"Are you ready mom, are you really ready?" Reverend Melanie J. Mays said that was her older daughter's reaction to the news. The big news: her mother just got assigned her first church. Rev. Mays is now pastor at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Monrovia. "Of course, I'm ready," Mays said. "This is what I have been working for all these years, 13 years of preparation," she added.
Mays called a church meeting the day after getting her appointment a few weeks ago. Church Secretary Josephine Sayles said, "she comes with lots of energy [and] ideas, and you can tell she loves working with people." Trustee Bob Bartlett is also enthusiastic. "She is absolutely awesome, she is what we need, someone ready to serve," he said.
Rev. Mays previously served as the Youth and Young Adult Minister at First A. M.E. Church, Pasadena. She is on the board of Progressive Christians Uniting and works with the affiliated program called "Justice Not Jails." Rev. Mays has a Bachelor's Degree in Human Services from the University of Phoenix. She is a student at Claremont School of Theology and hopes to receive a Master of Divinity degree during 2014.
Aside from her religious duties, Mays works at RISARC Healthcare Consultants. She has two daughters. One is a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The other is about to be married.
Rev. Mays is a native Californian who grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Mays says she got the call to church as a child and it was something she had to do. Today, her goal is to build a strong ministry at Bethel, Monrovia. It's a small church on the corner of West Lime and Primrose, close to the Monrovia Public Library and a busy playground.
"When I walked into the church, I felt at home immediately," Mays said. "It's an intimate, sacred place." She walked around the neighborhood introducing herself and encouraging people to "worship with us." She credits the late Reverend James R. Defoe with doing the groundwork and making connections in the community. He served as the church's pastor from 2002 until his death a year ago. Rev. Mays says the church is perfectly positioned to have a growing and positive impact on the community. Another goal is to make the church financially stable.
Mays is a tech-savvy pastor, too. She puts her sermons on her I-Pad and she has updated the church's Facebook page with new photos. Mays has established links with community leaders to make sure people have ways to keep in contact with her and with the church.
Her Twitter page says she is a "servant of God, mother, boss lady, student and lover of humor, justice and joy." She urges people to "live, love, and die fighting."