by Elsie Walker
Recently, Rev. Luana Cook Scott recalled her family’s “legend” of how her mother got her father fired from a job. It was the 1950s. Before he had his own practice, her father, a physician, worked for a coal company. He was fired when they found out Cook Scott’s mother protested the segregation of a local pool. It was that same racism, and also sexism, which they found “spewing” from the pulpits of churches back then, that drove the family away from attending church. However, Cook Scott would return to the church, even making it her career. Now the new pastor of the Morristown United Methodist Church, Cook Scott said, “my faith compels me to speak against the prejudice and injustice of the world.”
Originally working for a private company in New York City, as a Case Manager for medically fragile children on Medicaid, Cook Scott graduated from Drew Theological School in Madison in 2000; she was 30. She became an elder in the United Methodist Church in 2006. She has served various churches, with her latest appointment starting this month at the Morristown church.
However, as mentioned, the church was not part always a part of her life. “I was raised by parents who had found the church lacking in basic morals. They had experienced racism and sexism spewing from the pulpit, and chose to teach their children ethics and morals in the home and did not bring us up in a religious environment,” explained Cook Scott.
Still, as she got older, Cook Scott found she wanted a connection to a religious community. “But every time I tried out a new church, I was met with the same experience my parents had, just new forms of prejudice. In my generation, it was vile language about sexuality being spewed from the pulpit,” she shared. She found the Bible being used as a tool of division and she was repulsed by that. Then, one day in 1994, she went into the small Washington Square United Methodist Church in Greenwich Village, and it changed her life. What she found there was “Christian hospitality”. “They welcomed everyone, and I mean everyone: billionaires, the homeless, artists, attorneys…everyone. They didn’t merely tolerate your presence; they rejoiced in it! This was a game changer. I had found was I was looking for. I was in seminary three years later. I wanted to be able to share the love of God and had found out I wasn’t the only one who felt it should be offered so freely,” she said.
When asked what she likes most about being in the ministry, Cook Scott said that it is hard to narrow it down to one thing, since she loves her job. She noted she does enjoy when she can make a difficult Bible passage understandable and “also in giving people permission to say
‘I don’t have all the answers’, by modeling the behavior. Pastors so often feel that they have to have all the answers, but no one has all the answers. So, I err on the side of grace and humility, and I have found there is great strength and integrity in that level of vulnerability. You will often hear me say ‘I don’t know the answer, let’s find it together.’.” That attitude is also expressed in what she believes she brings to the churches she serves. “I’m an encourager” she said. “I believe God calls each of us to encourage one another and to build each other up… and that is what a religious community should do, starting with the pastor.”
Cook Scott’s family includes her daughter, Amelia, who will be attending Morristown High School in the fall, plus a 14 year old chocolate lab named Sophie, and two lanky black cats, Alexander and Angelica. The pastor likes to hike when she has the time. Also, coming to Morristown brings her closer to another passion, to practice with, and officiate for, the Jerzey Derby Brigade. a competitive women’s roller derby team. There she is known as “Pastor Bedtime”. The team meets at Inline Morristown rink which is about 1000 feet from the church.