With the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Wake Forest University School of Divinity welcomed Reverend Dr. Melva L. Sampson as Assistant Professor of Preaching and Practical Theology. She will contribute courses in proclamation, formation, and community building to the School’s ministry studies curriculum. “What excites me about the School of Divinity is its innovative approach to theological education,” she said. Examples of these innovations include, “expanding the practice of proclamation beyond the traditional pulpit to the public square, recognizing the need to develop scholarship and strategies on and for community formation, and exploring religious leadership in food, health, and ecology.” Sampson also said she is thrilled to interact with the diverse theological and religious perspectives that are present within the School of Divinity community. In December 2016, Dr. Sampson completed the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her dissertation, Fetching Spiritual Power: Black Women’s Preaching Bodies as African-Centered Womanist Oratory, explores how Black women preachers use the performed word to disrupt popular terrains where Black bodies are literally and metaphorically disembodied. Dr. Sampson has served as the ministry and context liaison and seminar instructor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and as a minister at First Afrikan Church in Lithonia, Georgia. She is an ordained minister of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and an ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. In addition to the Ph.D., Dr. Sampson holds a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, a Master of Arts degree in Human Communication Studies from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.
Dr. Sampson is a womanist practical theologian whose research interests include Black preaching women’s embodiment, African heritage spiritual traditions, Black girls’ ritual performance, and the relationship between digital proclamation and spiritual formation. She is the creator and curator of Pink Robe Chronicles and Raising Womanish Girls, both digital platforms used to elucidate the role of sacred memory and ritual in the collective healing of marginalized communities. Rev. Dr. Sampson’s published sermons include “After Katrina and Rita: What Must I do to be Saved?” which appears in The Sky is Crying: Race, Class and Natural Disaster and “Hell No!” which appears in the final volume of Those Preaching Women: A Multicultural Collection co-edited by the late Reverend Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell. Her current research on Black women’s bodies, the Black church, and sexual discourses of resistance appears in The Feminist Wire.