by Natalie Briscoe, Congregational Life Staff for the Southern Region of the UUA
Roller Derby is a spiritual practice. It has been a few years since I left the sport to take what I liked to call my “Pregnancy Sabbatical,” but I miss playing a sport that was both aggressive and nuanced, that required both physical and mental strength. And I assure you that I never, ever imagined hitting members of my own congregation while I was out on the track. I would never even dream of it.
One common misconception about Roller Derby is that the sport is all about brute force: going fast and hitting whatever player is in your way. That myth couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are so many rules that teams often have several practices per month dedicated to creating, learning, and practicing new strategies, and skaters must take a yearly rules test that would rival any college exam. A good coach is two parts athlete, one part motivational speaker, one part counselor, and three parts lawyer. The game is played best when you know the details in the rules and can use those rules in, well, let’s just say “creative” ways.
As you can imagine, teaching these rules and strategies can get quite complicated. I remember so many practices where 100 skaters would be lined up, listening to instructions for a drill. Very often, the explanation was longer than playing the actual drill itself, and many of the skaters often looked around to their teammates with inquisitive looks, wondering what in the world the coaches were talking about. It is very hard to describe in words the actions that are needed. Our words fail us, and the only way we can get to the other side is by doing.
My philosophy in times like this was, “Just skate.” Whenever anyone would ask me if I knew what was going on during a drill, I would just say, “Nope, I haven’t got a clue. I’m just going to skate.”
During these times, it was an act of loving trust to “just skate.” I trusted my coaches to lead me through the drill. I trusted my teammates to support me. I trusted in my own knowledge of the game and my own abilities. I trusted that I wouldn’t be laughed at if I failed.
There is a time for thinking, for listening, for planning – and then there is a time to skate.
Even though I don’t play roller derby anymore, I still tell myself to “just skate” all the time. There are so many times in church work when I am unsure of the path. It is in those times that I have to trust myself, my faith, and my fellow pilgrims and head forward into the unknown. We may not know what is going on with the world today, in its sad state, but we know we have to keep moving forward. We may not know what is in store for our congregations, for our clusters, or for our region, but we have to live into these new relationships and our new way of being with trust and good will. As our words fail us, may we gain clarity through action. And as we begin this new year in abundant love and gratitude, I will keep saying, “Just skate.”