Becoming a Good Ancestor

Remembering Rev. Dr. Melissa Browning, PhD

Last night, I read the update from Wes Browning concerning Melissa Browning, his wife and sweetheart, who has been battling cancer for some time. Today, I woke up to the news that my dear friend had passed at 5am ET. I am grief struck & heartbroken, and I want to pay tribute to Melissa in this Substack email. It won’t be perfect, but rarely is anything perfect. These are my thoughts & feelings.

This quote is a quote that has been on my website for close to 15 years, and I share it here to not only pay tribute to Melissa but also bear witness to her life.

I met Melissa when I was living in Chicago and we became good friends. Though we were at different schools, we ran in the same circle. It was thru Melissa that I met Jeanine Viau, who is also a close friend. I have so many memories of Melissa; I can’t list them all. But! One of my fondest memories is when both Melissa & Jeanine came to hear Rosemary Ruether speak at a Women Church event. That’s also when I met Jeanine, too!

Melissa was a fellow Baptist clergy person and we often reminisced & complained about how far Baptists had gotten from their roots. Melissa was inspiring. She pioneered ethnography in the field of Christian Ethics. She, too, is one of the reasons why Social Ethics matters to me. She encouraged me to also do the PhD. Though she was partial to LUC, she encouraged my application to UoD.

When you lose someone you’ve known for 20 years, you don’t always know what to say or how to package the sentiment. I texted Melissa often and told her I loved her. She replied in kind. I also texted with greater frequency. The last text I received from her was March 29, 2021. I was on my way to get my 2nd shot of the Moderna vaccine. We told each other that we loved each other.

Melissa always saw me in all of my complexity: Latinx, queer, Trans. She was there with me in all of it. I couldn’t ask for a better colleague or friend. She was it! She taught me so much about myself, about academia, and about systems.

I don’t have all the words right now. I am sad, in shock, and have wailed at the knowledge that Melissa has passed. Melissa was amazing and I trust her memory will help us all know how to be a good ancestor.