a church somehow," she says.
Her interest was in helping communities develop around churches. "I had this Wesleyan idea that churches should be the sanctification centers for the community, that we should provide ways for the community to experience God.
"I'm deeply Wesleyan," she adds. "I like how he viewed grace, almost a Universalist in a way that there are many spiritual paths on the way to the Divine. The roots of Methodism are in tolerance and interreligious dialogue."
That interreligious dialogue is the foundation of her latest CD, "Kiss the Ground." She received a grant from the Louisville Pastoral Institute and the Lilly Endowment to look into the genre of wisdom literature in various religious traditions. She said she studied sources as varied as Jewish texts from the Old Testament to Native American spirituality and Islamic Sufi poets. She also wrote some songs from her own experience of "wisdom I'm gleaning from being a pastor."
Citing Wesley's belief that "this process we call salvation is a lifelong journey," Cothran Woolsey says her ministry journey continues.
"I'm moving into my own path. What does ministry look like for me and what does it need to look like in this day and age? Where is the church moving?" she asks. "Our congregations have been trying to navigate what that looks like. I'm not sure what we're transitioning into, but I think it'll be really cool!"
Joey Butler is multimedia editor at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.