We’re privileged to welcome Gloria Wolfe, chaplain of the Dirt Road Dears, with us today.
Gloria has led ministry for more than 20 years at Jemison Valley Church, Westfield, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Gary, who now leads there as shepherding pastor.
In 2015, she became the chaplain of the local roller derby team. As the only chaplain in the league, she has the opportunity to impact many lives.
Q: Thank you for joining us, Gloria. First, can you tell us about the roller derby and its culture?
A contact sport, roller derby involves two teams skating counterclockwise around a track — with the purpose of lapping the opposing team.
The culture is very intense. The women try to intimidate other teams and spectators with makeup, tattoos, and skate names. The competition is intense, but a real sense of community and caring exists when the bout is over.
There is seldom any sign of bad sportsmanship.
Q: How did you get involved in the sport?
One day in early 2015, my neighbors Annette (mom) and Lacy (daughter) stopped in my office looking for business sponsors for their new sports team, the Dirt Road Dears, a flat-floor women’s roller derby team.
I asked about the purpose of the team. They shared that beyond getting exercise, they wanted to promote and support a family sport, strong women figures, and charities.
Compelled by their mission, I said I would get back to them. Walking past their paperwork for two or three weeks, I asked God how he would have me support them. It came to me to ask if they had a team chaplain.
They seemed excited to have me aboard.
Q: What’s the background of the athletes on your team?
Our team is made up of teachers, an attorney, and gals from nearly any walk of life!
I would guess that most of the women do not attend an organized church.
These verses in Proverbs help to affirm me in my support of the derby team: “Her arms are strong for her tasks” (Proverbs 31:17), and “she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).
It struck me that the women are strong for their tasks. As with any sport, much commitment is required, and they are women with families, and most of them have full-time careers.
I’m excited to get behind them as they serve their families and communities with strength and dignity.
Q: Where does your team compete?
The team practices two nights each week at a local Christian and Missionary Alliance church gym. The Dirt Road Dears compete in the game of flat track roller derby, which can be played in gyms or on just about any flat surface.
Roller derby is relatively new in our area, so we have to travel to various places in upstate New York and around the state of Pennsylvania to hold bouts. Many officials are needed to serve as referees, scoring and penalty box officials, scoreboard operators, etc. Sometimes there are more officials than team skaters!
Q: Can you share about your ministry during games?
During each bout, I share a few inspirational words (hopefully!), a Scripture, and a prayer for their safety and a good bout. The girls are so respectful. They sit or drop to their knees while I talk. They always bow for prayer. And I join them in the team cheer, which usually takes place in their locker room.
After the first or second bout I participated in, I guess they figured I was for real — as they asked me to give an invocation for all those gathered for the bout.
I really sensed God’s call to this ministry at that point.
Q: Would you like to share any stories of meaningful experiences with your team?
Last fall, we traveled to a bout nearly two hours away.
I was finishing my time with our team when a skater from the other team came over to us. She asked our girls to join them at the other end of the floor.
By the time I figured out what was going on, I saw that both teams had joined hands in a circle and were having a prayer before the bout.
That was a first in my experience!
Q: You once told me that to be a chaplain means to “give the ministry of presence.” What is the “ministry of presence”?
I try to connect with the team as much as possible and try to drop by one or two practices each month. I have helped prep and serve meals at fundraisers, and I also print their programs for home bouts as a donation to the team. A couple times lately, I have come to practice with some low-carb, high-protein snacks, and through this little gesture, I have felt a closer connection with the girls — they have really opened up and look forward to seeing me!
Of course, I am constantly looking for ways to present God’s love and truth in a non-churchy way, and I struggle with that.
To me, it means love, serve, pray.
Q: Your teammates have dubbed your skate name as Glory. What’s the meaning behind your name?
Everyone associated with the team has a skate name.
When I was introduced to the team the first time, they just took a spin off my name — from Gloria to Glory.
I sensed an underlying significance to the name (though the team didn’t intend it): My purpose in being chaplain is that I believe that when we share God’s Word, it never goes out without Christ using it for his “glory.” I want God’s love to unlock and open hearts and minds to our great God!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to encourage everyone to find someone to encourage with presence!