Inside the church at the heart of Louisville protests

The story of how the First Unitarian Church of Louisville flung open its doors to protesters who marched for justice for Breonna Taylor began years before the helicopters swirled overhead, before police in riot gear began marching up the alley.

It began with much quieter moments, in the hearts of congregants like Pam Middleton.

She came to First Unitarian in 2012, at her darkest hour. Her husband had died, and she’d fallen into despair, and the First Unitarian community helped her begin again. She found joy; she joined a dance group.

But when one dancer, a Black woman, posted online that she was terrified of being brutalized by police when she walked outside, Middleton was stunned, and ashamed. In the 1960s, she’d fought for women’s rights. She protested the war in Vietnam. But she did not march for racial justice. She had tried to atone ever since.

First Unitarian, like Middleton, had humbled itself with the hard self-reflection she believes all white Americans must undertake: They considered their church’s progressive actions throughout history, the times they rose to the moment, but also the times they had failed.

The church has for months played a background role in the

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