Love in Action: Melissa May

A New Body

by Melissa May
As a pastor on leave from call, I am a heart in search of a body.
Divorced from a called context, I’m waiting like an organ on ice to be transplanted into a new community. 
As a bisexual person, I fear rejection after the transplant to a new call. I could “pass” as straight, and I can walk through spaces of privilege without fear because I’m white and a citizen in the US. But we know this pain:  open your mouth to speak your truth, to support your allies, and rejection and abuse often happens.
But I’m actively working as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and in a six-month Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community Exploration, basically a pre-SAWC, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,  a peninsular sliver of the state that often gets forgotten. Both jobs actively involve walking with people from many cultures, various language abilities, and highly different social and legal statuses. 
The major differences between the settings? In the language-learning program, I can creatively teach and laugh and play, but I do not know if I can be open about my own “status”; in the pre-congregational Exploration, I can be fully myself under the banner of “radical inclusion,” but there are no programs yet to implement active engagement in the community.
I dream of the day when I can be in a called situation where I can be my creative, God-made, queer self among the peoples of a community, employed in both language work with diverse populations of residents/refugees and congregation-building with worship leadership and Bible study. At this point, I am engaged in the two, but they have barely been introduced to each other, so I am not sure they will marry.
Till my heart may be sewn up into a body not likely to reject me for my full identity, I live a vibrant life of work and play. I leave class and can say habibti (Arabic for “Good-bye, my dear”) to the women, and tell all the students that I hope they get a good grade on the quiz, inshallah (God willing). I play racing tic-tac-toe with young Afghan refugees, and play volleyball with Spanish, Arabic, and French exclamations.  And in a different setting 300 miles away,  I witness God building a new community of future worshipers who are aware of community needs–they see the rampant residue of segregation and the ten active migrant farm-worker camps– but are not sure how to address them. 
I must trust that somewhere I belong in a place where I can be pastor and teacher, Bible-study-guide and community empowerment leader. And I choose to trust that somewhere, somehow, my full unique self will not be rejected in the Body of Christ.

Image Description: Photo of stained glass with the words: I dream of the day when I can be in a called situation where I can be my creative, God-made, queer self among the peoples of a community... - Melissa May

Melissa May (she/her) is a pastor reaching the end of co-leading “Phase 1” of the Virginia Eastern Shore Exploration, a Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community Exploration in the Virginia Synod. She also teaches four English classes at the Intensive English Program at Eastern Mennonite University and one English class with Afghan refugees through Church World Service in Harrisonburg, VA. Her previous two calls were as a congregational pastor in Nome, AK and as a diaconal minister in Yellowknife, Canada.

Love in Action: Vica Steel

Defiant Call

By: Vica Etta Steel


Let me tell you a story of Call and Coming Out. Let me tell you a story of Love through pain.


I came out three years ago: Woman. Queer. Transgender.

I began my journey into faith leadership just over one year ago.

Until four  months ago, I couldn’t pray.

Until four  months ago, I couldn’t say the name Jesus. Or God. Not easily.

And yet I heard the call to faith leadership. I’d heard the call my entire life.


And  just as I knew my Call young, I also always knew I was a girl. But I learned, by kindergarten, that I needed to hide my truth. 

One moment in time: 

Laughing with friends, playing dress up. 

A mom’s heels too big on our small feet. 

Blouses became dresses. 

So much laughter.



An older brother, laughing, cutting at the heart of me.

Only one moment in time. 

One, of too many.


God did not err with me. Humans erred again and again. 

But this story, this story is a story of love.

Love overwhelming. Love, defiant. 


I have met hate. And fear. I hear prayer used as a weapon, beseeching God that I cease to exist, in my fullness. They say I am a sin. 


My Call story was not permitted by churches – so God gave me a different path. My faith formation came at the hands of atheists, agnostics and spiritual people. I learned of their deep belief in love, in community, in radical welcome of the outcast – values that should have been Christian values, but too often weren’t.  

Too often aren’t. 


And now I find a home also in faith. I have a path renewed, opened for me by the so many Queer faith leaders who fought, extraordinarily, for places in faith. I know so much of love overwhelming. 

