Testimonials

 

Denise is a careful listener, and is able to apply past learning to current situations. She seems to learn rapidly, and is coming to understand the value of simple presence in pastoral situations. Denise has compassion for others, and the openness and ability to find transformative spaces in both faith and in the practice of ministry.

In today’s UUA, Denise has perhaps her greatest value in her ability to work well with the intersectional nature of oppression, and in her understanding of the need to address intersectionality as we work to dismantle the oppressive structures within and outside of our Association. She will be the minister we want, not for today, but for tomorrow, and for years to come.
Rev. Amy Shaw, Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church

Denise brings a rich set of skills that make her a uniquely extraordinary candidate for ministry. She possesses gifts in leadership, education, and art. For more than twenty years, she has worked tirelessly advocating for LGBTQ youth and adults with an impressive portfolio of leadership, education, and witness. Denise’s experiences range from running her own business to providing LGBTQ training to the Salvation Army. An artist, Denise excels at bringing beauty into the world through a variety of media that includes drawing, fabric dyeing, and creation of liturgical items among other talents. Denise easily connects with people.
Dr. Nicole C. Kirk, Frank and Alice Schulman Chair of UU History, Associate Professor, Meadville Lombard Theological School

In the coming year, Denise launches her Meadville focused initiative project at her congregational internship. Timely and extremely important, Denise’s project will build a Transgender ministry with special attention to issues of race, class, violence, access, and within our faith movement. Spiritual practice plays an important role in her program—it is a project that pays attention to the spiritual dynamics of social justice work. Informing her work is the Commission on Institutional Change’s assessments of Unitarian Universalism. Denise seeks to create a more inclusive faith. In addition, Denise has completed more than the required one CPE unit to cultivate the pastoral care skills needed to accompany and minister to the oppressed and marginalized.
Dr. Nicole C. Kirk, Frank and Alice Schulman Chair of UU History, Associate Professor, Meadville Lombard Theological School

I also want to make the committee aware of the fantastic research and paper Denise developed for my UU History and Polity course on Florence Buck. The paper has been accepted for the UU Convo in October 2019 and she has continued her research surfacing materials, letters, and details that have been unknown until now. It is a fantastic project and I am delighted to see it continue to expand.
Dr. Nicole C. Kirk, Frank and Alice Schulman Chair of UU History, Associate Professor, Meadville Lombard Theological School

Denise has a strong public ministry.  She is a systems thinker, capable of seeing the larger picture, and of understanding the places pressure can be applied to make change. 
Rev. Karen Armina, James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Madison, WI

Denise is an organizer. She sees things that need doing in community and gathers the people to get it done.  There were plenty of official and unofficial class/ school projects that had her fingerprints all over them. She wouldn’t just organize with the usual suspects either.  She looks around to see who needs to be pulled in and does it respectfully.  
She’s a natural collaborator. And is a lot of fun to work with.  Her sense of humor comes through – she has an inner joy that shines.
Rev. Tandi Rogers, Congregational Life Staff, Pacific Western Region of the UUA

Denise is thoughtful, passionate, and clear about her vocation. In our conversations, I’ve seen insightful reflection on the work of ministry, the state and future of our faith, power and privilege and social change, sabbath and art and healing, and congregational systems. Among colleagues, she is deeply supportive, compassionate, and caring. As a student, she is inquisitive and ambitious. As a preacher, my congregation found her engaging, provocative, and creative. Members raved to me about her sermons, her radical and thoughtful analysis, and her liturgical creativity. She took the opportunity and my encouragement, as a summer preacher, to try out themes, ideas, and practices.
Rev. Matthew Johnson, Senior Minister, UU Church, Rockford

Denise Cawley has an impressive resume, but even more impressive are her abilities to reach people with a message of healing.
The Rev. Suzelle Lynch, UU Church West

I think Denise’s character is best summed up by the “mission” we both live by and laugh about: Scheming for Good. The end goal is always for a positive change – even if a little scheming (or let’s call it strategizing) is involved. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all – it does no good to have a goal if you don’t have a plan to get there and cannot bring stakeholders along with the plan. She has the strength of character to choose the right goals, has the integrity to stick to those goals when others are trying to twist or dilute them, and has the skills to get the work done… What Denise Cawley has gone through would have broken a lot of people; she should not be underestimated.
Kristin Hansen, Blue Sky, Common Cause Wisconsin, Formerly of ACLU of WI

We now have all ages worship, religious education for ALL ages, with children in our services. Adults and youth are learning about UU history and social justice – all working together at incorporating ritual into our services. We are all sharing joys, concerns, doing activities and worshiping together – all because of Denise’s leadership and her subtle way of helping us to do the work we all want to do. She doesn’t do the work for us – she helps us find the resources, making it fun and joyful. We now have a shared leadership model in the pulpit. More people are involved in both RE and Worship than ever. Denise single handedly inspired, encouraged, and helped us find the resources to accomplish our goals which ultimately changed the style of Worship and RE for what may be years to come at BCCUU.
Krystal Rose, Director of Religious Education, Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist

She embraces fundraising and her messages around that have been the most effective I’ve seen in 13 years in this congregation. 
Katie Traxel, Co-chair Internship Committee, Finance Committee

“I wanted to comment that she did a wonderful job today facilitating a potentially difficult public conversation. She was very well prepared, coordinated well with Rev. Erik and was very skillful in fielding some challenging questions and comments. She was able to honor the person’s perspective and still show up for the larger truth. It helped make me feel more confident in Bradford’s ability to journey together.”
Carolyn Feldt, Finance Committee, Board of Trustees, Finance Director.

