Love in Action: Melissa May

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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.

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