I can never thank my elders (even those younger than me) enough.


And I know love, unexpected.

I am welcomed in my local church. Truly.

I am embraced in my seminary. The president, faculty, and the so many colleague students listen, hear, and uplift my Truth and our Queer stories.

In my synod, leadership works with me to begin creating a syond-wide Queer and ally youth led worship/gathering space.

Is that all? Not even my Loves. I feel every bit of hope toward futures that know 

only Love.


And so I can begin. 

My call story, coming out. 


But a beginning is far from an end.  

I begin to speak toward truth. 

I am not a sin, 

but I am a sinner. 

I have sinned the sin of silence in the face of oppression. I have sinned the sin of accepting the world as it is. I have sinned the sin of ignoring my broader family of those marginalized. For too long I turned my head from what my Black friends and family told me, that racism still rages. 

And I say, no longer. Not for me.

But I know I will fail too. How long, Oh Lord?


Grace lifts me up. 


And I learn to pray. 


I pray for guidance to work the joyous work of facing sin directly.

And I learn to speak the divine names of Jesus: 

Love. Welcome. Uplift. Radical resistance to the world as it is. 

But I also learn to speak the name of Jesus, 

fully human. 


And I am called, defiantly.

Vica Etta Steel (she/her) is a woman, queer, transgender, and unexpectedly a faith leader! She attends Wartburg Theological Seminary. She preaches and does outreach at St. John’s Lutheran in Madison, WI. She keeps a ministry on TikTok (@vicasteel) where she speaks of the voice of God, never silent and always present in the world around us. 

Vica is married to her powerful wife, Stella (36 years come March!). They live with their little dog, Arabella Longbody, their leopard gecko, Snowflake, and many other creatures and plants!

Love in Action: Reflections on “Coming Out” with your Congregation – Margarette Ouji

More Than Enough

by Margarette Ouji


None of us are “one thing”. At any given moment we can embody so many different identities, and oftentimes, those identities will bump up against one another. If we find ourselves with our family of origin, we are one person. When we are with our chosen family, we are another. In ministry, we can often be a reflection of all of those identities, and still, feel like we cannot be all that we are. This reality of identity hopscotch can be tiresome and unforgiving. 

God calls us to be our whole selves and calls us into a loving relationship with those we serve. Sometimes that can be scary and unsettling – especially when so many of us have been told that who we are is not enough or is wrong. 


Who you are is more than enough. 

You are beloved. 

Yet, it can still be scary when we have been told we have to “come out” in order to have this one fabulous aspect of our identity be validated. Have we not spent so much energy hoping and praying and looking for that validation?

In seminary, I took a course on Queer Liberation Theology, and in that course, I learned about the antithesis of “coming out” and it’s called “inviting in”. It’s this idea that instead of sharing your identity with the world, you invite people in to know and love you. I invite you into my home, to share in each other’s lives, to laugh, to eat, etc. (as long as you leave before 8 pm so I can go to bed on time). 

It reminded me of how in many Iranian families when you bring someone to your family’s home, you’re welcomed in. I walk into my ameh’s (the word for aunt in Farsi) home, take off my shoes, I’m offered food, I’m guaranteed laughter, tears, and love.

Many of us cannot “come out” for reasons that do not need justification. By inviting people in, by inviting our congregations in, we are acting from a place of love. We are sharing our worlds and all of the identities that we embody. 

Recently, I was reflecting on Isaiah 43: 18-19:

“Forget the events of the past, ignore the things of long ago! Look, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth—can’t you see it? I’m making a road in the desert and setting rivers to flow in the wasteland.” 

God is doing something new in the ways that we are inviting one another into our lives, our hearts, our congregations. Newness can be scary. It is also so very queer and so very sacred. 

Image Description: Photo of field of flowers with the words: Pause. Who you are is more than enough. You are beloved. – Margarette Ouji


Margarette (she/her/hers) is the pastor at First Lutheran Church of Montclair, NJ. She enjoys powerlifting, crocheting, and spending time with family. Margarette currently serves as co-chairperson of the Board of ELM and is passionate about the difficult, necessary, and holy work ELM is doing.