About Denise M. Cawley

JOB OBJECTIVE: Unitarian Universalist Minister

Initiative Management and Ministry

  • Developed, led and promoted hundreds of trainings, conferences, annual meetings, lectures, educational classes, panel discussions, and certification courses for local and regional organizations. This included free and paid events, utilizing market research, paid and viral media, coordination with churches and ministers, politicians, non-profit, community and business leaders. Expertise in being brought into situations with group conflict and pastoral needs.  Developed cultural change through meetings, training sessions, congregational systems with ordained and lay leaders, addressing every layer of leadership from accounting, fundraising, development, human resources, youth activities, social work, camp programs, schooling and food scarcity programs. Designed and led regional initiative addressing racial justice, violence, food and housing scarcity within the LGBTQ community balancing theological needs and misinformation. Program yielded expanded services and benefits for LGBTQ guests and staff impacting tens of thousands of people seeking help for The Salvation Army.
  • Initiated Transgender Ministry at Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist, to build cultural competency to be a place of radical welcome for transgender and non-binary people/loved ones while creating plan for community outreach.
  • Developed pastoral care chaplaincy program at Wisconsin’s largest abortion clinic accompanying 200+ families through abortions yielding less need for pain medications and less stressed patients, doctors and medical staff
  • Researched, developed and presented at the Wisconsin ‘Safe, Healthy, Strong Conference’ specifically addressing spirituality and abortion to over 30 healthcare, spiritual care, teaching and community professionals to change how pregnancy options are discussed regionally amongst teachers, parents, religious leaders and nurses
  • Offered pastoral care as transgender men explored their pregnancy options and accompanied them through abortion experiences as necessary at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin with referrals from Clergy Collation for Reproductive Justice
  • Co-created, annual ‘Blessed at Pridefest’ at Wisconsin Pridefest, helping to create a positive faith experience with an inner-faith team of religious leaders where each year we gave over 500 blessings, giving us visibility to tens of thousands of people in attendance and creating a platform to activate community members throughout the year to attend justice events
  • Inspired and supported religious education re-envisioning team of lay and ministerial leaders in UU congregation to address changing needs of congregation, family, adult and children’s RE yielding integrated worship and RE programs.
  • Preached and led worship in summer consecutively while senior minister was away on leave. Ministered to a congregation who missed their long-term senior minister on issues of inclusion in community from marginalized identities (LGBTQ, POC, Black, poor, adopted, sexual abuse and women’s health), followed up with congregants via text, coordinated with RE, Admin and Music team. Created sermons and worship by request of staff and members to address needs in the congregation with little supervision. Checked in with senior minister to keep him appraised and received numerous testimonials from congregants after completion.

Board Experience & Public Faith Leadership

  • Meadville Lombard Theological School Board of Trustees: Represented student concerns to increase communication amongst board, staff and students. Lifted up unique needs of disabled, poor, hungry, LGBTQ, 12-step, divorcing, parenting, and partnered students. Developed opportunities for increased student representation at events, assisted development team for major donor events, communicated student needs amongst Education Team, Student Affairs Council and Board of Trustees, staff and faculty. Spoke truth to power regarding white supremacy, dismantling transphobia, homophobia, racism, classism and other forms of oppression while maintaining collegiality and accomplishing board goals and tasks.
  • Planned Parenthood Clergy Council: Created education opportunities for interfaith leaders to increase aptitude around reproductive justice, recruited additional members across cultures, faiths and region.
  • Milwaukee LGBT Community Center: Founder of this organization, annual budget $800k to $1.5 millon. Chair of Public Relations, Marketing, Membership and Development teams during multiple board terms over two decades. Steering Committee member during organizational turn-around taking them from $800K debt to financial stability.
  • Coordinated press for minister and Board of Trustees of Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist receiving media attention for anti-oppression issues related to the larger community, tying in history and advocacy
  • Supported national leadership searches for multiple boards, handing public relations, marketing, and media placement

Supervision and Leadership Experience

  •  Inspired Religious Education team to look at new ways of delivering faith formation yielding a board appointed committee to reform church wide efforts. Supported RE Director, lay leadership team and worship team in transformation.
  • Developed and led six-member team for transgender ministry initiative bringing together church and community members.
  • Supervised and managed staff members, consultants, volunteers and free-lance staff including videographers, photographers, writers, accountants, administrators, graphic designers, web designers and trainers both for Circore Creative, MKE LGBT Community Center, Cream City Foundation, Community Building, and Bradford Community Church UU
  • Managed teams of professionals and volunteers during large conferences, fundraising events and donor experiences. Organized and trained volunteers including: elected officials, event planners, community leaders board members and youth.

