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Come for tea: An introduction and invitation from the Director of Children and Family Ministry

As I have been thinking about how to introduce myself to you, I find myself coming back to a driving factor that helped me feel connected to this community and a position like the Director of Children and Family Ministry: I love to learn! I love it. I love to help others teach and learn together.

I come to this position with an eclectic background. I have been creating and running educational programs for many years in a variety of settings, both church-based and secular. Most recently, I worked as the Director of Education on an organic farm here in San Diego. This meant that I got to help children and families explore the world through hands-on experiences on the farm. We grew vegetables, cared for chickens and cooked farm fresh food. I have a passion for food justice and this work gave me the ability to learn and help others learn about the role of sustainable farming in creating a world where all can flourish.

I have taught everything from toddlers to seminarians. I, myself, am seminary trained and credentialed in my home tradition, Lutheranism. I moved to California over 8 years ago to earn a Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory. (This is why you will occasionally see “Dr.” in front of my name). In both my seminary and doctoral studies my focus was on the connection between faith and social justice. I continue to teach at the university level as an adjunct in sociology and philosophy at local universities.

I came to Unitarian Universalism through the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Oakland. I began teaching there as the toddler instructor as I worked my way through school at the Graduate Theological Union. Even though I came from a different religious tradition, I fell in love with what Unitarian Universalism offers in terms of a foundation for learning and identity. As I moved into more and more leadership, eventually becoming the Children and Family Ministry Coordinator, I realized that there is a great gift in the UU tradition that allows for a depth and breadth of exploration for all ages. I am very excited to be a part of this community as we learn and grow together.

I am inspired by the gifts and dedication of all of the volunteers and partners in ministry that have built a solid foundation for the children’s religious education program and family ministry here at First UU San Diego. I look forward to working alongside the volunteers, participants and the whole congregation to keep building on this foundation to create a community that meets the needs of today’s families, whatever those families look like.

I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received here. As my time unfolds here I will be doing a lot of listening. Consider this my invitation to you—please come in for tea. The toys are out and the tea is set. My office is open to you. I want to hear your stories, your experiences, and your hopes for children’s and family ministries in our community. Drop me an e-mail to set up a time. If you see my out and about the neighborhood (I often walk to work), please say hello!
Thank you for entering into this journey with me.
Peace,
Melissa

Melissa James, Ph.D.
Director of Children and Family Ministry

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