Dr. Melva L. Sampson

2023 Great Preacher Wednesday Evening

Dr. Melva L. Sampson

Melva L. Sampson is a digital hush harbor curator, scholar, and preacher. She was licensed and later ordained into the New Era Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, an affiliate of the Progressive National Baptist Convention at the Midway Missionary Baptist Church in College Park, Ga., under the leadership of Rev. Edward Spencer Reynolds and The Honorable Penny Brown Reynolds, Ph.D. Rev. Sampson was ordained a ruling elder in the Greater Atlanta Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church USA. Over the years, she has served as an associate minister of membership, nurture and care, assistant chaplain, and program manager at Spelman College Sisters Chapel and the WISDOM (Women in Spiritual Discernment of Ministry) Center. Rev. Sampson served as interim program director of the Women, Theology and Ministry track at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and as an archival assistant at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change.

Her 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 has published articles like The Making of Digital Griots and Cyber Assemblies and Digital Hush Harbors: Black Preaching Women and Black Digital Religious Networks, each addressing the politics of location and challenging traditional Black Church pulpit authority. Dr. Melva’s published sermons appear in the final collection of Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell’s Those Preaching Women: A Multicultural Edition and The Sky is Crying: Race, Class, and Natural Disaster.

She is a leading practitioner in digital Black religion and the creator of Pink Robe Chronicles™. This online spiritual gathering circumvents interlaced oppressive religious structures, doctrines, and theologies by utilizing womanist and Afrocentric/Afrofuturist values of resistance, recovery, and reflection to curate a liberated and transformative faith-centered community of practice. Since 2016, Dr. Melva has live-streamed over 300 digital sermons and engaged thousands across Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

In October 2022, The Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) acquired and accessioned artifacts from Pink Robe Chronicles into the museum collection. The digital files consist of four Pink Robe Chronicles (sermons), including “Go Back and Get It; Fight the Power; Press, Prune and Praise;” and “Wrestling with God.” This collection is included in the museum’s archives which host more than 50k artifacts and will be used in its research and exhibitions.

Dr. Melva earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science from Virginia Union University; a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from Howard University; a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology, Emory University; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Religion with a concentration in Homiletics from the Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University. She has taught at Emory University, the Interdenominational Theological Center. She is currently on the faculty at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Rev. Dr. Sampson is working on her first book-length project, Going Live: Black Women Preaching in the Digital Age.