Communications Writing: Print, Web, Content Development and Social Media Management

  • Developed content and communication tools for 40+ websites with corresponding social media pages, resulting in increased program knowledge, promoted hundreds of events, increased unique visitors, and built engagement with members, congregations, press, community leaders, religious and government leaders.
  • Primary manager of social media for more than 25 groups, business pages, non-profit organizations, and acted as spokes-person for those organizations, creating visual and written content, and interaction yielding up to 50,000 views in a week
  • Updated WordPress websites with new content, photos, blogs, online tools and journal entries.
  • Wrote hundreds of newsletters (print and online) brochures, catalogs, postcards, video scripts, posters and various print collateral for 50+ clients, covering a wide variety of topics and issues for both agency projects and internal organizational clients. Typically did this for 15 non-profit, church, and for-profit clients at a time.

Strategic Partnership Building for Racial and LGBTQ Equality: State and National Projects

  • Strategized and executed plan with ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project nationally and in WI for marriage equality filling plaintiff class to sue and ultimately won the right to marriage in Wolf v. Walker federal lawsuit.
  • Guided senior ministers from The Salvation Army’s Wisconsin and Upper Michigan units in establishing domestic partnership and marriage benefits for same gender lay staff members prior to marriage equality laws taking effect.
  • Coached senior leadership and ministers at 13 state regional conferences of The Salvation Army, advising on issues of LGBTQ diversity and racial inclusion in training events and using data gathered in diversity audit of multi-state region.
  • Developed successful turn-around campaign for MKE LGBT Community Center: managed communications strategy building strategic partnerships including 1:1 outreach, executing 60+ interviews (TV, print & radio) yielding flood of public support, donations, web traffic, media engagement, event attendees, & establishing confidence during organization turn-around.
  • Created award-winning regional Gay Neighbor campaign (billboards, print, web), coordinating more than 30 organizations (non-profit, churches, government entities and community programs) for Cream City Foundation’s two-year campaign. Collected stories and data to build public support in the first of its kind campaign, receiving international press coverage, increasing donations, and causing educators to add LGBTQ books to regional child and youth reading program.
  • Directed equality campaigns, teaching inclusion, community building, and public policy since 1996.
  • Developed and taught inclusion and equity training programs for businesses, students, professionals and public sector addressing race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and class issues since 2012.
  • Created community support and training network in rural area, connecting non-profits, businesses and professionals to address issues of marginalized communities educating largely white population on issues of LGBTQ issues, racism, and multi-racial families, to build community, increase diversity in NE part of State of Wisconsin.
  • Developed community events for students, public sector, professionals engaging LGBT artists for inclusion events.

Public Policy and Outreach

  • Developed state-wide messaging for the award-winning, multi-media communication campaign, ‘Get out the Vote’ (print, web, direct mail, e-marketing, social media and face to face scripting), for Equality Wisconsin, winning ‘Innovative Campaign of the Year’ from State Voices, a national nonpartisan civic engagement organization.
  • Lead Winning Team in Campaign Simulation against 40 professionals from around the globe, Washington, D.C.

Social Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion

  • Trained FBI agents – including Special Agent in Charge, federal judges and court workers about LGBTQ issues U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Wisconsin in workshop I co-created with community leaders and transgender POC.
  • Created communications messaging and marketing programs for nationwide childcare education programs, farm education and human growth and development organization, bringing diversity to the program materials and outreach strategy.
  • Taught and advised at-risk youth of color in Project Q program of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center 2012-2014 as mentor on topics of communication, organizing, job skills and interview skills for 13 to 24-year-olds.

Media Relations

  • Regularly interviewed for TV/radio/print/web, including Tom Ashbrook on NPR’s On Point over the past 20 years.
  • Press trained by National Lambda Legal, ACLU, Victory Institute, OUTFront Minnesota, and GLAAD coaches.

Strategic Communications

  • Developed and executed marketing plans for 40-70 clients encompassing print, direct mail, web, e-marketing, social media, in-person training and customer service resulting in: 20% increased revenue for existing organizations, increased open rates, improved list marketing, fund raising increases and greater event attendance for my clients.
  • Rebranded college athletic organization for international training events to reflect teamwork and humanitarian efforts.

Diversity, Inclusion, Creative and Volunteer Activities

  • Frequent guest speaker on inclusion including 2013 U.S. Dept. of Justice Pride with U.S. Attorney James Santelle.
  • Frequent guest of local radio, television and print publications locally and nation-wide on inclusion and LGBT topics.
  • Board of Directors, Milwaukee LGBT Community Center: 1997-99, 2011-2013 (on staff 2013-2016)
  • Frequent guest of local radio, television and print publications locally and nation-wide on inclusion and LGBT topics.
    • Board of Directors, Milwaukee LGBT Community Center: 1997-99, 2011-2013 (on staff 2013-2016)

Work History

  • 2019 Summer Preacher, Rockford Unitarian Universalist Church, Rockford, IL
    2018- Present, Intern Minister, Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist, Kenosha, WI
  • 2017-2018, Chaplain, Community Care Chaplains – 2 Units of CPE, Placement at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin
  • 2012-2017, Community Communications Director, Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, Milwaukee, WI (volunteer then paid)
  • 2002-Present Principal, Circore Creative, Milwaukee, WI. Many of the aforementioned accomplishments are client history over 16 years.
  • Managed all aspects of consulting firm: coordinating trainers, administrators, designers, accounts payable/receivable, client management, project management, contract management, strategic planning, supervision, customer relationship development, and coach in consulting for both non-profit, for profit and church clients.

