Robin Coira

While the corporate glass ceiling is close to shattered, the stained glass ceiling has taken longer to crack. Finally, though, it’s not uncommon to see a woman wearing a robe at church these days, and we don’t mean choir robes. We spoke with seven of Charlotte’s female religious leaders to find out what they’re doing behind and beyond the pulpit

Written by Lori K. Tate
Photographs by Chris Edwards 

Executive Minister, Myers Park Baptist Church

Robin Coira, Executive Minister, Myers Park Baptist Church

Robin Coira, Executive Minister, Myers Park Baptist Church

Robin Coira grew up attending Myers Park Baptist Church. When she decided to go to seminary, she had recently divorced and was raising a young child. "All the way this church supported me emotionally. They supported me some financially," says Coira, who graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. "It was a real struggle being a single parent and going back to school, living in a place where my family was not."

In 1979 she was the second person and the first woman ordained at Myers Park Baptist. After serving other churches and spending a few years in politics (she worked on Harvey Gantt's senatorial campaign and served on Mel Watt's congressional staff), she joined the staff at Myers Park Baptist. That was six years ago.

"I never thought I would be able to work at this church since I was a member of the tribe," says the fifty-seven-year-old Coira, who does not preach at Myers Park Baptist. "That's [not preaching] just the boundary I set for myself.… Getting up and preparing a sermon for these people and this community who have been my teachers and continue to be my teachers, there's a part of me that says, ‘What is it that I can say to them?' "
In addition to being instrumental in opening the Cornwell Center, the church's family life and learning facility, which is open to the public, Coira worked with a group of members on making Myers Park Baptist a welcoming and affirming church. "The church together affirmed that we are open to all and closed to none," she says. "We included that statement in our church covenant."

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