“In Worship Arts meetings Denise is able to share ideas, identify areas where she needs to grow and asks questions when we are talking about something new to her.  These meetings are very dynamic and she balances listening and contributing in a way that makes her part of the team.”  Jennifer Burns, Worship Arts, Co-chair Internship Committee.

“Denise has filled in beautifully with unexpected absences of guest speaker and the RE Director, doing a wonderful job in both roles.  Her confidence is very reassuring to others.”  Carolyn Feldt: Finance Committee, Board of Trustees, Finance Director.
“Denise was able to call our attention to issues around how our congregation welcomes visitors and deals with boundaries in a manner that sparked discussion and led to personal reflection without being accusatory or shaming.” 
Jennifer Burns, Worship Arts, Co-chair Internship Committee

“Denise has brought her pastoral care skills to work with members of the congregations in acute as well as more deliberate situations.  She has reached out and offered care to all in need, including the elderly, homeless and the marginalized.  She works effectively with the congregation’s existing Pastoral Care Companions.  She tailors her method of communicating to the preferences of those in need including extended texting, social media apps and face-to-face meetings. Her professional experiences allow her to be comfortable in extreme situations.  She readily makes herself available to those in need.  She maintains appropriate boundaries while providing comfort and counsel.” 
Katie Traxel, Co-chair Internship Committee, Finance Committee

“Denise responds to local events in a constructive manner, most recently co-authoring an article in the local newspaper addressing sexual harassment in the school district.  She communicates in all media, including the church Facebook site, in a timely and engaging manner. Her reach is far beyond our church and into other communities and even to people who haven’t been to our church in years. Some decide to visit for the first time because of the messages Denise shares.” 
Jennifer Burns, Worship Arts

Her public relations experience stands the church in good stead as she interacts with media and keeps the church social media accounts active.  She publishes thoughtful pieces regularly in the weekly and monthly newsletters.”

“In our committee meetings Denise is able to assume leadership and guide members toward goal accomplishment.” 
Mary June Mauser

“Denise is always fully present and focused regardless of the situation.  Her contributions to our 150th Anniversary celebration, our stewardship drive, and the religious education program have all been beyond anything that could have been expected.” 
Jennifer Burns, Worship Arts

“Her work with fundraising for the sound system is an example of her strong fundraising ability.  She has shown that she is comfortable working with the Board of Trustees. 
Jack Dudley, President, Board of Trustees


“Denise regularly attends Finance and Board of Trustee meetings and contributes positively.  She has been a catalyst for change in how we think about fundraising, making it spiritual and inspirational.”
“Due to Denise’s extensive network and relations with other faith leaders and community activists, she brings a voice of authenticity to discussions of issues within our faith and the wider world.  She brings a fresh set of eyes and intelligent questions. Denise doesn’t just inspire but translates that inspiration and harnesses our community into action. Our church will be significantly influenced by her positive force.”
“Following her sermon on “The Death of Sunday School” the congregation was revved up with members coming up to me to talk about how to implement her ideas and the ones of Kimberley Sweeney.  Denise wants to shake the congregation up and make them uncomfortable with what has been going on forever. She does it in such a way, we don’t feel shamed but instead feel excited. Things happen when Denise is around.” 
Krystal Rose, Director Religious Education

“Denise participates and RE and has challenged us to evaluate our current program. The Board of Trustees formed a Task Force to change all of the ways we do RE and faith formation at Bradford based on Denise’s research, worship, sermon and supporting articles, and workshops.  Her leadership on the new task force is bringing about recommendations for overhauling the entire RE program at Bradford and looking at all ages worship too.”  


“I see Denise as a thought leader in a larger congregation.  She holds the big picture, has a great handle on the mission and can raise positive energy.” 

Carolyn Feldt, Finance Committee, Board of Trustees, Finance Director


“Cheerleader-Denise provides inspiration, energy and power.  She actively participated in two major fundraising events making them exceed their goals.  She advocates for new ideas and programs including RE and transgender ministry and is willing to do the hard work to see them implemented.”
 
“She has confidence tempered with the wisdom learned through years in the non-profit world as a fundraiser, marketing professional, trainer, teacher, artist and public speaker.  She listens intently in meetings, absorbs the information and then participates bringing fresh and effective ideas to the table.  She digs in, motivates us and executes.  Denise has brought Bradford’s presence to the wider community through networking and media work. “

“Denise has established boundaries that allow her to connect to us without hampering the professional relationship.  “

“Many of us have been on ministerial search committees in the past. We have been told that ministers are expected to be good administrators/fundraisers, good preachers and good counselors; and that if your minister is 2 out of 3 of these the congregation is fortunate.  Denise is good at all three and as she continues in this internship and her education, she will be excellent at all 3.”

“Worship Leader-She participates in worship planning and participates by writing or selecting and delivering prayer, reading and sermons.  She draws the relevance of the material to the congregations’ attention.  Denise does out of her way to include material sources from marginalized people (disabled, people of color, LGBTQ+, poor, immigrants and more) to remind us of our opportunities to welcome them. Denise centers those on the margins as often as she can.”
 

“Pastoral Counselor-her specific activities as a counselor are invisible to the congregation due to confidentiality, but it is obvious that she is developing warm, helpful relationships with many members who are in difficult situations.”

denise cawley headshot3