Happy first Friday, friends! The first Friday of the month means it’s time for an Ordiversary Party! And, if I do say so myself, October is the best month (for birthdays and ordiversaries, since both of mine are this month too!).
I am SO EXCITED (like all-caps excited) that this month’s party is being kicked off by the amazing Rev. Melissa McQueen-Simmons. I cannot wait for you to hear her story and to celebrate all that God has done. Let’s get the party started!
Tell us about your journey into ministry.
Today I am a happily married, same-gender-loving, African American woman, and a disabled Army Iraqi War Veteran who was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. My parents built our family on faith and filled our home with love, honesty, and integrity.
I grew up deeply involved in the Church of God in Christ which was not an affirming space for women in leadership and persons who were same gender loving or bisexual. I heard rhetoric in sermons that were spiritually traumatic. Issues related to sexuality, mental health, and gender roles continued to haunt me through my teen and adult years.
After being deployed I was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In therapy, I began to receive the help I needed to work toward wholeness by revisiting all I had been taught in childhood.
During this time, I was introduced to Bishop Yvette Flunder, who helped reframe everything. She shared that God is love, that we were created in the image of God, and that God loves us. Finally, I was able to release my anger from the lifetime of stories and sermons and begin looking for churches that affirmed all of me.
Today I have a Master of Divinity degree from Howard University. I am a faith director for Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice. I am the founder and spiritual director of Wholy Ground Spiritual center. I am a mother. I am living free of the limiting boundaries that formed my thinking before I understood my liberation. I am committed to work with the oppressed and advocate for restorative justice in both church and community with the intention to enforce God’s inclusive love for all of creation.
What’s something you remember about your ordination?
Sunday October 9th 2016, was one of the most beautiful and impactful moments of my life. This was the day I was officially affirmed in Christian ministry as pastor and teacher for Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice. In the moment and currently, I view it as a BIG deal for a person raised in the south as a Pentecostal. I remember this was the first liturgy I was responsible for and it reflected my hope and my triumphs. The service included music, poetry, dance, sacred readings, emotional words of affirmation, and receiving gifts. The events of the day was as fluid as my spirituality and my being. I remember the reason persons were selected to participate and the people who attended this sacred day. All of these things made it an even more special occasion.
Your ministry has involved a lot of explicit justice and advocacy work. Tell us a bit about that, and how you care for yourself and feed your own spirit while in the midst of it all?
Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice is transforming the inaccurate narrative that the entire Black church is negative in regard to sexuality and gender diversity. We raise the voices of Black gay and transgender Christians who, despite rejection and condemnation, contribute so much. We equip and bring forward influential Black leaders to demonstrate support for LGBT equality and justice.
Advocating for justice in sexuality and gender can be traumatic if you are triggered by the dialogue between persons who are intentionally harmful. It is also rewarding when persons who do not affirm our LGBTQ+ community are interested in learning about sexuality, gender difference, and gender expression.
I practice various healing techniques. That means I am intentional about my well-being of mind, body, and spirit. I live a mindful life that allows me to be aware of things that shift my energy and spirit in ways that are not of healing or hope. I pray. I talk to the ancestors. I listen to others. I use sage and other cleansing rituals. I meditate. I release things that cause me harm.
How has your own sense of call shifted over the years, as things in the world, the church, and your own life have changed?
Since my ordination, I have been able to fully embrace a wholistic faith journey. Before living a wholistic life was a feeling and today it is a practicality. I believe in African religious traditions, religious pluralism, liberation theology, black liberation theology, womanist theology, energy healing and mindfulness living. Each of these theologies and other practices are necessary and included in my daily journey of healing and connection with divine.
My work as spiritual director is an outgrowth of this reality and my call has come into clearer focus.
What advice would you give to people being ordained this month?
To those being ordained this month, I encourage you to embrace your journey. Give yourself grace as you learn and explore resources and relationships that will give you hope and guide you during your faith development and spiritual formation.
Thank you so much, Melissa, for sharing your story! We are grateful for your presence in our community, for your work, and for the love you bring into the world.
How about you, friends? How do you feed your spirit and care for yourself in the midst of everything? How has your sense of call shifted over your ministry? What advice would you give people being ordained this month? Leave a comment and let’s celebrate together!
Teri Peterson is a minister in the Church of Scotland, living along the beautiful Firth of Clyde and loving the people even more than the fabulous views. She loves her cat Andrew, reading, cooking, and a good party (#enneagram7), especially when she gets to share an ordiversary month with amazing people.
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