Posted February 28, 2023

Melissa Morris, the new pastor at Vanport Church in Vanport, lives in Pleasant Hills, the same town where she and her husband, Justin, grew up. 

Melissa says, “Beaver is remarkably similar to the area the Mon Valley area that I live in and was raised in. The blue bridge over the Ohio is similar to the Elizabeth Bridge over the Mon. The new cracker plant is similar to the Clairton Coke Works that could be seen from the house I grew up in.” Beaver and Vanport feel like home to her, even though they are an hour away.

Each of the churches in which Melissa has served have been small, urban congregations who were trying to find dynamic ways to serve Jesus with the energy they had left. And at Vanport Church, she looks forward to worshipping, serving, and enjoying God with folks who she sees as having an independent nature. She hopes to lead them in finding God’s future vision for them as she enjoys sharing the same “offbeat” sense of humor. 

Melissa graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Melissa explains, “Ministry is my first vocation, but I took a winding road to get there!” She also attended McCormick Seminary along with a few detours before completing her studies.

Melissa traces her call to ministry back to a sermon she preached as a part of her confirmation and the celebration of her church’s 200th anniversary. The sermon preparation got her hooked on puzzling out historical context in the Bible and applying it to real life. Also, while her parents attended committee meetings at church, she visited a homebound person across the street. Between those two experiences, God started calling her to ministry.

Melissa got her undergraduate degree from Kenyon College, a tiny Episcopal school in rural central Ohio. Plenty of the years in her twenties were full of doubt and a rebellion which involved waiting for God to help her work through a lot of the issues of growing up and gaining independence. She stepped out of seminary to serve with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps by working at an assisted living house for full-blown AIDS patients who were at risk for homelessness. After that and a time of working in a yarn store, she says “I returned to seminary with a better sense of who I was and how God was going to use me as I am.”

Melissa served at Second United Presbyterian Church in Wilkinsburg for her field education, Riverview Presbyterian Church on the North Side of Pittsburgh for one year, and Swissvale Presbyterian Church for seven years. Each of the churches she served have been small, urban congregations which have prepared her well for serving Vanport Church.

Melissa and her husband knew each other in high school, started dating long-distance in college, and have been married for over 16 years. They have two children—Xavier (12), and Angelina “AJ” (7). They also have two very stubborn Bichons dogs named Einstein and Daisy. They give her more trouble than her children.

Vanport Church will celebrate the installation of Melissa on Sunday, March 5. Melissa encourages us not to worry about her long commute. She listens to books and welcomes suggestions for good fiction novels—the longer the better.

Welcome, Melissa. May you, your family and Vanport Church enjoy the blessings of ministry for many years to come.