Dr. Melissa James, Congregational Life Field Staff in the Pacific Western Region, brings nearly 20 years of experience in faith-based ministry to the UUA. She earned her Masters of Arts from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (LSTC) with a focus was on faith and justice. Melissa holds a Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate theological Union in Berkeley, CA. While working on her doctorate, she served at First Unitarian Universalist in Oakland, CA and got her first taste of the power and possibilities of religious education in a Unitarian Universalist context.
She went on to serve at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego as the Director of Family and Lifespan Ministry. In 2016, she was named as a Fahs Fellow through the Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard Seminary focusing on helping congregations support Trans and non-binary children, youth, and their families. Having worked in campus ministry as well as continuing to teach at local universities in sociology, religion, philosophy, and gender studies, Melissa lifts up the work of young adults.
Based in Southern California, Melissa is an ordained Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). When asked what she foresees bringing into her work as UUA Congregational Life staff from Lutheran tradition, she reflected on its deep history and theology of reformation. “We are constantly reforming as individuals and institutions as we are called deeper into loving our neighbor,” Melissa said. “We do justice not because without us it would not happen, but because we are free, in love, to do so.”
It is this deep resonance with Unitarian Universalism that has continually drawn Melissa to the UU world.
"I believe Unitarian Universalism has an important and unique role to play in these uncertain times,” Melissa says. "I have personally seen the incredible heart and work that is happening in the PWR and am excited to be joining the PWR Congregational Life staff team as we live into our commitment to side with love together."