Selected Client List:

  • ACLU – Wisconsin
  • ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, New York, NY
  • American Society for Quality (ASQ)
  • Cream City Foundation, Milwaukee, WI
  • Equality Wisconsin – LGBTQ Voting
  • Forge-Forward, Transgender Health & Advocacy
  • LGBT Door County, WI
  • LifeWays North America, early childhood education
  • MKE LGBT Community Center
  • Milwaukee Drug Treatment Court
  • Pizzazz Studios, art & design education
  • The Salvation Army (13 state region)

2014-June 2018 Co-founder, LGBT Door County

  • Managed inclusion campaigns through training, public education, staff education to be sensitive to the LGBT+ community for small businesses, non-profits, churches and public sector in rural communities of Northern Wisconsin

1997-2002 Special Marketing Representative (progressively advanced in responsibility), American Society for Quality

  • Marketing conferences events, publishing and membership – consulted over 80 hours /month until 2005)
  • Developed strategies for Six Sigma, ISO 9000 & ISO 14000 Authors to establish market dominance.
  • Managed marketing and individual member retention for society of 122,000 international members, international awards administration, with $1.6 million-dollar budget.
  • Stabilized membership retention by facilitating more than $30,000 in cost-savings and increasing on-time renewals by 5%over three consecutive years — through focused segmenting, product bundling, and restructuring.


  • 2017 to Present, Masters of Divinity, Meadville Lombard Theological School, graduation May 2020.
  • 2012-2013 LifeWays North America, Audited Graduate Training in Living Arts, Human Growth and Development, Child, Family and Community Development (equivalent of nine graduate credits), included Rudolph Steiner theology and Waldorf training
  • 1993-96, BA with honors, Professional Communications & Art, (double-major) Alverno College, Milwaukee, WI
  • 1991-93, Art & Design, Parsons School of Design, New York, NY


  • 2019 The Intercultural Development Inventory overview, Master Class: Preaching Punchlines: The Ten Commandments of Comedy (Susan Sparks), UUA Ministry Days, UUA Ministerial Formation Network Retreat, Death of Sunday School (Kim Sweeney), Revitalizing Worship Risk Outloud (Erika Hewitt), Funerals Memorials 101 (Erika Hewitt), UUA General Assembly, UUA Regional Ministry Trainings
  • 2018 Ministerial Formation Network Retreat, All Options Pregnancy Training, Howard Thurman Conference and workshop sessions, Art as Spiritual Practice, UUA Regional Ministry Trainings, Interfaith Leadership Chautauqua Global Religions
  • 2017 Catalyst for Change, Meadville Lombard Theological School: “The Tilt to Global Authoritarianism: Religious Leadership & Shifting Power”
  • 2017 UUA Mid-America Regional Conference
  • 2014 – Victory Institute, Campaign and Candidate Training, Washington D.C.
  • 2012-15 (two each year) Social media effectiveness: Leadership Institute Milwaukee,
  •  2010- 2014 (one each year) Strategic planning seminars: numerous non-profit leaders
  • 2002 – American Society for Quality, Quality Improvement Associate (CQIA)
  • 2001 – Emotional Intelligence, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Ministerial Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist Association – Welcomed into Preliminary Fellowship, December 6, 2019

Preaching Experiences:
Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist (Intern Church), Rockford Unitarian Universalist Church (Summer Preacher), James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Church, Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County, Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church, Unitarian Universalist Church West, First Unitarian Society Milwaukee (Home Church), Church of the Larger Fellowship, Covenant Presbyterian Church

Ritual Creation and Leading:
Weddings, Funerals, Baptism, Blessings, Quinceañeras.


Download Denise’s Resume (pdf)

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RevD can keep things simple enough, that my mind can hold on to important meaning. She asks, “Do you want to be right or in relationship” (i.e. in community)? And when conflicts might be about to emerge, she will often repeat the question. Do we need to carve this on the lintel above the church door? Yes, I’d say so.

Ministry to congregants 1500 miles away is above and beyond what is required. Rev. D lets the need establish what is required. Pastoral care for a member’s son who died by suicide in our community created a need beyond the immediate family, the larger congregation was hurting, and she met their needs through the seemingly artificial format of computer screens.
 Scott Lindstrom, UUCCWC, Hillsboro, OR

Rev. D’s strengths in this area include her commitment to connect with other UU faith leaders. In marshalling all these resources, putting all these pieces together she makes look easy, but her planning of even the smallest detail belies the respect she has for each congregant. 

Reverend Denise’s familiarity with technology allows her to explore a wider audience for UU values.   

I love how she seems always to know what to say to heal or nurture. Never falling back on old bromides, Rev. D finds unique ways to phrase thoughts in ways that inspire listeners. And she listens!

denise headshot